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It was my understanding from Kurzweil's books that he never meant for his predictions to be taken literally, rather the suggestions he was predicting would be possible based on his Law of Accelerating Returns. (http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns)

With that said unless I am misunderstood a significant % of his predictions have come true within a ~15-year window which from my humble perspective seems like a really strong track record.

While I can understanding the frustration people feel with predictions not being accurate does that lessen the impact of his contributions? As the author mentions cultural factors (as well as political and economic) may prevent the full potential of these changes from being realized. So yes, maybe "X" doesn't exist now, but perhaps 'X" could exist (in terms of the capabilities for it to do so) if we as a collective were focused on bringing it to existence.




The idea that these were not literal predictions but theoretical examples is just laughable. If that were the case, he wouldn't have written a 150 page article desperately trying to rebut the suggestions that his predictions about 2009 weren't very accurate. ("How My Predictions Are Faring"). Or he would at least have tried to be event remotely honest with the grading.

Have a look at the document. You'll find that if you apply his reasoning for why some predictions should be considered correct, they'd already have been true at the moment he made them. Predicting in 1999 that documents will routinely embed moving images? Truly a bold prediction to make during the golden age of the animated gif banner. Computers will exist the size of a thin book? Even if no technical progress at all had happened, he could just have pointed at a 1999 Palm Pilot or GSM phone.

He also marks things that are clearly failed predictions as "correct". For example he made the claim that most students and parents would have accepted for years that software is as effective as teachers. No. Way. But he marked that as "correct" with no relevant evidence at all.


Thanks for the suggestion, have the PDF downloaded and will read. Since I haven't read it I can't comment on your rebuttals but have a follow-up question...

If we imagine a scenario where all of his predictions of applied tech are wrong but the mathematical thesis of accelerating returns is correct how would that impact your perspective on him?

My argument wasn't that he did not make literal predictions, he did and still does, but that these predictions are just his best guess based on what he observes through his demonstrated law of accelerating returns.


I’m not very familiar with his work, but when theory does not align with empirical data, does that not often indicate the theory should be revisited?

I read your link and his ideas seem very interesting. But I would think the real test of his ideas will be if the “law” he has extrapolated from observing historic phenomena like the rate of human genome processing or growth of ISP cost performance can be generally and reliably applied to predict the growth rate of new technologies.

If predictions made using the law of accelerating returns are unreliable, how useful is it?


Unlimited exponential growth is a horrible way to model anything. The real world has all kinds of limits, nothing can grow for ever. First those limits are going to be soft economic limits, slowing the rate of growth. Eventually they become hard physical ones, making growth literally impossible. It won't be exponential growth, it'll be logistic.

So the seemingly innocent "let's assume that this mathematical thesis is correct" is a pretty high bar. Unlimited growth is an exceptional claim, it needs exceptional evidence.


To be clear nothing in his model suggests unlimited. He has mentioned in his writings that it is in fact limited, but that limit may as well be unlimited for you and i (within our lifetimes)


>>he made the claim that most students and parents would have accepted for years that software is as effective as teachers

For at least 10 years now I have learned things without talking to a human teacher, so I guess that prediction was correct.


For hundreds of years humans have read printed books to learn things, without talking to teachers. Seems like a weak argument.


It isn't.

Software has enabled learning unlike any other even before in human history, the only previous time being when Gutenberg invented the printing press.

These days there isn't a thing on earth that I can't learn sitting at home. There is a huge difference.

Today only barrier to learning is your own motivation. Access to quality information has become so easy and cheap, that its hard time to blame somebody else for your failure.


"unless I am misunderstood a significant % of his predictions have come true within a ~15-year window"

Could you give some specific examples of such predictions that weren't also predicted by others at the time?


The Human Genome Project is one of his most cited examples. After 15 years of work the team was at 1% completion. Critics were vocal about how it would take 100+ years to complete. Kurzweil predicted 7 years (7 Doublings of 1 is 128).

I interpret your question in response to my statements as you are not a fan because his predictions are not unique, is that what you are saying?


"The Human Genome Project is one of his most cited examples. After 15 years of work the team was at 1% completion. Critics were vocal about how it would take 100+ years to complete. Kurzweil predicted 7 years (7 Doublings of 1 is 128)."

When did he make this prediction? Was it before Craig Venter started working it? Can you quote exactly what he said at the time and provide a source?

Also, you originally said a "significant % of his predictions have come true within a ~15-year window". You've mentioned only single prediction. Unless he only made a few predictions, that's not a significant percentage.

"I interpret your question in response to my statements as you are not a fan because his predictions are not unique, is that what you are saying?"

I just have a severe allergy to people who hype themselves as much as Kurzweil does, especially when one of the main things they're known for -- the singularity idea -- came from someone else: Vernor Vinge. This just smells of charlatanism.

I'm open to being convinced otherwise, however. So if you've got more examples of Kurzeweil making long-term predictions well in advance of others and consistently being right, I'd love to hear them.

However, even if he is a good futurist, he'll still be a self-promoting copycat on the singularity idea he hyped to the heavens, and for which he made himself most famous.


Lets assume you are correct and his predictions are no better or more accurate than anyone else's. Even better let's assume they're all wrong and always will be moving forward. Similar to what I posted above if his mathematical thesis of the Law of Accelerating returns is correct how does he fare in your perspective?

From my perspective as someone who has read his works but albeit likely not researched rebuttals as deeply as you this stands as my clear takeaway.


In his main singularity book he says the idea comes from Vinge. I'm not sure writing about other peoples ideas is that much of a charlatan thing.


Need to make a formal correction; I recalled this information incorrectly.

7.5 Years into the project they were at 1% completion. 15 was the total amount of time targeted.

"Halfway through the genome project, the project’s original critics were still going strong, pointing out that we were halfway through the 15 year project and only 1 percent of the genome had been identified. The project was declared a failure by many skeptics at this point. But the project had been doubling in price-performance and capacity every year, and at one percent it was only seven doublings (at one year per doubling) away from completion. It was indeed completed seven years later. Similarly, my projection of a worldwide communication network tying together tens and ultimately hundreds of millions of people, emerging in the mid to late 1990s, was scoffed at in the 1980s, when the entire U.S. Defense Budget could only tie together a few thousand scientists with the ARPANET. But it happened as I predicted, and again this resulted from the power of exponential growth."

http://www.kurzweilai.net/ray-kurzweil-responds-to-ray-kurzw...


When did he make that prediction? Was it in 1997, or was it a retrospective analysis made after the project was complete?

The draft genome was available in early 2001. How does that fit into the timeline? According to the doubling prediction, with 4 years to go less than 20% of the genome should have been available.

However, the actual draft had 90% of the sequence. https://www.genome.gov/10002192/2001-release-first-analysis-... .

It took another 3 years until it was called "done", which means that the simple measurement of completion was not exponential, but more likely S-curved. (I think parts of the genome still aren't sequenced because of the regions of high repeats.)


Those dates and interpretation doesn't seem right.

First, where are the 15 years of work by a given team? Quoting https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Genome_Project :

"After the idea was picked up in 1984 by the US government when the planning started, the [Human Genome Project] formally launched in 1990 and was declared complete in 2003."

and "An initial rough draft of the human genome was available in June 2000".

That sounds like it was more than 1% done in 10 years.

Second, who thought it would take 100+ years? Quoting the same link:

"The $3-billion project was formally founded in 1990 by the US Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, and was expected to take 15 years."

Third, when did Kurzweil make his prediction? If it was 15 years after the start, and 7 years before the end in 2003, then are you saying he made his prediction in 1996 and the project started in 1981?




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