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I really wouldn't expect this from Singularity U. I wonder if it a single rogue woo supporter or if Kurzweil has intentionally brought those kind of people in.

Personally I think Kurzweil is the poster child for plausible sounding woo. Consider this. Kurzweil thinks he's going to be able to live forever and essentially reconstruct his dead father. He takes 150 (previously 250) supplements and 10 glasses of alkaline water per day. He wrote a nutrition book about avoiding fat, particularly butter, organ meats, and eggs. If you've read anything about nutrition in the last decade, you'll probably be aware these are some of the healthiest foods on the planet and the campaign against dietary fat was always lacking evidence. To be fair, he did backpedal on this point in a later book, but then again why would a computer scientist write two nutrition books in the first place?

His predictions have always seemed rather silly to me too (turing test passed in 17 years) but they are a bit more debatable at least.

Kurzweil's second nutrition-oriented book was coauthored with Terry Grossman, a licensed homeopath. It does make you raise your eyebrows.

a licensed homeopath

Henriette, the late pet cat of Ben Goldacre, a UK anti-pseudoscience writer, is a licenced nutritionist. Poor old Hettie was able to get the certificate after she died.


I'm finding this stuff out a lot, lately. Especially about Kurzweil. Is it fair to say that the futurist movement is less about cynicism/skepticism and more about idealism and optimism for the future, or is this just the case for Kurzweil? Are there other members of the futurist movement who would disagree with this endorsement by the homeopathic community?

None of the on-the-ground transhumanists take Ray very seriously. While he might genuinely be attempting to bring about advanced technology, I don't see how "get lots of publicity" is a viable method to reach his purported goals.

He hasn't really worked on OCR since the 70s. Apparently, that's his claim to technological progress. Oh, also he did some electronic noisemakers. Still, I wonder about the 40 years between then and now. 40 years is a long time to work towards transhumanist technologies. But instead he has squandered it into publicity on top of his OCR accomplishments?

There is a growing sentiment among transhumanists that his cheerleading and publicity campaigns aren't going to materialize advanced technology. We have to build it ourselves. But we already knew this, it's just that the "sit back and wait for it to happen" fairytale is very seductive. In fact, that's exactly what people want to hear.

For somewhat-unrelated criticism regarding Ray Kurzweil, there are these emails from Paul D. Fernhout: http://heybryan.org/fernhout/ But to be fair, you can still spot TSiN on random bookshelves when you go to hackerspaces. It's almost cute, really.

Bias: irc.freenode.net ##hplusroadmap ("sponsored by George Church" just like everything else)

He made the Kurzweil synths and as far as I remember his OCR was for the disabled.

Sometimes it's easy to disregard someone completely just because one think they take it too far.

Imagine how a Davinci might look today.

I do not buy Rays ideas on this matter either but there sure is a discussion worth having in there. Even despite some of the claims he makes.

I'd be really curious to get a copy of the OCR software. I'd like to disassemble it and see what the fuss was about. I can hardly get tesseract to reliably work.

<unnecessary sarcasm>Maybe Ray should jump in and fix tesseract for us.</unnecessary sarcasm>

All you need to do is look in the history book and realize that he was one of the few pepople working in that field. A more concrete thing was his text-to-speech synthesis.

Anyway. I see no point in defending Ray or any of his ideas. Just saying that the man isn't stupid and have done quite a few inventions.

To brush him of, as much as I disagree with some of his points, simply because he makes outragous claims seems a tad self-defeating.

Random programmer decides to cast his "expert" eye over others' work in bid to determine the value of such work. Who are you again?

This concept of "on-the-ground transhumanists" interests me. Are there actually transhumanists who actually work on building transhuman stuff?

> Are there actually transhumanists who actually work on building transhuman stuff?

More than you might guess. There's a lot of participation within the do-it-yourself biohacking scene. Also, RepRap and other open source hardware projects tend to attract transhumanist talent. I don't mean to sound too biased but you should check out that IRC channel I mentioned.

A while back I interviewed with a startup doing transhumany things that was full of on-the-ground transhumanists and they were all quite serious about it. They're out there.

>Terry Grossman, a licensed homeopath

I am a fully licensed archmage. Anyone who wishes to get their journeyman warlocking certification should send 25 BTC to the address in my profile.

I never understood the hate for homeopathy from highly educated people.

I won't touch it with a ten-foot pole myself, but homeopathy does get people the placebo effect and that's "A Good Thing" (tm).

That our analytical skills have correctly identified that homeopathy can't really do anything and we thus have to resort to beliefs in the mind-body relationship and e.g. meditation to achieve similar benefits is actually too bad for us.... just popping some pills would've been a lot easier.

Homeopaths market and sell their products for serious life threatening diseases. Homeopaths don't tell people it's the placebo effect, they tell very sick people that they can cure them, and charge them for the pleasure.

Homeopaths (and other pseduo science peddlers) make money out of people who are at their most desparate state by selling them lies.

Homeopathy is woo-woo at its worst. But it seems plausible that the majority of practitioners believe as much in its efficacy as do patients. When you say they are selling lies, you ascribe malice where self-deceit may be the more likely explanation. Of course, no manner of good intentions will help those desperately ill people who would have been better served by conventional medicine.

Oh yes, I believe ignorance and self-delusion is more common then malice. However that doesn't excuse them totally. When it's literally a matter of life and death for someone else, you have a moral duty to ensure you're giving the right advice.

Homeopaths are careless and other people die.

But they are not careless from their own point of view. I daresay they are more intensely passionate in seeking out the latest knowledge in their own field than your average family physician. Breaking out of an inculcated intellectual and epistemological framework is an almost impossible feat.

I would make an analogy to veganism. Vegans as a whole are more intensely interested and passionate about their health and what they eat than your average healthy omnivore. For that reason, they're also more likely to proselytize and promote their ways to others. It's my belief that in doing so they potentially bring harm to themselves and to others. Do I think they should be engaged in vigorous debate and their arguments refuted to the best of scientific knowledge? Yes, absolutely. But I don't think treating them as idiots or malefactors is well-deserved or productive.

> homeopathy does get people the placebo effect and that's "A Good Thing" (tm).

No. Much like teaching religious stories as if they were the truth doesn't do us any favors. "So what there is no evidence it works? It worked for me." and then you have to undo the damage to what could have been a rational person.

I'm ambivalent about Kurzweil because he has been a great early popularizer of empirically/scientifically-founded futurism.

But at this point he is probably doing more harm than good, for the reasons you describe.

Sure. Even Isaac Newton had some crazy beliefs ("wrote more on Biblical hermeneutics and occult studies than on science and mathematics" according to wikipedia).

Sure, but Newton formulated Newton's laws, built the first reflective telescope, explained motion of planets, developed differential calculus, and wrote Principia.

Exactly. Newton is seen by many as the smartest scientist who ever lived. So I'm saying even those who contribute the most can have crazy ideas. It's typical. Not sure we disagree.

Or are you saying Kurzweil's contributions are very small in comparison?

I think what I'm saying is that Newton is remembered for his discoveries and inventions, not for his publicity campaigns.

He is remembered for his discoveries which were confirmed by hundreds of years of experimentation.

As a person he should be judged holistically, and that includes his affinity for the occult. If he were to be a professor of Stanford today, his beliefs on the supernatural should be taken into consideration and viewed as a lack of intellectual integrity(although with all that we know now versus what humanity knew during his time, his stance would most likely be different today).

Newton had boatloads of crazy beliefs and --oddly enough for his future reputation-- was probably kept from publishing most of his esoteric work by the religious intolerance of the period.

The Newton Project at University of Sussex and Cambridge University has collaborated with University of King's College in Halifax, Canada, and Indiana University to collect and transcribed his all of his writings. Their progress widget has them at 4,950,000 words so far.

Alchemical writings: http://www.newtonproject.sussex.ac.uk/prism.php?id=82&ca...

Religious writings: http://www.newtonproject.sussex.ac.uk/prism.php?id=44

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