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.
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.
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)
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.
<unnecessary sarcasm>Maybe Ray should jump in and fix tesseract for us.</unnecessary sarcasm>
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.
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.
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 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 (and other pseduo science peddlers) make money out of people who are at their most desparate state by selling them lies.
Homeopaths are careless and other people die.
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.
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.
But at this point he is probably doing more harm than good, for the reasons you describe.
Or are you saying Kurzweil's contributions are very small in comparison?
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).
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.