Ray Kurzweil’s official title at Google is director of engineering, but we’re starting to suspect Larry keeps him around as a kind of science-fictional mascot for the programmers. Case in point: This Wired Q&A, in which he reminds everyone of his belief that one day soon, death will hold no dominion over technologists.
After chatting about Steve Jobs (fun fact, it’s actually impossible to get into the Wired offices without passing a brief quiz about Steve Jobs*), interviewer Stephen Levy asked his thoughts on one of the Silicon Valley demigod’s famous quotes: “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent.”
Well, Ray Kurzweil thinks that’s bullshit.
“This is what I call a deathist statement, part of a millennium-old rationalization of death as a good thing. It once seemed to make sense, because up until very recently you could not make a plausibly sound argument where life could be indefinitely extended. So religion, which emerged in prescientific times, did the next best thing, which is to say, ‘Oh, that tragic thing? That’s really a good thing.” We rationalized that because we did have to accept it. But in my mind death is a tragedy.”
Pretty sure Mr. Kurzweil isn’t the only person who thinks death sucks?
“It’s not the case that there are only a fixed number of positions, and if old people don’t die off, there’s no room for young people to come up with new ideas, because we’re constantly expanding knowledge…. Knowledge is growing exponentially. It’s doubling approximately every year.”
Right, but there might not be enough literal room for the extra people. Guess that’s what Mars is for.
At any rate, he believes we’re just 15 years away from “a tipping point in longevity.” So if you think Ray Kurzweil’s right, go right ahead and eat that burger from the Heart Attack Grill. (We’ll pass.)
*Not a true statement.