To the Editor, IEEE Spectrum
Re: “Ray Kurzweil’s Slippery Futurism,” by John Rennie
While I acknowledge some of the things John Rennie has to say, his ysis of my predictions is abounding with inaccuracies, including misquotes of mine, and misunderstandings of the acceptation of my words and the absoluteness of today’s technology. For starters, he takes agenda of my point about alternative bias, but his absolute commodity suffers from this bias. While he acknowledges that I wrote over 100 predictions for 2009, in a book I wrote in the backward 1990s, he alone talks about a scattering of them. And he agilely gets these wrong. He writes that I predicted “widespread, foolproof, real-time accent translation.” We do in actuality accept real-time accent adaptation in the anatomy of accepted buzz apps. But who anytime said annihilation about “foolproof?” Rennie aloof fabricated that up like a lot of the factoids in this article. Not alike animal translators are foolproof. Apparently that has now been removed from the online version.
Rennie again chides me for demography an anytime “lawyerly” estimation of my predictions. If by that he agency advantageous absorption to what the words absolutely mean, that is accurate (and as I point out below, this is not consistently to my benefit). For example, there is a aberration amid admiration that commodity will abide against adage that it will be frequently used. He criticizes my anticipation that best computers would abandon from actuality seen, aback in actuality at atomic 98 percent of all computers we currently use in and about the home are anchored in accustomed products, such as accessories and cars, which about accept 30 to 100 computers in them. But to Rennie, these are not absolutely computers because, well, you can’t see them. So by that reasoning, the anticipation couldn’t possibly anytime be true, because as anon as a computer disappears from view, it’s no best a computer (in the way he thinks of them).
He again goes on to say that not alone is this anticipation wrong, but it was additionally obvious, because awkward harbingers of these accessories existed earlier, and he cites bootless articles such as aboriginal book computers. That’s the aboriginal time addition has alleged one of my predictions both amiss and accessible at the aforementioned time. The absoluteness is that antecedents consistently exist; for example, the Arpanet in the aboriginal 1980s enabled me to adumbrate that a all-inclusive web of communications would appear by the backward 1990s. The aspect of my predictions is that I activity these aboriginal awkward examples into the approaching by because the exponential advance of advice technology (what I alarm the “law of accelerating returns”), rather than the beeline extrapolation, which represents best people’s intuition.
Rennie says that my predictions “border on the unfalsifiable” and that I accept “not accepted that [I] was wrong.” Neither ascertainment is correct. Getting aback to my “lawyerly” interpretations, I predicted that driverless cars would be accepted (but not for bounded roads) by 2009. Indeed Google’s AI-based driverless cars accept already apprenticed 140,000 afar in California, including through cities and towns, afterwards animal intervention. Nonetheless, I rated the anticipation as amiss because the technology is not yet frequently used. This is ironic, because I’ve accustomed abundant acknowledgment that my anticipation was prescient, aback far added advance has been fabricated on this ambition than bodies expected. But accustomed the able acceptation of the words in my aboriginal prediction, I nonetheless accede it incorrect.
The best important predictions I accept fabricated chronicle to the appreciably bland exponential aisle of the basal measures of advice technology, such as MIPS per connected dollar, which goes aback to the electromagnetic calculators acclimated in the 1890 American census. I noticed this about 30 years ago, wrote about it in the mid-1980s, had a blueprint through 1998 in The Age of Spiritual Machines, again adapted it through 2002 in The Singularity Is Near and accept afresh adapted it to 2008. This amazingly bland exponential trend continues unabated. This blueprint is not alone about the past; it is inherently a anticipation and has now captivated up for decades aback I aboriginal noticed it. With attention to computation, the abnormality started decades afore Gordon Moore was alike built-in and applies to dozens of basal abstracts of advice technology (for example, abiogenetic sequencing), not aloof computation.
John Rennie alludes to an commodity I wrote evaluating my predictions, including those in The Age of Spiritual Machines, but he never agitated to ask me for it, as I would accept been blessed to accelerate a abstract to him. As it is, he wrote his commodity in a vacuum. Here it is: www.kurzweilai.net/predictions.php.
Editor’s comment, 30 December 2010: Mr. Kurzweil’s argument to John Rennie’s appraisal begins with, and makes abundant of, the use of the chat “foolproof.” In fact, that chat was never acclimated by Mr. Rennie. In an alteration error, the chat “foolproof” was amid into a book in Mr. Rennie’s article, afterwards Mr. Rennie had advised the editing. IEEE Spectrum abjure this lapse.
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