Review: The Transcendent Man

February 22, 2011

At Ethan Kurzweil‘s kind invitation, my wife, son and I attended a screening of The Transcendent Man at the Tech Museum. This brilliant documentary chronicles some highlights from the life of futurist Ray Kurzweil, who was there with the film’s director Barry Ptolemy to answer questions. The film succeeds at several levels, and in ways that recursively support one another (reminiscent of Doxiadis’ LogiComix or Hofstadter’s fugue-ish essays on fugues).

The Science

On its surface, The Transcendent Man explores the science behind Kurzweil’s prediction of a Singularity event, as Kurzweil authored in The Singularity Is Near. Kurzweil has observed that new technologies – ranging from the printing press to Google – themselves enable us to develop newer technologies even faster. So the pace of innovation is always accelerating, yielding an exponential curve of discovery. Kurzweil produces data that extends Moore’s Law to bits shipped, social connections made, and many other metrics of information technology. Extrapolating from historical trends, we will within two decades manufacture the powerful computers we carry today in sizes no larger than a blood cell. […]