Saturday, September 24, 2005

The opposite of doom

So I went to a talk by Ray Kurzweil last night, feeling somewhat obligated since I had been joining in the light mockery of his new book. He's not a great speaker -- he sort of drones on and on about the wonderous world of the future and shows an endless series of exponential curves, interjecting notes about what he's done or invested in. If he's right, the world will be changed beyond comprension within our lifetimes. Neat stuff yet somehow it fails to move me to the appropriate state of geek rapture. But I don't want to run my mind on a trillions-of-times-faster-than-biology supercomputer! Or maybe I do, but I worry about who'll do the backups. The disconnect between this vision and the actual state of computer systems (in which my laptop can't even figure out how to go onto standby when it gets shut down, let alone design its replacement) is vast.

Anyway, I'm alternating Kurzweil with Kunstler, which is not unlike the Finnish custom having a good sauna and then running outside and rolling around in the snow. Given the radically different visions of the future they offer, I'm trying to figure out which to believe. I'm afraid Kunstler is more believable, but I'm starting to think that both books are flawed in similar ways. Relentless pessimism is as unconvincing as relentless optimism. Realism won't sell as many books.

Keywords: antidoom

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