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Ray Kurzweil

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It's as if you took a lot of very good food and some dog excrement and blended it all up so that you can't possibly figure out what's good or bad. It's an intimate mixture of rubbish and good ideas, and it's very hard to disentangle the two, because these are smart people; they're not stupid.
Douglas Hofstadter on Kurzweil[1]

Ray Kurzweil (born 1948) is a well-known futurist and advocate of the transhumanist belief cluster with a truly overwhelming fear of death. He makes predictions about what science and humanity will achieve in the next ten, twenty, or hundred years, and the press lap it up.

The good stuff[edit]

Kurzweil is, in fact, a genius with a track record of achievement. He was a major pioneer in the fields of optical character recognition and computer-assisted reading (Stevie Wonder is a personal friend of his) as well as digital music synthesis (his K250 keyboard was the first to use recorded samples for tone generation).[2] From a technological standpoint, Kurzweil is nearly as important to modern music as Les Paul (jazz musician, and pioneer of the solid-body electric guitar and multi-track tape recording) and Bob Moog, and he's also an important figure in handicap accessibility.

Transferable expertise[edit]

Kurzweil has an unfortunate tendency to think that being brilliant at computer science means every other specialty can be treated as a special case of computer science. He thinks that the genome contains all the information needed to grow a brain, therefore it is a problem of Kolmogorov complexityWikipedia's W.svg and computer science, therefore we will be able to simulate one on computers by 2030.[3] Experts on the evolution of brains think Kurzweil does not understand biology and thinks the genome works like a blueprint, whereas most qualified biologists think the right analogy is a recipe that takes as a starting assumption the informational content of the rest of life on Earth.[4][5] In the case of the human brain, it literally cannot physically develop correctly except in the presence of a human culture (e.g., see Feral child).[6] This leads to a certain exasperation on the part of those who actually know what they're talking about.[7][8]

Singularity University[edit]

Kurzweil is keen to share his knowledge and insight. You, yes you the corporate executive, can spend $15,000 of company money on a 9-day Executive Training Session, or a 10-week graduate studies course for $25,000, to learn all about exponentially advancing technologies.[9]

Any qualms you may have about the organisation will be put to rest by the faculty page:[10] one actual non-honorary PhD, three medical doctors, several bloggers and some wealthy businessmen. No proper resumes listed. The list is nothing like the faculty page of a real university; it does look quite a lot like what a hype machine that didn't understand its own incompetence at being the thing it claims to be would look like.


See the main article on this topic: Nanotechnology

In line with most misconceptions about nanotechnology, Kurzweil thinks nanobots of the "industrial robot scaled down a billion times" kind are achievable,[11] rather than requiring violations of physics.[12] He then actively propagates this misconception.

Nutritional woo[edit]

He is very fond of nutritional supplements (he takes 200 supplemental pills a day)[13] and alkaline water[14] and getting scientifically untested longevity treatments. When his followers start an argument with "look, Kurzweil's a smart guy, right?" see if they will acknowledge his propensity for untested alt-med woo as being prima facie evidence that his undoubted intelligence in no way means he isn't capable of being utterly wrong.

In his health books, he has also advocated the use of "bioidentical" hormone replacement therapy.

He also sells nutritional supplements for longevity[15] which are as good as any others, i.e. 0% solid verified science and 100% wishful thinking. So is he a charlatan or a fool?

Thankfully, even singularitarians are starting to show signs of embarrassment at Kurzweil's undeniable left turn into obvious pseudoscience and are trying to distance themselves from him.[16][17]

Immortality cocktail[edit]

According to the book Ray co-authored, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, there are some 70-something supplements he takes (including testosterone, if you can call that a supplement).[18] However, some receive more emphasis by Kurzweil than others.

  • Acidophilus bifodobacter
  • Alpha-lipoic acid (see carnitine)
  • Antioxidant skin creams
  • Arginine (see amino acid)
  • Aspirin
  • Lumbrokinase
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Betaine.HCl
  • Beta-sitosterol
  • Bilberry extract
  • Carnosine (an amino acid mixture)
  • Choline
  • Chromium
  • Chrysin
  • Coenzyme Q10 — Also known as ubiquinone, this coenzyme resembles a vitamin and is fat-soluble. It takes part in the electron transport chain, participating in aerobic respiration.[19] The reason why Ray Kurzweil takes supplements of it is because it is anti-oxidant.[20]
  • Comprehensive multivitamin
  • Curcumin
  • DHEA
  • DMPS
  • Echinacea
  • EDTA
  • Fish proteins
  • Folic acid
  • Fructooligosaccharides
  • GABA
  • Garlic
  • Gentian root
  • Ginger
  • Glutathione
  • Glycerylphosphatidylcholine
  • Grapefruit powder
  • Grapeseed extract
  • Green tea extract
  • Gugulipid
  • Gymnema sylvestra
  • Herbs (prescribed by Dr. Glenn Rothfeld)
  • l-3-C
  • l-Carnitine
  • Lecithin
  • Lecithine
  • l-Glutamine
  • Linoleic acid
  • Lipitor (a prescription drug for controlling cholesterol)
  • l-Theanine
  • Lutein
  • Lycopene
  • Magnesium
  • Melatonin
  • Metformin
  • n-Acetyl-carnitine
  • n-Acetyl-cysteine
  • n-Acetyl-d-glucosamine
  • Nettle
  • Nextrutine
  • Niacin
  • Oat bran
  • Omega 3
  • Peppermint
  • Pepsin
  • Phosphatidylcholine - Kurzweil says that this phospholipid depletes with age, and its supplementation can slightly slow down aging.[21] He's actually quite right,[22] but this phospholipid has not been shown to be effective slowing down certain signs of aging such as dementia.
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Plant sterols
  • Policosanol
  • Psyllium
  • PtC
  • Pyrodoxal-5-phosphate:
  • Quercetin
  • Resveratrol
  • Saw palmetto complex
  • Silymarine
  • Testosterone (see bioidentical hormone replacement therapy)
  • TMG

Shorter Ray Kurzweil[edit]

Courtesy John Pavlus:[23]

How to make a Singularity

Step 1: "I wonder if brains are just like computers?"
Step 2: Add peta-thingies/giga-whatzits; say "Moore’s Law!" a lot at conferences
Step 3: ??????

Step 4: SINGULARITY!!!11!one

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/douglas-r-hofstadter
  2. Kurzweil Music Systems, originally based in Massachusetts, was sold to a Korean company now owned by Hyundai in 1990; Kurzweil was brought back as chief strategist in 2007.
  3. Kurzweil, Ray. "Ray Kurzweil Responds to 'Ray Kurzweil does not understand the brain'." Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence blog, 2010-08-20.
  4. PZ Myers. "Ray Kurzweil does not understand the brain." Pharyngula, 2010-08-17.
  5. Chapter 8 of The Greatest Show On Earth by Richard Dawkins is a tour de force on just how embryo development follows a "recipe" model and not a "blueprint" model at all. You will be smarter after reading it. Not conveniently online, but hey, books are good for you.
  6. Really: if you're not brought up by humans, bits of your brain don't grow right. e.g. if you're brought up by wolves, you'll never learn a language and the neurons in your language center atrophy. Kurzweil may be technically, though not usefully, approximately correct about the genome containing almost all the information needed to grow a fresh newborn's brain.
  7. PZ Myers. "Kurzweil still doesn't understand the brain." Pharyngula, 2010-08-21.
  8. The Singularity Is Far (David J. Linden, BoingBoing, 2011-07-14). "The central problem here is that Kurzweil is conflating biological data collection with biological insight."
  9. http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/ray-kurzweils-slippery-futurism/0
  10. http://singularityu.org/faculty/
  11. http://www.wired.com/medtech/health/news/2005/02/66585
  12. Rupturing The Nanotech Rapture: Biological nanobots could repair and improve the human body, but they'll be more bio than bot Richard A.L. Jones, IEEE Spectrum, June 2008
  13. Gary Wolf. "Futurist Ray Kurzweil Pulls Out All the Stops (and Pills) to Live to Witness the Singularity." Wired 16 4, April 2008.
  14. Archived December 11, 2007 at the Wayback Machine This reads like a parody of the concept of woo.
  15. http://www.rayandterry.com/index.asp
  16. It's not all about Ray: There's more to Singularity studies than Kurzweil (George Dvorsky, Sentient Developments blog, 2010-08-23)
  17. http://chronopause.com/index.php/2011/08/11/the-kurzwild-man-in-the-night/
  18. James Earl Adams III, Siddharth Singhal. "Which 150 supplements does Ray Kurzweil take daily?". Quora. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  19. "Coenzyme Q10". Wikipedia. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  20. "Ray Kurzweil: The Top 3 Supplements for Surviving the Singularity". YouTube. Big Think. 20 May 2011.
  21. "Ray Kurzweil: The Top 3 Supplements for Surviving the Singularity". YouTube. Big Think. 20 May 2011.
  22. "Phosphatidylcholine". Wikipedia. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  23. How To Make A Singularity