Wednesday, February 16, 2011


On Feb. 15, 1965, a diffident but self-possessed high school student named Raymond Kurzweil appeared as a guest on a game show called I've Got a Secret. He was introduced by the host, Steve Allen, then he played a short musical composition on a piano. The idea was that Kurzweil was hiding an unusual fact and the panelists — they included a comedian and a former Miss America — had to guess what it was.
On the show, the beauty queen did a good job of grilling Kurzweil, but the comedian got the win: the music was composed by a computer. Kurzweil got $200.
Kurzweil then demonstrated the computer, which he built himself — a desk-size affair with loudly clacking relays, hooked up to a typewriter. The panelists were pretty blasé about it; they were more impressed by Kurzweil's age than by anything he'd actually done. They were ready to move on to Mrs. Chester Loney of Rough and Ready, Calif., whose secret was that she'd been President Lyndon Johnson's first-grade teacher.
But Kurzweil would spend much of the rest of his career working out what his demonstration meant. Creating a work of art is one of those activities we reserve for humans and humans only. It's an act of self-expression; you're not supposed to be able to do it if you don't have a self. To see creativity, the exclusive domain of humans, usurped by a computer built by a 17-year-old is to watch a line blur that cannot be unblurred, the line between organic intelligence and artificial intelligence.
That was Kurzweil's real secret, and back in 1965 nobody guessed it. Maybe not even him, not yet. But now, 46 years later, Kurzweil believes that we're approaching a moment when computers will become intelligent, and not just intelligent but more intelligent than humans. When that happens, humanity — our bodies, our minds, our civilization — will be completely and irreversibly transformed. He believes that this moment is not only inevitable but imminent. According to his calculations, the end of human civilization as we know it is about 35 years away.


  1. Organic intelligence will outmatch any other intelligence until the first machine for the shelling of prawns has been successfully invented.

  2. Great comment to a fascinating post. Kurzweil is actually an incredible name for this theme, which therefore seems burlesque in any case. But what if he was right? What if there are not just "some" robots, what if everyone wants to have and will have a robot more intelligent than man in his house? What if there are robots who/which don't like shrimps? What if they like shrimps with the shell?

    Something unimaginable is beginning to stimulate our imagination, but we aren't any more intelligent enought to imagine, and I guess Mr Kurzweil's robots do not have a facial expression which could give us extra information like the one Albert Einstein's wife could get, while he was telling her his thaughts.

    In the 90-ties in two different places (one was Mexico, if I remember well) there have been created mice which are as 10 times more intelligent than common mice. Changing only one or two single genes! In this world are happening things which no law will be able to prevent. In front of changes like that timeless human wisdom doesn't exist any more, because something new under the sun is occurring, and no ancient proverb is fitting well with the situations arriving. The "tip of the ice-berg" might be the THE idiom of the last century

  3. "Spirituality" is considered something noble or honourable or soft. People do usually define a spirit which they do not like as a lack of spirituality, not as wrong spirituality or ugly spirituality or too much spirituality. But since spirit is software, this could change now.