For over three decades, Ray Kurzweil has been one of the most respected and provocative advocates of the role of technology in our future. In his classic The Age of Spiritual Machines, he argued that computers would soon rival the full range of human intelligence at its best. Now he examines the next step in this inexorable evolutionary process: the union of human and machine, in which the knowledge and skills embedded in our brains will be combined with the vastly greater capacity, speed, and knowledge-sharing ability of our creations.
In a few years we’ll have artificial intelligence that can accomplish professional human tasks. There is nothing we can do to stop this. In addition our lives will be totally 100% tracked by ourselves and others. This too is inevitable. Indeed much of what will happen in the next 30 years is inevitable, driven by technological trends which are already in motion, and are impossible to halt without halting civilization. Some of what is coming may seem scary, like ubiquitous tracking, or robots replacing humans. Others innovations seem more desirable, such as an on-demand economy, and virtual reality in the home. And some that is coming like network crime and anonymous hacking will be society’s new scourges. Yet both the desirable good and the undesirable bad of these emerging technologies all obey the same formation principles.
Started in 1987, South by Southwest (SXSW) is a set of film, interactive, and music festivals and conferences that take place early each year in mid-March in Austin, Texas. SXSW’s original goal was to create an event that would act as a tool for creative people and the companies they work with to develop their careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas. That continues to be the goal today whether it is music, film or interactive technologies.
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