IT USED to be that you would go into a dark tent where an old woman would gaze into a ball and tell you about the dark handsome stranger in your future. In the 21st century, it seems, the tent is a rather eccentrically decorated office in the suburbs of Boston; the old woman, a professorial chap in a suit; and the handsome stranger, a network of hyper-intelligent computers that will take over the world. It is hard not to think Arnold Schwarzenegger while talking to futurist Ray Kurzweil. This is not because he looks like Arnie (he is pretty much the physical opposite), but because he keeps saying things that sound like the plot of the movie Terminator. Nanobots, self-aware computers and human cyborgs litter his conversations.
Futurist, inventor and Google Inc. director of engineering Ray Kurzweil has some high praise -- and a friendly dig -- for the Waterloo region. Kurzweil said he visits many communities and gives many speeches like the one he delivered Thursday at the Tech Leadership Conference, hosted by the innovation hub Communitech. Wherever he goes, people tell him he's visiting the region's equivalent of Silicon Valley: "Our community is the Silicon Valley of the Left Bank of Paris, our community is the Silicon Valley of Tel Aviv." "Kitchener-Waterloo and the Toronto area really are a Silicon Valley, second only maybe to the actual Silicon Valley. A place that celebrates the idea that failure is something to be, if not encouraged, at least accepted," he said. "We have a word for failure.
It's hard to know where to start with Ray Kurzweil. With the fact that he takes 150 pills a day and is intravenously injected on a weekly basis with a dizzying list of vitamins, dietary supplements, and substances that sound about as scientifically effective as face cream: coenzyme Q10, phosphatidycholine, glutathione? With the fact that he believes that he has a good chance of living for ever? He just has to stay alive "long enough" to be around for when the great life-extending technologies kick in (he's 66 and he believes that "some of the baby-boomers will make it through"). Or with the fact that he's predicted that in 15 years' time, computers are going to trump people. That they will be smarter than we are. Not just better at doing sums than us and knowing what the best route is to Basildon. But that they will be able to understand what we say, learn from experience, crack jokes, tell stories, flirt. Ray Kurzweil believes that, by 2029, computers will be able to do all the things that humans do.
The greatest unfair competitive advantage for your small business is leveraging this critical shift in how you view the drivers of the future. As I was growing up I'd often quip that my grandmother, who had been born at the start of the 20th Century in a Greek village and lived to nearly the age of 100, saw more change in her lifetime than I'd ever possibly see. Turns out I couldn't have been more wrong because my future math was a few exponents short. A recent webcast (below) by Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil (co-founders of Singularity University) drove that point home and provided insight into how the future will be even more radically disruptive than anything we've already experienced and more so that what we can today predict. I've followed Peter and Ray for many years now and their ability to capture our imagination and stretch our minds is extraordinary.
Futurist, author and inventor Ray Kurzweil delivered a keynote speech to 800 attendees at 2016 Tech Leadership Conference in Waterloo, Canada. Ray Kurzweil envisions the future -- by year 2020, 3D printing will transform manufacturing. People will print their own clothing, he predicts. In Asia, builders are making small office buildings using modules made by 3D printers. Inventors created jet engines and cars out of printed parts, Kurzweil says. Impact on a declining manufacturing industry could be catastrophic. Jobs will be lost, manufacturing will turn into an information industry, but there's a silver lining behind industry disruption, he says. The fashion industry will explode with new ideas as people design, make and share clothes using 3D printers. Kurzweil sees manufacturing moving into open source design and production.