Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Documenary follows the Transcendent Man

Ok, this news would be more fun for us if it were a wee bit closer, but surely the film will make its way West and for those traveling to New York — a documentary about Ray "The Singularity is Near" Kurzweil premieres 8 p.m., Sat., April 25 at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The film, Transcendent Man — One Man's Quest to Reveal Our Destiny, covers the drama-rich territory of the life and ideas of Ray Kurzweil, an award-winning scientist, engineer, and inventor.

Depending on who you talk to, people toss words like
genius, crackpot, or prophet Kurzweil's way in tones ranging from awed to anxious. You can hear it all in the trailer for the film plus clips from Stevie Wonder and William Shatner. To recap, Kurzweil's ideas include:

• Computers will gain consciousness in our lifetime, pretty soon.
• We'll get to merge with the intelligent technology we're creating — the singularity.
• Humans get to live forever (be flexible though: us + machine intelligence = human).
• After the singularity, Kurzweil plans to bring his father back from the dead.
• The future, the singularity, "...will be the universe waking up."

Whether you find these ideas freaky-good or scary-bad, fascinating or inspiring, there's no debating Kurzweil's credentials. He's been:

• the principal developer of the print-to-speech reading machine for the blind and the first text-to-speech synthesizer.
• the recipient of the National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest honor in technology, in 1999.
• inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame by the US Patent Office in 2002.
• the recipient of 16 honorary Doctorates.

It's no wonder director Barry Ptolemy spent two years following Kurzweil around five countries to make the Transcendent Man. It sounds like fun and plenty of dramatic footage. Find out more about the film premiere here.

If you haven't read The Singularity is Near (2005) yet, and have an interest in nanotechnology, it makes a great double-feature with Jeff Carlson's thrillers Plague Year (2007) and Plague War (2008). And Carlson will be at Norwescon April 9-12 in Seatac. That's much closer to home.

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