Thinking Through The Cloud: Ray Kurzweil Discusses Future Connection Between Humans and Technology

Ray Kurzweil discusses the trajectory of technology and humanity at Pomona College's Bridges Auditorium on Feb. 7. (Michelle Chan • The Student Life)Inventor, author, and futurist Ray Kurzweil spoke at Pomona College’s Bridges Auditorium on Tuesday, Feb. 7. His speech focused on predictions for the technology and society of the not-so-distant future.

Central to all of his points was the reality behind exponential progressions. Kurzweil explained that while we perceive the world linearly, progress, especially within the technological fields of miniaturization and computation, increases at an exponential rate.

The theory that technology is becoming increasingly smaller and more efficient manifests itself in major areas including employment, biotechnology, renewable energy, 3D printing, and augmented reality, all discussed in Kurzweil’s hour-long talk. He backed all of his still-controversial claims with years of data and evidence of trends.

3D printing, specifically, inspired a closer look from Kurzweil. Food, fashion, housing, organs—Kurzweil said that all of these industries, and more, will be affected by the rise of such printing. He said that we should expect 3D printed clothing to be standard by 2020 and organs printed with your own DNA to be common within ten years.

“Individualized organs are coming to a human near you soon,” said Kurzweil.

Kurzweil claimed that the neocortex, where creativity is housed in the human brain, will become integrated with the cloud.

“Thinking will be a combination of biological thinking through traditional means and non-biological thinking through the cloud,” said Kurzweil.

Although these drastic visions of the future can be overwhelming to contront, hope for the future should not be lost. Kurzweil said that we are simply “reinventing the nature of work.” This will lead to more specialized, and therefore interesting, careers at the top of the social ladder. Additionally, he believes our personal information to be more secure than the media likes to make us think.

The event’s attendees reacted mostly positively to Kurzweil’s drastic predictions. Ziv Epstein PO ‘17 was impressed by the talk's content.  

“He’s a very interesting character because he makes all these radical claims about the future, but he actually has the technical knowledge of an inventor to corroborate all of them," Epstein said. "This highlighted for me the need to make democratized technology that everyone can use. It was a really impactful, informative experience that we get at the 5Cs."

Vivaswat Jha HM ‘19 expressed confidence in Kurzweil's scientific achievements.

“I am a little skeptical of his predictions for how human civilization will work. But as for his actual achievements and discoveries, he’s in a league of his own,” Jha said.

Jordan Abrahams HM ‘17 also commented what he felt were the biggest takeaways from Kurzweil’s onslaught of predictions.  

“Honestly, there was a lot of optimism. The exponential growth of technology and information ... will lead to an intriguing future,” Abrahams said.