Ray Kurzweil on Technology – but nothing on Economics or Unemployment
If you have your doubts about the exponential growth of technology continuing indefinitely, there’s a guy you should talk to: Ray Kurzweil. The author of the Singularity is Near, subject of the film Transcendent Man, and inventor of reading machines and the digital synthesizer, Kurzweil is one of the key figures at the center of the debate on how technology will grow in this century and beyond. His key argument, that information technology (and intelligence) obeys a law of accelerating returns, has helped him predict major paradigms in IT in the last 25 years.
Kurzweil is one of the founders of Singularity University and was an obvious choice to give the keynote address at the opening of SU’s nine day executive program.
Kurtzeil believes we will have human-level artificial intelligence by 2029. The interesting thing to me is that Kurzweil never mentions the economic implications of machine intelligence and seems completely unconcerned that it might result in significant unemployment.
I have been arguing here that we are likely to have significant structural unemployment long before technology reaches the level that Kurzweil envisions (true AI) because even less sophisticated machines will be able to do the routine jobs that make up the bulk of job market.
I don’t know what Kurzweil thinks about the economics of his projections, but if I had to guess, I’d say he probably more or less agrees with the ideas of libertarian economist Robin Hanson. My thoughts on the implications of truly intelligent machines are here.