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Why Ray Kurzweil is wrong

And what to do about it

I am a huge fan Ray Kurzweil’s technological forecasts. He is the best that I know in predicting technology. He also clearly cares about the way the future will play out.

Where I beg to differ, is Kurzweil’s assertion that technological progress will find a way forward without us completely revamping our economic system first. I disagree with the technologists throwing up their hands and saying — the economists will figure it out. This line of reasoning is completely unacceptable to me.

I am not saying that technology will not progress. It will. But the social upheaval attendant to that progress is a function of the forethought that we put into our economic system.

It is akin to scientists that developed the atomic bomb saying: “We’ll just let military and politicians figure out how they will use it.” They did, and they did. But many of the scientists, knowing what we know now had second thoughts about their role in the project.

It is not just irresponsible and immoral to develop tools without any consideration for how they will be deployed, it is incredibly short-sighted. And being short-sighted is not what I would expect from a leading futurist of our times.

The economics must change. Unless we transition from a competitive to a cooperative model of resource allocation creating powerful Artificial Intelligence and other tools that can often be more easily deployed for evil, or if not evil, for personal short-term gain at the expense of the interest of others, we are careening to a future that will have much unpleasantness or even the possibility of human extinction.

Economists alone will not figure it out. Not only will most of them miss this problem to start with, but there is necessarily a technological element of the solution that is essential to making the economics of cooperation work effectively.

And if Ray Kurzweil’s technological forecast is anywhere near as accurate as the forecasts that he published in the past, it is high time that we have that conversation.

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