Tuesday Review: Transcendent Man

Tuesday Review:

Transcendent Man
2009 NR 83 minutes

Directed by Barry Ptolemy

You have to love Ray Kurzweil. He is SO goofy and yet so sincere. Plus he is a flat out genius, so he has that goin’ for him.

Look in the dictionary ( HA! a leetle joke there. You don’t HAVE a dictionary, do you?) under “Mad Scientist”. You will probably not find a picture of Kurzweil but you should. But he is no bomb making anarchist. No, quite the opposite – He wants you and himself to live forever. Judging from his track record he might be on to something.

Kurweil, during his sophomore year at MIT dreamed up the the Select College Consulting Program and sold the idea for $100,000. He was integral in the invention of the CCD flatbed scanner and the text-to-speech synthesizer.
His friendship with Stevie Wonder led him to build a music synthesizer so good that in tests musicians were unable to discern the difference between the Kurzweil K250 on piano mode from a normal grand piano. He invented and perfected a speech recognition program and the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader” (K-NFB Reader).

Plus he is a prolific and best selling author:
Kurzweil’s first book, The Age of Intelligent Machines, was published in 1990.
Kurzweil published a book on nutrition in 1993 called The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life.
In 1998, Kurzweil published The Age of Spiritual Machines
Kurzweil’s next book published in 2004, returned to the subject of human health and nutrition. Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever was co-authored by Kurzweil and Terry Grossman
The Singularity Is Near was published in 2005. The book is currently being made into a movie starring Pauley Perrette.
Kurzweil’s newest book, Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever a follow-up on Fantastic Voyage, was released on April 28, 2009.
His current book project is titled How The Mind Works and How To Build One.

The documentary does a cursory exam of Kurzweil’s life and then follows him to various speaking engagements as he expounds on his theories. He predicts soon there will be a new civilization in which we will no longer be dependent on our physical bodies, intelligent will expand exponentially and there will be no clear distinction between human and machine, real reality and virtual reality.

From Wikipedia:

Kurzweil’s first book, The Age of Intelligent Machines, presented his ideas about the future. It was written from 1986 to 1989 and published in 1990. In the book Kurzweil also extrapolated preexisting trends in the improvement of computer chess software performance to predict correctly that computers would beat the best human players by 1998, and most likely in that year. In fact, the event occurred in May 1997 when chess World Champion Garry Kasparov was defeated by IBM’s Deep Blue computer in a well-publicized chess tournament. Perhaps most significantly, Kurzweil foresaw the explosive growth in worldwide Internet use that began in the 1990s. At the time of the publication of The Age of Intelligent Machines, there were only 2.6 million Internet users in the world, and the medium was unreliable, difficult to use, and deficient in content, making Kurzweil’s realization of its future potential especially prescient, given the technology’s limits at that time. He also stated that the Internet would explode not only in the number of users but in content as well, eventually granting users access “to international networks of libraries, data bases, and information services”. Additionally, Kurzweil claims to have correctly foreseen that the preferred mode of Internet access would inevitably be through wireless systems, and he was also correct to estimate that the latter would become practical for widespread use in the early 21st century.

So when it comes to predictions, I wouldn’t bet against him.

Director Barry Ptolemy (The Catch) (I) (2001) does a workmanlike job on the film. No new ground is broken but the material is so compelling that he wisely just keeps out of the way.


The Rant D’Jour is about hopelessly old technology and the people who love it.

We have not one but two land line phone numbers at the Rising ranch. I know that seems positively anachronistic…Rant D’Jour


Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

About James Rising

A recovering radio addict wrestles with the written word.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply