Kurzweil keeps his enemies close. The documentary Transcendent Man, which was directed by Barry Ptolemy but authorized by its subject, prominently features detractors blasting him as everything from “freaky” to a “pseudo-religious crackpot.” As for the coming feature film that Kurzweil produced (and co-directed, along with Anthony Waller), titled The Singularity Is Near — his entire premise was born from common criticism. The star, his go-to singing avatar Ramona, develops a personality that’s indistinguishable from that of any human. Still, her maturation is not accepted by the larger society, so she hires Alan Dershowitz to press for her human rights, and Tony Robbins to teach her how to be human (both characters play themselves). “It’s a bit of a tongue-in-cheek story,” says Kurzweil, “but it’s pretty much tied to the documentary. Basically, Transcendent Man introduces who I am and [the other] presents my ideas.”
Considering his mild-mannered nature, it’s unlikely that Kurzweil entertains his gadflies just to make them look foolish when his notions flourish (though he is particularly giddy about having foreseen that voice-to-voice language-translation applications would be readily available on cell phones by 2009). Rather, Kurzweil keeps skeptics around for the same reason that he has an Ediphone in the entrance to his office — every wrong guess, personal attack, and failure is just success deferred. That, and a reassurance that he’ll still be alive and well — as a cyborg, of course — long after his adversaries perish.
Chris Faraone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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