Kurzweil as sire to his father

An extended interview with futurist Ray Kurzweil, published today as part of the Financial Times’ “Breakfast with the FT” feature series, develops an intriguing riff on his well-known dedication to vanquishing disease and facilitating a future in which people can live, if not forever, then longer than they do now. It appears that a very personal prototype for his deliberations in this area is his own father, who died of heart disease almost half a century ago when Kurzweil was still a young man. He speaks of his ambition to create an avatar of his father built out of all the memories, information and artefacts he retains all these decades later, rendering a Kurzweil Senior “more like my father was than he would have been, had he lived.”

There should be at least two distinct and serious pauses for reflection here. The first is the titanesque reputation of a thinker who has done so much in becoming by general reckoning the world’s “father of AI”. Ray Kurzweil talks persuasively of the coming revolutions in biotechnology and molecular nanotechnology that will facilitate the reprogramming and rebuilding of the entire human animal.

And the second is the possibly fathomless depths of the power of filial devotion.

One of the less reflected upon areas of cognition is the extent to which what we know, and how we know it, is impossible to qualify. To the extent that anyone who has been substantively lost to the world has become increasingly disengaged from all that made him who he was, what world would need recreating to restore him?

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