The Story of the 21st Century

May 31, 2001 by Rebecca Zacks

Raymond Kurzweil created a hubbub with his idea that we will soon be able to “download” ourselves into machines and live forever. Find out what else he’s got up his futuristic sleeve.

Originally published January 1, 2000 at Technology Review. Published on May 31, 2001.

Struggling to find time in a busy schedule for yet another interview, Raymond Kurzweil jokes that the media frenzy surrounding him these days only happens “every thousand years.” That’s because the inventor and entrepreneur who brought us such products as the Kurzweil electronic keyboard, a text-to-speech reading machine for the blind and voice-recognition software is also one of the most audacious–and, some say, accurate–futurists around. Kurzweil’s fearlessly detailed predictions make his latest book, The Age of Spiritual Machines, a must-read for the turn of the millennium.

TR Associate Editor Rebecca Zacks visited Kurzweil at the Wellesley Hills, Mass., offices of Kurzweil Technologies, one of the half-dozen high-tech companies he has founded since selling his first major enterprise to Xerox in 1980. The son of a composer and trained as an MIT undergraduate in both computer science and creative writing, Kurzweil moves deftly from music and art to computer processors and nanotechnology to immortality, evolution and God. And though his manner and his gray pinstriped suit are remarkably subdued, his ideas about the future are explosive.

TR: You’re accomplished both as an inventor and as a writer–how do you see those two roles fitting together?

KURZWEIL: In writing, you’re also inventing. My main interest is to write about the future, though I did write a health book. Lately, my interest in health has intersected with my interest in computers, because they both have a bearing on the issues of longevity and immortality–keeping our biological bodies and brains healthy is the first bridge to immortality. That’ll bring us to the bioengineering revolution. Within 10 years, bioengineering will extend human life spans at least a year every year. And that’ll be the second bridge that’ll bring us to the nanotechnology artificial intelligence revolution, which gives us a real shot at immortality. But writing about the future and technology is also an invention process, because you have to invent the future to have a compelling statement about it.

Complete article available at Technology Review