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Alex Steffen, 15 Oct 04

Ray Kurzweil is a freeze-your-head futurist, a fore-seer of the old school. Most of the predictions he makes are too swaddled in layers of unexamined cultural and generational assumptions to be taken without a chunk of salt. That said, this interview rewards reading even if you diagree with much of what he says:

"The relative wealth that we now have comes from productivity, and we're going to see dramatic productivity enhancements in the future. If you jump ahead 20 years or so, we will be able to create virtually any physical product at almost no cost, just from information and fabrication techniques. In fact, we're not that far today from being able to create physical products with software because we have computer-assisted inventory control systems, just-in-time procurement, computer-controlled movement of materials and assembly. ... We're seeing international competition for the first time in types of work that require education and skills, and that's going to continue. And I think it's a good thing. China is committed to building 50 MITs, as they put it. That's not an exaggeration. They're creating scores of world-class technology universities. But these people are going to create intellectual property from which we'll all benefit. If somebody creates a breakthrough in bioengineering, we all benefit. It may also result in China respecting intellectual property more, if they are heavily invested in creating intellectual property."

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