Re: THEODORE MODIS critique of S.I.N.

From: Philip Goetz (
Date: Mon Mar 20 2006 - 11:37:34 MST

On 3/18/06, Damien Broderick <> wrote:

> No big deal? Maybe, but it suggests less than
> rigorous scrutiny of his sources by Ray or his researchers.

That was my main issue with the book, overall. It was a nice "gee-whiz"
overview of transhumanist memes and efforts, that could help stimulate
thought from a lot of people who don't normally think about these things.
Somehow, Kurzweil is reaching a mainstream audience with this.
(Whether that's good or bad, I don't know.)

But, the book didn't distinguish between things that are solid,
and things that are highly speculative, and even things that
lunatic fringe (e.g., faster-than-light travel, altering the physical
constants of the universe).

For instance, he refers to work on nematodes, and simply states
that a few simple gene alterations extend their lifespans by over 100%.
Ray throws out the figures with the implication that we might
be able to tweak a few genes in humans and live happily to 300.
He doesn't mention that those gene alterations merely slow down metabolism
and produce weak, lethargic worms that couldn't survive in nature
and probably do not experience whatever constitutes happiness for a worm.
In other words, the work which he cites is essentially irrelevant to the
point he's trying to make.

I think experience has shown that overselling a techonological revolution
to this extent is bad for it. It's like advertising for a movie a year before
it opens.

- Phil

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