A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ray Kurzweil and Young Readers

When Ray Kurzweil speaks, I listen. Considering the secret that Kurzweil has revealed in his newest book, I worry that not enough other people seem to be listening. Wake up people! Drink some coffee. Can there be any more disruptive technology than computers with their own minds? Remember Hal, from 2001 Space Odyssey?

Kurzweil, inventor of the first synthesizer to emulate a grand piano, who pioneered optical character recognition (OCR), whose methods have been integrated into voice recognition used in Google's GPS navigation and translation services, speech to text, and text to speech, speech patterns to practical applications. whose inventions have been integrated into SIRI many of us use on our IPhones, knows a little something about the direction, the rate of growth, the unstoppable rise of artificial intelligence. He has tended to be right whenever he has made predictions. If Kurzweil's predictions are correct, computers will have minds of their own within the next 15 years.

Virtually every night, I can be found at the gym riding various cardio machines.  When I ride, I read. I have been reading How To Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, by Ray Kurzweil, along with The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientists Quest for What Makes us Human, by V.S. Ramachandran. In his latest book, Kurzweill describes how lessons learned from training computers to recognize voice and text have converged with revolutions in neuroscience. Kurzweil discovery of what Ramachandran has described as the "holy grail" of neuroscience: the essence of minds, the essence of thought, the nature of intelligence, whether on a biological or artificial substrate. IBM's Watson, a supercomputer which recently defeated two champions in the game show Jeopardy, according to Kurzweil, will be on your iPhone within a few years. Essentially, Kurzweill describes the cracking of the code, the secret of how human thought works, and Watson, according to Kurzweill, is closer to emulating human thought than most people realize.

While the limits of the capacity of cloud computing are unknown, the limits to biological evolution, which precedes at a glacial pace, are well known. The advantage of human minds, which recognize every object or sensation through "massively parallel" processing of millions of pattern simultaneously, has been modeled, quantified, and emulated with remarkable precision.

Recently, I worked with 4th grade students in a resource room. After students finished their vocabulary study work in Worldly Wise, probably the best vocabulary program I have come across, we had an extra 20 minutes for independent reading, so I pulled out my Kurzweil book, hoping I would be able to enjoy a little uninterrupted reading. The students were genuinely fascinated with the cover, so I explained to them who Ray Kurzweil is and why he is important. My group of struggling readers immediately recognized SIRI. They enjoyed the discussion about robots that will be able to think for themselves -- not much independent reading got done during independent reading time. These 4th graders were all ears. Perhaps because I had gotten their attention, they remained engaged learners throughout the day.