You've gotta love the sheer chuzpah of it. In the middle what may well turn out to be the worst economic crisis the world has ever faced comes word that Google and NASA are planning to bankroll and house Ray Kurzweil's Singularity University at NASA's Ames Research Center, not far from the Googleplex. Peter Diamandis, vice-chancellor of Kurzweil's Clown College and current CEO of the X-Prize was quoted by the Financial Times as saying, "We are anchoring the university in what is the lab today, with an understanding of what's in the realm of possibility in the future. The day before something is truly a breakthrough, it's a crazy idea."
We're right with you, Peter, at least the crazy part, as much of the coverage in our special report on the Singularity, Rapture of the Geeks, makes clear. As Diamandis says, anything is in the realm of possibility in the future. I might give birth to a litter of kittens when I'm 80. The sun might explode tomorrow. Rod Blagojevich might get a decent hair cut. And Ray Kurzweil might help usher in a beneficent Singularity, one where the machines that are smarter than we can ever even conceive of treat us, as Vernor Vinge once told me, like pets. And that's the good scenario: The machines turn the tables and go all Tamagotchi on us.
Hey, why not? We're already throwing what will wind up being trillions of dollars at an economic mess in part facilitated by financial risk algorithms, the crazy uncles of our future Machine Overlords. What's a few more million dollars, plus a few more good human minds sucked into the thrall of Mr. Kurzweil and his obsessive quest to deny Death its due? But while they're at it, I'm wondering if Messrs. Page and Diamandis might throw me some cash, too. I've got this really cool idea about how we can harness the energy of a few well-engineered Bacon Explosions.