Ray Kurzweil Dazzles Crowd at SC06

By Helen Thomson, HPCwire

November 24, 2006

Described as 'the restless genius' by the Wall Street Journal, and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes, Ray Kurzweil is not only a visionary, an author and an inventor, he is truly representative of this year's Supercomputing 2006 theme: 'Powerful Beyond Imagination.'

Having been honoured from numerous professional bodies, Kurzweil is specifically noted for winning the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize — the world's largest prize for innovation. In 1999, he also received the National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest honour in technology, from President Clinton. When he wasn't receiving his 12 honorary doctorates, Kurzweil has also found time to write five best selling books, reproduced in nine different languages. Addressing SC06 as the keynote speaker, Kurzweil explained to a packed auditorium where he believes technology will lead us in the future.

He began his speech by prophesising that the 21st century will see 20,000 years of progress at today's current rate, and that we are already seeing the effects of this progress. “You used to have to be a big government agency or a highly specialized lab to make an influential piece of software or produce a movie. Today kids can invent something that is worth 100 million dollars from their room.”

He emphasised that our pace of progress is also accelerating. “A lot of scientists don't take this into consideration,” he said. “When we predict what will happen in the future, most people use the last 50 years as a model of the next 50 years.” But, he said, a linear prediction creates over-pessimistic expectations.

Although Kurzweil conceded that this type of exponential growth cannot go on forever — “each paradigm comes to an end eventually” — he also believes that each paradigm creates research pressures to create the next paradigm. So where does this all end? “There are limits,” he admitted, “but they're just not very limiting.”

No one can predict the future, but Ray Kurzweil makes a pretty good attempt. “I can't tell you what the stock level will be in 50 years; specific projects are hard to predict. But the overall impact of technologies are remarkably predictable.” He likened this to our knowledge of matter, “If you have a large dynamic chaotic system like gas, is it possible to predict the direction of individual particles? No. Can we predict the qualities of the gas as a whole? Yes.”

He spent much of his keynote speech detailing the specific projects that are at the forefront of today's technology. He highlighted the influence that shared processing power and advanced computer technology is having in the biomedical communities, helping humans to fight disease. “We are transforming everything we care about. It used to be hit or miss with medical drugs. The tools used were crude. Now, with today's technology we can have an overwhelming effect on every area of the medical industry.”

Kurzweil went on to explain the incredible possibilities of reverse engineering the brain. “We will see scientists recreating the computational capacity of the human brain in the next 50 years,” he stated. “People forget that our brains are a million times slower than computers, they use chemical messengers to transfer information.” Kurzweil told us that his most conservative estimate of 10^16 calculations per second –- the amount of computation required to simulate the brain, will be possible in 2010. 

Interestingly, he mentioned the famous quotation of Lyall Watson, “If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn't.” Then, quietly suggested, “this is no longer true.”  He reminded us that our brain develop from a genome, which we have now mapped. “Our brains are formed from only a few genes. It's a self-organizing design which is the beauty of it,” he said.  “It is possible to recreate it.” He added, “I'm not saying its simple –- it doesn't come with documentation!”

Kurzweil payed a great deal of attention to the intersection of biology with IT, “our ability to turn off one gene, and turn on another, for example.” He specifically noted our ability to 'shrink' technology at an exponential rate. “In 20 years we'll build artificial blood cells –- we're already doing it in animals.” These blood cells, he said, will allow an Olympic sprinter to run for 15 minutes without taking a breath, or to sit at the bottom of a pool for four hours. He highlighted cancer, diabetes and Parkinson's disease as just a few of the illnesses that we will cure through a hybrid of biological and non-biological technologies.

Having left the audience in awe at the many implications of recreating the human brain, curing disease and incorporating miniature robots inside our bodies, Kurzweil moved on to demonstrating his new print-to-speech reader for the blind. With a captive audience watching his every movement on four large screens, he placed the reader over his notes, took a snapshot, and after a moment's tense silence, a voice emanated from the small box, repeating the printed text out loud –- word-for-word. With Kurzweil modestly acknowledging the applause that arose from around the room, he joked, with a hint of relief, “it's always fun to do a live demonstration.” On a more serious note he mentioned, “how gratifying it has been to see people walking around with these devices,” also acknowledging how helpful it had been to predict when technologies will become available in order to prepare for them.

Listening to Kurzweil was both enjoyable and inspiring, particularly his summary of the greatness of human achievement. After all he has to tell us about the future of technology, it is easy to see how together, we are indeed, powerful beyond imagination.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia's Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 "Accelerator Optimized" VM A2 instance family on Google Compute Engine. The instances are powered by t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Q&A: HLRS’s Bastian Koller Tackles HPC and Industry in Germany and Europe

July 6, 2020

HPCwire: Let's start with HLRS and work our way up to the European scale. HLRS has stood out in the HPC world for its support of both scientific and industrial research. Can you discuss key developments in recent years? Read more…

By Steve Conway, Hyperion

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center Offers a Virtual Tour of Its MareNostrum Supercomputer

July 6, 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to threaten the world and disrupt normal operations, facility tours remain a little difficult to operate, with many supercomputing centers having shuttered facility tours for visitor Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

What’s New in Computing vs. COVID-19: Fugaku, Congress, De Novo Design & More

July 2, 2020

Supercomputing, big data and artificial intelligence are crucial tools in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Around the world, researchers, corporations and governments are urgently devoting their computing reso Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time last year, IBM announced open sourcing its Power instructio Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Maxar Builds HPC on AWS to Deliver Forecasts 58% Faster Than Weather Supercomputer

When weather threatens drilling rigs, refineries, and other energy facilities, oil and gas companies want to move fast to protect personnel and equipment. And for firms that trade commodity shares in oil, precious metals, crops, and livestock, the weather can significantly impact their buy-sell decisions. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

HPC Career Notes: July 2020 Edition

July 1, 2020

In this monthly feature, we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it's a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we've got Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia's Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 "Accelerator Optimized" VM A2 instance fam Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Q&A: HLRS’s Bastian Koller Tackles HPC and Industry in Germany and Europe

July 6, 2020

HPCwire: Let's start with HLRS and work our way up to the European scale. HLRS has stood out in the HPC world for its support of both scientific and industrial Read more…

By Steve Conway, Hyperion

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ISC 2020 Keynote: Hope for the Future, Praise for Fugaku and HPC’s Pandemic Response

June 24, 2020

In stark contrast to past years Thomas Sterling’s ISC20 keynote today struck a more somber note with the COVID-19 pandemic as the central character in Sterling’s annual review of worldwide trends in HPC. Better known for his engaging manner and occasional willingness to poke prickly egos, Sterling instead strode through the numbing statistics associated... Read more…

By John Russell

ISC 2020’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

June 24, 2020

Normally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of students building real computing clusters on the show floors of major supercomputer conferences and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers


Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This