The 2009 documentary Transcendent Man: The Life and Ideas of Ray Kurzweil is currently screening both online and in select venues, and provoking exactly the wide range of responses one would expect from a film about a futurist who has claimed, among other things, that man would soon learn how to extend his life “indefinitely.” The New York Times recently compared his theories with 2nd and 3rd century gnosticism, and since this film was made by an avowed believer in Kurzweil’s philosophy and theories, it’s no surprise that Scientific American faults the movie for its reverence, and Variety wishes “It were not so transparently on [Kurzweil's side].”
Meanwhile, the “highly sophisticated crackpot,” as you see him described in the movie’s trailer, has been proven right more often than wrong. His fans are legion, and often wealthy. Larry Page, the founder and CEO of Google, helped establish Singularity University with Kurzweil in 2008, and there many entrepreneurs and investors take 10 week courses to the tune of $25,000.
If you’re not interested in shelling out $5 to rent the movie online (scroll down to the bottom of the page), then Kurzweil’s 10 answers to Time Magazine’s 10 questions will give you a taste of what the fuss has been all about.
Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly