And they lived technologically ever after

Starting 2010, Kurzweil predicts computers will cease to exist as distinct physical objects, but will be embedded everywhere in the environment.

In late 2002, a huge controversy broke out over a highly speculative theory from two mathematical physicists (who happened to be twins) about what may have preceded the Big Bang.

At the time, the New York Times (NYT) noted that scientific community itself hadn't figured out whether the brothers "are really geniuses with a new view of the moment before the universe began or simply scientists who are in over their heads and spouting nonsense."

The NYT article carried the provocative title: "Are they a) Geniuses or b) Jokers?"

Today, it seems, similar questions are being asked about futurist Ray Kurzweil and his prognostications.

Last May, CNN Money carried an article on Kurzweil titled: The smartest (or the nuttiest) futurist on Earth.

While a 2005 blog post responding to a 2005 NYT Op-Ed by Kurzweil was titled: Ray Kurzweil: Visionary or Chump?

But the controversy surrounding his predictions notwithstanding, Kurzweil commands respect-- mostly because he isn't just an armchair theorist.

He's also an eminent inventor with 14 honorary doctorates from a wide assortment of colleges and universities.

Among other thing, he has developed hardware and software for optical character recognition, speech recognition and electronic music.

His "inventions" include the award-winning Kurzweil 1000 text-to-speech converter software program, which enables a computer to read electronic and scanned text aloud to blind or visually-impaired users, and the Kurzweil 3000 program -- a multifaceted electronic learning system that helps with reading, writing, and study skills.

As a futurist, many of Kurzweil's most controversial predictions deal with how information technology (IT) will transform the world of tomorrow.

Many of these are articulated in his latest book: "The Singularity is Near."

This volume -- along with acquainting you with qubits, foglets, gigaflops, haptic interfaces and probabilistic fractals (this ain't science for sissies) also offers a glimpse into the fascinating and bizarre world of:

Hyper-embedded computing

Starting 2010, Kurzweil predicts computers will cease to exist as distinct physical objects, but will be embedded everywhere in the environment.

We witness the start of this phenomenon even today, he says, with "computation leaving the PC format."

In the next 10 years, Kurzweil says, computers will not be to be the rectangular objects we carry around, but are going to be extremely tiny, and they're going to be everywhere.

"The practical implication of this is you're not going to be carrying around objects. Computing will become invisible. It will be woven in your belt buckle, your clothes," the futurist says in a podcast.

Such embedded computing, he says, will resolve the current dilemma we have with displays.

"People like 50-inch screens. On the other hand they also like watching movies on a one- and two-inch screen. But that's not a satisfactory experience."

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Joaquim P. Menezes
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