Futurist reviews Her

Ray Kurzweil guesses at when stuff from Spike Jonze's near-future Her will be available. [via Kottke]

I would place some of the elements in Jonze's depiction at around 2020, give or take a couple of years, such as the diffident and insulting videogame character he interacts with, and the pin-sized cameras that one can place like a freckle on one's face. Other elements seem more like 2014, such as the flat-panel displays, notebooks and mobile devices.

Samantha herself I would place at 2029, when the leap to human-level AI would be reasonably believable. There are some incongruities, however. As I mentioned, a lot of the dramatic tension is provided by the fact that Theodore's love interest does not have a body. But this is an unrealistic notion. It would be technically trivial in the future to provide her a virtual visual presence to match her virtual auditory presence, using, lens-mounted displays, for example, that display images onto Theodore's retinas.

Kurzweil notes the "all-too-common flaw of science futurism movies"—to introduce a single technological change to "an otherwise unchanged world". But his analysis of how Her differs is itself mostly a list of multiple technologies and their correspondence to his technological timeline of the future. Kurzweil's science fiction is so immanent within him that he seems to miss the fact that the technologies are props, and that Her's situation in the sociological present is, actually, the point.

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  1. Kurzweil's science fiction is so immanent within him that he seems to miss the fact that the technologies are props, and that Her's situation in the sociological present is, actually, the point.

    Or, it might be that Kurzweil is well aware of the sociological present, and is just writing what he was asked to write: estimated dates for the technology bits. That's his job, after all.

  2. SamSam says:

    I was going to say the same thing. He was asked the question, after all.

    That out of the way, can we spend the rest of the thread laughing at the evidence that Kurzweil uses to predict The Singularity?

    Brilliant! All important events in history are getting closer and closer together!

    What.... you have a problem with "Telephones and radios" being considered as important an event as "Eukaryotic cells evolve"?

    ...all his charts are basically this.

  3. Yeah, that one is kinda goofy. However, his charting of Solar power following a Moore's Law curve is pretty compelling. If it holds, Solar power will essentially be "free" in about 15 years (after 7 more cycles with each cycle being approximately 2 years).

    Also, he built a sight-reader that gave my blind father the ability to scan books and have a voice read them, so Dr. Kurzweil is alright by me.

  4. "Frankly, I think he gives things too-early dates to generate controversy rather than because he actually believes it."

    Kurzweil has many flaws, but I've never gotten the impression that he says things just to provoke controversy. He seems to be very earnest in his predictions.

    I think he has the opposite problem -- he seems to desperately want the technologies to exist in the timelines he gives. After all, he's going to need some of those medical therapies if he's to achieve his longevity goals.

  5. As I mentioned, a lot of the dramatic tension is provided by the fact that Theodore's love interest does not have a body. But this is an unrealistic notion. It would be technically trivial in the future to provide her a virtual visual presence to match her virtual auditory presence, using, lens-mounted displays, for example, that display images onto Theodore's retinas.

    Hint: not being able to see Samantha isn't going to present the biggest problem in their relationship.

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