Bill Nye Disses Ray Kurzweil's Singularity Prediction

A portrait of Bill Nye
Flickr / Montclair Film

On Wednesday, Bill Nye said that he is not afraid that machines will take over and mocked Ray Kurzweil’s predictions for how fast artificial intelligence will improve.

In an interview with the Singularity.FM podcast, Nye said that he thinks that the machine revolution will not be as incredible as predicted. Since humans are making the machines, we don’t need to worry about a sudden onset of artificial intelligence taking over and replacing us, despite what Ray Kurzweil and Elon Musk worry about. Looking at where technology is in the world today and the timelines predicted for the rise of artificial intelligence leaves Nye dubious of Kurzweil’s predictions.

“I’m skeptical, especially about these extraordinary timelines — 2029? What is that, 12 years from now? No! No.” Nye said. “I’m not concerned, because humans make the machines. Sooner or later, to put it in old terms, somebody’s got to shovel the coal to make the electricity run the machine.”

Ray Kurzweil has predicted that the singularity, when humans merge with computer super-intelligence will happen in 2045. At that time, he’s said that there will be an explosion of art, humor, and people will be sexier. Nye mocked Kurzweil for this prediction, and that he thinks computers will be able to beat a Turing test in 2029.

“That’s where, “The machines are going to create machines, that are going to like provide the electricity and everything is going to work perfectly and it’s going to be really good and it’s going to happen in the next nine years.” Ray, really? Really?” said Nye, using an exaggerated tone while imitating Kurzweil. “Isn’t that when you’re going to be 80, and so that’s when you predicted it, hoping your brain would go in some electronic receptacle. Dude, no.”

Nye points out that there are a billion people in the world today who have never even made a phone call. This leaves him pretty skeptical that an artificial intelligence revolution would dramatically change things most places. And since humans design the machines, he’s not convinced that we’re on the brink of computers that can surpass human intelligence. “I’m not concerned,” he said.

You can watch the whole interview here, with the bit on AI and Kurzweil starting at 9:45.

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