INVENTOR AND AUTHOR Ray Kurzweil, who currently runs a group at Google writing automatic responses to your emails in cooperation with the Gmail team, recently talked with WIRED Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Thompson at the Council on Foreign Relations. Here’s an edited transcript of that conversation.
Nicholas Thompson: Let’s begin with you explaining the law of accelerating returns, which is one of the fundamental ideas underpinning your writing and your work.
Ray Kurzweil: Halfway through the Human Genome Project, 1 percent of the genome had been collected after seven years. So mainstream critics said, “I told you this wasn’t gonna work. You’re at seven years, 1 percent; it’s going to take 700 years just like we said.” My reaction at the time was: “Wow we finished 1 percent? We’re almost done.” Because 1% is only seven doublings from 100 percent. It had been doubling every year.