March 3, 2016 9:08 pm

SEASON PREMIERE: This Friday, Neil Tyson and Ray Kurzweil Explore…the Future!

Image of human brain with cybernetic implants for blog post about "Gazing into the Future with Ray Kurzweil." Credit: Svisio/iStock.

Image Credit: Svisio/iStock.

The problem with predicting the future is that nobody really knows what’s actually going to happen. There are a myriad of unforeseen branches that will lead in directions undreamt of by most.

And then there’s futurist Ray Kurzweil, one of the highest profile predictors of “the Singularity.” Not the astrophysics kind – this singularity is the moment where, as Kurzweil predicts, the capacity for thinking by artificial intelligence increases a billion fold, a change so profound that, like the event horizon of a black hole, what lies on the other side remains a mystery to us.

Kurzweil is a controversial figure among the scientific community. He’s got an impressive list of credentials, as an inventor, an author, a computer programmer. Larry Page hired him personally to work at Google “to bring natural language understanding to Google.” President Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the nation’s highest honor for technology, and he’s been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

But not everyone buys into Kurzweil’s vision of the future.

Before interviewing Ray, Neil deGrasse Tyson considered himself one of Kurzweil’s biggest skeptics.

After their interview, at the end of this Friday’s season premier of StarTalk Radio, Neil says that whether Ray’s predictions are right or not, they are based on calculations, not instinct, and that he’s gained more respect for him and his process than he thought possible.

The same can’t be said for our in-studio science guest, Dr. Gary Marcus, a neuroscientist, author, and professor of psychology at NYU. Throughout the episode, after Neil and Ray discuss Ray’s various predictions for the future, from advances in artificial intelligence and human/machine hybridization via nanobots and neural implants, Gary plays devil’s advocate. And of course, co-host Chuck Nice has his own, inimitable take on the future, and yes, it includes sex robots.

The resulting episode is about as good a look into the future as we can hope for, which is to say, speculative, uncertain, and yet to be determined.

Or, to quote John Connor from one of the possible futures delineated in The Terminator movies, “The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.”

One thing is for certain, though.

Season 7 of StarTalk Radio premieres this Friday night, March 4, at 7 pm ET. Join us for “Gazing into the Future with Ray Kurzweil” on our website, iTunes Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn and SoundCloud.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons