Tribeca film reveals U.S. inventor's bionic vision

Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:39pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - American inventor Ray Kurzweil predicts that in only a few decades, humans will merge with machines, changing life as we know it irrevocably.

A new documentary, "Transcendent Man," which premiered on Saturday at the Tribeca Film Festival, presents Kurzweil's life, his prediction that aging and death will become obsolete, his motives and his critics.

It explains his use of the mathematical term "singularity theory" to support a prediction that by 2045 technology will be changing so profoundly that humans will have to enhance themselves with artificial intelligence to keep up.

It features more than 20 interviews, including ones with former secretary of state Colin Powell, fellow inventor Robert Metcalfe, top scientists and professors around the globe, as well as musician Stevie Wonder, who benefited from Kurzweil's 1976 invention of a reading device for the blind.

"For a man to be as successful as he is and then to say I am going to step into this firing squad of criticism ... it almost pains me because he is out there so much by himself and I found that to be very inspiring," Barry Ptolemy, the film's director, told Reuters.

Ptolemy trailed Kurzweil for the past two years after reading his 2005 book "The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology."

Besides a shelf full of awards, including his field's highest prize -- the 1999 National Medal of Technology, which was presented by former U.S. President Bill Clinton -- and big-name supporters, Kurzweil also has past predictions on his side.