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Kurzweil on Avatar

Jake Sully riding a Mountain Banshee/aka Ikran (20th Century Fox) How often do you get a movie review from Ray Kurzweil?  In our interview with Ray a few months back, I asked him about his impression of science fiction films and TV shows. He responded:

"One problem with a lot of science fiction — and this is particularly true of movies — is they take one change, like the human-level cyborgs in the movie AI, and they put it in a world that is otherwise unchanged. So in AI, the coffee maker is the same and the cars are the same. There‘s no virtual reality, but you had human-level cyborgs. Part of the reason for that is the limitation of the form. To try to present a world in which everything is quite different would take the whole movie, and people wouldn‘t be able to follow it very easily. It‘s certainly a challenge to do that. I am in touch with some movie makers who want to try to do that."

3D information visualization displays and interactive multitouch screens as featured in this scene from "Avatar" already exist and are in use today. (20th Century Fox) In discussing Avatar, Ray is on point with a similar critique:

"Cameron’s conception of technology a hundred years from now was incredibly unimaginative, even by Hollywood standards. For example, the munitions that were supposed to blow up the tree of life looked like they were used in World War II (maybe even World War I). Most of the technology looked primitive, even by today’s standards. The wearable exoskeleton robotic devices were supposed to be futuristic, but these already exist, and are beginning to be deployed. The one advanced technology was the avatar technology itself."

"But in that sense, Avatar is like the world of the movie A.I., where they had human-level cyborgs, but nothing else had changed: A.I. featured 1980’s cars and coffee makers. As for Avatar, are people still going to use computer screens in a hundred years? Are they going to drive vehicles?"

In general, I don’t think we should expect all SF to be "hard SF" — i.e. realistic or semi-realistic extrapolations about the future, but it sure would be cool to see it more often.

Ray Kurzweil on Avatar

17 Responses

  1. Wendy says:

    I have a lot of respect for Kurzweil. I have to say though, that in some cases ideas are chosen for their visual impact and not their theoretical implications! meditation music

  2. More rubbish talk by Mr. ‘Inevitability’, aka Kurzweil!

    The man’s no futurist – he’s a dreamer. Real futurists don’t ‘predict’ things and actively pushes the ignorant wannabes to make *his* own dreams come true.

    Worse still, the faux “futurist” blasts well-known fictitious works for not including his biased vision of the future “in the works”! Fortunately James Cameron doesn’t have a Kurzweil leash around his neck.

    Frankly, Kurzweil (and nonreligious modernCult devotees) have no right telling other fiction writers what to write about. Period.

    • Vince says:

      …. I don’t believe he’s trying to dictate what should be written in Sci-fi movies, but more how they are not realistic.

      • Net Antwerp says:

        Kurzweil is free to make his own movie, if he doesn’t like other people’s work. No need to bash other moviemakers works just because they didn’t meet his personal expectations.

  3. MJSL2050 says:

    Inconsistencies within SF – I totally agree! How often have I stumbled accross this, e.g. in Star Trek. With Star Trek I have often asked myself why, for example, people are dying there if you can store their molecular pattern for teleporting or procuce all kinds of things with the replicator…

    But this is not only a problem with SF, but also in many cases with foresight, where studies and analysis about the future only concentrate on one topic while failing to look at the whole picture and see the whole connections between technologies (e.g. energy, miniaturisation technologies, neurotechnologies, computing, transport, medicine, automation, nutrition, politics, laws and life style are all connected…)


  4. Mads says:

    Being an avid consumer of most things sf, I’d say that by far the greatest problem for me are the fictions that extrapolate on tech but NOT on social or cultural issues. It seems, for example, that gender issues, sexuality, normality issues etc. are throwbacks to the 1950’s in much sf. This is too bad – for me, the interesting changes are not technological but social and cultural (or rather, the interesting things are the ways in which tech intersects with the social!). Banks’ Culture novels are good for this, as well as much of Dick’s stuff. Vinge is not too bad either, Butler & LeGuin of course,…

  5. SFMD says:

    Want to see some really incredible computer graphics chick this out:

  6. Iok Sotot, Eater of Souls says:

    I agree with the general argument Ray made but I think there are several factors that Cameron was probably considering that he has not.

    Not everyone uses the latest stuff all the time. If I was building a mining colony that could only be resupplied every nine years or so i wouldn’t install the latest technology. I would take the most robust easy to maintain gear I could lay my hands on. In fact i would probably prefer tech i could concievably make my own spare parts for and ammunition that could be reloaded from local resources. I think the big clunky exoskeletons fit that bill as do the bullet spitting machine guns, the big hologram projectors etc. etc.
    Also, remember the base in Pandora wasn’t a military base, it was a civilian mining colony threatened by (what they thought) were dumb primatives. If James Cameron reasoned that they would be unlikely to get government permission to use the latest nanite super weapons or “the company” thought such things were too expensive, I would agree with him.

    As for the munitions: The best way to deliver a lot of energy, reliably, cheaply over a distance is still the humble lead slug. Lasers have been found to be useless at knocking out tanks for example.

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