columnfor | the Wall Street JournalSix luminaries weigh-in on the future.

by Ray Kurzweil
March 1, 2021


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~ column
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publication: the Wall Street Journal
supplement: magazine
issue: no. 53
label: the Innovators Issue
section: the Columnists

story title: We ask 6 luminaries to weigh-in on a single topic.
deck: This month’s topic is the future.
date: November 2014

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column |

An introduction.

Welcome to the Wall Street Journal magazine series: the Columnists. In a series of intimate conversations, renowned figures — from the arts, media, entertainment, business, tech, and more — reflect on various themes that have guided their careers.

We capture their unfiltered thoughts + musings — mixing revelation, anecdote, and philosophy.

The magazine asks luminaries to weigh-in on a single topic. For this edition the topic is “the future” — our contributors are:

  • Jennifer Lee
  • Ray Kurzweil
  • Dolores Cardelucci
  • Wylie Dufresne
  • Anne Wojcicki
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson ~ PhD

image | below

This is the Wall Street Journal’s official portrait of Ray Kurzweil — in the magazine’s iconic stippled style called a hedcut. Stippling is a classic technique used by artists to make an image — by drawing or painting with many small dots + thin lines.

This is the style used on engravings to print paper money and certificates. The newspaper’s collection of hand-made stippled portraits goes back to year 1979.

credit: the Wall Street Journal

no. 1 — Jennifer Lee

bio: She’s co-writer + co-director of Disney’s film Frozen. She’s adapting the book a Wrinkle in Time for screen.

What excites me about the future is the same thing that overwhelms me. I love how computer tech has made it easier to connect globally. Borders are broken down. Cultures find common connections. But the tech + applications are expanding exponentially — and it can seem daunting.

When I was 16 years-old, my grand-father said: Things will never be as good as you dream, but never as bad as you fear. Whether it’s true or not, it’s helped me step back from fear — and be pragmatic about an issue or apparent threat to the future.

When I was 11 years-old, I read the book a Wrinkle in Time and spent many daydreams + sleepless nights imagining what it would be like to break-free from the limitations of time. But time has marched-on — in a steady click. So I time-travel through my work.

— by Jennifer Lee

no. 2 — Ray Kurzweil

bio: He’s a best-selling author, inventor, and futurist.

The reason we have a brain is to predict the future — so we can anticipate the consequences of actions, and the consequences of in-action. That became good for survival and hard-wired into our brains. The common wisdom is that you cannot really predict the future. It’s true for a lot of things — but not about the capacity of information technology.

I wrote an essay reviewing all of my predictions — including 147 I made about the year 2009. They were 86 % correct. I started making these predictions more than 30 years ago. That’s the power of exponential growth.

I’m optimistic about the future — because it’s different from what we see in science fiction films: where one evil individual gets hold of a futuristic tech and then threatens humanity. Software artificial intelligence — in the form of devices like smart-phones — is not in one person’s hands. It’s in 2 billion hands.

— by Ray Kurzweil

no. 3 — Dolores Cardelucci

bio: She’s a psychic to Hollywood stars.

I have read people since I was a young person. I just automatically did it. I hear voices — that’s how I read. I hear the voice that people hear when they sit down to meditate and listen to their own answers. I read the mental atmosphere around the person — and I predict.

You know that expression: We saw each other and knew instantly it was love? It’s the same thing in a reading. People who are not readers do this all the time. You have a friend who advises you: I’ve got a feeling about this.

I do workshops with big groups, and it’s based on their own intuition. I teach them how to read each other, how to see this as just a part of life. Just to be still and know that we can all hear what we should do.

— by Dolores Cardeluccil

no. 4 — Wylie Dufresne

bio: He’s the chef + owner of restaurants Alder and wd~50 in New York, NY.

In food, I think we’re coming to the end of the railroad track. We’ve ridden what’s been laid before us, and our duty is to continue laying more track. The track has to go on. It’s not going to end — but we’re not necessarily sure where it’s going to go.

I hope that when the score is tallied-up, we (at my restaurants) will have contributed a decent amount of track — and been part of the avant-garde. But I’ve never been much of a futurist. I’m not trying to channel my inner Buck Rogers.

I’d say I’m more of a modernist. We’re not trying to anticipate trends. My sense of the future is actually — in some ways — very short term. Life as a cook is about the immediate future. It’s not about next year. It’s about: How am I going to get through these 12 hours and come-out on the plus side?

by Wylie Dufresne

no. 5 — Anne Wojcicki

bio: She’s a biologist and the co-founder + CEO of the personal genetic testing company 23andMe.

I was brought up with a scientific outlook on life. It’s the way my father deciphers the world — whether it’s football, politics, or hairstyles. So I don’t get anxious about the future, because I was raised to believe and accept that nothing stays the same, and the best way to survive is to adapt.

I have faith in humanity that society will — over time — make the right decisions and evolve. I believe we all have freedom to shape our own life, and the world around us. One of the things that got me interested in genetics was the relationship between genes + environment.

We’re all dealt a certain deck of cards, but our environment can influence the outcomes. The fact that my environment influences my life so much — and that my environment is in my control — gives me a great sense of empowerment over my health and my life.

Anne Wojcicki

no. 6 — Neil deGrasse Tyson ~ PhD

bio: He’s an astrophysicist and the host of Fox’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

In the 1950s and 1960s, thinking about the future was a major pastime. We were headed to the moon — and everyone knew it required advanced science + tech. Dreams were put on the table and then realized. Everything was ‘of tomorrow.’ That pastime has evaporated.

We’re getting excited about the next app. But that’s different from awaiting revolutions in tech. I don’t tend to value-judge. But if we stop dreaming about the future, then tomorrow is much more likely to be the same as today.

In the 20th century, Americans led the world in major inventions. But the ambitions of the nation have flat-lined. You go through the school system and come out on the other side, and there’s no grand vision to walk into. To get everyone thinking about the future again may require another big project where we dream the impossible dream and achieve the impossible goal.

Neil deGrasse Tyson ~ PhD

— notes  —

WSJ = the Wall Street Journal

CEO = chief executive officer

NY = New York | US
US = United States