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Home » Ray Kurzweil on Get Ready for Hybrid Thinking (Full Transcript)

Ray Kurzweil on Get Ready for Hybrid Thinking (Full Transcript)

Ray Kurzweil

Full text of futurist Ray Kurzweil’s talk: Get ready for hybrid thinking at TED conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Ray Kurzweil on Get ready for hybrid thinking at TED


Let me tell you a story. It goes back 200 million years. It’s a story of the neocortex, which means new rind.

So in these early mammals, because only mammals have a neocortex, rodent-like creatures. It was the size of a postage stamp and just as thin, and was a thin covering around their walnut-sized brain, but it was capable of a new type of thinking. Rather than the fixed behaviors that non-mammalian animals have, it could invent new behaviors. So a mouse is escaping a predator, its path is blocked, it’ll try to invent a new solution. That may work, it may not, but if it does, it will remember that and have a new behavior, and that can actually spread virally through the rest of the community.

Another mouse watching this could say, “Hey, that was pretty clever, going around that rock,” and it could adopt a new behavior as well.

Non-mammalian animals couldn’t do any of those things. They had fixed behaviors. Now they could learn a new behavior but not in the course of one lifetime. In the course of maybe a thousand lifetimes, it could evolve a new fixed behavior. That was perfectly okay 200 million years ago. The environment changed very slowly. It could take 10,000 years for there to be a significant environmental change, and during that period of time it would evolve a new behavior.

Now that went along fine, but then something happened. Sixty-five million years ago, there was a sudden, violent change to the environment. We call it the Cretaceous extinction event. That’s when the dinosaurs went extinct, that’s when 75% of the animal and plant species went extinct, and that’s when mammals overtook their ecological niche, and to anthropomorphize, biological evolution said, “Hmm, this neocortex is pretty good stuff,” and it began to grow it.

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