Ray Kurzweil's Pill Habit

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Ray Kurzweil is probably best known for his 70's era reading machines -- early speech synthesizers that could optically scan printed words, recognize them (despite being in multiple typefaces), and speak them back. (We had one of these gizmos at my public library when I was a kid -- it was an amazing piece of gear.) He's also famous for inventing music synthesizers, and it's not unusual to see the name Kurzweil emblazoned on a digital piano.

These days he's typically referred to as a "futurist" because of his confidence in a coming singularity: a moment when human life changes radically due to advances in technology. At his current age of 60, Kurzweil probably has some years left in him -- but he's not taking any chances. He's actively working to prolong his life in order to be around when the singularity occurs.

Wired recently ran an excellent profile of Kurzweil. The profile explains a lot about what Kurzweil thinks is going to happen in coming years, but also spends a good deal of time on the specifics of his health regimen. Here's a snippet:

Kurzweil does not believe in half measures. He takes 180 to 210 vitamin and mineral supplements a day, so many that he doesn't have time to organize them all himself. So he's hired a pill wrangler, who takes them out of their bottles and sorts them into daily doses, which he carries everywhere in plastic bags. Kurzweil also spends one day a week at a medical clinic, receiving intravenous longevity treatments. The reason for his focus on optimal health should be obvious: If the singularity is going to render humans immortal by the middle of this century, it would be a shame to die in the interim. To perish of a heart attack just before the singularity occurred would not only be sad for all the ordinary reasons, it would also be tragically bad luck, like being the last soldier shot down on the Western Front moments before the armistice was proclaimed.

[...] He has unlucky genes: His father died of heart disease at 58, his grandfather in his early forties. He himself was diagnosed with high cholesterol and incipient type 2 diabetes — both considered to be significant risk factors for early death — when only 35. He felt his bad luck as a cloud hanging over his life.

Read the rest for lots more on Kurzweil, the singularity, and photos of all the pills the man takes. There's also an extensive Wikipedia page on him, including a list of his fourteen honorary doctorates. Finally, if you have the mental_floss magazine Vol 6, Issue 1, check page 28 for our take on him.

(Photo by Michael Lutch, courtesy of Kurzweil Technologies, Inc.)

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April 2, 2008 - 11:31am
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