Barry Ptolemy
Producer / Director

Barry Ptolemy Reveals His Muse

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The filmmaker talks about the futuristic ideas of Ray Kurzweil.

Barry Ptolemy


Question:  How did you react to “The Singularity Is Near”?

Barry Ptolemy:  Well, I was absolutely floored as a lot of people are but also I was reunited with ideas that I actually had as a teenager and these are ideas that I had put away as I approached college years because they were ridiculous on the face of it and when you talk to someone about living forever, they just dismiss you out of hand. When I came into contact with “The Singularity is Near” I felt like I was reunited with my long lost brethren or something. It was very emotional because I saw in a moment that these ridiculous ideas I had as a youth were actually possible and not only that but Ray was actually clearly articulating how they would become possible.

Question: How did you come across Kurzweil’s book?

Barry Ptolemy: I went to USC Film School for awhile and I had always been interested in the Sciences, particularly the physical science of physics. So after film school, I went back and I attended UCI for awhile and sat in a lot of classes with people like Professor Gregory Benford who actually wrote the book review that actually hooked me up with “The Singularity is Near” as it were. But studied Physics and Astrophysics and Astronomy and the Life Sciences and I had always wanted to merge cinema and physics and so again, when I came across “The Singularity is Near”, I saw this as an opportunity to do that.

Question: Do Ray Kurzweil’s ideas scare you?

Barry Ptolemy:  Well, I think man has used technology for primarily good for most of human history. In fact, for the lion’s share of human history, and the majority of people do use technology for good and you see that everywhere you go. Now, events like 9-11 or such do get all of a sudden a lot of press for obvious reasons but everyday people are using technology for good. I mean, look at this conversation we’re having right now using technology and so obviously we should be concerned about the peril and the consequence of these technologies because if they’re misunderstood they could fall into the wrong hands and that’s one of the things that Ray talks about and we do discuss in “Transcendent Man.”

Question: Do you take Ray Kurzweil’s vitamin supplement?

Barry Ptolemy:  You know, I’ve talked to Ray [Kurzweil] about that. I don’t. Ray had a father that died at 58, and he’s 60. He had a grandfather that died at 41. My grandparents have lived to a ripe old age and my parents are aging quite well.  So I don’t have some of the same needs that Ray has. I’m now 40 years old and I seem to be in pretty good health so I’m hoping I’ll be able to cruise into the singularity unaided and we’ll see if that is the case. I would certainly use whatever technology is available if I need to, that’s for sure.

Question: Will you and Ray Kurzweil do another project?

Barry Ptolemy:  Well, we have a few films out.  We’re in development of narrative films and we’ll be releasing to the public at large soon. Ray and I will be in collaboration on another film, a science fiction film and Ray will be there to help guide us through some of these future technologies, making sure we get them right in the film.

Recorded on: April 27, 2009