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Peter Xu

Jeannette K. Watson Fellow, Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship

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How does one predict the date when an entire nation would fall?

Ray Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist. He has been known for his highly accurate predictions such as when computers would be able to beat the best human chess players (Deep Blue IBM). His current primary prediction is the time of the coming singularity, the point where man and machine merge. But what has puzzled me was how he was able to predict something like the fall of the Soviet Union? If one is to predict the time when this would happen to a certain accuracy, there must be some mathematical analysis involved. What factors would one consider in determining when the Soviet Union would fall, and how would one put that into a mathematical model that would estimate the date of this event?

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    Feb 29 2012: Hi thanks for your responses. I don't know of any exact source proving that he did so aside from his book and his own personal testimonials. Given his grand reputation though, I'm inclined to believe he did.

    It was my understanding that at the time, the SU's economy was expected to grow much bigger than the U.S.'s much like how we viewed Japan's economy about two decades ago. http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/2012/02/is-chinas-economic-future-a-rosy-one-becker.html " In 1956, Khrushchev proclaimed that the Soviet Union would bury the US, not militarily but economically. One might at the time have dismissed this as the exaggerations of a loud and belligerent leader, but similar predictions were common among mainstream economists."

    Finally, given that Kurzweil is more of a technologist, I do not think that his prediction was based on politics or studying their financial records. I saw on wikipedia that he made his prediction by studying the increased access to electronic communication that removed power from the authoritarian government.

    "Kurzweil gained notoriety as a futurist[citation needed] with his first book The Age of Intelligent Machines. Written from 1986 to 1989 and published in 1990, it forecast the demise of the Soviet Union due to new technologies such as cellular phones and fax machines disempowering authoritarian governments by removing state control over the flow of information. In 2005, Mikhail Gorbachev told Kurzweil that emerging decentralized electronic communication "was a big factor" for fostering democracy in the Soviet Union"

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