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Expect tiny devices and sizable threats, futurist Kurzweil tells Interactive crowd

Heard and Seen: SXSW

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Futurist and author Ray Kurzweil told a SXSW Interactive audience Monday that some concepts of technology that seem like science fiction are not only possible but inevitable.

In conversation with Time Magazine's Lev Grossman, Kurzweil predicted that devices the size of blood cells will be mainstream in 20 years. He thinks that we will eventually come to accept robots/artificial intelligence with human qualities as long as they are sufficiently complex and can subtly interact with us.

Biotechnology will be both a boon and a major threat as terrorists potentially gain the ability to spread a supervirus, Kurzweil said.

He said he thinks that to help coming innovations benefit society, education should be revamped to be more project-oriented. Kurzweil added that we must ask ourselves serious ethical questions about how these technologies are employed.

Even if we set ethical rules for the use of technology, we also have to have safeguards against those who don't follow the rules.

"Promise versus peril has been an issue with technology since we've had tools," he said.

- Omar L. Gallaga

Watch 6 months of melting in mere hours

A documentary about climate change that's beautiful and moving, "Chasing Ice" follows photographer James Balog as he documents receding glaciers in remote locations. Balog's project, Extreme Ice Survey, places cameras equipped with time-lapse technology in some very camera-unfriendly places, leaves them there for half a year, then retrieves the cameras and stitches the resulting frames together, making an accurate and terrifying picture of the shrinking ice. "Chasing Ice" screens again on Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Alamo Slaughter, and on Friday at 4 p.m. at the Vimeo Theater.

- Rebecca Onion

Linklater, Hulu cohort talk TV's Web future

During the SXSW panel "Changing the Channel: The New Golden Age of TV," filmmakers Richard Linklater and Morgan Spurlock and actor Timothy "Speed" Levitch talked about their projects for Hulu, a streaming-video site that's branching out into original content. Spurlock's "A Day in the Life" is offered now on Hulu, and the Linklater/Levitch series "Up to Speed" is set to debut this summer. "We don't think of this as a Web series," Linklater said. "This is a TV show to us."

- Dale Roe

Smith muses on shift from film to podcasts

Filmmaker and podcaster Kevin Smith's SXSW session ran well beyond its allotted time, and he could have easily kept going for a few more hours.

Smith's next film, "Hit Somebody," is to be his last as a director ("The muse said to me, ‘You're done.' "). Podcasts have become the main focus of Smith's career of late, and he started his own Internet radio service, SModcast Internet Radio (SIR).

- Omar L. Gallaga

New York Times chief envisions big growth

New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson said her vision for the future of the newspaper in the digital age is an aggressive expansion internationally. Interviewed by Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune, Abramson said the Times' most popular articles continue to be in-depth, long and challenging pieces, despite the conventional wisdom that the Internet is not the place for them.

- Nancy Flores