The Singularity Storms SXSW: Ray Kurzweil, Lev Grossman to Present Keynote at Interactive Festival

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Ryan Schude for TIME

Exclusive: Futurist and singularity expert Ray Kurzweil will join best-selling author and TIME senior writer Lev Grossman for a special keynote conversation to be held at this spring’s South By Southwest Interactive Festival.

What happens when the wits of machines surpass the intelligence of the human race? Some say we’ll upload our imaginations into computers, emerging as immortals of the digital space. Others warn that it will trumpet the end of the human era, as robotic perfection dwarfs mankind. No, it’s not the talk of science fiction. It’s the Singularity – the point at which artificial intelligence leaves humanity in the dust – and Kurzweil says it could happen as early as 2045.

In Feburary, Grossman penned a TIME cover story on the future of human and machine-kind, profiling Kurzweil, the Singularity’s greatest champion. (He’s written three books about it, including 2005’s The Singularity Is Near, which was the basis for documentary Transcendent Man in 2009.) The web version of the story emerged as one of the most shared TIME covers ever written, and it received considerable attention from both Singularity supporters and opponents – doubters who Grossman said react with an “intellectual gag-reflex” after being exposed to the theory of humans’ inevitable nonconsequence.

“People are attracted to the Singularity for the shock value, like an intellectual freak show,” Grossman wrote, “but they stay because there’s more to it than they expected. And of course, in the event that it turns out to be real, it will be the most important thing to happen to human beings since the invention of language.”

The South By Southwest keynote promises to pick up where the cover story left off – incorporating such recent AI developments as Apple’s Siri digital assistant. The Kurzweil-Grossman discussion of humanity’s cyborganic destiny will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, March 12 in the Austin Convention Center’s Exhibit Hall 5. Please stay tuned for addition details.