BN.com Gift Guide

The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

Overview

"The inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil is a controversial advocate for the role of machines in the future of humanity. In his latest, thrilling foray into the future, he envisions an event - the "singularity" - in which technological change becomes so rapid and so profound that our bodies and brains will merge with our machines." "The Singularity Is Near portrays what life will be like after this event - a human-machine civilization where our experiences shift from real reality to virtual reality and where our intelligence becomes nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than unaided human intelligence. In practical terms, this means that human aging and pollution will be reversed, world hunger will be solved, and our bodies and environment transformed by nanotechnology to overcome the limitations of biology, including death." We will be able to create virtually any physical product just from information, resulting in radical wealth creation. In addition to outlining these fantastic changes, Kurzweil also considers their social and philosophical ramifications.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In the not-too-distant future, according to Ray Kurzweil, world hunger will be solved; human aging will be reversed; nanotechnology will enable us to eliminate certain vital organs; and our brains will be able to be downloaded. The author of The Age of Spiritual Machines foresees a day when the bulk of our experiences shift from real reality to virtual reality; a time when we will be able to enjoy virtual experiences through brain implant and actually experience other people's lives. He even imagines immortal software-based humans. Dazzling, persuasive futurism.
Publishers Weekly
Renowned inventor Kurzweil (The Age of Spiritual Machines) may be technology's most credibly hyperbolic optimist. Elsewhere he has argued that eliminating fat intake can prevent cancer; here, his quarry is the future of consciousness and intelligence. Humankind, it runs, is at the threshold of an epoch ("the singularity," a reference to the theoretical limitlessness of exponential expansion) that will see the merging of our biology with the staggering achievements of "GNR" (genetics, nanotechnology and robotics) to create a species of unrecognizably high intelligence, durability, comprehension, memory and so on. The word "unrecognizable" is not chosen lightly: wherever this is heading, it won't look like us. Kurzweil's argument is necessarily twofold: it's not enough to argue that there are virtually no constraints on our capacity; he must also convince readers that such developments are desirable. In essence, he conflates the wholesale transformation of the species with "immortality," for which read a repeal of human limit. In less capable hands, this phantasmagoria of speculative extrapolation, which incorporates a bewildering variety of charts, quotations, playful Socratic dialogues and sidebars, would be easier to dismiss. But Kurzweil is a true scientist--a large-minded one at that--and gives due space both to "the panoply of existential risks" as he sees them and the many presumed lines of attack others might bring to bear. What's arresting isn't the degree to which Kurzweil's heady and bracing vision fails to convince--given the scope of his projections, that's inevitable--but the degree to which it seems downright plausible. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
American life today is being rapidly and continuously transformed by technological progress. Kurzweil is admirably placed to give outsiders a look at the world as the technological revolutionaries see it — and it is anything but flat. For Kurzweil, the overwhelming fact of contemporary life is the geometric acceleration of technological development. Today we are at "the knee of the curve" — the point just before the gently rising slope of technological change becomes a vertical rise. This heralds, Kurzweil argues in terms borrowed from astrophysics, the approach of a historical "singularity": a state of affairs so radically different from everything in the past that we can know virtually nothing about it. At present rates of progress, only a few decades from now, computers that have one billion times the information processing power of the assembled brains of the entire human race will cost less than $1,000. As scientists and businesses harness this power, rates of social and technological change will accelerate further, leading to a qualitative change in the way human society works — and, indeed, in what human life is like.
Library Journal
Former LJ columnist Kurzweil (also winner of a National Medal of Technology) on what he calls the singularity: the point when we merge with machines, moving from reality to virtual reality and solving issues like aging, pollution, and world hunger. Whew! With a five-city author tour. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Worried about the Singularity? Fear not-here's the lowdown from an expert. The Singularity, almost an article of faith in techie circles, is the point at which machine intelligence outstrips human brainpower. Kurzweil (The Age of Spiritual Machines, 1999, etc.) spends much time stressing the point that progress in the computer field moves at exponential rates. By his reckoning, the raw power of information technologies is doubling annually. This power increase, combined with the predicted growth of nanotechnology-robots the size of red blood cells inserted into the body-will make possible, within two decades, complete scanning of the human brain. By then, computer hardware should be capable of running accurate software models of human intelligence. By the end of the 2020s, computers will pass the Turing Test, simulating a living person well enough to fool an interrogator. At that point, Kurzweil believes, a genuine synthesis of the strengths of human and machine intelligence becomes possible: pattern recognition and inference on the human side, large memory with instant recall and easy data-sharing on the machine side. Freed from the built-in limitations of the brain, machine intelligence will then be able to use nanotechnological design to far exceed human intelligence. But at the same time, nanotechnological implants can be used to augment human brains, creating a hybrid intelligence unlike anything previously known. Ultimately, Kurzweil predicts, the predominant component of human intelligence will be non-biological, and more of our experiences will take place in virtual reality than in the physical world. Human-machine intelligence will saturate the immediate vicinity of the Earth,and eventually grow to fill the universe. Kurzweil backs his predictions with numerous citations of other experts, and while some of the arguments are dense, the book repays close attention. An attractive picture of a plausible future; in 20 years, we may know if it actually works.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • BN ID: 2580143037883
  • Manufacturer: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/26/2006
  • Pages: 672
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.60 (d)
  • These items ship to U.S. address only. No APO/FPO.

Meet the Author

Ray Kurzweil is a prize-winning author and scientist. Recipient of the MIT-Lemelson Prize (the world’s largest for innovation), and inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame, he received the 1999 National Medal of Technology. His books include The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Age of Intelligent Machines.

Visit Ray Kurzweil on the web:

http://www.kurzweiltech.com

http://www.kurzweilai.net/

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

The Singularity is Near

When Humans Transcend Biology
By Ray Kurzweil

Viking Adult

ISBN: 0-670-03384-7


Chapter One

The Six Epochs

Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world. -ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER

I am not sure when I first became aware of the Singularity. I'd have to say it was a progressive awakening. In the almost half century that I've immersed myself in computer and related technologies, I've sought to understand the meaning and purpose of the continual upheaval that I have witnessed at many levels. Gradually, I've become aware of a transforming event looming in the first half of the twenty-first century. Just as a black hole in space dramatically alters the patterns of matter and energy accelerating toward its event horizon, this impending Singularity in our future is increasingly transforming every institution and aspect of human life, from sexuality to spirituality.

What, then, is the Singularity? It's a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed. Although neither utopian nor dystopian, this epoch will transform the concepts that we rely on to give meaning to our lives, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself. Understanding the Singularity will alter our perspective on the significance of our past and the ramifications for our future. To truly understand it inherently changes one's view of life in general and one's own particular life. I regard someone who understands the Singularity and who has reflected on its implications for his or her own life as a singularitarian.

I can understand why many observers do not readily embrace the obvious implications of what I have called the law of accelerating returns (the inherent acceleration of the rate of evolution, with technological evolution as a continuation of biological evolution). After all, it took me forty years to be able to see what was right in front of me, and I still cannot say that I am entirely comfortable with all of its consequences.

The key idea underlying the impending Singularity is that the pace of change of our human-created technology is accelerating and its powers are expanding at an exponential pace. Exponential growth is deceptive. It starts out almost imperceptibly and then explodes with unexpected fury-unexpected, that is, if one does not take care to follow its trajectory. (See the "Linear vs. Exponential Growth" graph on p. 10.)

Consider this parable: a lake owner wants to stay at home to tend to the lake's fish and make certain that the lake itself will not become covered with lily pads, which are said to double their number every few days. Month after month, he patiently waits, yet only tiny patches of lily pads can be discerned, and they don't seem to be expanding in any noticeable way. With the lily pads covering less than 1 percent of the lake, the owner figures that it's safe to take a vacation and leaves with his family. When he returns a few weeks later, he's shocked to discover that the entire lake has become covered with the pads, and his fish have perished. By doubling their number every few days, the last seven doublings were sufficient to extend the pads' coverage to the entire lake. (Seven doublings extended their reach 128-fold.) This is the nature of exponential growth.

Consider Gary Kasparov, who scorned the pathetic state of computer chess in 1992. Yet the relentless doubling of computer power every year enabled a computer to defeat him only five years later. The list of ways computers can now exceed human capabilities is rapidly growing. Moreover, the once narrow applications of computer intelligence are gradually broadening in one type of activity after another. For example, computers are diagnosing electrocardiograms and medical images, flying and landing airplanes, controlling the tactical decisions of automated weapons, making credit and financial decisions, and being given responsibility for many other tasks that used to require human intelligence. The performance of these systems is increasingly based on integrating multiple types of artificial intelligence (AI). But as long as there is an AI shortcoming in any such area of endeavor, skeptics will point to that area as an inherent bastion of permanent human superiority over the capabilities of our own creations.

This book will argue, however, that within several decades information-based technologies will encompass all human knowledge and proficiency, ultimately including the pattern-recognition powers, problem-solving skills, and emotional and moral intelligence of the human brain itself.

Although impressive in many respects, the brain suffers from severe limitations. We use its massive parallelism (one hundred trillion interneuronal connections operating simultaneously) to quickly recognize subtle patterns. But our thinking is extremely slow: the basic neural transactions are several million times slower than contemporary electronic circuits. That makes our physiological bandwidth for processing new information extremely limited compared to the exponential growth of the overall human knowledge base.

Our version 1.0 biological bodies are likewise frail and subject to a myriad of failure modes, not to mention the cumbersome maintenance rituals they require. While human intelligence is sometimes capable of soaring in its creativity and expressiveness, much human thought is derivative, petty, and circumscribed.

The Singularity will allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains. We will gain power over our fates. Our mortality will be in our own hands. We will be able to live as long as we want (a subtly different statement from saying we will live forever). We will fully understand human thinking and will vastly extend and expand its reach. By the end of this century, the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will be trillions of trillions of times more powerful than unaided human intelligence.

We are now in the early stages of this transition. The acceleration of paradigm shift (the rate at which we change fundamental technical approaches) as well as the exponential growth of the capacity of information technology are both beginning to reach the "knee of the curve," which is the stage at which an exponential trend becomes noticeable. Shortly after this stage, the trend quickly becomes explosive. Before the middle of this century, the growth rates of our technology-which will be indistinguishable from ourselves-will be so steep as to appear essentially vertical. From a strictly mathematical perspective, the growth rates will still be finite but so extreme that the changes they bring about will appear to rupture the fabric of human history. That, at least, will be the perspective of unenhanced biological humanity. The Singularity will represent the culmination of the merger of our biological thinking and existence with our technology, resulting in a world that is still human but that transcends our biological roots. There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine or between physical and virtual reality. If you wonder what will remain unequivocally human in such a world, it's simply this quality: ours is the species that inherently seeks to extend its physical and mental reach beyond current limitations.

Many commentators on these changes focus on what they perceive as a loss of some vital aspect of our humanity that will result from this transition. This perspective stems, however, from a misunderstanding of what our technology will become. All the machines we have met to date lack the essential subtlety of human biological qualities. Although the Singularity has many faces, its most important implication is this: our technology will match and then vastly exceed the refinement and suppleness of what we regard as the best of human traits.

The Intuitive Linear View Versus the Historical Exponential View

When the first transhuman intelligence is created and launches itself into recursive self-improvement, a fundamental discontinuity is likely to occur, the likes of which I can't even begin to predict. -Michael Anissimov

In the 1950s John von Neumann, the legendary information theorist, was quoted as saying that "the ever-accelerating progress of technology ... gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue." Von Neumann makes two important observations here: acceleration and singularity. The first idea is that human progress is exponential (that is, it expands by repeatedly multiplying by a constant) rather than linear (that is, expanding by repeatedly adding a constant).

[Linear vs. Exponential Growth Graphic]

Linear versus exponential: Linear growth is steady; exponential growth becomes explosive.

The second is that exponential growth is seductive, starting out slowly and virtually unnoticeably, but beyond the knee of the curve it turns explosive and profoundly transformative. The future is widely misunderstood. Our forebears expected it to be pretty much like their present, which had been pretty much like their past. Exponential trends did exist one thousand years ago, but they were at that very early stage in which they were so flat and so slow that they looked like no trend at all. As a result, observers' expectation of an unchanged future was fulfilled. Today, we anticipate continuous technological progress and the social repercussions that follow. But the future will be far more surprising than most people realize, because few observers have truly internalized the implications of the fact that the rate of change itself is accelerating.

Most long-range forecasts of what is technically feasible in future time periods dramatically underestimate the power of future developments because they are based on what I call the "intuitive linear" view of history rather than the "historical exponential" view. My models show that we are doubling the paradigm-shift rate every decade, as I will discuss in the next chapter. Thus the twentieth century was gradually speeding up to today's rate of progress; its achievements, therefore, were equivalent to about twenty years of progress at the rate in 2000. We'll make another twenty years of progress in just fourteen years (by 2014), and then do the same again in only seven years. To express this another way, we won't experience one hundred years of technological advance in the twenty-first century; we will witness on the order of twenty thousand years of progress (again, when measured by today's rate of progress), or about one thousand times greater than what was achieved in the twentieth century.

Misperceptions about the shape of the future come up frequently and in a variety of contexts. As one example of many, in a recent debate in which I took part concerning the feasibility of molecular manufacturing, a Nobel Prize-winning panelist dismissed safety concerns regarding nanotechnology, proclaiming that "we're not going to see self-replicating nanoengineered entities [devices constructed molecular fragment by fragment] for a hundred years." I pointed out that one hundred years was a reasonable estimate and actually matched my own appraisal of the amount of technical progress required to achieve this particular milestone when measured at today's rate of progress (five times the average rate of change we saw in the twentieth century). But because we're doubling the rate of progress every decade, we'll see the equivalent of a century of progress-at today's rate-in only twenty-five calendar years.

Similarly at Time magazine's Future of Life conference, held in 2003 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA, all of the invited speakers were asked what they thought the next fifty years would be like. Virtually every presenter looked at the progress of the last fifty years and used it as a model for the next fifty years. For example, James Watson, the codiscoverer of DNA, said that in fifty years we will have drugs that will allow us to eat as much as we want without gaining weight.

I replied, "Fifty years?" We have accomplished this already in mice by blocking the fat insulin receptor gene that controls the storage of fat in the fat cells. Drugs for human use (using RNA interference and other techniques we will discuss in chapter 5) are in development now and will be in FDA tests in several years. These will be available in five to ten years, not fifty. Other projections were equally shortsighted, reflecting contemporary research priorities rather than the profound changes that the next half century will bring. Of all the thinkers at this conference, it was primarily Bill Joy and I who took account of the exponential nature of the future, although Joy and I disagree on the import of these changes, as I will discuss in chapter 8.

People intuitively assume that the current rate of progress will continue for future periods. Even for those who have been around long enough to experience how the pace of change increases over time, unexamined intuition leaves one with the impression that change occurs at the same rate that we have experienced most recently. From the mathematician's perspective, the reason for this is that an exponential curve looks like a straight line when examined for only a brief duration. As a result, even sophisticated commentators, when considering the future, typically extrapolate the current pace of change over the next ten years or one hundred years to determine their expectations. This is why I describe this way of looking at the future as the intuitive linear view.

But a serious assessment of the history of technology reveals that technological change is exponential. Exponential growth is a feature of any evolutionary process, of which technology is a primary example. You can examine the data in different ways, on different timescales, and for a wide variety of technologies, ranging from electronic to biological, as well as for their implications, ranging from the amount of human knowledge to the size of the economy. The acceleration of progress and growth applies to each of them. Indeed, we often find not just simple exponential growth, but "double" exponential growth, meaning that the rate of exponential growth (that is, the exponent) is itself growing exponentially (for example, see the discussion on the price-performance of computing in the next chapter).

Many scientists and engineers have what I call "scientist's pessimism." Often, they are so immersed in the difficulties and intricate details of a contemporary challenge that they fail to appreciate the ultimate long-term implications of their own work, and the larger field of work in which they operate. They likewise fail to account for the far more powerful tools they will have available with each new generation of technology.

Scientists are trained to be skeptical, to speak cautiously of current research goals, and to rarely speculate beyond the current generation of scientific pursuit. This may have been a satisfactory approach when a generation of science and technology lasted longer than a human generation, but it does not serve society's interests now that a generation of scientific and technological progress comprises only a few years.

Consider the biochemists who, in 1990, were skeptical of the goal of transcribing the entire human genome in a mere fifteen years. These scientists had just spent an entire year transcribing a mere one ten- thousandth of the genome. So, even with reasonable anticipated advances, it seemed natural to them that it would take a century, if not longer, before the entire genome could be sequenced.

Or consider the skepticism expressed in the mid-1980s that the Internet would ever be a significant phenomenon, given that it then included only tens of thousands of nodes (also known as servers). In fact, the number of nodes was doubling every year, so that there were likely to be tens of millions of nodes ten years later. But this trend was not appreciated by those who struggled with state-of-the-art technology in 1985, which permitted adding only a few thousand nodes throughout the world in a single year.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Prologue : the power of ideas 1
Ch. 1 The six epochs 7
Ch. 2 A theory of technology evolution : the law of accelerating returns 35
Ch. 3 Achieving the computational capacity of the human brain 111
Ch. 4 Achieving the software of human intelligence : how to reverse engineer the human brain 143
Ch. 5 GNR : three overlapping revolutions 205
Ch. 6 The impact ... 299
Ch. 7 Ich bin ein Singularitarian 369
Ch. 8 The deeply intertwined promise and peril of GNR 391
Ch. 9 Response to critics 427
Epilogue : how singular? : human centrality 485
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 58 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(25)

4 Star

(16)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(6)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 58 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Most Important Book of the Next Several Decades

    I picked up this book with the expectation that I would read some far out metaphysical extrapolation on modern technology. I was wrong. Instead, what I found was a scholarly and informative explanation of the current technological frontiers, by someone operating on the front lines with the commanders of research and development. I was captured, in the very first chapter, with his analysis of the exponential increase in knowledge and technology, by looking at backward trends and projecting them forward. Being an engineer in the fast changing telecommunications field, myself, for the last 30 years, I have witnessed the incredible advancement in both computing power and technology. So much so, that I have felt myself, at times, as drowning in the flood of technology changes.

    Ray gives us an overall glimpse into the future, not only of technology, but of human civilization itself, projected into the next century. According to Ray, there is a point in time in the near future (the singularity), in which mankind's role in human civilization will forever be changed.

    What makes this book so good, is that it is filled with real examples of the cutting edge of science and technology, not someone's fantasies of the future. He draws examples of current research from a variety of disciplines, and makes predictions on future advancements, based on past progress, extrapolated at an exponential rate. The result is a shocking vision of the future, possibly more shocking than the kind predicted in older books, such as Alvin Toffler's "Future Shock." This book focuses more on the impact of technology on our future moreso than on sociological trends. A must read for anyone who likes to ponder the world to come and what terrors might come with it - fascinating, exciting, and terrifying all in one.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2007

    A prediction about humanity's destiny

    This is a strange and powerful tome. Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil makes predictions that are sweeping in their implications and bold in their specificity. In fact, some readers may think they sound more like science fiction than science. He discusses developing artificial intelligence, downloading consciousness, redesigning the body using nanotechnology and other seemingly improbable developments. Then, he goes out on a limb to predict how and when these technological advances will all intersect ¿ a historical moment called the 'singularity.' At that point, he says, if humans have used technology properly, they will become godlike, solving all their problems. Kurzweil devotes nearly 80 pages to articulating and responding to the criticisms of skeptics. However, even if you reject most of Kurzweil's ideas, you can still benefit from reading his book. It is thoroughly researched, with roughly 100 pages of notes and references, and conceptually challenging. Kurzweil works hard to make it lively and accessible, providing graphs, quotations, sidebars and imaginary debates among spokespersons for various points of view. The result can become overwhelming, but it is always thought-provoking. We recommend this book to executives who are seriously interested in planning for the future, and to curious minds everywhere.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2006

    Here's to Singularity

    It's a great book on the future of technology. Gives credit to VonNeumann for the term 'singularity' and will interest the expert as well as the casual reader. He references the scientists that are currently doing research in the related fields and the practical application of the technology. He unmasks Artificial Intelligence with finese.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2013

    A provocative read

    Kurzweil's book validated my own fuzzily-imagined prediction to family and friends that, as it has been the case with other scientific revolutions and, in particular, the computer age of laptops, ipads, and the internet, the next Big Leap will be the use of computers on microchips, implanted directly into our brains, to enhance human cognitive functioning. No more need for an external device using keyboard, mouse, touchscreen, or even voice recognition; we will train our own brains to access internet information using a "brain prosthesis" much as we train a body without an arm to control a prosthetic arm today. The speed of thinking itself will be greater than our biologically-based brains can effect. This is not fantasy any longer. You simply need to read this book; whether you like all of its implications or not, it argues very convincingly for a time in the near future when a major change is going to occur that will affect, literally, what it means to be human.

    Personally, I found Kurzweil's optimism unsettling toward the early parts of the book, but upon discovering later sections in which he handles criticisms of his "visions of the future", I felt that he was coming back to earth a bit. He may sound a little arrogant, much as those who, in biblical times, might have sounded as they planned the Tower of Babel. But in a very thoroughgoing way, he extrapolates his future vision based on hard science and cutting-edge technology of today.

    And this brings me to my own concern, although it's probably not so much about Kurzweil as about Artificial Intelligence (and Turing gets a lot of mention here). I was influnced at an early age by the movie, "Colossus: The Forbin Project", in which a supercomputer achieves consciousness and goes about establishing itself as the benevolent, paternalistic dictator of the human race. Think you'd want that?

    The "Terminator" and "I, Robot" and "Matrix" movies--to name a very small selection--all share a similar cautionary premise. I
    recognize that no single person, or even any single government, appears capable of putting the developments Kurzweil predicts off for long, but golly, if anyone else reads this book, doesn't the sheer, enthusiastic optimism get to you after awhile? Kurzweil is an expert on nanotech, brain science, and AI, but his estimation of human nature strikes me as almost nightmarishly naive. Murphy's Law comes to mind. Along the way to the Singularity, I submit that if anything can go wrong, it will.

    I suppose all I can really do is sit back, wait, and see what happens.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 3, 2011

    Excellent book! Very interesting viewpoints.

    Presents a unique and logical possibility for the future. Definitely worth a read!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 13, 2010

    over the top

    One of the best books I have read in years . I have read it 3 times as it is so packed with astounding information, thoughts/future of the world we live in and will confront . Not to be missed for anyone curious on our future, technology, innovation, energy etc .
    Philip in Paris

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2012

    Input, process, output...

    This is all computers can ever do.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 11, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    My favorite Non-fiction book

    This is a great book even if at the end you don't agree with his postulations. If you are a fan of science and technology you will probably like this book. Ray Kurzweil lays it all out for you complete with references and annotation. It's a fast read that is sure to captivate.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2005

    A little bit Raelians. A little bit Heaven's Gate.

    The author writes with the religious fervor of a cult leader and that makes me suspicious of his objectivity.

    1 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2005

    The Fortune Cookie

    In writing about the Singularity, the quality of Kurzweil¿s future telling ranks with that of Caesar¿s soothsayer, in the sense that Caesar knew, and perhaps was pleased with the outcome, prior to his brief meeting with the soothsayer. As for Kurzweil¿s apparent revelation of humans becoming transferable non-biological patterns, Plato has already treated this theme in the fashion of the soul¿s journey, in the Phaedo, with more depth, cunning and style. Unfortunately, it appears that Kurzweil, while a modern scientist, has not seriously studied philosophy and can only muster cocktail party quotations from sympathetic quarters. He writes instead from the democratic majority perspective of commitment, and radical individualism. The good man or woman might well feel embarrassed and shamed to desire to live to see their great-great etc. grandchildren. Perhaps we might say that Kurzweil is the signpost for the common individual pointing to the shadows in Plato¿s cave.

    1 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Iain M Banks "Culture" will soon be here

    The world that Kurzweil describes, of super intelligent computers (ai), the ability of people to download their consciousness (software humans), the ability to be almost like gods (due to super advanced technology) is the world of The Culture in Iain M Banks incredibly intelligent sci-fi books

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 58 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)