The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

by Ray Kurzweil

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Singularity Is Near 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Beast_Ripper More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Philipparis More than 1 year ago
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
Sion4000 More than 1 year ago
Presents a unique and logical possibility for the future. Definitely worth a read!
ZenoZ More than 1 year ago
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.
jadelgador on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The exponential growth of knowledge and the fusion of different disciplines (nanotech, biotech, electronics, robotics)in the near future are the fundamental ideas. There is no need for a long argument to understand this facts.
Daoist_Giles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This felt like the data to back up his claims set forth in the Age of Spiritual Machines, which I liked a lot more. Still, it's diffcult to read this and not take seriously what at first blush can seem to be some pretty far-out ideas. Fascinating - but read the previous book first!
apinrise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If this book convinced me of anything, it's that technology allowing for humans to transcend biology will in fact be available shortly. However, it I couldn't share Kurzweil's optimism that it will be possible. Our society is far too conservative and capitalistic for something so foreign and reforming. His writing is generally easy to follow and although his optimistic bias is obvious, it's almost impossible to refute. Even if the Singularity does not happen in our lifetime, we are certainly in for massive change!
stevetempo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed it much! It's a very bold projection of a possible future. Along the way Ray Kurzweil brings you up to speed on the state of cutting-edge technology that figures into this future. At times it did feel like you were reading through technical abstracts though. I really enjoyed the mock conversations at the end of a section where various temporal and famous characters discuss the implication of the changes predicted. The changes Ray Kurzweil speaks of for the future and the speed of their arrival seem like big challenges for social stability of the globe though. Hang on folks we are in for a ride.
dmcolon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Singularity is Near is one of the few books I've ever read that literally freaked me out. I tend to take everything I read with a grain of salt, but I fell hook, line, and sinker for this book. The essential premise is right in the title -- the singularity is near. But what is the Singularity? It's the blending of technology and biology -- right in the subtitle. Kurzweil makes his case methodically, laying out a case for the exponential growth of technology and then discussing the impact it will have on humans. The scope of his argument is pretty stunning and involving such things as the ability to upload our brains into computers, immortality, the end of the distinction between virtual reality and reality, programmable blood, and the like.I have to say that reading over that list still leaves me wondering if it can all be real. It just seems so spectacularly far-fetched. But the influence of the book is indisputable and seems to have fueled the imaginations of many prominent thinkers. Having said all this, I still wonder about these changes. Kurzweil is definitely in favor of these changes and his reservations are pretty minimal. I do wonder, however, about all these things. Do we lose our humanity in this transformation? What about tech glitches? If everything is so computer dependent, what happens if something goes wrong? What happens to religion? Will people live in the "real" world when virtual worlds are more amenable to our whims and desires? All this is going to happen, according to Kurzweil, in the 2040s. Health permitting, I ought to be around. But will it happen that fast? Will it happen at all? Kurzweil seems to base his predictions on existing technologies and traces them out to their logical extensions. In that regard, it's not utopian. But it seems as if we've heard these fantastic predictions in the past and in the end, we're pretty much the same. So what does all of this mean? I have no earthly idea. It's too overwhelming for me to really comprehend. But maybe our posthuman selves will do a better job with these sort of things.
mtemples on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kurzweil is one of the best futurists out there. His predictions about what is coming in the field of technology are undoubtedly very close to the mark. His assumption that the price of technologies will continue to fall while their efficiency increases is only true in some areas. Pencils and houses still cost. And he shows his religion with his ascribing teleological purposes to evolution.
topps on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rather more speculative than his previous two in the same vein. Reaching a bit, possibly.
chriswhitmore on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
slow start, sorta pompous style, mind bendingly good in the last two thirds. Very optimistic view of the future that is very convincingly laid out.
jefware on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A strong AI researcher looks forward to the day when human computing capacity is over taken by computers. Overly optimistic, he looks forward into what the world will be like 20, 40 and 60 years from now.
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