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The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
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For over three decades, Ray Kurzweil has been one of the most respected and provocative advocates of the role of technology in our future. In his classic The Age of Spiritual Machines, he argued that computers would soon rival the full range of human intelligence at its best. Now he examines the next step in this inexorable evolutionary process: the union of human and machine, in which the knowledge and skills embedded in our brains will be combined with the vastly greater capacity, speed, and knowledge-sharing ability of our creations.

Customer Reviews:

  • Much hype - litle to show
    Much hype - litle to show. If interested in this subject get it at your library....more info
  • The Singularity

    As a true Futurist , Ray Kurzweil really reaches out to the future of knowledge and AI. His predictions that computers will increasingly take over routine human functions ends up where computers will outstrip humans by 2030. It sounds a bit daunting but fear not computers will be made safe until one named HAL comes along sometime later.

    His chart showing how the rate of change is accellerating is right on target. Unfortunately global warming could fall into that prediction. As human knowledge doubles every few years now we can expect some really fantastic things to happen. Be ready for some real, excitement ahead. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology...more info
  • Interesting evolutionary concept, technologically excellent but socially and culturally mediocre
    This book is dense and large. It is packed with references to many technological advances, especially in the area of computing, biology, nanotechnology and robotics. It has so much as one could use it for research purposes as it has a collection of references to so many articles and books. The book is large in both number of pages and area of human knowledge it covers. The reader should be prepared for a long read through philosophical concepts, theories, data, graphs and arguments against many supposed adversaries.

    The core concept of the book is based on an evolutionary view of the Universe. Ray believes there are six evolutionary epochs: physics and chemistry, biology and DNA, brains, technology, the merger of human technology with human intelligence and the wake up of the universe. The sixth epoch marks the occurrence of singularity, when everything is one universal intelligent medium. During this evolution the non-biological beings will slowly take over the biological creatures, in a progressive fashion, growing to new levels with far greater powers than ever achieved by the human race.

    A starting point for demonstrating this evolution is the theory of technology evolution and the law of accelerating returns. Ray demonstrates using well known data that advances in technology not only it will continue but it will accelerate. I found this part of the book very compelling. It is only when you look at aggregate historical data that you can see emerging a consistent picture of great change.

    In the next chapter, Achieving the Computational Capacity of the Human Brain, I found a few very interesting concepts. As it happens, I am interested in this area and I was familiar with many ideas, but I still felt overwhelmed by the details and references of computational theories that probably are more meaningful to PhD students. Some times the author goes into the rarefied field of physics, theories of Universe, time and speed of light.

    There is a lot challenging the conventional in the next chapter, Achieving the Software of Human Intelligence: How to Reverse Engineer the Human Brain. I was surprised to find out how many advances occurred in the brain science, neural modelling, prosthetics and the proliferation of artificial parts that replace more and more body parts, including areas of the nervous system. This is something that experiences an exponential growth and it should have a huge impact on health services and longevity.

    Ray Kurzweil dives with great aplomb into three major topics: genetics, nanotechnology and robotics (AI). These three chapters have so many arguments; they are so detailed and eloquent that I started loosing interest in the book. This is an area where the author misses the opportunity to strengthen the connection with the reader that was built in the previous chapters. The information is too dry, too mechanical as if it is copied from a popular science magazine. There is a lot of pressure on the reader to believe what is written there.
    Overall the style is so narrowly technological, with no attention paid to other aspects of human activities that it has the potential to push the reader into an antagonistic view. We are talking here about cloning, cell engineering, human cloning, nanobots in the bloodstream, artificial intelligence, robots and human society, etc.

    The author has not considered the aspect of poverty at all. I have not found a single consideration given to the problem of using the technology for the benefit of all people. I am talking here about practical aspects: how do you make the technology available to anyone, who will fund it, what happens if only a few people will have the ability to evolve into superhumans, etc.

    The last two chapters, The Deeply Intertwine Promise and Peril of GNR and Response to Critics, loose the rigour manifested in the first chapters and they have more the role of presenting arguments against critics. This part is a little bit tiring, I could not go through it in detail and it undoes a lot of good will built in the first part of the book. It talks about warfare, fundamentalism, etc and it uses a systematic classification of potential critics with appropriate responses to each of them. There is an absolute belief that the book and the concept could do no wrong and the future will be as described here. This is the part that I was less enthusiastic about.

    Overall the book is rich in concepts and information, it challenges the norm and it is very provocative from an intellectual point of view. I found it very interesting despite the tendency to be too combative and mechanical at times. The book is focused on technological aspect, missing on other dimensions that one would link to an evolutionary concept.

    ...more info
  • Excellent Roadmap of the Potential Future
    Excellent description of how the universe seems to be progressing from the simpler to the more complex.

    Perhaps, also a metaphor of how what age we live in changes our perspective of how we view the evolution of the universe and the intelligence that is spawned.

    In the old industrial era, it was thought that civilization would increase it's usage of energy, building Dyson spheres.

    In the new information age, it seems that the vision is about a "Singularity Wave" speeding out to convert as much of the matter in the universe into the most efficient materials to process exponentially increasing information and intelligence.

    I believe the basics are, as best as I can tell, very good and I enthusiastically embrace his humanistic (and post or trans humanistic) philosophy.

    Only a couple of things which I might differ on, and that would be..

    1. Not much mention of quantum computing. That would represent the absolute manifestation of Richard Feynman's "Plenty of Room at the Bottom", and in the case of quantum computing, the bottom of a potentially unlimited, 5Th dimensional matrix of alternate world-lines to employ. Much better than dealing with the delays of linking together multi-billion light year networks.

    2. Because of the above, and also the "s" curve of population growth in post agricultural/industrial/hyper-industrial-info civilization, there may well be a trillion or so "Singularity" worlds out there, many within a few hundred light years from Earth.

    These worlds may send small probes, perhaps with super intelligent entities to explore, but wouldn't need any more resources than exist in their native solar system.

    Futurism is an imperfect art, and many of Kurzweil's prognostications will probably unfold in different ways from what is expected, but I fully embrace a vision of this new world unfolding to the benefit of conscious life on Earth....more info
  • Thought Provoking and Inspiring
    A lot of facts about new developments in technologies coupled with inspiring ideas. Fun and exciting to read. ...more info
  • Hope
    This book, and the ideas contained within, have enabled me to survive the current round of ignorant, short sighted debates over economics and politics. All of that will (hopefully) become moot. If we can only keep the stasists (from The Future and its Enemies, Virgina Postrel) from short circuiting the Singularity via legislation, everything should be sci-fi cool by the time I am 60 years old.... ...more info
  • Not so useful
    THere are many research papers published on the computational capability of the biological brain, which is considered to be superior to conventional silicon processors, the mechanism of which was not fully explained from the conventional physics. I hoped that this book gave us a key (or hint) to clarify the problem, but I could not be fully satisfied contrary to my expectation and its large volume. ...more info
  • Fascinating...
    A well-written and optimistic view of humanity's future. If even 1/100th of what Ray Kurzweil predicts comes occurs (which seems likely given his record) - then we are in for a very exciting century indeed....more info
  • Fascinating but overlong
    I had two feelings reading this book: astonishment and boredom, and the latter increased exponentially.

    Thankfully, in the future, Kurzweil's consciousness will be uploaded onto a non-biological substrate and thereby greatly enhanced and he will no longer repeat himself interminably.

    I want to stress that his ideas are absolutely breathtaking, but not even breathtaking ideas can bear up under endless repetition.

    A 652 page beast that could have been knocked off in 300 pages if Kurzweil had deleted every paragraph beginning "As I stated in chapter..."

    Let's hope our transhuman AI overlords know the meaning of the phrase: "Poetic economy of detail".

    5 stars for his stimulating thesis, 1 for his delivery. I give it a 3....more info
  • 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.
    ...more info
  • Que Sera Sera
    One thing's for sure: I can't argue with Kurzweill. Mostly because he's way over my head. Common sense and personal experience are about the only tools to use in trying to figure out if his predictions are going to pan out.

    Personally I believe all his glowing technological advances will come to pass, but in our lifetime? Hard to believe we'll come to accept immortality so quickly. Not so much because we don't want to live forever, but because we don't know yet what will be given up in exchange for life everlasting. We don't have information on that part of the equation. I certainly didn't see it in this book. I don't think that we know yet what that will be.

    Kurzweill assures us that nothing will change our humanity, or our humanness. We will still be able to create and appreciate art, beauty, love. We'll just keep getting better and safer and smarter along with being able to live longer and maybe even forever. But mortality is part of humanity. The true definition of life includes a component of death. Without death, life is merely existence. Is humanity prepared to merely exist as opposed to live? And what is existence as opposed to life?

    Provocative theory. Hope I'm dead before it happens.

    Sue Lange
    author, We, Robots....more info
  • 100 pages of Notes!
    Over 600 pages with 100 pages of "notes"!. Lots of rambling commentary. Not worth the money. Watch Nova.
    ...more info
  • The Technological Singularity!!!
    The technological singularity is a future event where humanity will get a lot of power from scientific and technological breakthroughs. This exaggerate amount of power will make us better and will give us a better comprehension of who we are. The trend of technological growing is exponential-like.

    The predictions are based on the law of accelerating returns. That is, once we develop new technologies, these technologies will serve to develop new and better technologies, and so on. According to many scientists and futurists, technological singularity is supposed to arrive on 2050.

    Will humanity control and benefit from the power that science and technology will give us or this power will control us or maybe destroy everything? That is a hot ethical debate to analyze. There are so many benefits and dangerous risks too. Singularity has many controversial ethical connotations that will be analyzed here.

    Genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR) are the three intertwined sciences that will lead us to the singularity. Each year, billions of dollars are invested in GNR. Many advances are planned to come in 5, 10, 20, and 40 years. Scientists are now making the future.

    Some computer scientists have calculated that the maximum computational power (MCP) of a piece of matter with mass M (in kilograms) is: MCP=4.75 x 10^50 x M [cps] (in calculations per second). The coefficient of this formula is pi times the speed of light squared (a very large number) divided by the Planck's constant (a very little number).

    Some neuroscientists have conservatively calculated that the human brain capacity is 10^19 [cps]. The adult mass of the human brain is about 1.35 Kg. So, the maximum computational power for a piece of matter with the same mass of a human brain is 6.41 x 10^50 [cps]. It can be inferred that this piece of matter could be 6.41 x 10^31 times more powerful than the human brain. With that computational capacity, all the human thought during the last 10 thousand years can be emulated in just 1 second. What could happen if it is used more matter?

    One of the most important steps to achieve the singularity is the reverse engineering of the brain. That is a Herculean task that will allow us to develop the strong artificial intelligence. Once strong A.I. is created, it will help us to comprehend the most elusive mysteries of the universe and even to create new life because strong A.I. will be trillions of times greater than the entire human race.

    Living things are the most complex systems in the universe, but at the same time, these systems are simple: the complete human genome has been characterized by using 4 letters and it occupies less than 1 gigabyte of storage. This gigabyte can even be compressed. So, the information necessary to reconstruct a human like you could be stored in a pen drive.

    One of the most powerful and versatile technologies in the singularity will be the use of nanobots. There will be tiny but massive nanofactories creating trillions of nanobots everyday. These nanobots will be organizing the matter atom by atom in order to create intelligent materials. Nanotech will construct real objects in the same manner the printer makes books. If the invention of the printer was astonishing, because books were available to everybody; just imagine the advent of nanotech where everything could be created just by organizing atoms at a very low price. The intellectual property will be a hot issue since everything (even you) could be replicated from information stored in a computer.

    Nanobots will even enter in your bloodstream and will cure all the diseases and body malfunctions. 99% of the health problems will be overcome. Radical life extension will be a reality after circa 2050. Nanobots will replace every delicate and inefficient cell in our bodies. Death will be an option but some mystics will prefer to die because, according to their beliefs, death gives meaning to their lives and it is the beginning of the afterlife. Neuroscience has overwhelmingly demonstrated that the afterlife is the most famous human invention and that the soul and the mind are the same thing and it cannot exist without a functioning brain. In the world, there are no prestigious neuroscientists who believe in the afterlife.

    Nanobots will even permeate the blood brain barrier and will add more intelligence to our brains. This non-biological part of our brains will be billions of times greater than our current capacity. Nanobots will recreate vivid experiences and brain images like feelings, scents, tastes, touching, hearing and visions. We could even have wireless connections with other brains and with super entities in order to share knowledge. Fully immersion virtual reality will fool our sensations and will make us experiment situations that are improbable, impossible, desirable, exciting, and charged of knowledge that cannot be understood with our current minds.

    Brain extensions are now a reality. Neural implants for Parkinson's disease makes a dramatic change in patients who suffer from that illness. If the implant is turned off, their hands start shaking. And they stop shaking when the implant is turned on. Cochlear neural implants are now projecting auditory information to the temporal lobe in order to make deaf people hear. It is really amazing to observe the brain's neuroplasticity that can even adapt to the electronic signal of those implants. Electroencephalographic readings of the motor cortex are now used to control prosthetic limbs. Many U.S. soldiers who were injured in the Irak conflict are using these artificial limbs. There are attempts to emulate the sight: electronic visual projections to the V1 area. But the patients reported that they can only see blur images.

    One form of immortality will be attained by brain uploading and downloading. The technology to scan the brain activity and topology will be perfected and will serve to download a replica of the brain. Since the supercomputers of the future will exceed our brain capacity, the computer will run a simulation or a virtual personality who will claim to be conscious. By using neural nanobots, they will reconstruct the neural pathways to represent the knowledge acquired by somebody else. That will be called brain downloading. The reconstruction could be performed in a biological brain or in a non-biological brain. The last one will be better since it will have more computational capacity.

    Genetics, with a complete understanding of life sciences, will be creating new kinds of life and perfecting the ones we know. For example, muscle cells from one animal will be grown in large scales to supply meat to us. No animal suffering will exist anymore. Nanotechnology, with trillions of nanobots in each nanofactory, will be constantly constructing whatever you want for example: metals, biological wood, stones, plastic, oil, or even intelligent materials. Robotics, with strong A.I.s and ubiquitous computing, will be controlling everything and constantly innovating. Robots will be our most careful servants: even better than our right hands. The end of poverty, money, and world hunger will be inevitable. Everything will be fairer and all the world problems will be solved. But maybe new kinds of problems will emerge. I hope not.

    Singularity is described by some authors as the deepest art, the most beautiful science, and the most powerful technology. Some others don't agree and they say that singularity will destroy the world. The technological singularity is named after the physics' singularity, that is, the black hole. Inside a black hole, all the known physics laws break down and nobody can predict what happen there with precision. In the same manner, after the advent of the singularity, nobody can predict what would happen next. The more complex a system is the more unpredictable it becomes.

    Solar energy is the source of almost all the energy in our planet. Oil, winds, water movements, temperature changes, weather, plants, and animals are in some manner created, derived or affected by sun light. So, the best way to obtain energy in the future will be to create nano solar panels that will efficiently transform solar energy into electricity. Our best solar panels today have an efficiency of 3%, whereas nano solar panels' will be more than 30%. Many scientists say that if we capture and transform the 0.3% of all the sun light that hits the Earth in one day, this percentage will cover and exceed the energy demand of the entire human race for that day in the future.

    However, 3 existential risks will be present for the human race: nuclear bombs, nano-particle contamination (gray goo), and pathological strong A.I.s. The only thing we can do to protect ourselves is to be cautious. What-if scenarios and virtual models will be indispensable to assess the impact of each and every technology that is supposed to be launched to the public. Although, terrorism and mad scientists will be present in the future, so we will have to be aware of them. When creating strong A.I.s, it is strongly necessary to program them with good and hardwired values and principles like biodiversity, tolerance, freedom, peace, and organization. The market acceptance is another way to regulate the new technological products.

    But I think that too much regulation will only prevent the development of good technologies that will bring a lot of satisfaction and will stop the suffering of many people. I think the main concern in the future will be to acquire more knowledge. Traditional forms of power will be purposeless since we will live forever, with lives full of satisfactions, with an extreme abundance, and in a more controlled and supervised world where everything will be fairer and more civilized. The origin of evil will be completely understood (neurological causes) and every conflict will be solved by negotiation.

    The human race will not be precariously exposed anymore to comets, collision of galaxies, and the lure of the dumb natural forces because the human intelligence will be expanding at the speed of light throughout the rest of the Universe. All the efforts will be focus on circumventing the light speed limit. A complete knowledge of the wormholes could be a solution to overcome this problem. Circa 2100, pico-technology will be a reality and it will bring the possibility of transforming this dumb Universe into a conscious Universe. This does sound crazy right now. But, with the technological tools of the future, it could be possible. Remember the law of the accelerating returns.
    ...more info
  • flawed but engaging
    The book's greatest strength seems to be weaving cutting-edge research in several seemingly disparate scientific and technological fields (reversible computing, nanocomputing, simulation software and cognitive modeling software creation, biologic drug research and development, etc.) into a work that demonstrates both technical and literary flourish. But, Kurzweil fails, in the final analysis, to support his assertion that these advances mark the emergence of one of several extreme changes in the nature of human knowledge that have surfaced periodically (and, according to Kurzweil, have presented themselves at rates of change that have grown exponentially in recent times), and doesn't adequately answer critics who charge that population surges rather than technological advances have been the greatest catalysts of economic growth in human history.

    Another weakness of this book is that Kurzweil seems to think that the neural network model for developing intelligent machines is outdated because it doesn't incorporate our current knowledge of the human brain's physical architecture. But the idea behind the neural network is that it is algorithmic and computational rather than an instantiation of a single physical form and hence "transcend[s] biology"--as the phrase contained in the book's title indicates is the goal of the emerging scientific enterprises of "GNR" (genomics, nanotechnology, and robotics).

    Finally, Kurzweil seems overly optimistic about the commercial and social potential of genomics, the most specific and conclusory of the three emerging disciplines the book discusses. While it is conceptually plausible that at least some individual genomes can be adequately and meaningfully defined and then therapeutically manipulated, he doesn't seem to have a basis for believing that all or most of individual genomes can be therapeutically manipulated (even if they can be adequately and meaningfully defined or analogized to a computational device or algorithim). And since Kurzweil seems to have a narrow, human-centric view of robotics, he may have underestimated its potential. So perhaps the trio of emerging sciences he calls "GNR" (genomics, nanotechnology, and robotics, in their order of supposed importance) would be more aptly dubbed "RNG (robotics, nanotechnology, genomics)."...more info
  • Insightful, but not gripping
    Very interesting. Author has thought a lot about the topic -- not just surface-level hype that is so common nowadays. But the text drags in some chapters. I'd like to see around 100 of the 500 pages cut out....more info
  • Amazing book of highly valuable and important information
    Ray Kurzweil has written a book that is ahead of it's time. If you are smart enough to follow what he is talking about then you will find this book to be a total mindblowing experience. We are living in a time of incredible technological advancenent at the same time of massive catastrophic potentiality. If it isn't climate change that will kill us all it's Grorge Bush's (and his criminal gang) of failed policies of greed, murder and mayhem that has caused the entire world to go into an economic tailspin. Our only hope is Obama and books like Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity Is Near". Technolgy used responsibly is the only way now to reverse the collision course to mass extinction on this planet. This isn't just a good book, but is neccessary for YOU to understand the world we live in today. It's complicated, but we all must try to understand this material otherwise you will get left behind and the Singularity will have your meaningless, uninformed life terminated. This is about life and death people. Now pay attention. Good luck! ...more info
  • A "must read"
    Ray Kurzweil is an exceedingly intelligent and perceptive individual. His scientific insight into the future is fascinating and frightening. I am listing this as a "must read" to all of my top students....more info
  • Really makes you wonder
    Brilliant is the best word to describe this work. Kurzweil has brought the future into something of a focus with this amazing look into the future. What really makes this work is that you can't 'see' exactly what the future will be even though he brings you further along than you have been. We can't see past the singularity - it will be something amazing - but we cannot truly conceive of what will be.
    This will change the way you view our world and the future of our race....more info
  • 487 pages + a good editor = 225 pages
    It's a potentially important book as many other reviewers have pointed out but his stream of consciousness writing style gets aggravating. If you can skim, you win. If you read, you bleed. There aren't many things he says fewer than four times. But some of those things have come true, some will and some of the amazing ones may. He has an impressive track record. Now if he'd just add discipline to his writing.

    ...more info
  • Maddewar
    Although a bit eccentric this author has a very good point. His futuristic outlook seems to have merit. Technology is increasing at a very fast pace and I do believe it will increase longevity and improve quality of life....more info
  • Is this the future?
    This is a fascinating review of recent technological (including bio-tech) and medicinal breakthroughs, all used as supporting evidence for Kurzweil's thesis that everything as we know it will change dramatically somewhere around the year 2045.

    The book is well written and reads quickly. The footnotes are elaborate and add depth to his survey of advancements.

    If you ever wondered where our world is going (from the "real religion" viewpoint of Carl Sagan in "Contact"; i.e. via science and mathematics), then this volume is both riveting and a little scary, but in either case, I can't wait to see if it all proves true over time....more info
  • The Singularity is Near:When Humans Transcend Biology
    Opens ones mind to the rapid changes taking place - everyone should read it.
    Much of the information is aplicable today and a help to those who want to be around and participate in the radical changes will have to live with in the next 20 to 40 years...more info
  • Brilliant and Compelling
    One of the most influential books I've ever read. Extremely well researched and very clearly written. I look at the next 20-30 years quite differently now as a result of reading this book. ...more info
  • A Timeline Woulda Been Nice...an EDITOR, too!!!!
    I love Ray Kurzweil. You know, not in that Biblical way, nor even in that neo-Platonic Metrosexual way. I love Ray Kurzweil because he is an eternal optimist, and because a lot of his ideas are just freakin' cool. (Of course, some of his ideas also seem very naive and rather dangerous, too. Cf "Why I love Ray Kurzweil.") Whether he is right or wrong in his predictions, at least he's someone who's upbeat about the future of humanity. What with Global Warming, Peak Oil, al Kaeda, the Social Security crisis, and Gulf hurricanes, sometimes you need someone telling you that not only is going to be all right, but that if we make it to 2045, we all will live forever, too, in an uber-society of benevolent immortals! (I'm not kidding. That's what Ray Kurzweil predicts.)

    That is the main point of this book: that after the Technological Singularity not only will we all live forever, but our world will have changed so much along with that that we simply are UNABLE to predict what the world will be like after that date. However, in order to get there, it will involve computers, Artificial Intelligence, nanotechnology and genetic manipulations.

    The problem with this book is that Kurzweil gives this stunning prediction--the MAIN POINT of the book--- somewhere roundabouts page 127, at the end of a paragraph, in the middle of a chapter, in an almost off-handed way.

    In short, there is a lot of really fascinating stuff here, but it is tossed together in such a haphazard way, and with such verbose prose, and with so many tangents, that it is hard to keep focus on what is really essential.

    One suggestion I might have--- and which would have helped me TREMENDOUSLY--- would have been a TIMELINE of major events that he predicts will happen. You see, throughout the book, tossed here and there, are statements like "By the end of the 2020s, a computer will have passed the Turing Test." Well, that's nice. But for me, the reason I read these types of books is that I want to know what the future will bring! But after I read this book, I got the feeling that a lot of cool stuff is going to happen, but I wasn't exactly sure when. There was no way I could go and see a summary of these predictions.

    I would have like a 10 page timeline of major future events. You know, like "2019- the first implantable brain-computer interface. 2020- Computer intelligence reaches the level of a human in a mainframe computer. 2021- We finally get the flying cars!" and so on. (By the way, he doesn't actually talk about flying cars. But I STILL want to know when I get my flying car!)

    I waited many years for this book after I read his last "The Age of Spiritual Machines" (which is amazing.) I must count myself among the slightly disappointed. The book's ideas are amazing and really important, but it's often hard to tell that because they are tossed haphazardly together in an often long-winded jumble.

    The book would have been 5 stars for me had it been better organized. Or, if it had been organized like "Spiritual Machines" which looked at the future decade by decade. A nice timeline alone would have knocked it up to 4 stars.

    Even though I'm only giving it three stars, I STILL think everyone should read it! The ideas presented are just THAT important. But expect the experience to be a little more like eating broccoli than a bowl of cherries: sure, both of them are good for you, but it often takes some effort to eat the former....more info
  • Sure, Ray, I'll take your word for it...
    Futurists are seductive and so are their fantastical predictions, even when one has absolutely no idea exactly how to evaluate the soundness of their claims. Kurzweil tries with all his might to answer this criticism of the genre but fails nonetheless, offering mound upon mound of at best incomplete graphs that bury his theses behind the madness of immeasurable technological erudition, so (alas) the reader is probably left to do one of two things: ignorantly object or ignorantly serve. It's good fun, much like a fireside game of "what if" at summer camp, and Bill Gates's official endorsement makes it feel populist enough to recommend to your inquisitive friends....more info
  • Ponder the future
    Ray certainly paints an almost romantic picture of a bright future for us all, without ignoring the fact that there will be challenges. I hope and believe we are heading in the direction he postulates. Possibly even at the speed too. If nothing else this book caused me to stop and think about where we have been and what that might tell us about where we are going. Only 5 years after this book came out, we are already starting to see the signs of this future that Ray has painted in the fields of genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics. I wish that he had spent more time in the book exploring the myriad of questions that arise when considering such a fundamentally different paradigm of humanity. Instead I felt a bit bored at times by the repetition of his arguments after I was already convinced. It's to be expected from academic books though I suppose....more info
  • Just a sip of bath water please ...
    Over the top ...

    Kurzweil's enthusiasm of writing style exceeds the logical supposition. Take what we know ... then divide it by the sqrt of 2, multiply by pi, raise to the power of n ... there you have it ... bio-transcendence. You gotta have Kurzweil's imagination to extrapolate, then accept the premise that computational evolution can, and will, transcend biology based on a premise that high speed computational machinations will outstrip the machinators.

    Only since the advent of advanced medical scanners have we seen meager clues of the architecture of human intelligence. An intelligent response to complex stimulus in the human neo-cortex looks like a 200 neural connection effort. So it may be amazingly, and incomprehensibly simple. We probably don't even know 1% of what we don't know. All that grey matter between our ears is mostly of unknown utility and some relatively small percentage is memory being accessed by the processing architecture in that ever so thin laminate of neo-cortical cells. Our only clue about what is going on up there is when something goes wrong and we can observe it being fixed or not.

    Kurzweil's brute force approach to breaking the bio-transcendence barrier has no evidence in the cumulative science of all the labs working on leading edge computation put together, then cubed. Becoming unshackled by computational limitations to deliver billions of lines of algorithmic, self modifying code executed at teraflop speed seems a bit like doing the wrong thing with great precision in the greater scheme. Predicting weather is a number crunching fiesta with the best computational science we have. Let's face it, the predictions aren't operationally all that much better than 10 years ago in my humble opinion.

    Admittedly, the fact that Asimo didn't fall at the CES this year was perhaps a landmark in our quest for bio-transcendence, however ... I think my Roomba has more personality and better judgment.
    ...more info
  • Maybe
    The book presents an interesting premise that humans will evolve from purely biological to biological/technological and ultimately to technological beings. Whether or not Kurzweil has gotten the time frame right is the question. If he is right, humans are only 20 to 30 years from this singularity. A most thought provoking read....more info
  • A Nerd's Wet Dream
    A friend recommended this book to me, so I was excited to read about a futurist's view on technology and medicine, since I work in biotechnology research for medical applications. However, the outrageous claims and messianic wild-eyed tone of this book really cranked up my B.S.-meter. Kurzweil's admitting to taking *250* (!) supplements a day both orally and IV was the real clincher. This guy is neurotic. He is so afraid of his own death, so blinded by technology and his scientific orgasms, that he fails to take into account the complexity of the human condition, both individually and collectively. He ignores those facets of being human that don't jibe with his hyper-intellectual, reductionist views. Human beings evolved to both think AND to feel. He has reduced human beings to merely thinking machines. He dreams of a future where we transfer our consciousness to robots, thus shedding the mortal coil of our biological bodies (which he hilariously calls 'version 1.0'). But having a biological body is an intrinsic aspect of being human. So much of our life revolves around eating, sleeping, dreaming, touching, sex, growing, and so on. If we give all that up, will we still be human? What's more, many people don't see death as the end of their consciousness, as they believe in the immortality of the soul. Kurzweil comes from a very narrow cultural niche, the nerdy materialist/atheist Western technologist. How many people of the world, from the devout religious folks of Islam and Christianity, to the earth-centered native peoples around the globe and New Agers, will buy into this technolust vision? Don't hold your breath waiting for 2045....more info
  • The best of his series.
    The singularity plot at the beginning of the book is amazing. It graphically depicts what we all have experienced in our lifetime. Each year another great invention is introduced. Computer storage gets smaller and cheaper to the point where we are wearing gigabytes of storage on our keychain. His predictions for Artificial Intelligence and the reverse-engineering of the brain will probably happen and one can only wonder what the next hundred years will bring. I highly recomment this book for any young science student. ...more info
  • Fantastic book, easy read. Mind-expanding
    Kurzweil is one of the leaders in historic and future trends. This book is a summary of just that: trends during the lifetime of the universe, and what that means for the future. The book delves into all sorts of coming and current revolutions, mostly focusing on ones in computers, nanotechnology and biology, and mostly their intersection. It is fascinating and mind-expanding. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in history or interested in what will be happening over the next several years...more info
  • upon reading it a second time...
    In my opinion, this is an exceptional book. I was astonished to read some of the criticisms it has received on amazon.com. I truly could not put this book down. The depth of the subjects covered is great. For anyone who is interested in futurism, this should be on your bookshelf.

    First of all, the author is an extremely accomplished man. Chances are you use one of his inventions everyday. Kurzweil was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, received thirteen--yes, thirteen--honorary doctorates, the National Medal of Technology, the Lemelson MIT Prize (the world's largest award for innovation), and awards from three US Presidents. This makes me more than comfortable when reading this book.

    I very much enjoy books of this nature, but have never encountered a book such as this; with every claim and prediction, Kurzweil provides more than ample evidence to support himself. Reading this book was an intellectual revolution.

    Some of the criticisms I read about this book on amazon.com stated that the book lacked emotion and was quite dry. I couldn't disagree more. I find it impossible to be without emotion when discussing the things Kurzweil touches on and noticed no apathy in his writing. At times, his writing was quite humorous; the dialogue of a fictional character named Molly with various other characters at the end of every chapter was very entertaining.

    I would recommend this book to anyone. It will truly change your outlook on the human civilization and its future. I plan to read it again and again....more info