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Age of Spiritual Machines Hardcover – 1999
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Top Customer Reviews
Kurzweil presents his theories a lot more convincingly than I can, but I've certainly tried a lot since I read this book. It stimulates philosophical debate on the nature of life and intelligence, but grounds its philosophical wanderings in believable theory.
The book is not without its problems. The jump into the future of nanotechnology leaves is abrupt and the Law of Accelerating returns is not a law but a trend. He ignores the possibility of social movements or government action to prevent Artificial Intelligence research once it reaches a certain level. When he speaks about specific aspects of humanity or sex, he reveals an incomplete understanding of the way people feel and love.
But these flaws only serve to remind the reader that the book is indeed speculation, not fact. And the speculation is beautiful, absolutely inspiring. It introduced possibilities and ideas that I'm still turning over in my mind, and it did it all with clear, entertaining writing that a non-scientist like me can understand.
Pick up this book, read it, make your friends read it, and enjoy the time you spend discussing it. The resulting conversations will be so much more interesting than your usual social fare.
In fact, read a book like this every year, whether it's something totally off the wall (Robert Anton Wilson's "Prometheus Rising") or a little more grounded in current science (Kevin Kelly's "Out of Control"). It will broaden your "reality-tunnel" and get your mind working with big, fun concepts.
Kurzweil starts by describing the exponential growth of computer power, Moore's Law, and transistor-based computing. The present and the future are described until quantum effects start becoming a problem and a completely new kind of technology becomes necessary (some alternatives are mentioned, Quantum computation is of course, mentioned). The book proceeds to more metaphysical subjects, and questions if we can create another intelligence form more intelligent than ourselves. Can the created exceed the creator?
It will then proceed to cover consciousness and feelings; Kurzweil gets philosophical in what in my opinion is one of the book's weakest chapters The methods available to solve a wide range of intelligent problems (when combined with heavy doses of computation) will follow, in a chapter that covers subjects from recursive formulas to neural nets, and of course, enough space is dedicated to Alan Turing, the father of all modern computers.Read more ›
If you read the last chapters first it would be easy to conclude that Mr. Kurzweil is crazy. However, we have here an obviously highly educated computer scientist, successful business person, and superb writer, who also apparently has spent significant time and personal engergy considering the implications of our present science. Given the attributes and qualifications of this author, the substantive content of the book then becomes extremely difficult to ignore or dismiss, and I certainly wonder when the implications here presented will begin to create the expected anxiety among our general population.
Mr. Kurzweil carefully sets the stage for his various futurist predictions. He presents a most interesting history of computer science; an intro to the law of "chaos" theory, and a rendition of the theory of evolution intelligent enough to permanently stifle any creationist; a comprehensive, informative explanation of both machine and human intelligence, which upon reading, I finally understand the mental machinations of my animals and of myself--call it "consciousness explained", and we are made aware of its scientific limits and possibilities. And, for those who have any question at all that machine intelligence equivalent to human intelligence is possible, Mr. Kurzweil breaks it down into both understandable and frightening reality.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book , everything Ray said in 1999 came out to be truePublished 1 month ago by Rao Yenamandra
I read this like seven or eight years ago and go back once a year to see how Kurzweil did on his predictions for the future with his historical timeline of technology. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
The Age of Spiritual Machines, first published in 1999, remains a robust projection into the future of this century. Read morePublished 7 months ago by David S. Wellhauser