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Age of Spiritual Machines Hardcover – 1999

4 out of 5 stars 226 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ray Kurzweil is the world's leading authority on artificial intelligence. He is the found and chairman of Kurzweil Applied Intelligence. He was the principal developer of the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind and has made other significant advances in artificial intelligence technology. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology named him Inventor of the Year in 1988 and Engineer of the Year in 1990. He is the recipient of eight honorary doctorates. He lives in Waltham, Massachusetts, USA. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (1999)
  • ISBN-10: 0965086135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0965086134
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (226 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #630,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book got me excited. It changed the way I think about the future, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the possibilities that the future holds.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Ray Kurzweil's "The Age of Spiritual Machines' is an intelligent look at what the future might be holding for us all. Like other similar titles - Visions by Michio Kaku comes to mind - Kurzweil tries to predict where science will take us. Unlike `Visions' however, this book is considerably more focused on computer technology and artificial intelligence, and I would only recommend it if you're not looking for a much broader answer to the question of where we are headed. Kurzweil never intended to cover other matters, and reading the Prologue will be enough to understand that most of the book will explore the rising of machine intelligence to a level that will surpass the capabilities of the human brain.
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.
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Format: Paperback
I read an excerpt from this outstanding book in the magazine Scientific American about a year ago, causing me immediate future shock, now exacerbated and expanded upon reading the entire book.
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.
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