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Are We Spiritual Machines?: Ray Kurzweil vs. the Critics of Strong A.I. Paperback – June 6, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Discovery Institute (June 6, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0963865439
  • ISBN-13: 978-0963865434
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,266,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Eventually, human minds will be downloaded and "cloned."
Discovery Reviewer
Each reader of this book will of course have their own opinions on Kurzweil's degree of success in countering the arguments of Searle, Denton, Dembski, and Ray.
Dr. Lee D. Carlson
It has really made him begin to think about these dilemmas.
Mrs. J. Pretorius

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 30, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The work, inventions, and opinions of Ray Kurzweil in the field of artificial intelligence have captured media attention and the attention of philosophers and researchers in artificial intelligence. But not only is Kurzweil one of the most brilliant and controversial of all the individuals working in artificial intelligence, he is also the most optimistic. This optimism holds not only for the future technology of artificial intelligence, predicted by Kurzweil to give independent thinking machines in the next three decades, but also for its social impact. Kurzweil believes that artificial intelligence will work for the benefit of humankind, but that this benefit will depend to a great degree on his belief that humans will take on technology that will effectively make them cybernetic.
The controversy behind Kurzweil stems from his recent book "The Age of Spirtual Machines", which is a detailed accounting of his predictions and beliefs regarding artificial intelligence. Many individuals objected to his visions and predictions, and he answers a few of them in this book. In particular, he attempts to counter the arguments against him by the philosopher John Searle, the molecular biologist Michael Denton, the philosopher William A. Dembski, and zoologist Thomas Ray. With only a few minor exceptions, Kurzweil is successful in his refutation of their assertions.
But even if Kurzweil completely refutes the arguments of these individuals, and possibly many more against him, the countering of arguments will not by itself solve the problems in artificial intelligence research. The fact remains that much work still needs to be done before we are priveleged to see the rise of intelligent machines. Kurzweil is well-aware of this, for he acknowledges this many times in this book.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Quinbould on February 6, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoy reading Kurzweil because he's an adventurous thinker. This book is particularly fun because some other fine minds take him to task. Ray holds up well because he's a reasonable thinker. Although some of his predicitions seem outlandish, they may not be. You can't read this book without engaging in a lot of interesting visualization about the future. Some of it is frightening, but there is hope as well. Will the future runaway on it's own or will we be in charge? I don't know, but I'm sure thinking about it, now.
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87 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Spoering on December 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is Ray Kurzweil's third book concerning the future of reductionist artificial intelligence design and it's possible effects on us in the decades yet to come. In THE AGE OF SPIRITUAL MACHINES, Kurzweil's previous book, which I enjoyed also, and this volume, he uses technological trends, including Moore's law and other tools, to show that a desktop computer will have achieved human level computational ability around the year 2020. Also, Kurzweil envisions that we will be able, sometime in the next few decades, to scan human brains and download that 'software' into these advanced computers to give them human level reasoning abilities, with the speed of computer neural nets, leaving humans behind, so to speak. Accordingly, it may also be possible to scan individual brains and load that information into an advanced computer (attached to a body of some kind), giving that person a sort of immortality. This is the gist of Kurzweil's argument, I hope I got it essentially correct.
What Kuzweil means by computers someday becoming 'spiritual' is that they may become conscious, and 'strong A.I.' is the view that "any computational process sufficiently capable of altering or organizing itself can produce consciousness." The first part of this book is an introduction to all of the above views by Kurzweil, followed by criticisms by four authors, followed in turn by Kurzweil as he refutes these criticisms.
Personally, I found most of the views expounded by the critics here to be either non-sensical, or 'beside the point'. One critic says that the life support functions of the brain cannot be separated from it's information processing function. Of course it can be, even the effects of hormones can be programmed into a downloaded brain, as well as other chemicals used by brains.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Discovery Reviewer on June 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
In the closing session of the 1998 Telecosm conference, hosted by Gilder Publishing and Forbes at Lake Tahoe, inventor and author Ray Kurzweil engaged a number of critics. He advocated "Strong Artificial Intelligence" (AI), the claim that a computational process sufficiently capable of altering or organizing itself can produce "consciousness." The session had an unexpectedly profound impact, not least because a number of important issues from technology to philosophy converge on this one issue. This volume reproduces and expands upon that initial discussion.

Esteemed AI advocate Ray Kurzweil opens the volume arguing that by 2019, a personal computer will rival the processing power of the human brain. He is convinced that artificial intelligence--with the capability to "feel" and think like a human--will necessarily emerge. The twenty-first century will see a blurring of the line between human and machine as neural implants become more prevalent. Eventually, machines will become "spiritual"--or as Kurzweil means it, "conscious."

Kurzweil also sees an analogy between technological evolution and traditional accounts of Darwinian evolution. Under Darwinism, life-forms took billions of years to develop but then exploded in short burst of diversification. Kurzweil calls this the "law of accelerating returns" where technological innovation in the 20th century surpassed all previous centuries combined. At this rate, computation power currently doubles every year. By 2050, a personal computer will have the computing power of all the human brains on earth. Kurzweil believes that simply by reverse-engineering the human mind it can be reproduced. Eventually, human minds will be downloaded and "cloned.
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