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The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology [Kindle Edition]

Ray Kurzweil
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (335 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $23.00
Kindle Price: $13.99
You Save: $9.01 (39%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

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.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Renowned inventor Kurzweil (The Age of Spiritual Machines) may be technology's most credibly hyperbolic optimist. Elsewhere he has argued that eliminating fat intake can prevent cancer; here, his quarry is the future of consciousness and intelligence. Humankind, it runs, is at the threshold of an epoch ("the singularity," a reference to the theoretical limitlessness of exponential expansion) that will see the merging of our biology with the staggering achievements of "GNR" (genetics, nanotechnology and robotics) to create a species of unrecognizably high intelligence, durability, comprehension, memory and so on. The word "unrecognizable" is not chosen lightly: wherever this is heading, it won't look like us. Kurzweil's argument is necessarily twofold: it's not enough to argue that there are virtually no constraints on our capacity; he must also convince readers that such developments are desirable. In essence, he conflates the wholesale transformation of the species with "immortality," for which read a repeal of human limit. In less capable hands, this phantasmagoria of speculative extrapolation, which incorporates a bewildering variety of charts, quotations, playful Socratic dialogues and sidebars, would be easier to dismiss. But Kurzweil is a true scientist—a large-minded one at that—and gives due space both to "the panoply of existential risks" as he sees them and the many presumed lines of attack others might bring to bear. What's arresting isn't the degree to which Kurzweil's heady and bracing vision fails to convince—given the scope of his projections, that's inevitable—but the degree to which it seems downright plausible. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Kurzweil is one of the world’s most respected thinkers and entrepreneurs. Yet the thesis he posits in Singularity is so singular that many readers will be astounded—and perhaps skeptical. Think Blade Runner or Being John Malkovich magnified trillion-fold. Even if one were to embrace his techno-optimism, which he backs up with fascinating details, Kurzweil leaves some important questions relating to politics, economics, and morality unanswered. If machines in our bodies can rebuild cells, for example, why couldn’t they be reengineered as weapons? Or think of singularity, notes the New York Times Book Review, as the "Manhattan Project model of pure science without ethical constraints." Kurzweil’s vision requires technology, which we continue to build. But it also requires mass acceptance and faith.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


Product Details

  • File Size: 2710 KB
  • Print Length: 671 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0670033847
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (September 22, 2005)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000QCSA7C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,755 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
391 of 437 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Kurzweil does a good job of arguing that extrapolating trends such as Moore's Law is better than most alternative forecasting methods, and he does a good job of describing the implications of those trends. But he is a bit long-winded, and tries to hedge his methodology by pointing to specific research results which he seems to think buttress his conclusions. He neither convinces me that he is good at distinguishing hype from value when analyzing current projects, nor that doing so would help with the longer-term forecasting that constitutes the important aspect of the book.

Given the title, I was slightly surprised that he predicts that AIs will become powerful slightly more gradually than I recall him suggesting previously (which is a good deal more gradual than most Singulitarians). He offsets this by predicting more dramatic changes in the 22nd century than I imagined could be extrapolated from existing trends.

His discussion of the practical importance of reversible computing is clearer than anything else I've read on this subject.

When he gets specific, large parts of what he says seem almost right, but there are quite a few details that are misleading enough that I want to quibble with them.

For instance (talking about the world circa 2030): "The bulk of the additional energy needed is likely to come from new nanoscale solar, wind, and geothermal technologies." Yet he says little to justify this, and most of what I know suggests that wind and geothermal have little hope of satisfying more than 1 or 2 percent of new energy demand.

His reference to "the devastating effect that illegal file sharing has had on the music-recording industry" seems to say something undesirable about his perspective.
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165 of 183 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Technophilic ecstacy September 22, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author is definitely one of the most inspiring of all researchers in the field of applied artificial intelligence. For those, such as this reviewer, who are working "in the trenches" of applied AI, his website is better than morning coffee. One does not have to agree with all the conclusions reached by the author in order to enjoy this book, but he does make a good case, albeit somewhat qualitative, for the occurrence, in this century, of what he and other futurists have called a `technological singularity.' He defines this as a period in the future where the rate of technological change will be so high that human life will be `irreversibly transformed.' There is much debate about this notion in the popular literature on AI, but in scientific and academic circles it has been greeted with mixed reviews. Such skepticism in the latter is expected and justified, for scientists and academic researchers need more quantitative justification than is usually provided by the enthusiasts of the singularity, which in this book the author calls "singularitarians." Even more interesting though is that the notion of rapid technological change seems to be ignored by the business community, who actually stand to gain (or lose) the most by it.

Since this book is aimed primarily at a wide audience, and not professional researchers, the author does not include detailed arguments or definitions for the notion of machine intelligence or a list of the hundreds of examples of intelligent machines that are now working in the field. Indeed, if one were to include a discussion of each of these examples, this book would swell to thousands of pages.
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242 of 273 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brave New World October 13, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
To say that Mr. Kurzweil is a bit of an optimist is like saying Shaq is a bit on the tall side. Mr K is positively bubbling with enthusiasim. Had it not been taken by Joe Namath a suitable title might have been "The Future's So Bright I Just Gotta Wear Shades". But therein lies the problem. Mr K comes across more like a passionate evangelical than a reasoned scientist. Whenever someone is absolutley convinced about the rightness of his assumptions I become skeptical.

If you're reading this you know the premise of the book. Mr. K maintains that the pace of technological change (and by technology he means the really cool technologies, like infotech, biotech, and nanotech) is not simply increasing, but increasing exponentially, so fast that we will soon reach a point where man and machine have become one, and are brains are a million (or maybe a billion) times more powerful. When this happens everything we know will have changed forever.

Moreover, this is not someting that will happen at some vague time in the far future. It's just around the corner. Mr. K even gives us a date: 2045.

While reading the book I kept thinking, What if Mr. K had written this in the mid 1950's? Certainly he'd have backup for his basic premise--the changes that occured in the first half of the 20th century were indeed tremendous. Take aviation, a hot technology in those days. Mr. K would no doubt have observed that we went from Kitty Hawk to the Boeing 707 in just 50 years. Projecting ahead, Mr. K would have concluded that the second half of the century would see an even greater rate of advancement, so that by now we'd all have our own personal flying devices, zipping off to Europe in just minutes.

But that hasn't happened.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic reading. This book changed the way I see ...
Fantastic reading. This book changed the way I see the world and Human race.
Kurzweil exposes a structure to explain the pace of information technology evolution. Read more
Published 9 days ago by mmicoski
5.0 out of 5 stars Explains how science fiction will become reality
For me, this book immediately helped me understand and appreciate science fiction stories. It explains how many of the unbelievable capabilities in the future can be actualized,... Read more
Published 11 days ago by Philip Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind on fire!.
What a tour de force. This guy is so smart, reading his book makes smoke pour out my ears!
Published 25 days ago by curious reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Still relevant depiction of our future
This is a good book for anyone interested in what technologies will emerge during this century. Interestingly, while this book was written in 2004, most of the discussions are... Read more
Published 26 days ago by philippe castonguay
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Everyone should read this book.
Published 1 month ago by Slicky Moxy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book! Very informative. good seller.
Published 1 month ago by Kenneth
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent read
Published 1 month ago by Chard
5.0 out of 5 stars The author is concise and provides solid science with easy to follow...
The author is concise and provides solid science with easy to follow research reference for all the subjects covered in the book while breaking up the monotony of the information... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Scott Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great
Published 1 month ago by richard fuller
5.0 out of 5 stars Great conversational topics
Book is in new condition and although the info is 7 years old I find that I was informed about things still years ahead of my friends. Great conversational topics. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sanford Younce
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More About the Author

Ray Kurzweil is a prize-winning author and scientist. He was named Inventor of the Year by MIT in 1988 and was awarded the Dickson Prize, Carnegie Mellon's top science prize, in 1994. He is the recipient of nine honorary doctorates and honors from two American presidents. He lives outside Boston, Massachusetts.

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