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Customer Review

35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible read; a profoundly hopeful book., May 16, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (Hardcover)
Ray Kurzweil is well known for the myriad of inventions he has pioneered, from the original Kurzweil Synthesizer through a series of computerized appliances designed to make life easier for the handicapped. He is less well known for his previous book, "The Age of Intelligent Machines," and for his shockingly accurate past prognosticating on the future of technology (he missed calling the chess match victory of Deep Blue against Kasparov by one year...making the prediction a decade or more ago). Now Kurzweil is weighing in on what the astounding exponential advance of computer processing power is going to mean to the human race. In short, he goes way, *way* out on a limb, and flatly predicts that human minds and bodies will have largely combined and integrated with super-powerful computers within 100 years from today. Furthermore, he convincingly extrapolates present advances in computing power to predict that a $1,000 desktop PC in the year 2020 will have equal computing power to a human mind. Then 40 years after that, by 2060, a desktop computer will have the combined computing power of every human mind on earth. And that curve will continue increasing until individual computers within the next hundred years will have the computing power of billions of human minds. In the face of that, Kurzweil predicts, human beings will assimilate with the new super-intelligence of machines, in order to bypass biological evolution and supercharge not only our minds but also our bodies, which will be remade and redesigned in virtually any way we might find compelling and useful. In short, Kurzweil is predicting the emergence of a new species within the next 100 years, as machine intelligence exceeds carbon-based intelligence by millions of powers. Scary? Not at all. In fact, not only does Kurzweil make his predictions supremely believable but the picture painted by his predictions heralds a golden age of existence for humanity that far surpasses anything that has gone before in its beauty, complexity, speed, intelligence, longevity, creativity, and spirituality. Read this book, and fasten your seatbelt. If Kurzweil is right, most of those who live until about the year 2020 or 2030 will probably live long enough so that they will never have to die. Kurzweil's predictions are more than hopeful; they herald a real new world of wonder and beauty undreamed of even by science fictions writers until recently. And he's serious.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 5, 2010 3:13:33 PM PST
Andrewski says:
I believe that our political systems are so primitive that these advances in computer technology will only hasten our demise. War technology will advance so quickly that destruction of the planet will become inevitable. Sorry.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 23, 2010 9:59:24 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 5, 2011 4:26:01 PM PDT]

Posted on Apr 5, 2011 4:06:00 PM PDT
Wikileaker says:
You confuse "computing power" with "human mind". Transistors do not compare with neurons. Switching speed does not translate into thought or consciousness. Clocking a CPU at an exahertz does not somehow inexplicably endow it with human capabilities.

Posted on Jan 29, 2014 7:54:44 AM PST
This glowing review of "The Age of Spiritual Machines" was written in 1999, and might have been justified then. However, in 2014, with the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that almost none of the specific predictions that Kurzweil makes in this book have come to pass. For instance, he predicts that five years ago we should have had cell phones that can automatically translate from foreign languages. This is just way, way off. He makes a big point in this book that a prognosticator should be judged on the accuracy of his predictions. Well, by that measure Kurzweil has clearly failed. You might give him an A for effort, but he doesn't score higher than a D for the accuracy of his predictions.
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