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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, Very Optimistic View of the Future, September 22, 2011
This review is from: Transcendent Man (DVD)
Earlier ('99) Kurzweil argued that the ever-accelerating rate of technological change would lead to computers rivaling the full range of human intelligence. Now he considers the union of human brains with the vastly greater capacity and speed of computers. That merging is the Singularity where there will be no clear distinction between human and machine, real and virtual reality - and occur around 2045. Human aging and illness will be reversed, pollution stopped, and world hunger and poverty solved.

Kurzweil goes on to point out that the brain has massive parallelism (100 trillion interneuronal connections operating simultaneously to quickly realize subtle patterns, but involving transactions several million times slower than current electronic circuits. The result is an increasing mismatch vs. the exponential growth of our knowledge base.

Kurzweil then steps back to gain perspective on the accelerating rate of progress. The 20th century's achievements represent about 20 years of progress at the rate accomplished in the year 2000; he projects that the next 20 years' of progress will be accomplished in about 14, followed by the next in only 7. Thus, the 21st century will bring progress of about 1,000 times that of the 20th century. We tend to overestimate what can be achieved in the short term (due to leaving out details), and underestimate the long term possibilities (assuming the future will simply represent a linear extrapolation of recent years, rather than what has recently become exponential growth).

Kurzweil sees effective software models of human intelligence by the mid-2020s. This will allow "intelligence" to be applied to the billions of facts machines can precisely and instantly recalled. Another benefit is that once a skill is mastered using artificial means it can be performed accurately and repeatedly at high speed, and shared at extremely high speed. Thus, machines designing machines, aiding every-day decision-making and analysis of technological problems will result in incredible improvements in our ability to utilize artificial organs, digestion, blood, etc.

Clearly Kurzweil's basic premise - the rate of technological progress has become exponential - is a fascinating, well-documented, and uplifting one. However, I am a bit more reserved about the future situation regarding resources such as water, energy, and living space, as well as how an economy would function when there is very little work left for humans. I'm also left wondering what will happen with the current disputes among social classes, religions, nations etc. that so permeate today.

Nonetheless, "Transcendent Man" is a very thought-provoking and must-see DVD.
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