- Hardcover: 672 pages
- Publisher: The Viking Press; 1st edition (September 22, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670033847
- ISBN-13: 978-0670033843
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (407 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology 1st Edition
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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 worlds most respected thinkers and entrepreneurs. Yet the thesis he posits in Singularity is so singular that many readers will be astoundedand 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 couldnt 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." Kurzweils vision requires technology, which we continue to build. But it also requires mass acceptance and faith.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting, but a lot of the book is a bit over my head. I did get the gist of it, though.Published 10 days ago by E.C. Beifus
A VERY IMPORTANT book about our technological futere. Well researched and persusave. Opens ones mind to things to come. Read morePublished 17 days ago by WILLIAM CHIALTAS
This book has changed my entire outlook on the meaning of life. To paraphrase the popular church song, Amazing Grace: I used to be a linear thinker but now I see! Read morePublished 1 month ago by AvidReader
This is a very informative book, but I wish it didn't repeat itself so much. Halfway through, I feel like I've read the same thing about 10 times said in different ways. Read morePublished 1 month ago by William Watson
Any review of this book would have to start off by emphasizing that it written by Ray Kurzweil, one of the leading electrical engineers, scientists and tinkerers of the latter 20th... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Yoda
A bit of a slog early on, but absolutely mind-boggling. Been contemplating its implications ever since...Published 1 month ago by Allen ackers
Ray is a genius and his accuracy is 86% correct most of the time, which is astonishing.
I don't like the argument presented in this book. Read more