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The Age of Spiritual Machines

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  3,132 Ratings  ·  204 Reviews
Ray Kurzweil, called a "restless genius" by "The Wall Street Journal," is responsible for some of the most compelling technology of our era. The brains behind the Kurzweil Reading Machine (which helps Stevie Wonder read his mail), the Kurzweil synthesizer, and the voice-recognition program that appears on Windows 98, he is also a formidable thinker who a decade ago predict ...more
Audio CD, 2 pages
Published January 1st 1999 by Penguin Audio (first published December 28th 1998)
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As an AI person, I have mixed feelings about this book. Half of me says that it's nonsense: the author come across as ludicrously optimistic, indeed quite out of touch with reality, and saturated with hubris to the point where it's starting to crystallize out in his hair. Who could ever take this crap seriously?

The other half points out that, even though AI has a terrible history of overhyping itself, the errors are often not as bad as they first appear. People in the 50s did indeed make themsel
Oct 15, 2014 Armin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Technology/futurist enthusiasts
The Age of Spiritual Machines, is an attention-grabbing and misleading title given to a decent futuristic book. I have long wanted to read a book by Ray Kurzweil. He is one of the most prolific futurist writers. The news of him becoming the Director of Engineering at Google, re-sparked my interest in him.

I enjoyed the book, and found it quite accessible. Almost too accessible! Considering the complex nature of the subject-matter, technicalities are kept to a minimum. This is a good thing or a ba
Tyler Franklin
Mar 29, 2012 Tyler Franklin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Arthur C. Clarke's 3rd law holds that "any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic." While we know this technology is currently being developed, on schedule, it's simply difficult to imagine the implications for humanity without it seeming somehow contrived. "Deus ex machina;" so it comes to this.

Again, while I am convinced the premises are valid and the argument is sound, and therefore accept his projections as nearly true, it does not make them easier to believe. An
Todd Martin
Apr 13, 2011 Todd Martin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In The Age of Spiritual Machines author, and futurist, Ray Kurzweil prognosticates the rise of intelligent machines (among other things). The book was written in 1999, and he has predictions for 2009 so there’s been enough time for some of his predictions to be tested. Unfortunately he fares very, very poorly. See for yourself:

The ones he gets right were those things that were either already available in 1999 or are incremental extensions of things that w
Lynne Williamson
I talked to a good friend of mine today at brunch who has a PhD in cellular and molecular biology about some of the science and the futurisms in Kurzweil's book. My friend said immediately, "he sounds like a physicist, and those crazy physicists will invent things like the particles that don't know which way they are going until they are 'observed' because they don't know what is really happening." I said, "it's like a physicist's version of the "god of the gaps." And he agreed. Of course, being ...more
May 07, 2009 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ray Kurzweil has been accused by some as being incredibly optimistic in his vision for the future of humanity and the computer's that we've created. His predictions, however, have an uncanny way of coming to pass, at least in large part. Spiritual Machines was written in 1999 and speaks of the advances that computers will make in the twenty-first century.

Now, a decade later, it is possible to look at the first of Kurzweil's predictions, helpfully listed out in a chapter labeled "2009" and evalua
This was too easy. I need something with more detail; more in depth.
The author is too optimistic. Plus the writing style wasn't as good as I'd expected.
Mar 29, 2016 Phyllis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Kurzweil looks at history and demostrates to us that the rate of technological progress has always been growing exponentially. And that part of the book, part one, is a lot of fun to read. Borrow the book, read this section and enjoy.

But where Kurzweil wants to go with this is into the future. And here you have to keep in mind that the book was written in 1998 so we're part of the future he's looking into. And, like many before him, not only does he not get a home run with every hit, he doesn't
Feb 09, 2007 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: singularity
After reading this book I was completely giddy about the future. Everything suddenly seemed possible, nothing impossible, all without invoking anything supernatural. This is what I was looking for to replace my lost religion. Ray Kurzweil pointed out the now obvious end result of the rapid exponential advances in computer technology. Others discovered the trends long before but Ray Kurzweil put it all together in one incredibly fun book to read. Kurzweil’s thesis rests on the exponential growth ...more
Adam Bignell
Aug 29, 2016 Adam Bignell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Age of Spiritual Machines, while seeming perhaps too optimistic when read with 2016 eyes, is nonetheless an exciting adventure to the limits of imagination. It lays out in (keeping in mind the pop-science genre) relatively technical detail the means with which our technology will develop, and the impacts these developments will have on our environment, businesses, art, and relationships. It is akin to stepping inside a museum of the future; the technocracies of Hollywood pale in comparison t ...more
Robert Boyd
Wow. I'd heard about this book for years and was familiar enough with the theory of singularity, but I just kept wishing I had read this sooner. It made me realize that I should make a point of reading more books written by geniuses.

This book is prophetic. By now, many of Kurzweil's predictions have been realized (the fact that his predictions on wearable personal computers, electronic books, and text-to-speech technology were read to me by my Kindle device, which I had stowed in my coat pocket
Monwar Hussain
Jul 27, 2013 Monwar Hussain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would love to give this book six stars.

Even three quarters through the book, I could not believe Kurzweil had written this in Nineteen freaking Ninety-Eight!! The book is almost so good, I cannot read it for long. I myself am a huge technology enthusiast, and I suffer from the common problem in just gushing about Technology. Now, on a meta-level, Kurzweil does that too, I guess. :) But his writing is so measured, so specific, yet not lifeless and so powerful.

This coming after Antifragile where
Scott Lee
I first encountered Kurzweil as either an interview or article subject (don't remember which) in WIRED magazine several years ago. I found his ideas fascinating (although I don't personally believe we're headed into his vision of the future) and in fact ended up spinning several short stories out of my own response to the ideas in the interview as transmogrified (gotta love Calvin & Hobbes!) by my brain in the intervening years.

Unfortunately, when allowed to go on at length (as he does here
Ovidiu Neatu
Sep 05, 2013 Ovidiu Neatu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Epoca masinilor spirituale, prezinta unele tendinte pe care le vede autorul, si incearca sa extrapoleze aceste tendinte pentru a arunca o privire in viitor. Tendinte precum decelerarea exponentiala a frecventei cu care au loc evenimente semnificative la scara universului –de la Big Band pana in prezent-, iar acest lucru va continua pe masura ce entropia isi face treaba: creste dezordinea. Dar in mijlocul acestei cresteri a dezordinii pachete mici de ordine iau forma din cand in cand. Aceste pach ...more
Nate Huston
Jan 20, 2013 Nate Huston rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Definitely one that I will return to, most likely a few times. One reason for that will be that Kurzweil has a habit of quickly accelerating into the realm of mind-bending, especially in his theoretical discussions. While those were mentally taxing to fully wrap my brain around, even the most complex ones were short and succinct.

The most striking takeaway is Kurzweil's conception of technology as a continuation of "evolution by other means." Besides oblique reference to Uncle Carl,
Nov 27, 2012 Charles rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Drug enthusiasts. Delusional people. Kurzweil fan club. Absolutely no one.
Shelves: technology
Really disliked this one. Surprised by the amount of text the author dedicates to cybersex. Buzz words and jargon used like a fog to mask a lack of actual explication. Kurzweil kept popping up in annoying ways -- name-dropping his inventions, talking about the deadline for the book, having an extended conversation with an imagined reader named Molly. Not a lot of substance here.

Kurzweil does coherently present his Law of Accelerating Returns, but he doesn't address the problem of energy in a fin
Jan 29, 2012 Nefariousbig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
When I read this book in 2000, it blew my mind. It actually changed the way I looked at everything. It made me feel like I knew a secret, something important, that other people didn't know. While I still believe in Kurzweil's genius, and his futurist prophecies, this book is obsolete.

For a current, in-depth look at Kurzweil's brilliant mind, find the 2009 documentary "Transcendent Man", and see Kurzweil talk about the fast approaching realization of his "singularity" theory.


Bryan Cebulski
Started reading this because I've been playing Frictional Games' SOMA. It has a cool premise, but Kurzweil's projections are dated and the philosophy lacks much depth. Like many pop science books, its main goal is to popularize the ideas it presents (here being human identity and artificial intelligence) but doesn't delve terribly deep into the matter. Lots of summarizing, repetition, outlining of basic theories the audience probably already knows, etc.
Lorin Cary
May 29, 2012 Lorin Cary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book. A futurist, Ray Kurzweil not only writes about technology, specifically, technology related to computing, he is a creator of technologies which have made computers 'smarter.' About half of the book is devoted to scenarios: the shape of technology in the society of 1999, 2009, 2019, 2029, and 2099. These are fascinating and provide a treasure trove for science fiction writers.A time line traces a variety of technological developments, scientific theories and thought modes ...more
May 10, 2011 Iskreads rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 7th-sims
Did you ever wondered if a computer can become more intelligent than humans. Age of Spiritual Machines is a book which will answer this question, give you new ideas, and really makes you feel like some body is talking to you through the book.
The topics in this book and the answers to the questions in your mind is really great. The answers might be what you call "different" but really works.
Ideas or at least ideas are very rare and interesting. The way the author talks about future, telling w
Feb 15, 2016 Shane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book 16 years after it was published, and it is incredible how many of Kurzweil's predictions have come to light. He doesn't get everything right, but he gets a lot of it right.

Taking a step back from the scary accuracy of these predictions, what is truly significant about this book is the reframing of life as intelligence. Kurzweil takes an interesting viewpoint in his explanation of the emergence of intelligence and the inevitable "laws" that appear as a result of such intelligence
Jan 16, 2016 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Frank Theising
The Age of Spiritual Machines, written in 1999 by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, lays out a scientific and philosophical argument for the inevitable merger of man and machine in the not too distant future. His argument is largely based on his assumption that evolution is progressing exponentially. To make this case, he uses the term “evolution” very loosely and not in a strictly biological sense. Essentially, it took billions of years for stars and galaxies to form, hundreds of millions of ...more
عمر الحمادي
بالرغم من جهد المؤلف في حشد المراجع ... وبالرغم من تسخير خياله اللامحدود للتنبؤ بمستقبل العالم في عصر الآلات و الكمبيوترات الذكية ... إلا أن الكتاب أصابني بالملل بسبب كون المؤلف لم يوفق في عرض / إنتقاء معلومات الكتاب ، علاوة على أن كثيرا من التنبؤات يمكن أن يتنبأ بها أي شخص يعمل في الحقول المذكورة في الكتاب ، فمثلا إذا كان هناك شخص يعمل في أبحاث الأورام ، سيتطيع التنبؤ أن العلاج الكيميائي سيتبدل إما جزئيا أو كليا بالعلاجات الموجهة لمستقبلات الخلايا السرطانية ! لذلك لم يكت عمل الكاتب تنبؤا خارقا ...more
Jake Saunders
Dec 14, 2015 Jake Saunders rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've wanted to read this since it was published in 2000 and finally got around to it! It did not disappoint. The intervening 15 years actually made it more interesting because we have seen so many of Kurzwell's predictions come true.
Enrique Mañas
Jun 13, 2015 Enrique Mañas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, some of Kurzweil books seem to follow the same outline and topics. This book strongly remind me of "The singularity is near", and in some chapters I had the feeling of being reading exactly the former book. If I would have read "The Age of Spiritual Machines" at the first place, I would have gave 5 stars.

Said that, Ray Kurzweil envisions a future where humans and machines will converge into one single entity. He makes predictions for some of the upcoming years, having written this
Ali Al-Gharrash
Sep 17, 2011 Ali Al-Gharrash rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
يتابع هذا الكتاب الشيق التطور الكبير والحاصل في قطاع التكنولوجيا ويستعرض بشكل علمي اعتماداً على التطورات السابقة ويتبنأ بالتطورات القادمة وبالثورة التكنولوجية والتي ستحصل في العقود القادمة ويتحدث عن ماهيتها ومدى تأثيرها في حياة البشر وكيف ستكون سيطرة الآلات الذكية في حياة البشر

كتاب شيق جداً استمتعت في قراءته
Dave Voyles
Jul 04, 2016 Dave Voyles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really skeptical walking into this book, largely because I believed it to be about future predictions around tech and specifically machines. After reading it however, my concerns were assuaged.

Despite being 18 years old, the book holds up incredibly well, and the predictions for the year 2009 (were remarkably close to what we have now. Much of the book covered the history of AI and the growth of machines within our world, which I found to be the most useful aspect of the book. The final 1
Jul 03, 2008 Gus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Ray Kurzweil is hailed as one of the most accurate and brilliant futurists of our time and this book details his views on what our technological world will look like in 10, 20, 50, 100 years. It is fascinating and thought provoking.
Krishna Kumar
May 05, 2015 Krishna Kumar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an extraordinary book. Kurzweil uses current trends in the growth of computing power to predict how machine intelligence will overtake human intelligence in a few decades from now. He discusses various technologies that will accelerate this trend and the legal, political and cultural issues that will inevitably arise in such a world. Well-written with quite an amazing number of references. The conversations in the book between the author and an imaginary person in various future years start ...more
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Raymond Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist who has published books on health, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, and the technological singularity.
More about Ray Kurzweil...

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