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The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,369 Ratings  ·  598 Reviews
Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil examines the next step in the evolutionary process of the union of human and machine. Kurzweil foresees the dawning of a new civilization where we will be able to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity, combining our biological skills with the vastly greater capacity, speed and knowledge-sharing abilities of our c ...more
Published March 9th 2006 by Duckworth (first published January 1st 2005)
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Jason Cox I just finished it and I have to say it's quite interesting. Certainly makes you think about how much untapped potential is out there.
The age of the…more
I just finished it and I have to say it's quite interesting. Certainly makes you think about how much untapped potential is out there.
The age of the book shows a bit in that R.K. wrote this before Moore's Law completely fell off the tracks. His timelines are extraordinarily optimistic (which is, I perceive, where he has consistently received most of his criticism in the past).
That said, I still think it's a worthy and fun read.
I'm not sure of other books which might be similar (but more updated), but this book makes me want to search those books out.(less)
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Community Reviews

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(If you loved "Future Shock", and "The Celestine Prophecy" changed your life, this is the book for you)

But, wait! All those 5-star reviews gotta count for something, right? Well, let's take a look.

"We will have the requisite hardware to emulate human intelligence with supercomputers by the end of this decade."

Really, Ray. How's that coming along? You've still got a year, two if we're charitable. But, even despite the spectacular vagueness of the claim, things are hardly looking
Bryce Wilson
Jun 02, 2008 Bryce Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, misc
Tired of sleeping peacefully? Do you feel a bit to contented and secure as you go about your daily business? Has your overwhelming sense of anxiety and ennui drifted to a mere background drone rather then an overpowering howl?

Then dear friends this is the book for you! Guaranteed to make you weep softly in the night as you clutch your knees to your chest! Certified to make you stop showering! Neglect your loved ones and friends because damnit what's the point!!?!?! Darkly contemplate your razor
Jun 26, 2011 Gendou rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This starts with the thesis: Technological change is exponential!
This has been true for many measures such as micro-processor size, cost of mass-produced goods, etc.
It is not, however, a general rule of thumb to apply blindly to all things "technological"!
This seems to be Kurzweil's big mistake.
He extrapolates features of technology to an unrealistic infinity.

For example, Moor's law is running up against the quantum limit, so micro-processor size is exponential up to a fast-approaching limit.
Jul 19, 2007 DJ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with an interest in computers, technology, or biochemistry
Shelves: impactbooks, futurism
I would consider this an 'impact book', one that truly changed the way I perceive the world. Kurzweil aims to convince his reader that we are on the cusp of an exponential growth in genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR) that will fundamentally change humanity, creating humans that are fully integrated with machines, live as long as they like, and frequently immerse themselves in virtual worlds. Its premise sounds a bit far-fetched but his meticulous research, incredibly broad grasp of cur ...more
Trevor Jones
Jun 09, 2008 Trevor Jones rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps I will revisit this book and its subject matter relatively soon, let me just say that not long after reading parts of this work I definitely count what is called "transhumanism" to be the "World's Most Dangerous Idea".

Perhaps if someone could explain to me these concepts in terms of why a human being with a shred of moral responsibility would even be slightly interested in pursuing the goal of much of what is discussed herein, I might reconsider my judgment.

Perhaps if what is discussed
Mar 05, 2014 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pop-science
Realists beware: this oversized pill is seriously hard to swallow.

Possibility 1: Kurzweil Is Nuts

I used the term 'batshit crazy' more than a few times while speeding through this book (N.B. I think I ended up reading more than I skimmed, but many of the lauded 2005 advancements are less impressive 9 years later -- which is, of course, part of Kurzweil's point).
"Dude, seriously? The ultimate destiny of the universe is to be shaped by humanity?! Right, okay, by the time we colonize the st
Jan 17, 2008 Dan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kurzweil has made a living of being a futurist and an inventor. Many of his inventions are the result of his predictions coming true, so there is good reason to listen to what he has to say on the topic. The main idea is that the evolution of technology is not linear (as most people think) but exponential. This exponential development of key technologies leads to dramatic changes in human history over relatively short periods of time. Good examples include the internet and cell phones. The book ...more
Tracy Black
Apr 15, 2011 Tracy Black rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
First I have to admit that I only made it to page 50. If Krurzweil redeems himself later in the book, I guess I'll never know. I was expexting more because so many very intelligent people I know have read it and loved it. He seemed to be cherry picking history to fit his ideas, that technology is advancing exponentialy and has been doing so since the dawn of civilization. I don't agree with this. I know that it is advancing rapidly right now, but it has also done so at other times in the past an ...more
May 22, 2011 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Can this book ever get to the point? Is there a point? In the future, when machines begin to express human discernment and burn books, I'm sure this endless and gigantic tome of wordy lists and nerd-spooge will be set alight, or edited towards readability. Either is fine with me. I would love to read the executive summary of this, but this book is too long.
Marco Santini
May 13, 2012 Marco Santini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great inspirational book. Genetics, nanotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence will be the driving forces of a never ending, finally non-human, progress.

Technological-evolution will lead to the singularity in a few decades, since the law of accelerating returns will make technology progress at an exponential rate. Cerebral processing power will be surpassed, DNA errors corrected. Human technology will merge with human intelligence, giving rise to transhumans and posthumans, populatin
Danny Tyran
I'm not sure to be the right guy to review such a book. Why? I'd lie if I told that I understood everything Kurzweil explained in it. O.K. the author tried hard to make it more understandable: he put as much as possible in graphs and statistics, pictures, examples of the ordinary life and so on. All these tools should help us to understand, but... this is still a book written by a nerd for nerds. And don't you know that graphs and stats lie? Furthermore, in French we say: "Comparaison n'est pas ...more
If I could give this book 10 stars I would. I am a big fan of scifi with some slight understanding of and interest in the Singularity for quite some time. So when I saw this book at a friend’s house, I asked if I could borrow it and I am so glad I did. This is one of those books that has the potential to forever change the way you think about life, the universe and everything. And no, the answer is not “42.”

In this book, Kurzweil, who has the credentials to back up what he is writing about, exa
Ken Badertscher
Apr 15, 2011 Ken Badertscher rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil: dislike it (2/5)

Too optimistic, too wacky, too wrong.

The full title of this book is “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology,” and like its title, the book is verbose and very, very speculative. I know, I know. What should I expect from futurist Ray Kurzweil other than futuristic foo from the future? How about a book with a coherent structure? How about a book that doesn’t repeat its fundamental premises multiple times in each chapter? Mayb
May 05, 2010 Tyson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a few weeks since I read it and the details are already fuzzy - he provides a lot of examples and detailed explanations to back up his thesis. I skimmed through several paragraphs in a couple of the chapters because it gets pretty boring. But Kurzweil's main predictions are at times mind blowing, scary, difficult to buy into.

Kurzweil - who supposedly is a respected inventor and futurist who's made accurate predictions in the past - claims that through technological advances in Gene Th
Noah M.
Apr 03, 2009 Noah M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ray Kurzweil suggests that exponential trends in information technology will usher in world changing revolutions in Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics. By the year 2040 there will be little left of our biological intelligence. Eventually, once we have harnessed the maximum computational capacity of matter, we will expand out from our solar system. He believes that there will be a way to circumvent the speed of light, so pretty soon we're going to be a universe spanning intelligence.

So we will
Jan 01, 2015 Alitta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First of all, this book made my thoughts so busy for so long that I just can't give it any lower than 5 stars, even though there are countless problems with the implications of Kurzweil. While he considers technically feasible (or at least not impossible) probabilities for the future, he takes them granted because "ideas will find a way". Does reality work like that?

Kurzweil's world view is materialism and scientism, it's a general view nowadays. According to these views human consciousness emer
G.G. Galt
Oct 02, 2014 G.G. Galt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review is from: The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (Kindle Edition)
Ray Kurzweil is a brilliant inventor, writer and scientist who has more than earned his reputation as the best-known futurist in the world today.

The last time I saw him was on television in 2012 speaking at a spot on the Super Bowl. You or your parents may remember him when he first appeared as a boy genius on a major television show before the world had any idea of the impact computers would make--others
Billie Pritchett
Ray Kurzweil's Singularity Is Near is an argument for a technology singularity coming in the near future, a time when machines will have and be able to make other machines with intelligence comparable to human beings, and he expects this to happen in year 2045. Kurzweil predicts that at some point after this machine production of other machines that human beings and other machines will be indistinguishable.

I am agnostic about the truth of the thesis, my complaints instead being about the writing
Max de Freitas
Jan 01, 2013 Max de Freitas rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This weighty volume is based on a simple observation. Technological progress mimics the exponential growth of reproductive processes in nature. Examples abound but are redundant because most result from applications of exponential growth in microprocessor manufacture. Kurzweil does not understand the underlying principle that technological progress is exponential only when developments spawn further advances. Failures and dead ends are conveniently ignored. Technologies can stagnate and become e ...more
E. Daniel Ayres
Dec 11, 2012 E. Daniel Ayres rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished the audiobook version of this book, my first read of Ray Kurzweil material. I had to download and review his illustrations from the book's web site as a review. The book may represent the synthesis of an awful lot of his previous works as well as illustrate clearly his broad perception of many key mathematical concepts that should help all of us inform ourselves about what is really going on in our present generation. Almost any trend line I want to chart today displays an "L" sh ...more
Leonidas Kaplan
Oct 11, 2012 Leonidas Kaplan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Summary: Not for the scientifically feint of heart! This book goes into such detail and precision of constructing a case for the exponentially accelerating advancing of technology.

The key technological advancements of the 21st century involve GNR: Genetics, Nano-Technology, & Robots. Detail goes into what has already been achieved in these fields, and what is currently underway (albeit, 2004-2005, prior to even Watson).

More emphasis is placed on the exponential developments of "Strong" Arti
Keith Swenson
For anyone whose job depends upon an understanding of the trajectory of technology, Ray Kurzweil has carefully formulated a clear vision of the future, including some pretty fantastic possibilities. We all know the future will be strange. Look back at the 1950's and see how futurists of that time completely missed most of things we take for granted today, and how surely those people would have been shocked if someone had accurately projected the future. Nobody, of course, can predict the future ...more
Dec 12, 2014 Correen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This was my second attempt at reading this book. I seemed daunting and dull at first glance but was fascinating on audio.

Kurzwell is a noted scientist, as he calls himself -- a singularitarian. Specifically, his studies include how humans will transcend biology and incorporate (or be incorporated by) technology. He notes how the process has begun and at the accomplishment of singularity, enhanced humans will have the advantage of extensive memory and processing skills as well as corrected DNA.
Mar 26, 2014 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Pamela by: Paul
It's tempting to call this book science fiction since its fundamental idea seems so far-fetched. Much can be said about this book, much has been said. I find it hard to write a review because this book is very big, in length and ideas.

Kurzweil is a very smart man who has already made our lives better, he’s an inventor and coder. He developed electronic keyboards, text-to-speech readers, OCR and more. He’s very smart. He’s also written several books about the future, or where humans are headed.
Jan 11, 2011 Mangoo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gli umani trascenderanno i loro limiti biologici? Secondo Raymond Kurzweil la risposta e' si. Inevitabilmente.
Ray e' un ex bambino prodigio, inventore e imprenditore di successo. Da tempo, ovvero fin da tempi non sospetti, sostiene il filone di pensiero esposto estensivamente nel libro (sorta di seguito dei precedenti "Age of intelligent machines" and "Age of spiritual machines"). La sua visione del futuro si sintetizza nel predire (attorno al 2045) il raggiungimento della Singolarita', cosa ch
Mar 06, 2011 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I praise Kurzweil for his forward thinking and attempt to tackle future technological issues before they arise, in many respects he falls under the category of "scientists that spend too much time in their laboratory who consequently don't understand that just because a thing is possible doesn't mean that the rest of society will want to suddenly adopt it as well." If, in the near future, we are capable of relinquishing our physical forms for upgraded digital ones does not mean that people ...more
Nov 12, 2009 Zach rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This pseudo-religious, pseudo-scientific tome by one of the world's leading futurists lays out a timeline to a moment when the pace of technological innovation -- specifically, in the power of computer hardware and software -- becomes so rapid that, from our perspective in the present, it occupies a single point in time. Hence, the singularity.

Kurzweil's predictions are based primarily upon an observation made by Gordon Moore of Intel: that computing power per dollar will double every 18 months.
Jul 22, 2010 George rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone curious about just how far technology may take the entire human race
HEAVY DISCLAIMER: this review will require a lot of repetition to stress a few important points. To properly convey the information will require that I take Kurzweil's side since I do not intend to do much in the way of refuting or debating his ideas.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the predictions that Ray Kurzweil makes for the future of the human race. His track record of technological predictions to date has been very accurate and I expect that many of the things he forsees in this book wil
Kunal Sen
Jan 23, 2014 Kunal Sen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I could agree with most of what he is saying in this well thought out book, except for the time scale. I don't think he is off by much, but his optimistic predictions do not realistically account for political, economic and other social factors that can slow many of this down. When we landed on the moon, just ten years after the first man in space, everyone assumed much faster growth of space-faring technologies, but out political will was just not there, and 2001 Space Odyssey still remains a s ...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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“Play is just another version of work” 11 likes
“Most long-range forecasts of what is technically feasible in future time periods dramatically underestimate the power of future developments because they are based on what I call the “intuitive linear” view of history rather than the “historical exponential” view.” 7 likes
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