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....moreIt'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. The Singularity is Near is nearly a decade old already, but hardly dated. There are a lot of charts that can be updated, but overall the book is still very relevant. I would encourage anyone to read the book. Warning it is not easy, the writing style is dense, sometimes dull. But it’s not quite as long as it appears with about 20% of the book being notes and index.
The basic gist of the Singularity is three-fold: GNR. Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics, and everything is becoming information. How everything becomes information and the speed at which everything is going to change is due to Moore's Law, which is about exponential growth, and Kurzweil takes it a little further with “Law of Accelerating Returns.”
We will have leaps of achievements and ability in genetics and along with nanotechnology, we will repair and renew our bodies, helping to extend our life span. Nanotechnology will end up allowing us to scan and reverse engineer our brain, and ultimately be able to transfer our consciousness (memories and personality) to another substrate, meaning a digital form. Smart A.I. and supercomputers will help us achieve this. After merging with computers, becoming biological and digital, we will have an infinite life-span as our consciousness, our individuality is preserved digitally. The end result is unknown, we as humans, will reach a Singularity where the unknown is unforeseeable because we just can't comprehend what is next. Okay, I probably butchered that summary, skipped a ton but yeah, it’s wild!
It's all quite fascinating. Kurzweil thinks we are on the cusp of these revolutions and maybe the baby-boomer generation will see it if they take care of their bodies. People born after 1960 most likely will. Sure there are a lot of reasons to discount this future, and Kurzweil writes a full chapter on responding to critics. (The chapters are quite long!) Since the publication of his book The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, which has similar ideas, Kurzweil had many critics, and he explains why they are wrong. The first few are the typical: disbelief this is possible, and what about rich/poor gap. He writes that all of this can be overcome, and will.
Personally I think Kurzweil discounts a few things a little too readily, such as people or governments putting the brakes on this trend, as well as the rich and poor divide. As he is wealthy it may be hard for him to appreciate the difference between having money and barely surviving. He says that it is irrelevant since in the beginning technology is expensive and doesn't work well, only the rich buy the devices, but as the technology improves it goes through stages until it works great, is ubiquitous and practically free. Perhaps the great lifesaving and body improving technologies will work down to the poor masses but in the short time frame he claims I do have strong doubt. Using his law of accelerating returns, timelines shrink and he claims the time difference will be in a few years instead of decades that we see now. He uses AIDS drugs, cell phones and the internet as examples. Perhaps.
All in all, it's a very optimistic outlook on the future of mankind. Take that in contrast to other outlooks, such as Jared Diamond, Thomas Friedman or the countless number of environmentalist's such as Bill McKibben. I have been steeped in those ideas and so this one of Kurzweil's I find quite hopeful. Kurzweil has been spot on with many of his predictions and quite a few of his critics don’t disagree with his conclusions, just the timeline, not never, just a matter of when.
Did want to keep this short, but find it impossible. (less)
A short book, about 100 pages long, that covers something that has been known and practiced for ages. The difference here is scientific study was appl...moreA short book, about 100 pages long, that covers something that has been known and practiced for ages. The difference here is scientific study was applied and Benson shares the results. After the two pages describing how to do it, the rest was why. The Relaxation Response is like meditation, or deep prayer, and part of the book explores the different religions and writings that have discussed this process. It is a simple thing to do. The hardest part is to make it a habit and do it at least once a day, if not twice for 10 to 20 minutes. Seems like common sense, being calm and relaxed instead of stressed out is better for blood pressure and mood. Now to apply it!
This book gave me the strong desire to buy a telescope! This book has tons of fascinating information. The wonders of the skies are really endless! Fe...moreThis book gave me the strong desire to buy a telescope! This book has tons of fascinating information. The wonders of the skies are really endless! Featured are stories about amateur astronomers, mixed in with information about a particular type of cosmological item one might view through a telescope.
The main thread in the book is the author’s own journey as an amateur astronomer, including his childhood beginnings, where he and his friends formed the KBAA, Key Biscayne Astronomical Association. Parts of the writing are a bit dry, but not much. You meet a lot of interesting people in the biographies, including David Levy and Percival Lowell. In the end I found myself wanting more; which the appendixes provided, with factual, how-to and getting started advice as well as data on satellites, planets and star charts. Notes, Glossary and Index complete the book. (less)
This book was made out of essays for Natural History magazine, but edited to fit the book form. I think Tyson did a better job than most other authors...moreThis book was made out of essays for Natural History magazine, but edited to fit the book form. I think Tyson did a better job than most other authors who produce books made out of their previously published essays. There was some overlap and repeating information, but not too often. Overall I enjoyed his writing, the topic is great; but occasionally his "jokes" didn't really work and there were times I felt he was saying look at how much smarter we astrophysicists are than you who are reading my book. Overall Tyson does a good job of talking to regular folks about complicated topics, but the times when he rubs your face in his intelligence is off-putting. Without that I would have given this a five-star read. Definitely worth the time!(less)
I enjoyed reading this book, a fascinating tale about Percy Fawcett who was called the last of the Victorian explorers. He led several Amazon expediti...moreI enjoyed reading this book, a fascinating tale about Percy Fawcett who was called the last of the Victorian explorers. He led several Amazon expeditions, mainly of just exploration, but also helped map the boundaries between Bolivia and Brazil. The more time he spent in the Amazonian region the more intrigued Fawcett becomes about the fabled ancient civilization of El Dorado, which he calls simply Z. Fawcett becomes obsessed until he can finally make another expedition into the jungle to search for this Z. He is secretive about where exactly he is going, trusting no one, which leads him to take only two others with him, his son Jack, and Jack’s best friend Raleigh Rimell. Fawcett also believes the smaller the party the best chance of surviving the terrible jungle and hostile Indians. His secrecy has also made it more difficult in finding what happened to him.
The mystery of El Dorado now has the mystery of what happened to these three in 1925. Hundreds of people have gone in searching for the small party, but none have succeeded in finding a definitive answer. David Grann with his deep research and exploring the area in the Amazon where Fawcett went may have found the answer to the mystery. The author had access to family papers and other materials many others haven’t seen before. The book is riveting at points, and gruesome when describing some of the horrendous diseases one can easily get while trudging through the jungle. Definitely not a place I want to visit, except through books. Definitely could recommend reading this book! (less)