Bill's Reviews > The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil
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's review
Dec 16, 2009

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bookshelves: science, non-fiction
Read in December, 2009

This book will either upset you or make you fantasize about a science-fictiony future. Turns out these scienctists have projected when they will be able to build a computer that will be smarter than humans, with intuition and emotions, and at that point humans will be evolutionary detrius. (The author, Ray Kurzweil, suggests that the computer will keep us around, as pets?) Once a computer is smarter than humans it will be able to make itself smarter faster than we would be able to, it would never get tired, it would work on its own self-improvement 24 hours a day, it wouldn't have to worry about biological bodies.

What else is unsettling is that this computer will use everything: dirt, rocks, air, trees, as more computers by using their molecules to store and process information. This use of all matter to compute will spread at the speed of light, and eventually humans will have produced a computer that will saturate the entire universe - and therefore "human thought" will take over the universe and make a smart universe.

It is a really long book, and it is not a page turner. I am one third of the way through, normally I read a book in less than a week, but this one is taking a while because it is not really a story - it is more of a long power point presentation format. In the Army they call this type of presentation "Death by Power Point."

Update: Philosophically the author of this book Ray Kurzweil is at the opposite end of the spectrum from me. He does address some issues about identity and spirituality in a sensible manner in the book, but the premise of the book is really an anti-spiritual materilist rationalism that in my opinion is ugly, brutal, and disgusting. This man wants to live forever, and isn't functioning on a high psychological or spiritual level. I think Kurzweil's viewpoint is completely materialistic, and almost all spiritual teaching would say that he is focused on the form and the story, when the point of life is to be aware and alive - in other words, he whole motivation is a fantasy. Also, I saw a video of him and his wife on, and he is a really weird guy, and his wife looked depressed. This guy is not someone to listen too, and lets hope he doesn't get his way either.

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Katherine Parker I guess Ray hasn't ever heard of "Intelligent Design," has he? Maybe the universe is ALREADY smart...
With tongue in cheek,

Bill Yeah, that is a good point Katherine. I have been looking into the projected techno-future, and some of the scientists believe that the universe is a computer built by another race like ours that figured out how to build a computer smart enough to build a universe.

Katherine Parker Also, I have so little patience for these pie-in-the-sky techno-geeks who seem conveniently able to ignore that there are literally billions of people on this planet living on $2/day, lugging water for miles on their heads, being wiped out by malaria, hunger, and machete-wielding dudes from a rival tribe. How about solving the basics for everyone - social justice, sustainable living standards, food, clothing, shelter, etc. - before we move on to the next level? Too many episodes of Battlestar Galactica, not enough time spent smelling the roses in that creaky, mortal biological body. Anyway, I will cease my rant.

In the case you cite, isn't the computer just a metaphor for something so complex that we can't understand it, just a more technological version of "God"? I would point you to Carl Sagan's book on my shelves for a counterpoint to the computer-as-god theory.

message 4: by Julie (new)

Julie Have you read John Updike's Roger's Version, where the goal is to prove the exitence of god via. computer program?

What would you point out about Carl Sagan's perspective? I have not read him?

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