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The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

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For over three decades, Ray Kurzweil has been one of the most respected and provocative advocates of the role of technology in our future. In his classic The Age of Spiritual Machines, he argued that computers would soon rival the full range of human intelligence at its best. Now he examines the next step in this inexorable evolutionary process: the union of human and machine, in which the knowledge and skills embedded in our brains will be combined with the vastly greater capacity, speed, and knowledge-sharing ability of our creations.

652 pages, Paperback

First published September 22, 2005

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About the author

Ray Kurzweil

40 books1,891 followers
Raymond Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist who has published books on health, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, and the technological singularity.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 933 reviews
Profile Image for David.
865 reviews1,283 followers
January 22, 2009

(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 good.

"For information technologies, there is a second level of exponential growth: that is, exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth".

A breathtakingly audacious claim. Without a scintilla of evidence provided to justify it. Graphs where the future has been conveniently 'filled in' according to the author's highly selective worldview do not count as evidence, and are nothing more than an embarrassment.
But then, most of the graphs in this book do not bear up under close scrutiny - their function is more cartoon-like. Even Kurzweil's more apparently reasonable claim - that of exponential growth at a constant rate - rests on a pretty selective framing of the question and interpretation of existing data.

"Two machines - or one million machines - can join together to become one and then become separate again. Multiple machines can do both at the same time: become one and separate simultaneously. Humans call this falling in love, but our biological ability to do this is fleeting and unreliable."

Say what now?

From a technical standpoint, as far as biotechnology is concerned (which is the area I am most competent to judge), there's hardly a statement that Kurzweil makes that is not either laughably naive or grossly inaccurate. Assuming that, indeed, drug delivery via nanobots and the engineering of replacement tissue/organs will at some point become reality, Kurzweil's estimate of the relevant timeframe is ludicrously optimistic. A relevant example is the 20 years it took to derive clinical benefit from monoclonal antibodies -- the rate-limiting steps had little to do with computational complexity. So the notion that, in the future, completely real biological, physiological, and ethical constraints will simply melt under the blaze of increased computing power is fundamentally misguided.

From a statistical point of view, things are no great shakes either. His account of biological modeling is such a ridiculous oversimplification it defies credulity. I'd elaborate, but frankly, the whole sorry mess is just starting to irritate me.

Given the density of meaningless, unsubstantiated, and demonstrably false statements in the first few chapters, it's hard to see the point in continuing. If one actually reads carefully what he's saying, and assumes that he is assigning standard, agreed-upon, meaning to the words he uses, then several possible reactions seem warranted:

* that sinking feeling that one inhabits a universe that is completely orthogonal to those who gave this a 5-star rating
* heightened skepticism and aversion to Kool-Aid
* bemusement at the gap between Kurzweil's perception of reality and one's own - in particular, the evident moral vacuum in which he "operates", as well as apparent ignorance or indifference to the lot of the vast majority of the planet's inhabitants
* wonder at the sheer monomaniacal gall of the man

Grandiose predictions of the future, the more outlandish the better, appear to have an undiminished appeal for Homo sapiens. For the life of me, I have never been able to figure out why.

Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68k followers
August 14, 2020
Imminent Metaphysics

The subtitle contains the entire thesis: an expectation that machines will allow human beings to escape the limitations of their physical bodies. This contention has been called ‘daring,’ ‘optimistic,’ ‘arresting,’ ‘really out there,’ ‘outrageous,’ ‘terrifying,’ and above all just ‘big.’ And certainly the idea that a machine can be linked to a brain to form what is effectively a new species is certainly that: Big. But in terms of bigness (as Trump would say) it’s a sideshow and not the main event. It’s just that the main event doesn’t sell nearly as many tickets.

Of course human beings already have transcended much of their biology long ago. Kurzweil’s own analysis in this and his previous books demonstrates this fact repeatedly. Humanity in its various sub-species did so through the core technology which he recognises as the source of just about all advances in human well-being and dispersion around the planet: the technology of language. It is language which permits both complicated and large-scale cooperation among individuals, and which allows experience to be codified and stored over generations. It is language - in the form of self-learning code - which is the foundation of the machines which Kurzweil envisions will be linked functionally to human brains in order to form a new sort of mind, a kind of Leibnizian monad, essentially disconnected from the world of its fellows, talking to itself in its own increasingly idiosyncratic language.

But there is an issue, or rather a central fact, of our current situation which Kurzweil ignores. Language is not the invention or the possession of an individual. It cannot be patented as a technology; it cannot be controlled in its development (despite the Academie Francaise and high school English teachers); and it requires a rather large population who implicitly assert its usefulness and right to survive. Language is a collective endeavour. Although it is a technology, it is not a machine. And, fatally for Kurzweil’s thesis, language has already freed the species Homo sapiens from the constraints of strict biology eons ago. It did so as a collective endeavour not as a connection between an individual human being and a machine.

Kurzweil (along with many others) are myopically fascinated by electronic machines and their coding. This is understandable. Machines are visible to everyone. They can be touched and measured and improved. They are the emblem of progress in industrial (or post-industrial) society. Language on the other hand is amorphous. It is visible only in its use, and then just barely as language-users habitually substitute things for words. Machines work; when they don’t they can be repaired. Languages work as well, but when language goes wrong, no one knows quite what to do about it. Machines may be complicated and their coded routines complex; but they are predictable in their operation even if surprise is the prediction. Language is largely a mystery; no one knows if it’s hard-wired in our genetic makeup or acquired randomly.

It is important to keep in mind that both machines and the human brain are shaped by language beyond their coding or genetic character. Certainly some genetic mutation in the history of our species allowed the transition from mere signalling to complex language-based communication. But from that moment (or evolutionary epoch), language transcended every individual who used it. Language was a communal technology or it didn’t exist at all. And it was the technology that allowed everything from cave painting to the Library of Congress. Language, that non-biological miracle of human existence, influenced genetic development itself, initially by setting rules about who could mate with whom, more recently through gene therapy.

So if there is a ‘singularity’ in our immediate future, it is not one of biological transcendence. It may, however, be one of a complete submission to the dominance of that which we have arrogantly presumed is our instrument. What Kurzweil describes is indeed a new species, perhaps one with an unlimited intellectual potential and an indefinite but very long lifespan. But this is a species whose entire world is language. It will have no other experience except in communication with other specific language-users. The species will not have transcended language, it will have been absorbed into it. The new species will be one entirely constituted by language. His book is “... predicated on the idea that we have the ability to understand our own intelligence—to access our own source code, if you will—and then revise and expand it.”

As Kurzweil says, the world formed by this new species with the altered source code will be peaceful; conflict will be about words, only in words. Greed will be unnecessary; words are infinitely abundant. Culture will flourish; words underpin not just technology but writing and arts of all kinds. The needs of our composite machine/brain existence - fuel, food, climate control - will be catered for. All the rest of our emotional, sexual, and aesthetic needs will be supplied by the language of our coding, which will pursue its own evolutionary path, presumably at an accelerating rate.

As I have pointed out elsewhere, Kurzweil’s vision is superficially similar to that of Teilhard de Chardin’s ‘noösphere.’ (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) Teilhard first used the term in his Cosmogenesis of 1922. Very much like Kurzweil, de Chardin adopted an evolutionary approach in his theological philosophy: the ‘geosphere’ of dead matter evolves the biosphere of living things, which generates the noösphere of pure reason. It is human cognition, that is to say, language, which is the driving force for the transition from the biosphere. Increasing complexity and consciousness creates a ‘layer’ of thought encircling the earth.

The difference between Kurzweil and de Chardin is that the phenomenon of the noösphere for Teilhard is communal. It emerges and is sustained through the interaction of minds not through the isolated, algorithmic cogitation of new kinds of minds. And Teilhard’s minds are not absorbed into the language from which they are constructed. The key relationship among minds for Teilhard is love, essentially existence for the sake of the other. That is, not for the sake of language as implied in Kurzweil’s vision. Rather, Teilhard’s vision is of what he calls the Omega Point, a state of perfect mutual regard and care. This state is not one of subordination to language but to each other through language. The evolution of language in that direction does not result in a transcendent new species living next to the old Homo sapiens, but in an entire society which transcends itself. Kurzweil, it occurs to me, is at heart an aesthete rather than a technologist; and his aesthetic is highly questionable.

This is all a matter of practical metaphysics, our imagining of that which lies beyond language. For most of modernity, by which I mean since the industrial revolution, metaphysics has been a field derided as philosophical self-abuse. The importance of all of Kurzweil’s work is its demonstration that metaphysics is an important social science. I understand his use of advances in electronic technology as a focal point. Among other things, it sells. Nevertheless, the significance of his own analysis is not about the new composite mind, it is about the relationship among minds and how these relationships can develop a world which is imminently liveable not transcendentally detached. This is a moral not a technical issue. I don’t know the answer to the situation he describes. But I think Teilhard has some good alternative suggestions.
Profile Image for Bryce Wilson.
Author 10 books147 followers
June 2, 2008
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 as you shave and wonder if you should indeed should just end the charade.

If the current state of technology has you feeling a bit ambivalent, wait a decade or so when if half the shit in this book turns out to be correct people will become freaking demigods.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go build a bomb shelter and make sure my crates of pork and beans, shot gun shells, and distilled water has arrived.

Profile Image for Gendou.
581 reviews255 followers
June 26, 2011
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.
To take another example, the cost of an iPod may drop exponentially as you scale up production, but you can only sell so many iPods.
Once everyone has an iPod, you read a production limit, and the price becomes stable.

The major claim in the book is that brains will merge with computers.
Kurzweil argues that since transistors are faster than neurons, they will make better brains.
The fallacy here is that you would ever WANT to build a brain out of transistors in the first place!
Neurons can network widely at a low price, but wide networks of transistors are slow and costly in power and heat.
No engineer would try to build a brain out of transistors.
The lesson here is that biological evolution, while it's scope has been limited, will ALWAYS win in a contest with human engineers.
The better your artificial brain performs, the more it will look like a human brain.
This is not coincidence.

One important point made in the book is that our only problem need be to produce an intelligence greater than our own. Once this is accomplished, all other tasks can be up to that greater intelligence. While this is absurd applied to most practical problems like baking a cake, it makes some sense in the realm of AI. Here I disagree with Kurzweil, who asserts any such improved intelligence would be "non-biological". Heck, many parents achieve this goal by giving their child a good education!

Another thing he gets right is the demystification of Searle's Chinese Room thought experiment. Searle's objection to an artificial brain is wrong. Mind is platform-independent, but the port is yet to be written.

Ray makes the same tired arguments over and over, redundantly redundant.
You can almost hear him TRYING to keep alive his delusional dream of living forever!
It's sad.

Ray argues that a future AI will be produced with the ability to iteratively improve its own intelligence.
Among his many skills, he's an accomplished software engineer, so he should know better.
This will never, ever happen in this millennium.
Even if we assume computing resources increased by a dozen powers of ten.
Even if we "reverse-engineer the human brain" (whatever that means).

I know this review is getting long, but he does make some speculations about the year 2010, most of which never came to pass. He predicts we will have virtual assistants that can look-up movie actors, etc. that will respond to our vocal queues in virtual vision contact lenses. Instead, we have Wikipedia on our iPhones. Pretty far off the mark, if you ask me.

By far the most annoying thing Ray brings up no fewer than 10 times is that the speed of light may be "circumvented". I swear, there's nothing sacred to this man! He embarrassingly bungles an explanation of quantum entanglement, calling it "quantum disentanglement" and mistaking spin axis for wave function phase. Yikes.

This book is a big house of mirrors meant to disguise the lunacy of the thesis.
Don't get me wrong, the mirrors are interesting to look at in their own right:
Nano technology, genetic engineering, genetic algorithms, neural networks.
It's fun stuff!
But the singularity is not near, it is the delusion of an old man who would like very much to live forever.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
January 26, 2020
The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, Ray Kurzweil

Kurzweil characterizes evolution throughout all time as progressing through six epochs, each one building on the one before. He says the four epochs which have occurred so far are Physics and Chemistry, Biology and DNA, Brains, and Technology. Kurzweil predicts the Singularity will coincide with the next epoch, The Merger of Human Technology with Human Intelligence. After the Singularity he says the final epoch will occur, The Universe Wakes Up.

Kurzweil explains that evolutionary progress is exponential because of positive feedback; the results of one stage are used to create the next stage. Exponential growth is deceptive, nearly flat at first until it hits what Kurzweil calls "the knee in the curve" then rises almost vertically. In fact Kurzweil believes evolutionary progress is super-exponential because more resources are deployed to the winning process. As an example of super-exponential growth Kurzweil cites the computer chip business. The overall budget for the whole industry increases over time, since the fruits of exponential growth make it an attractive investment; meanwhile the additional budget fuels more innovation which makes the industry grow even faster, effectively an example of "double" exponential growth.

عنوان: تکینگی نزدیک است: زمانی که انسان فراتر از ذات خود می‌رود؛ نویسنده: «ری کورزویل»؛

تکینگی نزدیک است: زمانی که انسان فراتر از ذات خود می‌رود؛ یک کتاب غیرتخیلی، نوشته شده توسط مخترع و آینده نگر «ری کورزویل» در سال 2005 میلادی است، که درباره ی «هوش مصنوعی» و «آینده ی بشریت» است. این کتاب بر مبنای ایده‌ هایی است، که در کتاب‌های پیشین «کورزویل»: «عصر ماشین‌های هوشمند (1990 میلادی)»، و «عصر دستگاه‌های معنوی (1999 میلادی)» ارائه شده‌ است. با این حال، اینبار، «کورزویل» از اصطلاح «تکینگی» استفاده می‌کند، که توسط «ورنر وینچ» در مقاله ای در سال 1993 میلادی، با عنوان «تکانگی تکنولوژی آینده» بیش از یک دهه پیش، مورد استفاده قرار گرفت؛ «کورزویل» در این کتاب، قانون «افزایش شتاب» خود را توضیح می‌دهد، که پیش بینی کننده ی افزایش سرعت، پیشرفت انفجاری، در فناوری‌هایی همانند: «کامپیوتر»، «ژنتیک»، «فناوری نانو»، «رباتیک»، و «هوش مصنوعی» می‌باشد. در «هنگامی که تکینگی اتفاق بیفتد»، «کورزویل» می‌گوید، که هوش ماشینی، بینهایت بیشتر از هوش مجموع تمام انسان‌های جهان خواهد شد. پس از آن، ایشان پیش‌بینی می‌کنند، که هوش به خارج از سیاره، جریان پیدا می‌کند، تا آنکه هستی را اشباع کند. «تکینگی» همچنین نقطه ای هست، که هوش ماشینی و انسانی، با هم ترکیب می‌شوند. ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Jill.
416 reviews218 followers
March 5, 2014
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 stars, our exponentially-increased mechanical intelligence will fully remove human fallibility. We will be perfect because we're smart. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME."

Here's the major problem with Kurzweil's argument -- ASIDE FROM several more niggling, specific concerns [i.e. the sort-of-embarrassing obsession with longevity & immortality (320...and so many more); the lack of appreciation for the human body as a full system (200, for example: "not everything is contained in the brain but who cares we only need the brain!" uh, what?); the assumption that immediate gratification supersedes all else (313); the comparison of current computer viruses with hacking into a human body (you fucking kidding me bro?); more and more.]: He never takes into account that HUMANS FUCKING SUCK. SERIOUSLY, GUY.

a) You mention but never deal with the fact that "much of human thought is petty and derivative" -- well, if we have MORE time, MORE technology, how will that be abated in any way? Having my Android with me at all times makes me stupider, I am absolutely sure. I use that thing for games and movie times -- NOT to supplement my intelligence -- and I'm not even a worst-case-scenario. How will suddenly having technology at our fingertips suddenly make us more intelligent? Huge leap. Huge. Having a large hard drive doesn't mean it's filled to capacity.

b) So to have any hope of gaining intelligence from these advances, we (as a species) need to be critical. We need to reflect. While Kurzweil devotes [fairly] significant time to the philosophical issue of consciousness, he never mentions critical thought or reflection -- and he certainly never mentions the fact that the majority of people [I say this as a teacher, not a misanthrope] don't actually engage in it without a push. Problem is, if we are not UNIVERSALLY CRITICAL, and we are given all of the technological possibilities scattered through the book, we will not only waste them -- but probably destroy ourselves in the process.

c) And when I say destroy, I really fucking mean destroy. Kurzweil's faith in humanity is sort of humiliating. Everyone will suddenly have access to this technology? No. The wealthy and the greedy will enhance themselves before it trickles down, and that will not be used to positive ends. Though Kurzweil devotes time to the potential dangers of 'strong AI,' I'd think that the real dangers will come long before that BECAUSE PEOPLE SUCK. This tech will be controlled so that it does not reach the masses (and if you believe the western world is living in democracy, Ray, I have some land in Florida for ya...), and it will be used inappropriately before it gets there. And when it DOES get there, you think we're going to suddenly use it for noble, intellectual pursuits? Buddy, we're gonna be dressing up in virtual reality to fuck our latest celebrity crush. Humans have never, as a group, been upstanding representatives of all that is good.

And what about animals? What about our ecosystem? What about the SOLAR SYSTEM AND UNIVERSE? Why are you so immediately dismissing these things as secondary to 'human destiny'? In Kurzweil's argument, human intelligence -- amplified by machines -- will essentially become god and that's our right and privilege.

Sounds a bit like 19th-century imperialism to me, sir.

Might wanna check yourself there.

Possibility 2: Kurzweil Is a Smart Mofo

You know those scientists you see in TV shows that, by the power of fiction, have extensive knowledge of every scientific discipline even though they should really only understand problems relating to physics? Kurzweil kinda reminds me of those guys. His scope is extensive (or "startling" as the New York Times reviewed). His references are heavily documented. He has credentials to back up many of his less-lunatic thoughts.

And, much of his point is well-taken: we cannot imagine what the next 100 years will look like. I don't know if I agree with all of his predictions, but the essential premise is valid -- if we don't destroy ourselves/our environment beforehand, we will be living in a completely new world. There's no way, at this point, to stop progress.

I have to admit, even as I was shaking my head -- wouldn't it be crazy if, in 2045 when the Singularity is supposed to occur, Kurzweil was right? Wouldn't it be cool to have read a book that would become a technological prophecy, required reading, back when you actually had to read and not download books into your brain it actually was a prophecy? I'm not inclined to blindly believe anything I read -- so I think Kurzweil got to me, with all his documented examples, at some point or another. For a minute, every now and then, I believed the possibility. There's something to his explanation, if not the argument proper.

Possibility 3: This Is a Sci[-fi] Novel

I first found out about Ray Kurzweil because of a Canadian alt-rock band, Our Lady Peace, who put out a concept album based on Kurzweil's book The Age of Spiritual Machines in 2000. That book, which I read in 2009, was more literary than this one: with an understanding of form and language, characters, almost beautiful, at parts. But there is something inherently present in Kurzweil's writing that lends it, inexorably, to artistic inspiration. It reads like possibility, like a novel, and I can see why it is tempting, inspiring, creative.

So perhaps, as/if you take on the behemoth, seeing it from that perspective is the best one. Accept the ridiculous premise that humans are essentially good. Suspend disbelief, as you would for a good sci-fi novel. More than anything, I think, The Singularity Is Near is a thought experiment -- and for all that, it's not a bad one.

Profile Image for Trevor Jones.
15 reviews14 followers
June 9, 2008
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 herein were not just canards for genocides of the future, I could evaluate Kurzweil's thought from something of a more neutral standpoint.

Perhaps if the word and idea "Intelligence" were not framed into a narrow, technocratic and mechanized field of mere computation and servile specialization, instead of a holistic and cross-disciplinary humanism that seems to be rarer these days, I might think Kurzweil and similar Silicon Valley powermongers were actually formulating plans to improve human happiness and welfare with their prognostications on A.I., biotechnology and genetics.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. But assuredly this is the world's Most Dangerous and Most Frightening Idea in a single tome.

Why write science fiction dystopia books anymore? We are already living in one.
Profile Image for DJ.
317 reviews227 followers
July 20, 2007
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 current research, and history of success in predicting technological growth are surprisingly convincing. The book can be repetitive as Kurzweil feels the need to offer each and every criticism a full rebuttal, frequently reusing the same points, and to repeatedly explore the same concepts in various scenarios. If you can get over the repetitiveness, accept the fact that some of the science of this book will probably go over your head, and allow yourself to be open to the possibility that Kurzweil's futurist predictions might actually be feasible, this book will introduce you to an incredible new world, decades before you actually meet it.
Profile Image for Erik.
338 reviews261 followers
February 26, 2017
The Singularity, if you’ve never heard it, is a term given to a theoretical point in the future when our technology will have become so advanced (compared to today) that it becomes impossible to see beyond it or understand its ramifications.

For example, try to imagine a person with an IQ of 200. Not that difficult. Empathy is still valid at that point. The thinking of a 200 IQ person is qualitatively similar to that of a 100 IQ person but scaled up: faster, sharper, wider, deeper. A 200 IQ person would still use his human flesh to navigate the world and would still use our languages and institutions. He might struggle with loneliness. He might experience love.

Now try to imagine an entity with an intelligence equivalent to an IQ of 10000. Impossible. Would it – could it even – be housed in a human body? Such an intelligence would certainly have no more use for human language than humans have for the chirping of birds. We have as much chance of understanding this 10000 IQ intelligence as an ant has of reading Shakespeare.

And yet we can understand and ponder the steps leading up to the development of this super-intelligence. This is the task that Ray Kurzweil attempts with The Singularity Is Near, and the picture he paints is certainly an intriguing one.

In Kurzweil’s vision of the (not so far) future, we have transcended our mortal coils. We’ve moved beyond genetic mastery wherein we use tools like CRISPR to edit out the flaws in our genetic code. We’ve moved beyond nanobots in our blood, which are capable of capturing sensory input and motor output to immerse us in a virtual reality that is indistinguishable from the real. Instead, we’ve shed our weak flesh to merge with (and become) immortal machine super-intelligences, spreading through the solar system, the galaxy, and then the universe in a quest to reach ever new heights of knowledge, art, beauty, and creation. And through this all, claims Kurzweil, we maintain our humanity.

Pretty grand! But how realistic? Will this vision of the future come true?

Put simply: yes. True enough, Kurzweil’s time-frame is almost certainly too optimistic and the steps along the way will probably turn out different than he imagines, but the end game? The singularity? This vision of ever increasing intelligence and complexity? Barring catastrophic human destruction, self-inflicted or otherwise, is there ANY reason to doubt it?

It is a completely indisputable, unambiguous statement to say that the history of our planet is one of escalating intelligence/complexity and that the history of human civilization is one of escalating technological and scientific advancement. Meanwhile history is full of breakthroughs skeptics claimed were impossible: Europeans crossing the Atlantic ocean, heavier-than-air flight, space flight, nigh-instantaneous world-wide communication, the elemental analysis of ultra distant stars and galaxies, etc. In 1934 Albert Einstein wrote, “There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] will ever be obtainable. It would mean the atom would have to be shattered at will.” Mmhmm.

Even the numerous ultimately FAILED endeavors or companies that Kurzweil cites don’t render his general claims dubious. At one point, I estimated roughly 80% of the companies or technologies he was citing had since failed. Seems a slam dunk case against his predictions. In fact, the opposite is true. His “Law of Accelerating Returns” suggests that companies fail and arise at ever-increasing rates. Consider the solar power industry:

I recently undertook some research in various solar power companies with the aim of investing in their stock. I have little doubt that solar power will play a major role in the future of power generation, if just because solar power follows the general trend of decentralization that seems to be happening in so many industries. Even so, after my research, I opted not to invest in any stock. Why not?

Because no solar company seemed a particularly good bet. Here’s the problem: A solar company will create (or acquire) a new process or method for more efficient and/or cheaper solar modules or cells. So they build a new factory (or retool an old one) to manufacture these new solar cells, a rather expensive investment. This puts the company, momentarily, in the lead. Consumers, corporations, and governments buy their stuff. However technology is advancing so rapidly now that before this company can earn back its expensive investment, some other better solar product reaches the marketplace. Everyone switches to this new product. So the first company goes bankrupt and a new company acquires their expertise and technology and eventually puts out a newer, superior product. Thus the wheel turns.

So while the solar industry as a whole is progressing, no single company has yet to truly dominate the field, as Google has done with search engines. And I, at least, can’t predict which one, if any, will.

Point being, when looking at broad predictions of the future, we can’t let day-to-day or even year-to-year chaos and setbacks obfuscate the overall path. We must try to see the forest, despite the trees, and Kurzweil seems to do a decent job of this.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t a huge fan of The Singularity Is Near. Now I certainly learned *a lot.* This book inspired me to do outside research on a slew of topics including wormholes, genetic engineering, the phases of clinical trials, and much more. And yet, the book as a whole lacks humanity. It explores these visions of the future without ever truly exploring how they will affect humanity – at the visceral, emotional, dramatic level of individuals. Kurzweil’s writings were less engaging than they might have been because they rarely afforded me the opportunity to hypothesize upon what I personally might do, when faced with future ethical questions. In fact, the overall feel of the book is that it’s less about communicating with me as a fellow human being than it is about Kurzweil organizing his own thoughts and evidences on the matters he wishes to write about.

Such a lack is ironic because Kurzweil seems very concerned with countering the notion that our humanity might be lost when we escape our corporeal bondage. He finishes the prologue with a quote from Muriel Rukeyser: “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms” and the actual last line of the prologue is: “This book, then, is the story of the destiny of the human-machine civilization, a destiny we have come to refer as the Singularity.”

If this was truly his intention – to tell this story – then I would say Kurzweil singularly failed.

So, some good, some bad. That much for the book review. To finish, I want to try to succeed, in at least one tiny area, where I feel Kurzweil failed. I want to talk about immortality and what it’ll mean to you and to me, personally.

The year is 2060. I am 75 years old. My parents are dead, as will be many of those reading this right now. My nephews who are 5 and 6 years old right now will have become grown men, almost 50 years old themselves, maybe with kids of their own. At 75, I am extremely healthy. Not as spry as I am now, but like all those who can afford it, I undergo routine age extension treatments. The world government, which speaks English as the lingua franca, is constantly debating whether such age extension should be ‘nationalized’ but as yet it is not and the biomedical company that provides these treatments is the wealthiest company in the world and has a name as recognizable as that of Google.

Speaking of, Google has far transcended its early century roots as a mere search engine. It is a massive artificial general intelligence whose intelligence is well-documented to be quite beyond even the smartest unmodified human, who is on average 5 to 10 IQ points smarter than today’s human, given ubiquitous and routine pre-natal gene therapy techniques.

When I wake up in the morning, I say to Alexandra, my own personal household AI, more family than slave and also one of my best friends: “Alex, you there?”

“Yep,” she says. “Wondering what’s going on with the immortality debates?”

“You know me,” I reply.

She sighs dramatically. “Lord what fools these mortals be!”

I laugh in agreement. “Mmhmm. Show me.”

Alex turns on the debates – held in a virtual building of course – regarding the impending immortality treatment. The world is vastly more peaceful than it ever used to be. Superior medicine and therapy techniques have reduced the effect of mental illness, while increased prosperity and education have slowly eroded the last bastions of fundamentalism, crime, and irrationality. But of course, it is not all gone, as the vociferous debates demonstrate it. Immortality at our fingertips… and some still reject it.

Because, of course, they must. Immortality is one of my favorite topics to bring up to my students, and I’d say that, on average, more students REJECT the idea of immortality than embrace it. Their reasons include many objections: overpopulation; that being immortal would be “boring”; or that death gives us meaning or otherwise motivates us. Rather abstract objections. I encourage them to try to think of immortality not as some idea far out in the future but as an imminent issue requiring real, practical decisions.

Consider a person in my above setting. He’s 110 and dying and there are no more technologies to stop it. What will HE think about these debates regarding immortality? Are they, in some sense, tantamount to murder? What must it feel like to WANT to live forever, to be so near, and be so afraid that you’ll miss your chance by mere days or months? Or consider that man’s wife, who may have been married to him for eighty years, and who does live long enough to avoid death.

I’m particularly interested to see how religious people will respond to the real possibility of immortality. Will they REALLY choose to die – so that they might enter heaven? Some might, but I doubt most will, no more than Christians who get cancer today concede, “Welp guess this is God’s will. I’ll let myself go.” No of course not. Most fight tooth and nail to live. And how will the Pope and other religious leaders respond to this? How will they re-interpret their various holy books to account for this change in mortal fortunes?

Consider fundamentalists who WILL choose to die rather than choose to be immortal. That’s their choice, okay, sure. But what if they choose it for their children? What if immortality involves maintaining a neural and genetic backup and some fundamentalist parents refuse to let their children maintain such backups – just as many parents now refuse to let their children be vaccinated? Is this child abuse? Is this murder? Do we FORCE it? Will those same people who are so against abortion suddenly go from “pro-life” to “pro-death”? [Hint: Yes they will, though it won’t be called ‘pro-death.’]

Where will YOU stand on these issues? Will you stick by your religious beliefs and take the gamble for an eternity of post-death paradise? If your honest answer’s no, what does that say about your beliefs now? If your answer’s yes, then will you teach the same to your children? If some accident happens and they die, what will you tell yourself? How will you deal with the guilt? And in a broader sense, will you vote for politicians who run on anti-immortality, pro-death platforms, knowing that such might deny us non-believers the chance to extend our lives and the lives of those we love?

What if, say, becoming immortal meant becoming permanently sterile, either for biological reasons or as part of a government-enforced agreement to deal with potential overpopulation? Is that an acceptable trade for you?

Or will you take the opposite tack? What arguments can you make to convince those who are anti-immortality? How will you deal with the pseudo-science they will inevitably find showing that the, say, consciousness transfer technology doesn’t REALLY work? That it’s been shown that the copy persona isn’t ACTUALLY the original persona? Will you test out your supposed new immortality by undertaking daring and fatal stunts, like leaping from a plane with no parachute, just so experience what it’s like? Or will you be too fearful and consider the idea utterly foolish, if not disrespectful?

Such conundrums – and the drama, humanity, bravery, hate, and love associated with them – constitute the real story of the topics that Kurzweil brings up. Perhaps I am asking for too much to have wanted him to try to capture all that in his non-fiction book. Luckily, science fiction offers a wealth of stories which do explore such drama. Just from my own collection:

Paolo Bacigalupi’s short story Pop Squad focuses on the conundrum of immortality & sterility/population control.

In Richard Morgan’s very noir Altered Carbon, a rich man commits suicide, and his backup hires a detective to figure out why.

The second of Arthur C. Clarke’s three laws is stated thus: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. Kurzweil’s book, and man himself, for all their faults, is a daring adventurer who does just that. He deserves at least a little applause.

[This review is part 2 of a small AI-focused reading study I undertook. The first book I read and reviewed was James Barrat’s Our Final Invention. The next book is Oxford Philosopher Nick Bostrom's Superintelligence]
Profile Image for Ken Badertscher.
Author 2 books1 follower
April 15, 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? Maybe a book that leaves out a few unsupported theoretical assumptions stated as foregone conclusions? Singularity has a few fascinating passages, some really interesting ideas, and a collection of delightfully eclectic quotes. Sadly, all the good stuff is surrounded by a repetitious screed with nearly as much substance in the footnotes as in the text.

Kurzweil starts off on the wrong foot with some wrong predictions for technological advances to appear “by the end of the decade.” Given that the book was published in 2005, and as I write this it is 2011, we should be able to fact-check some of these predictions. “We will have the requisite hardware to emulate human intelligence with supercomputers…” Nope. “Computers… will become essentially invisible: woven into our clothing, embedded in our furniture and environment…” Nuh uh. Yes, lots of smart devices exist now, but wearable computing turned into the smartphone, and pervasive computing isn’t all that pervasive. There’s also a claim that the Web will become the “worldwide mesh… once all of its linked devices become communicating web servers….” The only real approximation of this is botnets, created with malware and harnessed by malcontents. While a few impressive networked computing projects currently exist, most folks still don’t give up their CPU’s background cycles to anything productive.

After a rocky start predicting the near future, how are we expected to follow along as Kurzweil turns us into mind linked cyborgs with nanobot blood who can merge and reform our identities at will? One example: virtual reality. Over and over again we are reminded that we will soon be using fully immersive virtual reality. “By early in the 2nd decade of this century” we will have fully immersive 3D environments beamed into our eyeballs, and shortly thereafter we will be plugged in using devices that directly stimulate our sense centers in the brain. But who is going to build these environments? Are we doomed to socialize using virtual meeting places as bizarre as Second Life, furries and ambulatory vegetation and penises everywhere you look, only with more fidelity than we can currently imagine and plugged in to our brains? Who wants that?

There’s a lot more way-out-there stuff I could bring up from the book, but that’s really not its worst failing. The thing that bothered me most about it was the repetition. It’s almost as though Kurzweil at some point abandoned a reasoned thesis for truth by repetition. He goes on and on again and again about how we will know the brain’s inmost secrets, and how nanobots will solve ecological problems, and how superintelligent sentient machines will treat us wetware humans with respect and care. It’s all very Pollyanna, and in some cases more than a little disturbing. Kurzweil’s vision of the ultimate goal of humanity is a nanobot swarm with superintelligent AI flying at near the speed of light and colonizing wherever it lands without regard for existing life of any kind. If that’s my future, I want out.
Profile Image for Liquidlasagna.
1,411 reviews69 followers
April 27, 2021
i found this comment

Doug Hofstadter, author of Godel, Escher, Bach” said once in an interview in the New Yorker

"If you read Ray Kurzweil’s books....what I find is that it’s a very bizarre mixture of ideas that are solid and good with ideas that are crazy. It’s as if you took a lot of very good food and some dog excrement and blended it all up so that you can’t possibly figure out what’s good or bad."

yes you heard it here first

50% dog crap


"Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development Corporation, has called the notion of a technological singularity "intelligent design for the IQ 140 people."


Then again i haven't seen a futurist i've remotely liked after 1980
Profile Image for Cody Sexton.
Author 17 books73 followers
October 27, 2018
Ray Kurzweil postulates that we are fast approaching a time when humankind will meld with technology to produce mind boggling advances in intelligence. He calls this future time period The Singularity, which is a term he borrowed from physics, in which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, it’s impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed. In other words, "technology will be the metaphorical opposable thumb that enables our next step in evolution."
But as Paul Davies writes in Nature about The Singularity is Near, “it’s a breathless romp across the outer reaches of technological possibility" while warning that the "exhilarating speculation is great fun to read, but needs to be taken with a huge dose of salt."
This book should not be read as a scientific treatise. Rather, it is a futuristic book of technological optimism limited only by our human imagination.
In the book Kurzweil characterizes evolution as progressing through six epochs, each one building on the one before. He says the four epochs which have occurred so far are Physics and Chemistry, Biology and DNA, Brains and Technology. Kurzweil predicts the Singularity will coincide with the next epoch, which would be The Merger of Human Technology with Human Intelligence.
He even predicts that this future intelligence will actually radiate outward from the planet until it has saturated the entire universe.
Kurzweil says that evolution moves towards "greater complexity, greater elegance, greater knowledge, greater intelligence, greater beauty, greater creativity, and greater levels of subtle attributes such as love". He says that these attributes, in the limit, are generally used to describe God. That means, he continues, that evolution is moving towards a conception of God and that the transition away from biological roots is in fact a spiritual undertaking.
This is perhaps the best known book related to transhumanism which is a zealous type of utopian thought underwritten by the belief that day by day we are getting closer and closer to building a better human.
Transhumanists believe we can make ourselves. But, as Thomas Ligotti says, “this is impossible,” and the reason its impossible is because of evolution. “Evolution made us. And everything we have done since we became a species has been a consequence of being made. No matter what we do it will be what we were made to do. One of those plans seems to be the dream of transhumanism which may just be a plan to unmake us.”
Transhumanists are dissatisfied with what we are as a species. Naturally they think that being alive is all right so much so in fact that they cannot stand the idea of not being alive and have envisioned strategies for staying alive forever. Their problem is that they need being alive to be vastly more all right than it is.
An apocalyptic scenario has even been inserted into their world view like a wild card, which they refer to as the Singularity. In this sense, transhumanism is a secular retelling of the Christian rapture myth, and some of its believers even foresee it as happening within the lifetime of many who are alive today, just as the early Christians believed in an impending Judgement Day.
Yet one possibility transhumanists have not wrestled with is that the ideal being standing at the end of evolution may deduce that the best of all possible worlds is useless, if not malignant, and that the self extinction of our future selves would be the optimal course to take.
6 reviews
January 18, 2008
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 focuses specifically on 3 key technologies that will produce the human "singularity", an event where humans transcend their former selves and become something more than human. These key technologies (known as GNR) are genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (or artificial intelligence). When these 3 things progress and converge in the next few decades, we will see humanity benefit by eradicating disease, prolonging life expectancy indefinitely, and promoting human intelligence to astronomical levels through direct neural connections to computer hardware. Effectively, we'll become so smart we'll be able to outlive and outhink "normal" humans to an unimaginable degree. He makes a compelling argument that the singularity is not a matter of "if" but of "when", and that we should be proactive in pursuing these technologies, not just for the benefit of humanity, but to keep amoral people from exploiting these things to an unfair advantage. It's a fascinating read and worth digging into if you have any appreciation for science in general.
Profile Image for John.
59 reviews8 followers
May 22, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Noah M..
88 reviews9 followers
April 3, 2009
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 be god. And then perhaps we will create a new universe, to run a new program. And the cycle starts again, I suppose.

If you haven't read enough science fiction, this all sounds completely insane. However, having examined his arguments, and having a general sense of the sort of progress being made in Genetics, Nanotech and Robotics, I feel that his prognostications are, on the whole, accurate.

I see no reason why aging can't be conquered before the year 2020. Assuming trends in miniaturization continue, I don't see any reason why we won't have mastered nanotechnology by the end of the 2020's. I find myself less willing to accept that human level artificial intelligence will arrive in the 2030's, but I do consider it an inevitability. So, since we conquered aging in second decade of this century, we'll get there eventually.

I mostly accept Kurzweil's analysis of the trajectory of technological progress. To be fair, his book is sometimes a bit light on evidence to back up some of his claims. There are a few examples for each topic, and he tends to use them over and over again.

However, all his ideas are firmly grounded in reality. On a long enough time-line, there is no reason why nearly everything described in this book cannot be accomplished by humanity. Whether you accept the time frame that he endorses is up to you, but you have to acknowledge that he is writing a book about the likely shape of the future, be it near or far.

Additionally, I would add that my acceptance of Kurzweil's thesis can probably be attributed to several factors:

1) The internet rising to prominence during my formative years has given me a very real sense of the world changing possibilities of technology.

2) I've read a shit-ton of science fiction, and I've certainly read about futures more bizarre than what he describes.

3) It provides me with some measure of hope for the future. If the world isn't going to drastically change in the next forty years then we, as a species, as well and truly fucked. No one has any interest in solving the problems of the future. They'd rather fuck things up now, and let future generations deal with the fallout. Only a general acceptance of accelerating change will force people to consider the future consequences of decisions we make now.

4) I want to be able to morph my genitals at will and have crazy zero-gravity sex in virtual reality. IS THAT SO WRONG????
Profile Image for Tracy Black.
81 reviews10 followers
April 15, 2011
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 and has back slid more than once in our history. What clinched the one star is when he went farther back and applied it to biology. I don't know how he defines complexity (he didn't say) but this is wrong. And evolution is not "the process of creating patterns of increasing order". He is oversimplifying very complex topics to fit his ideals. He undermined his credibilty, so I won't be finishing the book.
Profile Image for Charlene.
875 reviews493 followers
February 21, 2017
I love Kurzweil, love most of this book, and would read anything he wrote. However, if you have time for only one Kurzweil book, I would strongly recommend How to Create a Mind over this book. Kurzweil is one of my favorite writers because his predictions are a result of his deep understanding of both the current state of technology and the timing of various technological advances. This is evident in How to Create a Mind. In this book however, Kurzweil's desire to live forever is clearly clouding his usually superior prediction skills. Dying sucks. I get it. Life saving technological advances are around the corner and knowing it will not come in time to save his life makes it all the harder to get old. His motivation to be overly optimistic about medical advances is very clear throughout most of this book. I am not saying the advances of which he speaks will not happen. Indeed, I feel very confident they will, just not in the timeframe he suggested.

If you take his extended life time with a grain of salt, then this book deserves 5 stars.
Profile Image for Danny Tyran.
Author 21 books182 followers
March 29, 2014
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 raison". It means that's not because you give great examples that seem to justify what you're saying that you're right.
Anyway, sometimes this book seemed to me like a plate of spaghetti. There are a lot of theories (noodles) from many different sources, some true, some questionable, and they are so much intermingled that you can't tell where one ends and the other begins. And on top of that, Kurzweil adds his own theories (sauce) that cover everything, so we are not able to really distinguish on what he exactly based his statements.
But maybe, the problem is not Kurzweil's wordiness, maybe it's just me. I'm not a nerd in genetics, nanotechnology, computing, and robotics. Who, except Kurzweil, can pretend to possess an extensive knowledge on all these subjects anyway? Even for an avid reader of science blogs and scientific magazines, there are parts hard to read in this book. But the papers I usually read in magazines are much shorter and more simplified than the content of this dense book.


Kurzweil characterized evolution throughout all time as progressing through six epochs, each one building on the next. He said the four epochs which have occurred so far are Physics and Chemistry, Biology and DNA, Brains, and Technology. He predicts the Singularity will coincide with the next epoch, The Merger of Human Technology with Human Intelligence. After the Singularity he says the final epoch will occur, The Universe Wakes Up.

Law of Accelerating Return in summary:

Kurzweil explains that evolutionary progress is exponential because of positive feedback; the results of one stage are used to create the next stage.

a) human intelligence creates technology
b) technology is growing fast
c) technology is now beginning to improve human intelligence (computing, biotech, neuroscience, etc.)
d) this creates a positive feedback loop, exponential in nature

Kurzweil is not the first to suggest the idea of accelerating change - it's been stated in varying forms since the 60's by folks like Buckminster Fuller. But basing his thesis on the well-known "Moore's Law" - computing power will double every eighteen months - Kurzweil shows how computer processing capacity will soon outstrip that of the human brain. Once that transformation is achieved, it will be a short step to enhance existing technology to reforming the human body.

"We are just now obtaining the tools sufficient to begin serious reverse engineering (decoding) of the human brain's principles of operation. We already have impressive models and simulations of a couple dozen of the brain's several hundred regions. Within two decades, we will have a detailed understanding of how all the regions of the human brain work.
We will have the requisite hardware to emulate human intelligence with supercomputers by the end of this decade and with personal-computer-size devices by the end of the following decade. We will have effective software models of human intelligence by the mid-2020s."
"In the aftermath of the Singularity, intelligence, derived from its biological origins in human brains and its technological origins in human ingenuity, will begin to saturate the matter and energy in its midst. It will achieve this by reorganizing matter and energy to provide an optimal level of computation... to spread out from its origin on Earth."


Kurzweil is very optimistic. He believes that dramatic advances in GNR (Genetics, Nanotechnologies, and Robotics) are inevitable; any resistance by governments, ethicists, or individuals are automatically calculated into his predictions. So he has no qualms on setting a date for the completed Singularity: 2045. By that time, he claims, we would have completely reverse engineered the human brain (meaning decoded the brain and recoded it in machines), and would be leveraging non biological intelligence a billion times more powerful. We would be able to change or upgrade any part of the human body; our DNA will be transformed to make us unable to catch major diseases; we'll have "nanodoctors" inside our bloodstream that will improve our health from within. Thus we would be able to practically live forever (if we are still alive by then). Kurzweil is also confident that other serious issues confronting humanity such as poverty, hunger, energy shortage, global warming and so on will be easily solved by the power of technology. Most of the solutions seem to depend on Genetics, Nanotechnology, Robotics (GNR) supported by Artificial Intelligence (AI). With autoreproducing nanocomputers, nanobots, nanotubes, other nanotechnologies and inventions. And by "the power of ideas" (according to the author, there is an idea to solve any problem if you think hard enough) every hurdle will be easily surmountable.

Here are some of the arguments he bases his predictions on:
* Software are getting exponentially more complex
* Hardware are getting cheaper
* Our understanding and modeling of the human brain is getting better and better

He focuses on the good impacts of technology, such as:
* Technological innovations will allow the disabled to see, hear, and walk if they so choose (it remembers me some well-known prophet)
* New "toys" as immersive virtual reality
* End of illness
* Radical life extension
* Economic benefits
* Freeing humans from work

And some of the scary impacts:
* New "toys" as immersive virtual reality
* Nanorobots for the military that make it possible to kill anybody anywhere with complete precision
* Destruction of the biological basis of humans and uploading one's brain on the computer (unclear how it will be done and how voluntary this will be)
* Legal rights for artificial intelligence machines
* Genetic engineering of babies (people who will not subscribe to this will 'evolve' out of the way)
* Failure to understand the social consequences of new technologies is like playing with fire
* A nanodefense immune system to protect the biosphere from the dangers of self-replicating nanobots (why this is scary is that an improper use of the immune system itself can destroy the entire Earth biosphere in a matter of hours)
* Merging of human and machine (not determined if "human" is the result our complete genetic or the result of the functioning of our brain)
* There will not be any technological magic wand to help us with these possible problems.

Note that I put "new toys" in the good and the bad impacts because it could seem "virtually" fun, but I don't want anybody to become a part of the "Matrix".

A few personal questions:

If we got nanochips in our brain and the technology improves exponentially, how many times are you ready to be operated to get the last technology? What will happen if futuristic hackers succeed to control all those in-brain chips? What will happen if terrorists succeed to remote control our nanobots (nanoweapons, nano-aircrafts, nanomissiles and nanowarriors,...)? With the possibility to control remotely everything, there are no borders anymore, so who will legislate on those topics?

Before ending, just a little joke. J. G. Ballard, a great science fiction author wrote:
"If enough people predict something, it won't happen."


It's hard to believe that this book was written 8 years ago. It still reads like a cutting-edge science book. Whether we agree with Kurzweil or not, this book is an intellectual feast and an absorbing read. Example, there are great discussions as to when computers will become indistinguishable versus humans (Turing test). If nothing else, the book is dynamite to any reader who likes to ponder the future and technological changes. So I give it four stars.
Profile Image for Julie  Capell.
998 reviews26 followers
November 2, 2013
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, examines the rate of advancement of human technology and predicts that within the lifetimes of most people alive today, human beings will unite their biological intelligence with machine intelligence and create a whole new way of being human.

The beginning of the book is chock-full of graphs showing the exponential growth curve that describes the advancement of technology and its concurrent tendency to get cheaper as it gets better (while extremely wonky, most of this section is pretty easy to understand and reads quickly). Taken together, these two concepts drive Kurzweils’ pronouncement that very soon—within the next few decades—“the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed.” Transformed how? In pretty much every way imaginable.

There is a chapter that analyzes the amount of computation and memory needed to achieve human levels of intelligence in machines (computers). There’s a fascinating chapter on how to reverse engineer the human brain—which will require us to understand our own thinking. I was already familiar with some the concepts in this chapter from having read the book “The Most Human Human” (which I also highly recommend). Understanding our own thinking is not easy but is key to our ability to create machines that can pass as human (Turing Test). The next chapter discusses the revolutions that are occurring right now in genetics, nanotechnology and robotics (which Kurzweil calls “GNR”). There are enough ideas in this chapter alone to fuel a thousand science fiction novels. Yet most of what is described is already in the works in labs around the world. In the final chapters, Kurzweil takes everything he has posited thus far and shows where it will lead. He discusses the search for intelligent life in the universe, the Fermi paradox, the theory of multiple universes, black holes, quantum entanglement, the speed of light, how we will likely colonize the universe (probably NOT using our biological bodies), how we know something is conscious, and the nature of God, among many other things.

If you are getting the feeling that this is an ambitious book, then I have done a decent job of describing it, but there are truly so many fascinating ideas in here that you must read it yourself. I haven’t even gotten into the large section in which Kurzweil responds to his critics by examining concepts like software stability, intelligent algorithms, analog vs. digital processing, quantum computing, the digital divide, materialism vs. patternism and more. This section repeated many concepts that had been touched upon earlier in the book but revisiting them from a different angle definitely increased my understanding.

This book was so good that the minute I finished it I wanted to immediately start it over again. This book was so good that after I returned my borrowed copy I went out and purchased my own copy so that I can refer back to it as I would a reference book. This book is so good I want to give it to everyone I know. What more can I say? Read this book. I was going to say it will blow your mind, but that’s not quite right. Instead, I’ll say this book will open your mind to the truly amazing future that is just around the corner.

The answer is 2045. I’ll be eighty-four. And the adventure will be just beginning.
Profile Image for Ross Blocher.
429 reviews1,358 followers
June 27, 2018
I've been familiar with Ray Kurzweil's ideas for many years, but oddly enough had never read one of his books. My first exposure was in 2000 with the release of Spiritual Machines, an album by the Canadian Rock band Our Lady Peace featuring tracks of Kurzweil's voice intoning technological predictions along with songs based on ideas from his book The Age of Spiritual Machines. Track 3, "R.K. 2029", posits monotonically: "The year is 2029. The machines will convince us that they are conscious, that they have their own agenda worthy of our respect. They'll embody human qualities and claim to be human, and we'll believe them." That album and its thought-provoking songs exploring issues like "How many parts you can replace and remain human?" inspired me to read more by and about Kurzweil. The 2009 film Transcendent Man is a great look at his life and work, and I got to see him speak live a couple years ago at SXSW. Kurzweil is a fascinating figure: an optimistic futurist with legitimate chops as a pioneering inventor and a so-far impressive knack for predicting technological trends. His inventions, such as early optical character recognition, text-to-speech devices for the blind and real-time digital avatars have reflected his interests in using technology to supplement, enhance and mimic human behavior and intelligence. Google has hired him as their Director of Engineering. He comes by this passion honestly, and I loved finding this clip of 17-year-old Kurzweil in 1965 demonstrating a computer he'd programmed to write music on a Steve Allen program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4Nei....

The Singularity is Near is a fantastic primer on the major fronts of technological development, and what we can expect to see in the future of computation, machine intelligence, energy, biology, space travel, virtual reality, consciousness and so forth. The singularity of the title is that treshold point at which machine intelligence matches humanity's (Kurweil predicts this will happen by 2045). At that point, the machines will not only outpace us, but will do so at a rapidly expanding rate, using their greater intelligence and processing speed to further improve their own capabilities ten-fold, then a hundred-fold, and so on. Exponential growth is a key concept in this book, and Kurzweil points to this as the basic feature missing in others' failed predictions. He explains in great detail how an exponential trend, like Moore's observation that transistor density doubles about every two years, combines a number of smaller, overlapping curves as one innovation builds upon another and another. He walks us through future innovations we can expect that will continue and amplify the trend: carbon nanotubes and quantum computing are two such technologies that will carry us far into the future. Kurzweil never stops there: he asks how much computation is physically possible for an object of a given mass if we can truly harness every motion of its constituent particles.

Kurweil applies this same analysis to energy production, and explores how much power we might potentially harness from the sun to fuel this expanding computation (there are even ideas for energy-neutral computation that reverses each calculation), and extrapolates beyond to how we might potentially fully capture the energy output of the sun and other stars and put them to use. He pictures a future in which intelligence lights up in the universe, and all matter contributes to the storage and processing of information.

Biology is another frequent topic, and we get a glimpse of how improved "GNR" (genetics, nanotechnology and robotics) will allow us to re-write our genomes, deposit microbots in our blood stream to eradicate disease, vanquish cancer, and extend our lives indefinitely. Meanwhile, we will integrate machines into our bodies, and they will enhance our senses, memories, capabilities, ability to learn, and redefine what it means to be human. Kurweil is notoriously at war with death, and takes a massive host of daily pills and supplements (one of his fringier pursuits) in order to stay alive long enough to reach the day when he can back up his intelligence to a computer substrate. In the meantime, he collects massive boxes of his ideas, mementos and memories.

All of this might sound pie-in-the-sky, but I think Kurzweil deserves to be taken seriously. These are extraordinary predictions, but we must remember that science and engineering have already achieved many marvels that we enjoy already. I wish I could find the exact quote, but at some point he defines engineering as our ability to find a subtle effect, isolate it, and harness it to do work. Our discoveries are cumulative and their pace will be... well, exponential. Our bodies already have amazing restorative powers, but those will eventually be enhanced to the point at which we can control every aspect of them. Our computers have increased in computation speed while decreasing in size and power consumption. These trends will continue until we learn to integrate them with our biology. This work is already well underway.

The Singularity is Near is punctuated with little discussions between Ray and characters like Molly 2004, Molly 2104, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, and other thinkers who toss around various thoughts on meaning, identity, eternity, and other concepts. Like an episode of Steve Allen's Meeting of the Minds, these discussions provide Kurzweil a chance to explore differing viewpoints, timescales in his predictions, and perhaps deflect some criticisms. There is a fair amount of effort expended in responding to many of Kurzweil's critics, and this book feels part of a larger dialog. And yet, it is self-contained. Though it was written in 2005, the issues remain relevant and the predictions seem to be holding up well.

As a phrase, "The singularity is near" reads like something you'd find on a doomsday prophet's sandwich board. There are many religious overtones to be found, because technology is expanding into areas that were once only the domain of theology. The powers once attributed to God will finally become real, but will be achieved technologically. Kurweil is warning us about a much different future than the doomsayers. It's bright future, with visions based not on revelation, but on evidence and extrapolated trends that obey the laws of physics (none of his predictions require us to exceed the speed of light or develop perpetual motion). Certainly, he may be overly sanguine about some specific technologies that may not pan out the way he so confidently posits. Yet other technologies, perhaps ones we're not aware of yet, will arise to continue these trends. It's an exciting future, and I hope to live to see much of it.
Profile Image for G.G. Galt.
Author 8 books18 followers
October 2, 2014
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 will recall how he made a grand piano sound realistic, and the work he did with Stevie Wonder--doctors will remember the device he invented to make transcribing their notes easier.

Back in 1998 I was first introduced to Dr. Kurzweil at the Harvard Coop Bookstore in Harvard Square. On the main floor in a big center display, I discovered his newly released book, "The Age of Spiritual Machines." I went back to my dorm and read it cover to cover over the weekend. On Monday, excited about the book, I shared it with my meta-physics professor, who'd heard about the book. He recommended I read a critical review by John Searle. From that article I learned Ray's book was controversial. It still is, even though most of his many predictions and theories have come true.

I corresponded with Dr. Kurzweil to get help with my Meta-Physcis Class. Shortly thereafter, I got a message he and his family were at the White House attending a New Year's Eve party for three hundred people. It blew me away that he had taken the time to e-mail his friends New Years greetings along with pictures of what had just happened --President Clinton awarding him the "Inventor of the Year" award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the 1999 National Medal of Technology.

For any who may not know, that is the highest award the President of the United States can bestow upon individuals and groups for pioneering new technologies.

Shortly thereafter, President Clinton presented Kurzweil with the National Medal of Technology in recognition of his development of computer-based technologies to help the disabled.

In April of that year following lunch and an interview for my final meta-physics paper, Dr. Kurzweil gave me a tour of his Brookline facilities. There he graciously allowed me to demonstrate my most recent invention--the forerunner to what was soon to become the world's most popular guitar-like product.

Just how much of what Dr. Kurzweil predicts in "The Singularity Is Near" comes true, no one knows, but there's no denying, much of it already has. Whether an individual is a person of faith, or not, the predictions in The Singularity Is Near, can provide comfort that modern technology can eventually bring peace and prosperity to the world. And even, eternal life. We'll not only get new hearts and lungs, but any body part imaginable--that one day, it'll be difficult to distinguish where being human ends and a being a robot begins.

Bottom line, this book does an excellent job of arguing that the evidence offered by Moore's Law is better than other forecasting methods. It does equally as well at explaining the implications of those trends. Best of all, anyone can pick up this book and understand it.

You don't have to be a scientist to understand or appreciate what he writes.

Profile Image for Correen.
1,112 reviews
December 13, 2014

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. The exponential progress in technology will have brought about massive changes in wellness, energy sources, problems solved, and exploration of the universe.

The book seems fantastical but Kurzwell not only makes predictions, he tells what it will take to make the predictions possible to accomplish.

Profile Image for Marco Santini.
Author 21 books4 followers
May 13, 2012
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, populating the whole universe. The idea of the universe waking up is powerful. Everything described here has a great final scope and will become reality within this century.

Profile Image for Tyson.
29 reviews3 followers
May 5, 2010
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 Therapy, Nanotechnoloy, and Robotics (GNR), humans and machines will become indistinguishable within the next 30-40 years. He names this merging of humans and machines "the Singularity."

Kurzweil bases his predictions on ideas like Moore's law, and other rates of advancement in various technological fields. He offers all kinds of numbers and figures to back up his ideas. As interesting as his predictions are, the book is hard to wade through. And it's more than a little creepy to hear the human body referred to as Human Body 2.0. I gave it four stars because some of the ideas really did blow my mind and got me thinking pretty deeply about the nature and destiny of humanity, etc. But I think Kurzweil is far too optimistic. Not just about the technological predictions, but in his belief that humans will go along with human-machine integration. He has admittedly seen the Matrix and Terminator but doesn't believe the potential dark side of AI will dominate. Although, he does spend a chapter at the end answering fears and criticism of his ideas. I get the impression he's just another man obsessed with immortality and overzealous about science and technology being the answer.

Some of his predictions (from a list on wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predicti..., now you don't need to read the book:

-1013 bits of computer memory--roughly the equivalent of the memory space in a single human brain--will cost $1000.

-One personal computer will have the same processing power as a human brain.

-Computers less than 100 nm in size will be possible.
-Highly advanced medical nanobots will perform detailed brainscans on live patients.
-Accurate computer simulations of the entire human brain will exist due to these hyperaccurate brainscans, and the workings of the brain will be understood.
-By the later part of this decade, virtual reality will be so high-quality that it will be indistinguishable from real reality.
-The threat posed by genetically engineered pathogens permanently dissipates by the end of this decade as medical nanobots--infinitely more durable, intelligent and capable than any microorganism--become sufficiently advanced.
-A computer passes the Turing test by the last year of the decade (2029), meaning that it is a Strong AI and can think like a human (though the first A.I. is likely to be the equivalent of a very stupid human). This first A.I. is built around a computer simulation of a human brain, which was made possible by previous, nanotech-guided brainscanning.

-Mind uploading becomes possible.
-Nanomachines could be directly inserted into the brain and could interact with brain cells to totally control incoming and outgoing signals. As a result, truly full-immersion virtual reality could be generated without the need for any external equipment. Afferent nerve pathways could be blocked, totally canceling out the "real" world and leaving the user with only the desired virtual experience.
-Recreational uses aside, nanomachines in peoples' brains will allow them to greatly expand their cognitive, memory and sensory capabilities, to directly interface with computers, and to "telepathically" communicate with other, similarly augmented humans via wireless networks.
-The same nanotechnology should also allow people to alter the neural connections within their brains, changing the underlying basis for the person's intelligence, memories and personality.
-Human body 2.0 (as Kurzweil calls it) is incrementally accumulated into this decade. It consists of a nanotechnological system of nourishment and circulation--obsolescing many internal organs--and an improved skeleton.

-Human body 3.0 is gradually implemented during this decade. It lacks a fixed, corporeal form and can alter its shape and external appearance at will via foglet-like nanotechnology (similar to the T-1000 from Terminator 2).
-People spend most of their time in full-immersion virtual reality (Kurzweil has cited The Matrix as a good example of what the advanced virtual worlds will be like, without the dystopian twist).

2045: The Singularity
-$1000 buys a computer a billion times more intelligent than every human combined. This means that average and even low-end computers are vastly smarter than even highly intelligent, unenhanced humans.
-The technological singularity occurs as artificial intelligences surpass human beings as the smartest and most capable life forms on the Earth. Technological development is taken over by the machines, who can think, act and communicate so quickly that normal humans cannot even comprehend what is going on. The machines enter into a "runaway reaction" of self-improvement cycles, with each new generation of A.I.s appearing faster and faster. From this point onwards, technological advancement is explosive, under the control of the machines, and thus cannot be accurately predicted.
-The Singularity is an extremely disruptive, world-altering event that forever changes the course of human history. The extermination of humanity by violent machines is unlikely (though not impossible) because sharp distinctions between man and machine will no longer exist thanks to the existence of cybernetically enhanced humans and uploaded humans.

Post-2045: "Waking up" the Universe

* The physical bottom limit to how small computer transistors (or other equivalent, albeit more effective components, such as memristors integrated into Crossbar latches) can be shrunk is reached. From this moment onwards, computers can only be made more powerful if they are made larger in size.
* Because of this, A.I.s convert more and more of the Earth's matter into engineered, computational substrate capable of supporting more A.I.s. until the whole Earth is one, gigantic computer.
* At this point, the only possible way to increase the intelligence of the machines any farther is to begin converting all of the matter in the universe into similar massive computers. A.I.s radiate out into space in all directions from the Earth, breaking down whole planets, moons and meteoroids and reassembling them into giant computers. This, in effect, "wakes up" the universe as all the inanimate "dumb" matter (rocks, dust, gases, etc.) is converted into structured matter capable of supporting life (albeit synthetic life).
* Kurzweil predicts that machines might have the ability to make planet-sized computers by 2099, which underscores how enormously technology will advance after the Singularity.
* The process of "waking up" the universe could be complete as early as 2199, or might take billions of years depending on whether or not machines could figure out a way to circumvent the speed of light for the purposes of space travel.
* With the entire universe made into a giant, highly efficient supercomputer, AI and human hybrids (so integrated that, in truth it is a new category of "life") would have both supreme intelligence and physical control over the universe. Kurzweil suggests that this would open up all sorts of new possibilities, including abrogation of the laws of Physics, interdimensional travel, and a possible infinite extension of existence (true immortality).

Profile Image for Billie Pritchett.
1,069 reviews84 followers
January 7, 2016
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 of the book. After the reader is introduced to the thesis and is given several predicted stages that are supposed to follow life's current evolutionary stages, Kurzweil writes about particular ways in which the technological singularity will either become apparent or begin to become apparent. For example, he writes that nanotechnology can be introduced into the human body and prepare and restore, and maybe eventually create from scratch, DNA molecules.

Although the topic might sound fascinating and clear from the information I have provided so far, after reading the introduction and a few of the chapters, I had to stop, mainly because I did not know what Kurzweil was writing about or why he was writing what he was writing. I skimmed other parts of the book that appeared equally obscure and esoteric. It reminded me of conversations I have had about the Kennedy assassination with people who cite obscure and esoteric ballistics knowledge that, were I to be able to understand it, would prove, they claim, that Oswald could not have been the gunman. Unless I can understand the support that someone is providing for a claim, I cannot even begin to have an opinion about the legitimacy of the claim. I will readily admit that I might be too ignorant to get it. If so, shame on me and not Kurzweil. But read for yourself and find out if you feel the same or not. And feel free to write a comment on here to let me know how you feel and why.
6 reviews
June 7, 2013
A lot of the reviews here seem to be saying "it's complicated, so it must be profound." This is not true. There is no reason for this book to be 650 pages long. Kurzweil's thesis is pretty straightforward: technology advances at an exponential pace. By that logic, there's reason to believe that nonbiological (i.e., computational) intelligence will eventually become much more advanced than human intelligence. This book is essentially Kurzweil's prediction for how great it'll be.

I'm not fond of speculation about science... technology rarely evolves the way you think it will. But a well-crafted opinion would still be an interesting read. Unfortunately, this was not well-crafted. The book is long and rambling. There are wild detours that span dozens of pages. Academic research is misinterpreted and extrapolated well beyond what any real scientist would allow. The end-notes are a pain in the nads. The fixation on lactation and virtualized, gender-swapped sex adds nothing but confusion.

The book isn't getting a poor review from me because I couldn't understand it. I did graduate research in both nanomechanics and robotics, two of the areas Kurzweil writes about for too many pages. I know enough to know that he's really stretching here. This book seemed like he'd had a lot of conversations with a lot of smart people, and wanted to publish as much of it as he could to appear knowledgeable himself. In the end, it just seemed like he didn't know which book he wanted to write, and wasn't qualified to write any of them.

There was some good discussion of the ethics of artificial intelligence, I'll give him that. And for what it's worth, his predictions likely won't be completely wrong. But this book could have benefited quite a bit from a strong editorial influence or some peer-review. Skip it. Go browse his web site and save yourself about 600 pages.
Profile Image for Keith Swenson.
Author 15 books49 followers
September 11, 2011
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 exactly, and Kurzweil is no exception, but he does have some very sensible projections which are well supported, and quite shocking. It is a wild roller coaster ride over the nature of intelligence, the meaning of life, and the consciousness of the universe. Heady stuff to say the least.

This book is a compendium of evidence to support his projections. The breadth and detail of this evidence is overwhelming. The way he delves into so many subjects: from the structure of the brain and nerves, the way DNA replicates, and surveys of current nanotech experiments, and too many others to mention here.

The book gets three stars because it is a very good and interesting book, but it is probably not the best book for the casual reader. He has presented the core concepts elsewhere and in more succinct form. This, however, is a study guide for the student of the singularity. You know who you are, and if you want the details behind how he came to the ideas, it is all here. If not already a fan of Kurzweil, you might find this book too encyclopedic.
Profile Image for Max de Freitas.
240 reviews17 followers
January 2, 2013
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 extinct just as species do in nature. Boundless, unquestioning optimism and blind faith are not scientific.

I had expected a scientific examination of exponential growth technologies and some way to identify future trends that might merit investment. Instead I found pseudo-scientific rubbish sprinkled with fanatic ravings interspersed by some real experimental conclusions in the author's areas of expertise.

While the book contains some interesting history, there is no intellectual foundation for any sound prognostication of the direction of future exponential growth technologies. One is left with the author’s opinion and speculation.
Profile Image for Omran.
17 reviews1 follower
August 11, 2017
Outstanding book, it left more intrigued about AI and human spirit longing to progress. Kurzweil compares the faster or exponential pace of technology compared to biological evolution and concluded that singularity , a vast growth in intelligence resulting in reshaping of the universe, is somewhere near 2045. His prediction is based on the eloquent comparison of slow biological intelligence growth compared to exponential technological intelligence. He argues that nanotechnology is an essential contributor to understand the brain and thereof advance in non biological intelligence based on the former information processing. I was fully immersed in this book especially when the author describes how human will overcome their biological limitations and become transbiological and then pure machines. The hypothetical debates between ethicists and materialists is captivating, the one between him, Darwin, Frued and Molly about consciousness is mind blowing . Whether his predictions are accurate or not, Ray is an ultimate genius and this book takes you into an intellectual journey, I will definitely read all his books.
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