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The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  10,207 ratings  ·  876 reviews
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 mach ...more
Trade Paperback, 652 pages
Published September 26th 2006 by Penguin
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Art It includes predictions, most of which are decades ahead of the publishing date, so yes. I think this is Kurzweil's 3rd version of basically the same …moreIt includes predictions, most of which are decades ahead of the publishing date, so yes. I think this is Kurzweil's 3rd version of basically the same novel (The Age of Spiritual Machines was the previous one, I think). So, until he makes a newer replacement for it, or until nanobots are allowing you to hold your breathe for 2 hours while your driverless hover-car takes you to a sky bar, literally in the sky, to do get something things done in the cloud, I would say this is still worth checking out :P(less)

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Start your review of The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

(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
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
Bryce Wilson
Jun 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, misc
Tired of sleeping peacefully? Do you feel a bit to contented and secure as you go about your daily business? Has your overwhelming sense of anxiety and ennui drifted to a mere background drone rather then an overpowering howl?

Then dear friends this is the book for you! Guaranteed to make you weep softly in the night as you clutch your knees to your chest! Certified to make you stop showering! Neglect your loved ones and friends because damnit what's the point!!?!?! Darkly contemplate your razor
Jun 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
This starts with the thesis: Technological change is exponential!
This has been true for many measures such as micro-processor size, cost of mass-produced goods, etc.
It is not, however, a general rule of thumb to apply blindly to all things "technological"!
This seems to be Kurzweil's big mistake.
He extrapolates features of technology to an unrealistic infinity.

For example, Moor's law is running up against the quantum limit, so micro-processor size is exponential up to a fast-approaching limit.
Ahmad Sharabiani
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 U
Mar 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: pop-science
Realists beware: this oversized pill is seriously hard to swallow.

Possibility 1: Kurzweil Is Nuts

I used the term 'batshit crazy' more than a few times while speeding through this book (N.B. I think I ended up reading more than I skimmed, but many of the lauded 2005 advancements are less impressive 9 years later -- which is, of course, part of Kurzweil's point).
"Dude, seriously? The ultimate destiny of the universe is to be shaped by humanity?! Right, okay, by the time we colonize the st
Jul 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with an interest in computers, technology, or biochemistry
I would consider this an 'impact book', one that truly changed the way I perceive the world. Kurzweil aims to convince his reader that we are on the cusp of an exponential growth in genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR) that will fundamentally change humanity, creating humans that are fully integrated with machines, live as long as they like, and frequently immerse themselves in virtual worlds. Its premise sounds a bit far-fetched but his meticulous research, incredibly broad grasp of cur ...more
Feb 02, 2017 rated it liked it
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 perso
Trevor Jones
Jun 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Ken Badertscher
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil: dislike it (2/5)

Too optimistic, too wacky, too wrong.

The full title of this book is “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology,” and like its title, the book is verbose and very, very speculative. I know, I know. What should I expect from futurist Ray Kurzweil other than futuristic foo from the future? How about a book with a coherent structure? How about a book that doesn’t repeat its fundamental premises multiple times in each chapter? Mayb
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
A lot of the technology he talks about is undoubtedly cool, and I do believe it'll happen. Scientists WILL create a lot of these things, for sure.

But the issue I have with the book is how naively optimistic it is about this technology being readily available to everyone. He briefly touches on this criticism, and his argument is: while it's true that there's a lot of inequality in the world, even poor rural people in China have cellphones, so everyone will have [nanobots in their bloodstream, VR
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Cody Sexton
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
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 Dav
Jan 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Kurzweil has made a living of being a futurist and an inventor. Many of his inventions are the result of his predictions coming true, so there is good reason to listen to what he has to say on the topic. The main idea is that the evolution of technology is not linear (as most people think) but exponential. This exponential development of key technologies leads to dramatic changes in human history over relatively short periods of time. Good examples include the internet and cell phones. The book ...more
Noah M.
Mar 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Danny Tyran
I'm not sure to be the right guy to review such a book. Why? I'd lie if I told that I understood everything Kurzweil explained in it. O.K. the author tried hard to make it more understandable: he put as much as possible in graphs and statistics, pictures, examples of the ordinary life and so on. All these tools should help us to understand, but... this is still a book written by a nerd for nerds. And don't you know that graphs and stats lie? Furthermore, in French we say: "Comparaison n'est pas ...more
Julie  Capell
If I could give this book 10 stars I would. I am a big fan of scifi with some slight understanding of and interest in the Singularity for quite some time. So when I saw this book at a friend’s house, I asked if I could borrow it and I am so glad I did. This is one of those books that has the potential to forever change the way you think about life, the universe and everything. And no, the answer is not “42.”

In this book, Kurzweil, who has the credentials to back up what he is writing about, exa
Mar 27, 2021 rated it did not like it
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 Corporat
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: innovation
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 cloudin ...more
Tracy Black
Apr 15, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
First I have to admit that I only made it to page 50. If Krurzweil redeems himself later in the book, I guess I'll never know. I was expexting more because so many very intelligent people I know have read it and loved it. He seemed to be cherry picking history to fit his ideas, that technology is advancing exponentialy and has been doing so since the dawn of civilization. I don't agree with this. I know that it is advancing rapidly right now, but it has also done so at other times in the past an ...more
Ross Blocher
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
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, th ...more
G.G. Galt
May 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Max de Freitas
Jan 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
This weighty volume is based on a simple observation. Technological progress mimics the exponential growth of reproductive processes in nature. Examples abound but are redundant because most result from applications of exponential growth in microprocessor manufacture. Kurzweil does not understand the underlying principle that technological progress is exponential only when developments spawn further advances. Failures and dead ends are conveniently ignored. Technologies can stagnate and become e ...more
Dec 09, 2014 rated it really liked it

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.
Marco Santini
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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, populati
May 05, 2010 rated it liked it
It's been a few weeks since I read it and the details are already fuzzy - he provides a lot of examples and detailed explanations to back up his thesis. I skimmed through several paragraphs in a couple of the chapters because it gets pretty boring. But Kurzweil's main predictions are at times mind blowing, scary, difficult to buy into.

Kurzweil - who supposedly is a respected inventor and futurist who's made accurate predictions in the past - claims that through technological advances in Gene Th
Billie Pritchett
Feb 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Keith Swenson
Sep 09, 2011 rated it liked it
For anyone whose job depends upon an understanding of the trajectory of technology, Ray Kurzweil has carefully formulated a clear vision of the future, including some pretty fantastic possibilities. We all know the future will be strange. Look back at the 1950's and see how futurists of that time completely missed most of things we take for granted today, and how surely those people would have been shocked if someone had accurately projected the future. Nobody, of course, can predict the future ...more
Omran Antar
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 c ...more
Oct 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Summary: Not for the scientifically feint of heart! This book goes into such detail and precision of constructing a case for the exponentially accelerating advancing of technology.

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

More emphasis is placed on the exponential developments of "Strong" Artifici
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Raymond Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist who has published books on health, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, and the technological singularity.

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