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The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  4,039 ratings  ·  264 reviews
Ray Kurzweil is the inventor of the most innovative and compelling technology of our era, an international authority on artificial intelligence, and one of our greatest living visionaries. Now he offers a framework for envisioning the twenty-first century--an age in which the marriage of human sensitivity and artificial intelligence fundamentally alters and improves the wa ...more
Trade Paperback, 388 pages
Published January 1st 2000 by Penguin (first published December 28th 1998)
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J.L.   Sutton
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zenyatta reading “Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil” #robot ...

I appreciated the conceptual framework for looking at the future provided by Ray Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. Having dabbled in some other readings by futurists, I'd heard many of the predictions before. However, the way Kurzweil explained why specific innovations/advancements would occur was still engaging (especially when one recalls that this book came out nearly 20 years ago)!

Where Kurzweil falls short is predicting the when of these ad
Kingdom Come

Those with some theological training might recall Alfred Loisy’s quip about early Christianity: “They expected the coming of the Kingdom; what arrived was the Church.” So with Kurzweil: He expected the emergence of the Spirit; what arrived was FaceBook and Google.* There is a great deal that is theological in the attitudes of those who write about modern technology. Kurzweil puts forth a belief in a sort of pantheistic God of the Universe. If not the Pope, he is certainly a Patria
Ahmad Sharabiani
‭‎The age of spiritual machines: when computers exceed human intelligence, Ray Kurzweil
Raymond "Ray" Kurzweil is an American author, computer scientist, inventor and futurist. Aside from futurism, he is involved in fields such as optical character recognition, text-to-speech synthesis, ...
The Age of Spiritual Machines is a non-fiction book by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil about artificial intelligence and the future course of humanity. First published in hardcover on January 1, 1999. In the
Jan 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
As an AI person, I have mixed feelings about this book. Half of me says that it's nonsense: the author comes across as ludicrously optimistic, indeed quite out of touch with reality, and saturated with hubris to the point where it's starting to crystallize out in his hair. Who could ever take this crap seriously?

The other half points out that, even though AI has a terrible history of overhyping itself, the errors are often not as bad as they first appear. People in the 50s did indeed make themse
Todd Martin
Apr 10, 2011 rated it did not like it
In The Age of Spiritual Machines author, and futurist, Ray Kurzweil prognosticates the rise of intelligent machines (among other things). The book was written in 1999, and he has predictions for 2009 so there’s been enough time for some of his predictions to be tested. Unfortunately he fares very, very poorly. See for yourself:

The ones he gets right were those things that were either already available in 1999 or are incremental extensions of things that w
Oct 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Technology/futurist enthusiasts
The Age of Spiritual Machines, is an attention-grabbing and misleading title given to a decent futuristic book. I have long wanted to read a book by Ray Kurzweil. He is one of the most prolific futurist writers. The news of him becoming the Director of Engineering at Google, re-sparked my interest in him.

I enjoyed the book, and found it quite accessible. Almost too accessible! Considering the complex nature of the subject-matter, technicalities are kept to a minimum. This is a good thing or a b
Lynne Williamson
Mar 07, 2010 rated it liked it
I talked to a good friend of mine today at brunch who has a PhD in cellular and molecular biology about some of the science and the futurisms in Kurzweil's book. My friend said immediately, "he sounds like a physicist, and those crazy physicists will invent things like the particles that don't know which way they are going until they are 'observed' because they don't know what is really happening." I said, "it's like a physicist's version of the "god of the gaps." And he agreed. Of course, being ...more
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Arthur C. Clarke's 3rd law holds that "any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic." While we know this technology is currently being developed, on schedule, it's simply difficult to imagine the implications for humanity without it seeming somehow contrived. "Deus ex machina;" so it comes to this.

Again, while I am convinced the premises are valid and the argument is sound, and therefore accept his projections as nearly true, it does not make them easier to believe. An
Otto Lehto
Jul 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Kurzweil wrote this book in 1999. I regret to inform you that it has not aged terribly well to a reader like me in 2020. The book's predictions for the years 2009 and 2019 contain a lot of wishful thinking. Most of the good stuff that he predicted for 2019 is probably still decades or even centuries away. My disappointment is personal. I really wish that the year 2019 would have been how K. imagines it - with massively increased life spans, the practical abolition of keyboards, silicon chips in ...more
May 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Ray Kurzweil has been accused by some as being incredibly optimistic in his vision for the future of humanity and the computer's that we've created. His predictions, however, have an uncanny way of coming to pass, at least in large part. Spiritual Machines was written in 1999 and speaks of the advances that computers will make in the twenty-first century.

Now, a decade later, it is possible to look at the first of Kurzweil's predictions, helpfully listed out in a chapter labeled "2009" and evalua
This was too easy. I need something with more detail; more in depth.
The author is too optimistic. Plus the writing style wasn't as good as I'd expected.
Scott Lerch
Feb 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: singularity
After reading this book I was completely giddy about the future. Everything suddenly seemed possible, nothing impossible, all without invoking anything supernatural. This is what I was looking for to replace my lost religion. Ray Kurzweil pointed out the now obvious end result of the rapid exponential advances in computer technology. Others discovered the trends long before but Ray Kurzweil put it all together in one incredibly fun book to read. Kurzweil’s thesis rests on the exponential growth ...more
Dec 03, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Kurzweil looks at history and demostrates to us that the rate of technological progress has always been growing exponentially. And that part of the book, part one, is a lot of fun to read. Borrow the book, read this section and enjoy.

But where Kurzweil wants to go with this is into the future. And here you have to keep in mind that the book was written in 1998 so we're part of the future he's looking into. And, like many before him, not only does he not get a home run with every hit, he doesn't
Love of Hopeless Causes
May 31, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: audiobook, nonfiction
Disappointing, I kept thinking, tell me something I don't know. Which is the wrong recurring thought for an author who has a reputation of having one foot in the future. Audiobook DNF. ...more
Soukyan Blackwood
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
all reviews in one place:
night mode reading
skaitom nakties rezimu

The book is all wonderful and great, with author making solid theories about his future predictions, evolution of technology. But that's the thing. Much like the quote he used: will the Universe end with a crack or a squeak? So did the book end with be it a crack or a squeak. We start with solid stuff, and we end up in 2099, a fantastical setting of Detroit: Become Human, on the verge of considering android civil rights,
Philip Bunn
The author seems to think his predictions are of a much improved world, but somehow he ends up writing a dystopian fiction. As bad as real 2020 has been, I'm glad I don't live in Kurzweil's imagined 2020. ...more
Keven Wang
Nov 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most comprehensive overview on AI. Also great predictions for the future
Chris Bookley
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Richard Seltzer
May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The title of this book is misleading -- this has nothing to do with touchy-feely pseudoscience or religion. Rather it is a convincing preview of the 21st century, based on predictable advances in technology. It's also a useful guide for writers and readers of science fiction. (It makes me better appreciate the vision of Neal Stephenson, especially Diamond Age, where nanomachines pervade the world.)

Most compelling is his description of likely advances over the next 20 years -- where working proto
Yaser Sulaiman
At times thought-provoking and intriguing, but ultimately unconvincing.

The words of Douglas Hofstadter pretty much summarize what I think of this book: "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."

Why am I not convinced? Well, the exponential growth of computing power over the last 100 years is hardly deniab
Robert Boyd
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I'd heard about this book for years and was familiar enough with the theory of singularity, but I just kept wishing I had read this sooner. It made me realize that I should make a point of reading more books written by geniuses.

This book is prophetic. By now, many of Kurzweil's predictions have been realized (the fact that his predictions on wearable personal computers, electronic books, and text-to-speech technology were read to me by my Kindle device, which I had stowed in my coat pocket
Adam Bignell
Aug 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Age of Spiritual Machines, while seeming perhaps too optimistic when read with 2016 eyes, is nonetheless an exciting adventure to the limits of imagination. It lays out in (keeping in mind the pop-science genre) relatively technical detail the means with which our technology will develop, and the impacts these developments will have on our environment, businesses, art, and relationships. It is akin to stepping inside a museum of the future; the technocracies of Hollywood pale in comparison t ...more
Oct 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, tech
I put this on my to-read list and it magically appeared on my desk at work a few days later! It’s good to have friends who read…thank you JG!

It wasn’t an easy book for me to read but by then I had made my goal of 50 so I dove in. I enjoyed his theories on how evolution is speeding up while the changes in the universe seem to be slowing down. It was a little hard to wrap my brain around it, but I appreciated it. He lost me in the philosophical sections but that’s on me – I’ve never been into phil
Nate Huston
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great book. Definitely one that I will return to, most likely a few times. One reason for that will be that Kurzweil has a habit of quickly accelerating into the realm of mind-bending, especially in his theoretical discussions. While those were mentally taxing to fully wrap my brain around, even the most complex ones were short and succinct.

The most striking takeaway is Kurzweil's conception of technology as a continuation of "evolution by other means." Besides oblique reference to Uncle Carl,
Paul Mamani
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
According to the law of accelerating returns, explains futurist Kurzweil (The Age of Intelligent Machines), technological gains are made at an exponential rate. In his utopian vision of the 21st century, our lives will change not merely incrementally but fundamentally.

The author is the inventor of reading and speech-recognition machines, among other technologies, but he isn't much of a writer. Using clunky prose and an awkward dialogue with a woman from the future, he sets up the history of evo
Monwar Hussain
Jul 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I would love to give this book six stars.

Even three quarters through the book, I could not believe Kurzweil had written this in Nineteen freaking Ninety-Eight!! The book is almost so good, I cannot read it for long. I myself am a huge technology enthusiast, and I suffer from the common problem in just gushing about Technology. Now, on a meta-level, Kurzweil does that too, I guess. :) But his writing is so measured, so specific, yet not lifeless and so powerful.

This coming after Antifragile where
Scott Lee
I first encountered Kurzweil as either an interview or article subject (don't remember which) in WIRED magazine several years ago. I found his ideas fascinating (although I don't personally believe we're headed into his vision of the future) and in fact ended up spinning several short stories out of my own response to the ideas in the interview as transmogrified (gotta love Calvin & Hobbes!) by my brain in the intervening years.

Unfortunately, when allowed to go on at length (as he does here), h
Nov 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
When I read this book in 2000, it blew my mind. It actually changed the way I looked at everything. It made me feel like I knew a secret, something important, that other people didn't know. While I still believe in Kurzweil's genius, and his futurist prophecies, this book is obsolete.

For a current, in-depth look at Kurzweil's brilliant mind, find the 2009 documentary "Transcendent Man", and see Kurzweil talk about the fast approaching realization of his "singularity" theory.


Nov 15, 2012 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Drug enthusiasts. Delusional people. Kurzweil fan club. Absolutely no one.
Shelves: technology
Really disliked this one. Surprised by the amount of text the author dedicates to cybersex. Buzz words and jargon used like a fog to mask a lack of actual explication. Kurzweil kept popping up in annoying ways -- name-dropping his inventions, talking about the deadline for the book, having an extended conversation with an imagined reader named Molly. Not a lot of substance here.

Kurzweil does coherently present his Law of Accelerating Returns, but he doesn't address the problem of energy in a fin
Lorin Cary
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book. A futurist, Ray Kurzweil not only writes about technology, specifically, technology related to computing, he is a creator of technologies which have made computers 'smarter.' About half of the book is devoted to scenarios: the shape of technology in the society of 1999, 2009, 2019, 2029, and 2099. These are fascinating and provide a treasure trove for science fiction writers.A time line traces a variety of technological developments, scientific theories and thought modes ...more
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Raymond Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist who has published books on health, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, and the technological singularity.

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