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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
The role of the "futurist" is difficult and often thankless. The more daring of the tribe, among whom Kurzweil is prominent, will apply deadlines to forecasts. That's always risky, and failure to meet them appears to undermine the concept. Kurzweil, however, is able to brush aside such trivial complaints to focus on the bigger issues. How fast is technology improving and how will these advances affect humanity. For him, the answer is clear - humanity and technology will merge. The result will be Version 2.0 of humanity with enhanced intellect and bodies that will not "wear out". Kurzweil's "Singularity" is that point at which the merger will be complete. And final - a word to keep in mind.

The basis of his thesis is the advance of technology, typified by GNR [Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics]. While these sound intimidating, one need not be highly conversant with the technologies to understand his argument. He explains them all clearly. Basing his project 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. The heart, an inefficient and vulnerable pump, can be replaced by a easily repairable mechanical version. The grumbling intestinal tract can dispense with all those E. coli bacteria and an energy transfer mechanism, requiring greatly reduced resources can take its place.

To transform the speed and capacity of a silicon-based device to a carbon-based biological entity seems anomalous to some and blasphemous to others. Kurzweil dismisses the second objection and carefully explains how the first is short-sighted. While computers run on a digital system, the brain runs on a combination of digital storage and analog processing. In many respects, replacement limbs and organs, "smart" weaponry, and much medical diagnosis already is automated and transmitted around the planet for analysis. Kurzweil takes us a major step beyond this - he even addresses the notion of human intelligence encompassing the cosmos. This is the "Anthropic Principle" writ very large, and on a practical basis.

Kurzweil uses a tried and true method to address the concerns he anticipates. Creating or adopting various characters such as "Molly 2004", Ned Ludd, "George 2048" - even Charles Darwin and Bill Gates, he's able to pose and answer questions of common concern. He even stages an argument between bacteria at life's origins about how evolution will lead them to become something more "advanced". It's a mild fantasy, but a serious object lesson in this context. He would be a tough debater on this topic. One thing is clear: the objections on "moral" grounds are thoroughly addressed through this means. The technological issues are a given in his estimate. From the evidence he presents, he's close to the mark.

There will be critics contending Kurzweil ignores this or that issue. He does address the issue of "terrorism" and notes preventive measures must be applied up front. The biggest omission, however, is the social one. He argues that the declining cost of technology will allow it to be applied universally. Still, there remain questions about distribution and willingness. It's abundantly clear that the first applications of the Singularity will occur in the developed countries by people who can afford it. Declining costs require a time frame, and what can occur between inception of the programme and universal application escape Kurzweil's notice. While he proposes "brain imaging" from carbon humanity to silicon humanity, he ignores the breadth of possible personalities that will undergo the process. Will a radical fundamentalist of any stripe retain a similar worldview after becoming "immortal"? In a similar vein, how many cultures will wish to participate in the enhancement? Will the Singularity initiate a new form of imperialism, the "immortals" dominating the MOSH [Mostly Original Substrate Humans]? And will the MOSH form along cultural or "ethnic" lines? Kurzweil's unspoken assumption is that everybody else does indeed wish to be like us - even more so.

If Kurzweil ignores these questions, preferring to let others resolve them while he concentrates on the technical issues, we can still find this a valuable study. It's not something that can be lightly dismissed. There's far too much valid information and prediction in here for short-sighted criticism. Kurzweil has done a great service in collecting and summarising the state of today's technology. If his projections frighten you, that doesn't refute his foundation for them. There is nothing fabricated here, and if nothing else, you can use his information to develop your own future scenarios. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2013
Kurzweil gives his projections for the next 40 years based upon micro-engineering trends that he has observed for the previous 40 years, and I do not doubt his sincerity in their intended accuracy. However, I feel he is unfortunately seeking a panacea for death, or at least, a cure for the wealthy and intellectual elite, which he counts himself among.

His appraisal of the history of computer engineering is sound, and his projections for the near future are accurate (as we have seen a few of them come to pass), but his ultimate projection is not scientifically founded, it is distinctly religious. His judgement is clouded by fear of death.

This is worth a read for those wondering about what the leaders of the transhumanist movement believe and rely on as gospel. Transhumanism, for those who are unfamiliar with the concept, is the belief that humans will evolve beyond our mortal forms into mechanical or software based immortality.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2010
Fantastic book, very well researched. It will either excite you tremendously or scare you to death.

A comprehensive vision of what's coming in the next 50 years. You may think the timing is optimistic, but even if it takes 100 years to get there, humanity is on the verge of a transformation as important as our becoming homo sapiens in the first place.

I hope I'm still around to witness and be a part of it.
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on April 1, 2015
This is a good book for anyone interested in what technologies will emerge during this century. Interestingly, while this book was written in 2004, most of the discussions are still relevant today and it is impressive to see that he was already talking about these technologies at that time. Some of the ideas presented were even new to me, although I follow closely the development of science and technology.

He brushes nicely many of the core concepts related to transhumanism and similar philosophies regarding our future while not going too far in his speculations. By not going too far I mean that most of his propositions are somewhat backed by current technologies and knowledge and are not just spitted out crudely. There are some parts that are a bit redundant and I would've liked more philosophical discussions and arguments, but it is non the less an informative book.

I would recommend it also to the more technophile and futurist readers out there; there is still information that might surprise you in some way.
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on October 1, 2009
Very impressive and disturbing book. Ray Kurzweil makes some pretty outrageous statements, but he has a lot to back them up. My one complaint would be that it felt like the book could have been edited a bit better, occasionally I found it a little repetitive. Please don't let that stop you from reading this book though.
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on May 21, 2014
This is hardly a book that can be read as a "novel". It will probably take me months to actually get thought it all. There's an infinity of ideas and even more to think about. I am very happy that someone put "pen to paper" (so to speak) and gave me all this food for thought.
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on October 15, 2014
Love it. Bought it after I watched Ray Kurzweil's movie and I really enjoyed the book. Did not read it all, but I think it's made to be read in sections.
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on November 21, 2013
Ray Kurzweil book, the Singularity Is Near is a book that you should read if your interested in the future of technology, and where it is headed!
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on April 11, 2015
Recieved it right in time, and the book was bery interesting
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2011
While Kurzweil goes into a lot of detail to explain his estimates relating to transistor counts etc. and back them up with examples of experimental technologies, his adjustment for socio-economic variables, which could lead to resources being taken away from research, basically amounts to a fudge factor. He should probably have had an economist co-write chapter 3.

My only other complaint with this book is that it hasn't been revised since 2005, nor have I been able to find any updates for it online. If technology is really accelerating at the rate this book claims, then it's already out of date and needs to start going into annual editions.
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