The Singularity Is Near Paperback – Sep 26 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Renowned inventor Kurzweil (The Age of Spiritual Machines) may be technology's most credibly hyperbolic optimist. Elsewhere he has argued that eliminating fat intake can prevent cancer; here, his quarry is the future of consciousness and intelligence. Humankind, it runs, is at the threshold of an epoch ("the singularity," a reference to the theoretical limitlessness of exponential expansion) that will see the merging of our biology with the staggering achievements of "GNR" (genetics, nanotechnology and robotics) to create a species of unrecognizably high intelligence, durability, comprehension, memory and so on. The word "unrecognizable" is not chosen lightly: wherever this is heading, it won't look like us. Kurzweil's argument is necessarily twofold: it's not enough to argue that there are virtually no constraints on our capacity; he must also convince readers that such developments are desirable. In essence, he conflates the wholesale transformation of the species with "immortality," for which read a repeal of human limit. In less capable hands, this phantasmagoria of speculative extrapolation, which incorporates a bewildering variety of charts, quotations, playful Socratic dialogues and sidebars, would be easier to dismiss. But Kurzweil is a true scientist—a large-minded one at that—and gives due space both to "the panoply of existential risks" as he sees them and the many presumed lines of attack others might bring to bear. What's arresting isn't the degree to which Kurzweil's heady and bracing vision fails to convince—given the scope of his projections, that's inevitable—but the degree to which it seems downright plausible. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Continuing the themes of The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), Kurzweil further expounds his conviction that the human being will be succeeded by a superintelligent entity that is partly biological, partly computerized. Welcoming this prospect, and regarding it as inevitable, Kurzweil plunges into contemporary technological arenas, particularly genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics. Citing examples from medical devices to military weapons in which human control is increasingly detached from the autonomy of machines, Kurzweil stresses that trends are accelerating in terms of miniaturization and computational power. Eventually, smallness and speed reach a point of development, a "singularity," with implications Kurzweil says even he cannot imagine. Disinclined to categorize his views as dystopian or utopian, the author recognizes that his vision is profoundly threatening to concepts of human nature and individuality. A closing section on philosophy and ethics accordingly addresses objections to his optimistic predictions. An involved presentation, this is best for readers of the wide-angle, journalistic treatment Radical Evolution (2005), by Joel Garreau. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Great epic book ! but in some parts originally small text appear to be very small , unzoomable and almost unreadable.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Recieved it right in time, and the book was bery interestingPublished 15 months ago by guillaume riopel
While Kurzweil goes into a lot of detail to explain his estimates relating to transistor counts etc. Read morePublished on Oct. 10 2011 by SeaHen
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