Ray Kurzweil, the bold futurist and author of the New York Times best seller The Singularity Is Near, is arguably today’s most influential technological visionary. A pioneering inventor and theorist, he has explored for decades how artificial intelligence can enrich and expand human capabilities. Now, in his much-anticipated How to Create a Mind, he takes this exploration to the next step: reverse-engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works, then applying that knowledge to create vastly intelligent machines.
Drawing on the most recent neuroscience research, his own research and inventions in artificial intelligence, and compelling thought experiments, he describes his new theory of how the neocortex (the thinking part of the brain) works: as a self-organizing hierarchical system of pattern recognizers. Kurzweil shows how these insights will enable us to greatly extend the powers of our own mind and provides a road map for the creation of super-intelligence - humankind’s most exciting next venture. We are now at the dawn of an era of radical possibilities in which merging with our technology will enable us to effectively address the world’s grand challenges.
How to Create a Mind is certain to be one of the most widely discussed and debated science books in many years - a touchstone for any consideration of the path of human progress.
©2012 Ray Kurzweil (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
I am offering this mainly as a quick, dissenting opinion. Having finished the book a week ago, I find that surprisingly little lingers in my mind. Undoubtedly Kurzweil (such an ironic name, given his passion for immortality) has an explanation for this in units of Shannon entropy. I am actually sympathetic to Kurzweil's post-humanist ambitions and mechanical modeling. It's nice to have a stream of books by such an ambitious techno-provocateur. But unless you are planning to tinker together a mind in your garage workshop, the book can be a little tedious. There is a lot about "pattern recognition" in the neocortex, which is not exactly news. We hear about "neuron firing" speeds and networks, about exponential rates of change and phase shifts, which again did not generate any "Aha" moments in this listener's mind. While Kurzweil trots out a few philosophers for refutation, the many philosophical and common-sensical objections against a physical analysis of consciousness are largely swept under the rug. As a visionary technologist with many knowledgeable admirers, Kurzweil has perhaps earned the right to tout (once again) his many correct predictions, though I don't know if anyone is keeping track of the hindsight factor. Still, his confidence reminds me of those brief, brilliant historical moments (the Vienna logical positivists; particle physics just prior to quantum theory) when thinkers felt certain they had finally drained the bogs of metaphysics, only to find paradoxes bubbling back up and themselves sucked back down. If you are a Kurzweil fan, by all means, enjoy. If you are building a brain in the basement, you may prefer the printed text. If you want an audiobook with fresh insights into the philosophy of mind or an ingenious new model of consciousness, you may find this disappointingly dry, bogless, and shallow. But easy on the ears: the reading is very good.
Want to learn why Siri is so accurate at natural speech recognition? You will be amazed at just how far our understanding of the brain has gone. We really are approaching a time where computers will become intelligent and learn just like humans. Wow!
Yes. It is a very deep topic, but fascinating and I found I could not put it down.
The author is full of himself. A lot of '...in 19bladiebla I did this, predicted that, I've discovered this, I founded this or that company..
Something else of the author Nick Bostrom, after his great and very thrilling "Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies"
Not at all a problem with him.
Dissappointment and anger: cut to the core!
His ideas felt somewhat old, not quite right ...
Sure, there's a lot of fantastical thinking and timing here - but this is a great book and Ray Kurzweil is a great man... Just read it and have your very precious, one-off mind expanded. I loved the idea that one's sense of self/consciousness could somehow slowly be transferred bit by byte to a digital system, as improbable as it sounds, it's such an interesting idea among many herein.
Kurzweil's latest book is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in brain science, computer science, philosophy, and/or the future of the human race. As someone interested in all these, I was riveted and transfixed by the book, and sad when I reached its end. While I'd have loved to hear Ray Kurzweil narrate the audiobook himself, the reader did an excellent job (except for consistently mispronouncing John Von Neumann's last name...it's NOY-man, not NEW-man). Very highly recommended!
An enjoyable and exciting read. My only criticism is that if I received a nickel for every time the word "pattern" was said, I'd have enough money to pay for the book many times over. Other than that I would recommend the read.
One of the most important books of our time which I consider a must read for anyone who wants to stay up not only with technological developments but also the future of what it means to be a human.
Ray Kurzweil is an eternal optimist when it comes to the marriage of humanity and information technology. I hope his vision for AI comes true.
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