©Ray Kurzweil, 1998; ©1998 Penguin Audiobooks
"A sage, compelling vision of the future from one of our nation's leading innovators." (Mike Brown, Chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market, Former CFO of Microsoft)
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
In this short, readable book, Kurzweil pitches the idea of the Singularity to mainstream readers. As a software developer with a strong interest in artificial intelligence, evolution, and neuroscience, I think that his claims and their stunning implications are right. At least, in a broad sense. We are not far from a world in which machines will begin to exhibit intelligence approaching -- and, in some areas, surpassing -- the minds of human beings. Though, at first, such systems will require much direct guidance and management from us, they will become ever more autonomous. They will thrive as members of vast, interconnected, evolving software ecosystem, supported by an immense, powerful, and exponentially growing base of computing hardware.
With the rise artificial intelligence, new physical technology will become possible, enabling machines to begin to become part of us. In a few decades (maybe a century), our brains and bodies will probably have the ability to interface directly with computer systems and nanobots that augment them; in a few decades more, our physical human bodies might no longer be necessary, and we will be able to exist solely as software entities, life forms in a reality that can’t be imagined right now.
It’s mind-blowing, paradigm-imploding stuff, but I’ve thought about the same ideas at great length, and I think that Kurzweil’s reasoning is quite clear and sound. Given what we know about the workings of “intelligence” as represented by the human brain, there’s no obvious reason that science won’t be able to map out its essential processes or computer hardware and software to realize something equivalent to them.
If you need proof of the man’s credibility, note that this book was written in 1999, then check out chapter 3, where he makes predictions of how technology will look in 2009 and years beyond. Granted, many of his forecasts are a little too optimistic -- for example, a suit that provides an enjoyable simulation of sex isn’t going to happen by 2020 -- but his mind was definitely headed in the right direction. The coolest bits of "2009" future-gazing describe technologies that, if not here already (iPhone, anyone?), are getting close. Both in terms of physical realization and rapid public embrace.
However, I would criticize Kurzweil for being so breathless in his excitement, he doesn’t give much attention to the dark side of what he foresees. Certain areas of technology may follow an exponential growth track, but human understanding and social systems are another story. What will happen to the people who are left out of the leap forward, or don’t understand it, or are afraid of it? The ones who have no saleable skills in a world of robots? (Note that one of the few predictions for 2009 that Kurzweil gets drastically wrong is his rosy forecast for the global economy.)
Still, this is a very important book for the mainstream and I can tell you that technology and the concepts around it are developing just as Kurzweil said. The decades to come will be some of the most interesting in human history, and quite possibly the next step beyond human history.
This is one book worth multiple listens due to the theories laid out by Ray Kurzweil. There are many barriers to achieving the path he foresees for the human race and the path may meander. However, I can see the potential and each of the steps provide a set of ethics to chew over.
Fascinating book to listen to, despite the fact that it was written 10 years. It was very interesting hearing Kurzweil's predictions for 2009 and comparing them to what has actually happened. Some of his predictions are spot on, while others are way off base. The book is a thought-provoking speculation on how the development of technology and artificial intelligence might shape our future.
I was definitely surprised when it ended abruptly.
The descriptions of neutral networks and evolutionarily algorithms were clear and educational.
The future holds many wonderful and scary reveals and nothing is more frightening to me than AI gone wild!
AI can and will be a great ever life changing part of our lives contributing many beneficial shortcuts to a better life.
But....we know there is a dark side....
A very good look to the future of the human mind and the ever more capable machine!
I liked it but I liked "How to Create a Mind" more
I liked it but I liked "How to Create a Mind" more.
Ray Kurzweil makes predictions that are interesting to listen to and compare to the present reality, so this could be entertaining to listen to in 20 years again.
For those in the field of artificial intelligence, this book does not really bring in much exciting until the last half hour. For those not in the field, I am not sure how intelligible this book is. Attempts to write in both a technical and a poetic way, and though it succeeds sometimes, he fails just as often. When this book came out, it would have been fantastic. If you want to learn about how people in the past think the future would be, just read "Neuromancer".
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Both versions are amazing! Kurzweil hits the nail on the head.
He was awesome to listen to! I had to adapt, but once I listened to the audiobook, I was looking for similar titles with the same narrator.
I read it in 2015. I knew going into the material that Ray Kurzweil was making outlandish predictions with the utmost accuracy. While reading (about halfway through), I was really intrigued. His other titles are also very good. If you haven't had the opportunity, check out the title, "How to Create a Mind" By Ray Kurzweil.
Written parts of it for audiences that already had some familiarity with futurology or transhumanism. There was nothing in this book that I hadn't encountered before, nor anything that couldn't have been explored in a more nuanced or thoughtful way. His endless predictions for what the future holds, did nothing to leave me amazed or inspired. Nothing truly innovative. Vulnerable to the same problem of Henry Ford's 'Faster Horses'.
Great starter book for the uninitiated friend with a hopeful outlook on the future.
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