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The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology | [Ray Kurzweil]

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

For over three decades, the great inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil has been one of the most respected and provocative advocates of the role of technology in our future. In his classic The Age of Spiritual Machines, he argued that computers would soon rival the full range of human intelligence at its best. Now he examines the next step in this inexorable evolutionary process: the union of human and machine.
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Publisher's Summary

For over three decades, the great inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil has been one of the most respected and provocative advocates of the role of technology in our future. In his classic The Age of Spiritual Machines, he argued that computers would soon rival the full range of human intelligence at its best. Now he examines the next step in this inexorable evolutionary process: the union of human and machine, in which the knowledge and skills embedded in our brains will be combined with the vastly greater capacity, speed, and knowledge-sharing ability of our creations.

That merging is the essence of the Singularity, an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today - the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity. In this new world, there will be no clear distinction between human and machine, real reality and virtual reality. While the social and philosophical ramifications of these changes will be profound, and the threats they pose considerable, The Singularity Is Near maintains a radically optimistic view of the future course of human development. As such, it offers a view of the coming age that is both a dramatic culmination of centuries of technological ingenuity and a genuinely inspiring vision of our ultimate destiny.

©2008 Ray Kurzweil (P)2011 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Startling in scope and bravado." (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Ray West Deptford, NJ, United States 03-26-15
    Ray West Deptford, NJ, United States 03-26-15 Member Since 2013

    Retired Political Science professor from a community college. Especially like Legal Thrillers.

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    "BRILLIANT"

    I have found the theories to be brilliant although I did not fully understand all of the support material. Well worth the effort for someone who wants to think "outside the box".

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-14-14
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-14-14 Member Since 2015

    Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.

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    "SVENGALI OR DA VINCI?"

    The Singularity is Near bodes the impertinence of Svengali or the prescience of Leonardo da Vinci. Ask a sixty-six year old if he/she would like to be thirty-five again. Ray Kurzweil predicts it will be possible by 2048. However, there is a Faustian bargain to be struck if Kurzweil’s prediction comes true.

    Ray Kurzweil’s prediction is based on three beliefs; i.e. one, continued geometric improvement in computer processing power; two, expanded use of nanotechnology with infinite improvement in artificial intelligence; and three, melding of human biology and A. I.’ technology.

    The Singularity is Near is well written and a fascinating vision with an optimistic view of the future. Faust declares at the end of Act V: “He who strives on and lives to strive/ Can earn redemption still”. That is the best one can say about Kurzweil’s predictions.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenn Richmond Hill, ON, Canada 12-31-13
    Glenn Richmond Hill, ON, Canada 12-31-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Mind blowing ideas and the narration was fine"

    Audio was very long (24hr) , he seemed overly optimistic about his predictions and there were parts where this dragged on.
    That said I gave this a 5 because of the many new ideas he exposed me to.
    Ideas that change the way I will look at life.
    I also liked the way he backed up his ideas.
    I was nervous of the narration due to the reviews, but found it was not an issue for me.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 02-14-12
    Robert Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 02-14-12 Member Since 2012

    I am a "Life is Awesome! Strive to be Worthy of it." student of life kind of guy. Feeding on Chaos and Empowering the Good. Group Hug!

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    "Just buy a subscription to Pop. Sci."
    If you could sum up The Singularity Is Near in three words, what would they be?

    I have been a subscriber of Popular Science for over 10 years, and listening to this book continued to remind me of articles I had read, the difference being Pop Sci has Pictures and a lot of reference material. I felt like a lot of the material was repeated over again. There was enough material and a few really well done examples and breakdowns of some complicated area's that I enjoyed and may even listen to it again just to find those parts. I don't feel bad about purchasing it, however I was expecting a little more information about singularity, to me it was more about the history of events leading up to the ideas of singularity and a few hypothesizes on the future with possible dates. There is just something missing.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    This book comes in three parts, the middle part had more of what I was looking for. The end of the book. It kept my interest.


    What about George K. Wilson’s performance did you like?

    For this type of book, I think George did great. He has the same way of speaking that you would find a lot of professors do in University. His voice doesn't put me to sleep and it was not annoying like a few other books I have purchased from Audible.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I enjoyed the formulas on how SETI depicts the possibility of ample life in the galaxy and universe.


    Any additional comments?

    I paid over 20 bucks for this book, I am not sure that it was worth that. Half that price would have made me feel a little better about the deal. :)

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Consumer Scottsdale, AZ 07-03-15
    Consumer Scottsdale, AZ 07-03-15

    J

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    "Good content, boring delivery"

    I really like the subject matter but it's too bad the delivery is so boring. It's hard to listen to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    betsy 06-17-15
    betsy 06-17-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Wowing every single minute"

    This book simply amazes you through all its insights and thoughts of the future.
    It makes you rethink your own way to approach life.

    Yes it is dense and saturated with concepts. But it is still worth listening no doubt.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah Jablonski 05-09-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Fascinating, but very slow and repetitive"

    Fine work, makes you think. Would be nicer if it was faster. Not sure I want rays future!! Oh well

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Justin Zimmer 12-15-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Great deal of information and well reasoned."

    I'm not going to start worshipping the singularity anytime soon but the information in this book is well worth the read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 10-18-14
    David 10-18-14
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    "Imagination, Daydreams, Denialism, Poor Judgement"
    Would you try another book from Ray Kurzweil and/or George K. Wilson?

    I will not be buying any more books by this Author. Ray Kurzweil's "Singularitarianism" is an obsession that seems to have driven him past the point of reason. Repeated use of the words "Inevitable" and "exponential", when he's describing the highly speculative and purely imaginary, leave the listener in a stupor of disbelief: that someone this intelligent could be so convinced of an idea and concept that is patently full of Daydreaming and Wishful Thinking, is simply mind-boggling.

    Kurzweil seriously believes our knowledge and technology obey a (fictitious) law of 'accelerating returns' and are approaching the point of Exponential increase. In this he is denying the obvious point that REAL things cannot and do not behave exponentially - whatever curve-fitting analyses one conducts (although if you torture your data long enough it will say anything to make you stop).

    ALL real things have speed and replication limits. Things with inertia (including thought, knowledge and ideas, all of which have a kind of inertia) CANNOT increase exponentially.

    I also did not enjoy George Wilson's narration because his dry-sounding voice and occasional pronunciation quirks make anything but a short piece a little difficult to listen to. One has the tendency to stop listening to the information in order to repeat and make fun with a weird pronunciation or two every now and then: such as the many many times you hear him say "assem-bully" instead of assembly - just one example. However because of him I now can do a pretty good impression of Walter Cronkite, a voice to which his is quite similar.


    Has The Singularity Is Near turned you off from other books in this genre?

    The Singularity Is Near has not turned me away from other books in the genre. Any good, intelligently written but OBJECTIVE book on the topics of technology and future prognostication will still be sought after by me. I will simply be more careful to avoid glassy-eyed, immature, wishful thinkers.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by George K. Wilson?

    George Wilson's narration: I did not enjoy this LONG narration by George Wilson, but something short would not be out of the question.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    On the up side, The Singularity Is Near does contain an abundance of news concerning technology and research, and is informative as such. It simply fails in the child-like enthusiasm of the Author for his own unrealistic opinions.


    Any additional comments?

    The single most offensive idea Kurzweil relates (aside from the total obliviousness to the immorality of some of the animal-based research he gushes about) is that Artificially Intelligent beings that will eventually arise, according to his thinking, will "of course" not be a threat to humanity because they will "revere us as their honored forebears".
    The phrase "vacuously obtuse denialism" comes to mind: Kurzweil has, and offers, no proof or logical argument for this statement. He does say we will simply program AIs to be this way, without a single hint of HOW this can be done, and within a few paragraphs he also says AIs will reprogram themselves at will in order to self-improve. (What, then, is to prevent them from over-riding or deleting "reverence for old biology" from their makeup?? The question is never brought to light).
    Even though I do not believe an indpendent, self aware AI will NECESSARILY be a threat, I do not see any reason to believe they will "revere us" either. To adopt childlike innocence based on hopeful/wishful thinking is simply offensive in a grownup, and stupefyingly, gob-smackingly hideous when one sees it in an intelligent man like Kurzweil.
    Poor man.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 07-15-14
    David 07-15-14 Member Since 2013
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    "The drone"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    No, I only got through a few hours of this. I love the idea of the Singularity and I have great respect for Kurzweil, but the assertions he is putting forth in this book just seem overstated.


    What didn’t you like about George K. Wilson’s performance?

    He sounds like a bored professor in a lecture hall. His voice nearly put me to sleep - and this about a topic I find very interesting.


    Was The Singularity Is Near worth the listening time?

    No, I didn't even finish it though.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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