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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

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Juho Finland 04-04-12
    Juho Finland 04-04-12 Member Since 2012

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Great content, a bit hard to listen"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Singularity Is Near to be better than the print version?

    I haven't read the print, so I can't say if the audiobook is better, but I can definitely see how some people might prefer reading this, as there is some math and statistics in the book.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Singularity Is Near?

    All the intriguing future predictions made me optimistic towards the future and the story about Kurzweil switching places with Ramona, the AI personality at a TED conference is a fun part.

    There are occasionally dialogues that I guess are supposed to give a more clear view of what all the different new technologies would mean to a typical individual. This is a neat idea and one I kind of liked, but read out loud with a slow monotone robot voice they can get a bit boring (you will hear the phrase


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Narration is clearly one of the weakest links in this audio book. Actually, the narrator is pretty terrible. At first I thought this was being read by some kind of text-to-voice software Kurzweil has developed. And was saying to myself,


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    World of Sci-fi stories is coming, sooner than you thought.


    Any additional comments?

    All the cool future predictions and clear reasoning why they are actually plausible make this a great book to listen. The way it's being read, and the way it's been written to, I guess a pretty advanced listener, make it a bit of a hard read. For me at last the content made it worth the work.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt 03-27-12
    Matt 03-27-12 Member Since 2010
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    "An icepick straight through the ear..."

    I really wanted to like this book. I find the subject matter fascinating, though Dr. Kurzweil's predictions do seem overly optimistic. The author also seems to take a bit of a meandering path from one concept to another with no solid logical path between them. However, the main reason I rated this book poorly is the narrator. His delivery is so painful I can't listen for more then 20 minutes without drifting off. I wonder if George K. Wilson has already experienced the singularity and all the parts of him that comprise human emotion, personality, and speech have been replaced by artificial components. Yes, it is really that bad. My advice would be buy the book in written format and read it. Unless you're a masochist in which case listening to this book while kneeling on broken glass should be right up your alley!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Frank Ottawa, ON, Canada 03-25-12
    Frank Ottawa, ON, Canada 03-25-12
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    "The first audiobook I didn't finish"
    What disappointed you about The Singularity Is Near?

    The prolog to the book and the broad idea it sketches out are very intriguing and thought provoking (so are the charts provided on tantor's site). My interest quickly faded though as I listened to the first 4 hours of the book. I found myself frustrated as Kurzweil would set out a big idea but then do an awful job at pursuing it in more detail. The analysis and argument are not very rigorous or convincing (with the exception of the charts) and the language is dull and repetitive. The dialogues with


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stacy Lee 03-05-12
    Stacy Lee 03-05-12

    Stacy Lee

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    "Real mind-opener"

    This book is amazing, yet intense. It has some parts that can be very "scientific" to the humble reader.

    It is ok to let your mind wander while the narrator goes into formulas and other math that you may find difficult. Don't let it ruin your pleasure since this book encompasses some mind opening concepts that you wouldn't find anywhere else.

    Ronnie Kay

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Miles 02-19-12
    Miles 02-19-12
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    "Become a Machine & Live Forever!"
    What did you love best about The Singularity Is Near?

    Imaginative and Intelligent, if a bit quirky.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    I have no idea


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, but that would be pretty rare for me.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a work written by an inventor of considerable genius who is obsessed with resurrecting his dead father, after which they would live happily ever after - literally. Mr. Kurzwiel believes in the amalgamation of human beings with super-intelligent (and of course immortal) computing machines, which he claims will occur by approximately mid-twentieth century. He posits a rather fascinating and unorthodox

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barnaby Dallas, TX, United States 12-30-11
    Barnaby Dallas, TX, United States 12-30-11 Member Since 2013
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    "Catalysts for a deity"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Singularity Is Near to be better than the print version?

    Yes


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The writer. He comes to ontological conclusions bordering on serious mysticism.


    What three words best describe George K. Wilson’s performance?

    Automaton, steady, even


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Exponential exponentiality


    Any additional comments?

    Wonderful book

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. M. Hernandez 11-27-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Amazing look at the (probable) future."

    This book is one amazing look at the thoughts and predictions of one of the most brilliant visionaries of the 21st century. This book is Kurzweil's tour de force, he has spared no expense (as you can see from the 24 hour length of the recording). The narration can be dry at times, but it is understandable given the technical nature of the material. That said, it is still a great listen, and very informative (even if it feels like he's repeating himself at times).

    To give a quick overview of what the book is about (without giving away too much), basically Kurzweil tracks trends in technology, going back hundreds of years (or more), and then predicts what he believes will happen in the near future. And he does not just pull things out of his pants, he does the math and makes very strong cases for all his conjecture. Some of the things discussed include robotics, nano-machines, bio-technology, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the merging of all these things with humans.

    It is a very entertaining read for anyone interested in knowing what the future may hold.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    RichKolivoski 06-12-15 Member Since 2009
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    "great book. Horrible listen."

    Kurzweil is fascinating. Narration is worse than 1970's filmstrip soundtracks. Get the book avoid the audio.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    roger BLUE ASH, OH, United States 04-27-15
    roger BLUE ASH, OH, United States 04-27-15 Member Since 2014

    Entrepreneur using Audible to fill the endless hours spent traversing this wonderful land until Google finishes their car!

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    "Wrong format for the topic"

    This is the second worst book I've ever finished cover to cover, with the saving grace being interesting nuggets of thought on a frequent enough basis to cause me to trudge through. I feel the format for the topic is the error, with the only truly appropriate format for this book to be over heavy drinking late into the night. Given that thought, to provide the ideas contained herein I would suggest a lecture format like the Great Courses. The concept of this book is highly conflicted, one step towards being a text book with tons of exponents to give it the patina of science, and five steps toward being a novel about Mr. Kurzweil's ego leaving the narration with the unfortunate task of projecting the Kurzweil personality while masquerading as scientifically authoritative. If the topic had been more narrowly defined, and stayed more in the author's domain of competency, it would of been a much more readable book. As was, while worth reading for a starting place of thought, I get the feeling that this is a religious book, and not scientific in any way, as any objection to the conjectures contained therein would be responded to as "You don't understand the singularity."

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    George Austin, TX, United States 02-17-15
    George Austin, TX, United States 02-17-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Forced myself to finish"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The narration is slow and has a very choppy flow. I had to put the narration speed at 1.5-2X to make it bearable. Kurzweil does have some great insight but then repeats many of the same points over and over. The book could be abridged by a third and the reader wouldn't miss out.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Throughout the book, Kurzweil has "conversations" between Molly 2004 and Molly 2048 to rehash ideas, I started skipping these sections around chapter 3 and it helped with the pacing of the book.


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

    Wilson has a very slow and choppy reading of the book. Most of the time you feel as if a mediocre William Shatner impersonator is doing the narration.


    Do you think The Singularity Is Near needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    I think the book could use a revision to bring many of the future examples in the book up to date. Also a change to scale of referenced bits to MB or GB would make the many of the storage numbers much easier for readers to digest.

    If a revision is made, there could be a companion piece where Kurzweil puts in the original future concept, forecast-ed date, and then actual date of invention.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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