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The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence

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Ray Kurzweil is the inventor of the most innovative and compelling technology of our era, an international authority on artificial intelligence, and one of our greatest living visionaries. Now he offers a framework for envisioning the twenty-first century--an age in which the marriage of human sensitivity and artificial intelligence fundamentally alters and improves the way we liv Ray Kurzweil is the inventor of the most innovative and compelling technology of our era, an international authority on artificial intelligence, and one of our greatest living visionaries. Now he offers a framework for envisioning the twenty-first century--an age in which the marriage of human sensitivity and artificial intelligence fundamentally alters and improves the way we live. Kurzweil's prophetic blueprint for the future takes us through the advances that inexorably result in computers exceeding the memory capacity and computational ability of the human brain by the year 2020 (with human-level capabilities not far behind); in relationships with automated personalities who will be our teachers, companions, and lovers; and in information fed straight into our brains along direct neural pathways. Optimistic and challenging, thought-provoking and engaging, The Age of Spiritual Machines is the ultimate guide on our road into the next century.


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Ray Kurzweil is the inventor of the most innovative and compelling technology of our era, an international authority on artificial intelligence, and one of our greatest living visionaries. Now he offers a framework for envisioning the twenty-first century--an age in which the marriage of human sensitivity and artificial intelligence fundamentally alters and improves the way we liv Ray Kurzweil is the inventor of the most innovative and compelling technology of our era, an international authority on artificial intelligence, and one of our greatest living visionaries. Now he offers a framework for envisioning the twenty-first century--an age in which the marriage of human sensitivity and artificial intelligence fundamentally alters and improves the way we live. Kurzweil's prophetic blueprint for the future takes us through the advances that inexorably result in computers exceeding the memory capacity and computational ability of the human brain by the year 2020 (with human-level capabilities not far behind); in relationships with automated personalities who will be our teachers, companions, and lovers; and in information fed straight into our brains along direct neural pathways. Optimistic and challenging, thought-provoking and engaging, The Age of Spiritual Machines is the ultimate guide on our road into the next century.

30 review for The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence

  1. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    As an AI person, I have mixed feelings about this book. Half of me says that it's nonsense: the author come across as ludicrously optimistic, indeed quite out of touch with reality, and saturated with hubris to the point where it's starting to crystallize out in his hair. Who could ever take this crap seriously? The other half points out that, even though AI has a terrible history of overhyping itself, the errors are often not as bad as they first appear. People in the 50s did indeed As an AI person, I have mixed feelings about this book. Half of me says that it's nonsense: the author come across as ludicrously optimistic, indeed quite out of touch with reality, and saturated with hubris to the point where it's starting to crystallize out in his hair. Who could ever take this crap seriously? The other half points out that, even though AI has a terrible history of overhyping itself, the errors are often not as bad as they first appear. People in the 50s did indeed make themselves look stupid when they said that a computer would be the world's best chess player within 10 years. But if you compare them with Dreyfus, who wasted a lot of time arguing that computers would never, even in principle, be able to play Grandmaster-level chess, I know who I think came out looking dumbest. The AI people were off by a factor of at most 10, really nothing very serious. So when Kurzweil says that the Singularity's going to be here by September 2014, or whatever his latest projection is, sure, he's dreaming. But I don't see why it's so obvious that it won't happen by, say, 2150. If you plot rate of technological progress over the last 50,000 years, is "exponential" really a crazy word to use? I think his hyper-optimistic projections are largely driven by his hope that the Singularity will get here in time to make him personally immortal. He's quite upfront about this. And although the thought of an immortal Kurzweil is indeed pretty scary, I'm not sure it's enough to justify dismissing all his ideas out of hand.

  2. 5 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    I appreciated the conceptual framework for looking at the future provided by Ray Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. Having dabbled in some other readings by futurists, I'd heard many of the predictions before. However, the way Kurzweil explained why specific innovations/advancements would occur was still engaging (especially when one recalls that this book came out nearly 20 years ago)! Where Kurzweil falls short is predicting the when of these ad I appreciated the conceptual framework for looking at the future provided by Ray Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. Having dabbled in some other readings by futurists, I'd heard many of the predictions before. However, the way Kurzweil explained why specific innovations/advancements would occur was still engaging (especially when one recalls that this book came out nearly 20 years ago)! Where Kurzweil falls short is predicting the when of these advancements. Being way way too optimistic often makes him come across as hyping the future rather than predicting it. Still, Kurzweil provides a glimpse of the future that is prophetic and thought provoking. 3.5 stars.

  3. 5 out of 5

    TB

    The Age of Spiritual Machines, is an attention-grabbing and misleading title given to a decent futuristic book. I have long wanted to read a book by Ray Kurzweil. He is one of the most prolific futurist writers. The news of him becoming the Director of Engineering at Google, re-sparked my interest in him. I enjoyed the book, and found it quite accessible. Almost too accessible! Considering the complex nature of the subject-matter, technicalities are kept to a minimum. This is a good thing or a bad thing d The Age of Spiritual Machines, is an attention-grabbing and misleading title given to a decent futuristic book. I have long wanted to read a book by Ray Kurzweil. He is one of the most prolific futurist writers. The news of him becoming the Director of Engineering at Google, re-sparked my interest in him. I enjoyed the book, and found it quite accessible. Almost too accessible! Considering the complex nature of the subject-matter, technicalities are kept to a minimum. This is a good thing or a bad thing depending on how well-versed you are on the subject. A wide range of topics are covered in this book, including the human brain, neural nets, future of AI, simulated realities, nanobots, transhumanism, technological singularity and self-replicating machines. I'm probably not going to read other titles by Kurzweil anytime soon, not because I have not enjoyed this one, but since the same material is likely to have been covered in them. As always, I'll leave you with some of my favorite passages from the book. 1. Can intelligence create another intelligence more intelligent than itself? [Everything pretty much boils down to this question.] 2. The system designers don’t directly program a solution; rather, they let one emerge through an iterative process of simulated competition and improvement. [Evolutionary algorithms rock!] 3. Inevitably, there must be planets out there that are covered with a vast sea of self-replicating nanobots. [Even if there's a small error in the coding for self-replication of few nanobots, it can, in principle, go on ad infinitum. Scary stuff!] 4. The feedback is used by the neural net to adjust the strengths of each interneuronal connection. Connections that were consistent with the right answer are made stronger. Over time the neural net organizes itself to provide the correct answers without coaching. 5. Well before the twenty-first century is completed, people will port their entire mind file to the new thinking technology. There will be nostalgia for our humble carbon-based roots, but there is nostalgia for vinyl records also. 6. Life on Earth has mastered the ultimate goal of nanotechnology, which is self- replication. 7. $1000 of computing in 2060 will have the computational capacity of a trillion human brains. 8. The human brainʹs density of computation is about 2 cpspcmm (calculations per second per cubic micrometer). That is not very high‐ nanotube circuitry, which has already been demonstrated, is potentially more than a trillion times higher.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Todd Martin

    In The Age of Spiritual Machines author, and futurist, Ray Kurzweil prognosticates the rise of intelligent machines (among other things). The book was written in 1999, and he has predictions for 2009 so there’s been enough time for some of his predictions to be tested. Unfortunately he fares very, very poorly. See for yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Age_... The ones he gets right were those things that were either already available in 1999 or are incremental extensions of things that were. But this is something anyone can d In The Age of Spiritual Machines author, and futurist, Ray Kurzweil prognosticates the rise of intelligent machines (among other things). The book was written in 1999, and he has predictions for 2009 so there’s been enough time for some of his predictions to be tested. Unfortunately he fares very, very poorly. See for yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Age_... The ones he gets right were those things that were either already available in 1999 or are incremental extensions of things that were. But this is something anyone can do. For example, I predict that vehicles will get better gas mileage in 2021 than today (in 2011) and that there will be an increased reliance on biofuels and renewable energy. I’m a genius right? His predictions for 20 and 30 years will prove to be more wildly off the mark. For example, Kurzweil predicts that in 8 years (2019) we will have virtually eliminated all paper documents and books. In reality, paper consumption is increasing. I’ll grant you that the line between being a futurist and being a crackpot is a fine one indeed, but Kurzweil is an unabashed crank. I say this because a responsible futurist would couch his vision of the future in caveats and disclaimers as well as make sure the reader understood where the authors knowledge ended and where speculation begins. A crank, on the other hand, stands on the street corner predicting that the end of the world will occur at a specific date and time with a confident assurance that refutes all doubt. Kurzweil takes the latter approach and is wrong again and again. The reality is that no one can predict the future, and history is littered with the detritus of ill conceived prophesies. But why does Kurzweil get it so wrong? PZ Meyers has a succinct answer to this question with regards to computer intelligence: "Ray Kurzweil does not understand the brain". Kurzweil believes existing computer software and circuitry can replicate brain function. Perhaps someday, but at the moment we are no closer to developing machine intelligence than we were when the ENIAC was the state of the art. We still have much to learn about the brain and until we understand it (assuming we can understand it), there is little chance of constructing a machine able to replicate it’s function. This is the same mistake of hubris that humans made when they thought Biosphere could replicate a complete ecosystem. We simply do not have knowledge of sufficient breadth or depth to comprehend the intricate and complex inter-relationships that make up an integrated ecosystem. So … unfortunately, while computers have become faster, they are still very, very dumb. As a result, I’m left to having to read and write my own review of this book (using a keyboard no less – another failed Kurzweil prediction) while my dumb computer whirrs away inanely beneath my desk. --------------------------------------------- Hey kids - it's me again. I originally wrote this review in 2011. It's now 2019 the next milestone year for which Kurzweil made specific predictions. I thought it would be fun to see how he did. As a reminder, a list of his 2019 predictions may be found here. Let's get started! Predictions by Ray Kurzweil in his book The Age of Spiritual Machines: 2019 1. The computational capacity of a $4,000 computing device (in 1999 dollars) is approximately equal to the computational capability of the human brain (20 quadrillion calculations per second). Kurzweil thinks that the brain is like a computer, or conversely that a sufficiently complex computer can perform all the functions of a brain. Yes, there are similarities … my brain can do math, a properly programmed computer can as well. Yet they are also very different things and there’s no reason to expect our computers to become conscious. 2. The summed computational powers of all computers is comparable to the total brainpower of the human race. Whatever. That’s as useful as comparing apples to kangaroos. 3. Computers are embedded everywhere in the environment (inside of furniture, jewelry, walls, clothing, etc.). Nope. I’m also not quite sure why my couch would need a computer. To detect whether my butt is cold or fat shame me if I’ve gained weight? Fuck you couch … my wallet is in my pocket and I just got paid! 4. People experience 3-D virtual reality through glasses and contact lenses that beam images directly to their retinas (retinal display). Coupled with an auditory source (headphones), users can remotely communicate with other people and access the Internet. VR goggles exist, but they don’t use retinal display. Obviously if they are displaying an image you could use them to display a computer screen and people communicate using computers, so I’m not sure why that second claim is a big deal. 5. These special glasses and contact lenses can deliver "augmented reality" and "virtual reality" in three different ways. First, they can project "heads-up-displays" (HUDs) across the user's field of vision, superimposing images that stay in place in the environment regardless of the user's perspective or orientation. Second, virtual objects or people could be rendered in fixed locations by the glasses, so when the user's eyes look elsewhere, the objects appear to stay in their places. Third, the devices could block out the "real" world entirely and fully immerse the user in a virtual reality environment. He’s really big on glasses. Yeah, this is a plot device in a number of sci-fi stories. But this is still the only place it exists (outside of certain specialized military applications) … stories. 6. People communicate with their computers via two-way speech and gestures instead of with keyboards. Furthermore, most of this interaction occurs through computerized assistants with different personalities that the user can select or customize. Dealing with computers thus becomes more and more like dealing with a human being. Nope, thank goodness. Cubical life would be unbearable with all my co-workers screaming and gesturing at their computers all day. I don’t think Kurzweil really thought this one through (or maybe he’s never worked in an office environment). 7. Most business transactions or information inquiries involve dealing with a simulated person. Most? No – it’s limited to very basic transactions and situations where the computer is limited to asking a few very basic yes/no questions (and about a third of the time it has to re-ask the question). Also – it’s less efficient than human interaction, which is why everyone hates it. 8. Most people own more than one PC, though the concept of what a "computer" is has changed considerably: Computers are no longer limited in design to laptops or CPUs contained in a large box connected to a monitor. Instead, devices with computer capabilities come in all sorts of unexpected shapes and sizes. Sure. Although the “unexpected shapes” being referred to must be rectangles and the “unexpected sizes” being referred to are tablets and phones. 9. Cables connecting computers and peripherals have almost completely disappeared. I wish. Wireless exists, but most desktop computers are still tethered by cables (ever heard of a USB?). 10. Rotating computer hard drives are no longer used. Ha ha! No. Although solid state boot drives are on the rise they are still much, much more expensive. 11. Three-dimensional nanotube lattices are the dominant computing substrate. I don’t know what the hell this means, though it sounds kind of cool. But no. The dominant computing substrate is still silicon (and it’s the only commercial substrate). 12. Massively parallel neural nets and genetic algorithms are in wide use. Nope. Artificial intelligence has yet to come to fruition. Maybe someday. 13. Destructive scans of the brain and noninvasive brain scans have allowed scientists to understand the brain much better. The algorithms that allow the relatively small genetic code of the brain to construct a much more complex organ are being transferred into computer neural nets. Not really. We have MRI but the information it provides is quite crude (where’s the blood flowing). I’m not quite sure what he’s getting at with that last claim, but neural nets really aren’t much of a thing outside university labs. 14. Pinhead-sized cameras are everywhere. Pinhead? Nope. Everywhere? Nope. 15. Nanotechnology is more capable and is in use for specialized applications, yet it has not yet made it into the mainstream. "Nanoengineered machines" begin to be used in manufacturing. Nanotechnology is another of those overly hyped technologies we’ve been hearing about forever, but the breakthroughs are always 5-10 years in the future. 16. Thin, lightweight, handheld displays with very high resolutions are the preferred means for viewing documents. The aforementioned computer eyeglasses and contact lenses are also used for this same purpose, and all download the information wirelessly. Sure, but cell phones and digital displays were around in 1999 (I had one of those PDA thingies for example), so I don’t think this is much of a prediction. There he goes again with the ‘glasses’. This part is wrong outside of a few glassholes, but we certainly have wireless. 17. Computers have made paper books and documents almost completely obsolete. I’m surrounded by paper documents as I type this. But I think this is certainly the trend. Digital books outsold paper a few years ago. 18. Most learning is accomplished through intelligent, adaptive courseware presented by computer-simulated teachers. In the learning process, human adults fill the counselor and mentor roles instead of being academic instructors. These assistants are often not physically present, and help students remotely. Most?!? Not even close. 19. Students still learn together and socialize, though this is often done remotely via computers. Often? No. Sometimes? Yes. 20. All students have access to computers. Sure. I had “access to a computer” in high school in 1982, so this isn’t really much of a prediction. 21. Most human workers spend the majority of their time acquiring new skills and knowledge. No. We spend most of our time doing work. 22. Blind people wear special glasses that interpret the real world for them through speech. Sighted people also use these glasses to amplify their own abilities. What the f*ck is it with Kurzweil and glasses? Nope. 23. Retinal and neural implants also exist, but are in limited use because they are less useful. Crude retinal implants exist, I think the most high tech one at the moment has 1,500 pixels, but they aren’t terribly useful. Same with neural implants they are crude and often stop working due to scarring. 24. Deaf people use special glasses that convert speech into text or signs, and music into images or tactile sensations. Cochlear and other implants are also widely used. Jesus – get a room with your glasses if you love them so much for Christ’s sake. Nope. 25. People with spinal cord injuries can walk and climb steps using computer-controlled nerve stimulation and exoskeletal robotic walkers. Not really. I’ve seen a few prototypes, but nothing is in production. Most use a wheelchair. 26. Computers are also found inside of some humans in the form of cybernetic implants. These are most commonly used by disabled people to regain normal physical faculties (e.g. Retinal implants allow the blind to see and spinal implants coupled with mechanical legs allow the paralyzed to walk). Nope. 27. Language translating machines are of much higher quality, and are routinely used in conversations. The first part is a definite “yes”! They aren’t “routinely used in conversations” though. 28. Effective language technologies (natural language processing, speech recognition, speech synthesis) exist. A hit! Speech recognition is fairly robust and has been proliferated fairly widely. 29. Anyone can wirelessly access the internet with wearable devices such as computerized glasses, contacts, and watches. If you have the money and you’re within cell phone service you can access the internet with your phone. ~glasses~ … again. 30. Traditional computers and communication devices such as desktop PCs, laptops, and cell phones still exist, but most of their functions can be performed by wearable gadgets. Examples include reading books, listening to music, watching movies, playing games, and teleconferencing. Wearable gadgets? I’ve never read a book or watched a movie with something I’ve worn. I bet he means the frigging glasses thing again. 31. Devices that deliver sensations to the skin surface of their users (e.g. tight body suits and gloves) are also sometimes used in virtual reality to complete the experience. "Virtual sex"—in which two people are able to have sex with each other through virtual reality, or in which a human can have sex with a "simulated" partner that only exists on a computer—becomes a reality. No. Futurists have been talking about this forever though. 32. Just as visual- and auditory virtual reality have come of age, haptic technology has fully matured and is completely convincing, yet requires the user to enter a V.R. booth. It is commonly used for computer sex and remote medical examinations. It is the preferred sexual medium since it is safe and enhances the experience. Not even close (cue the collective sigh of disappointment from the involuntarily celibate nerds). 33. Worldwide economic growth has continued. There has not been a global economic collapse. Oopsie … except for that little global economic collapse in 2008. Otherwise I buy this one. 34. The vast majority of business interactions occur between humans and simulated retailers, or between a human's virtual personal assistant and a simulated retailer. What is a “simulated retailer”? People certainly shop on line, but I wouldn’t consider a shopping cart icon on a web site a “simulated retailer”. Nope. 35. Household robots are ubiquitous and reliable. Nope. The whole ‘robot’ thing has also been used a bit in sci-fi, but like jet packs, I’m still waiting. We have Roombas though. 36. Computers do most of the vehicle d0riving—humans are in fact prohibited from driving on highways unassisted. Furthermore, when humans do take over the wheel, the onboard computer system constantly monitors their actions and takes control whenever the human drives recklessly. As a result, there are very few transportation accidents. Nope. This is beginning to occur, but self-driving cars still have the unfortunate tendency to run people over. This is coming though, and I for one can’t wait. 37. Most roads now have automated driving systems—networks of monitoring and communication devices that allow computer-controlled automobiles to safely navigate. Nope, I wish it were here though. 38. Prototype personal flying vehicles using microflaps exist. They are also primarily computer-controlled. Ha ha! Where’s my fucking jetpack! 39. Humans are beginning to have deep relationships with automated personalities, which hold some advantages over human partners. The depth of some computer personalities convinces some people that they should be accorded more rights. My cell phone is my besty ... not. 40. Most decisions made by humans involve consultation with machine intelligence. For example, a doctor may seek the advice of a digital assistant. A lawyer might utilize a virtual researcher. Or a shopper may receive recommendations from a software program that has learned his or her shopping habits. Nope. Although I’ve become an expert at ignoring annoying adverts based on my web browsing habits. 41. While a growing number of humans believe that their computers and the simulated personalities they interact with are intelligent to the point of human-level consciousness, experts dismiss the possibility that any could pass the Turing Test. Nope. 42. Human-robot relationships begin as simulated personalities become more convincing. Nope. 43. Interaction with virtual personalities becomes a primary interface. Nope. 44. Public places and workplaces are ubiquitously monitored to prevent violence and all actions are recorded permanently. Personal privacy is a major political issue, and some people protect themselves with unbreakable computer codes. Kind of. There are certainly quite a few cameras in public places and privacy is certainly an issue (thanks to crappy software security and the fact that companies are so easily hacked). 45. The basic needs of the underclass are met. (Not specified if this pertains only to the developed world or to all countries) Depends what you mean by ‘basic needs’. Food insecurity is still a big problem in the U.S. More so in developing countries. 46. Virtual artists—creative computers capable of making their own art and music—emerge in all fields of the arts. Nope. There are certainly digital artists, but each is a human using a computer as their tool for creativity. There have been some experiments with computer generated art (such as music), but it universally sucks. 47. Most flying weapons are bird-sized robots. Some are as small as insects. The Predator drone is the size of small airplane. Nope. 48. Average life expectancy is over 100. Not even close! In fact life expectancy is falling in the U.S. thanks to the fact that we do not have universal health care. 49. Computerized watches, clothing, and jewelry can monitor the wearers health continuously. They can detect many types of diseases and offer recommendations for treatment. Fitbits and Apple watches monitor basic functions like heart rate and sleep. They cannot detect “many types of diseases”. CONCLUSION: You can judge for yourself. I'd also like to point out that MY prediction in 2010 that "His predictions for 20 and 30 years will prove to be more wildly off the mark." Was EXACTLY RIGHT. Clearly, I'm the one who should be the futurist while Kurzweil should spend less time fethishizing about glasses.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lynne Williamson

    I talked to a good friend of mine today at brunch who has a PhD in cellular and molecular biology about some of the science and the futurisms in Kurzweil's book. My friend said immediately, "he sounds like a physicist, and those crazy physicists will invent things like the particles that don't know which way they are going until they are 'observed' because they don't know what is really happening." I said, "it's like a physicist's version of the "god of the gaps." And he agreed. Of course, being I talked to a good friend of mine today at brunch who has a PhD in cellular and molecular biology about some of the science and the futurisms in Kurzweil's book. My friend said immediately, "he sounds like a physicist, and those crazy physicists will invent things like the particles that don't know which way they are going until they are 'observed' because they don't know what is really happening." I said, "it's like a physicist's version of the "god of the gaps." And he agreed. Of course, being in a carbon-based field, he may be slightly prejudiced against a non-carbon-based orientation. I wonder what Solomon would have to say about Kurzweil's theories. I was really annoyed to be tricked into realizing that I am a "Luddite" on the future by agreeing with a well-reasoned essay, only to find out I was agreeing with, yes, Ted Kazinski (with out the bombs). After getting to the end of the book and the future that sounds worse than any heaven or hell invented by any theist any where, I looked up one of my favorite Swinburne poems to comfort myself in my carbon-based reality. Here is the ending of the poem: Swinburne, The Garden of Proserpine From too much love of living, From hope and fear set free, We thank with brief thanksgiving Whatever gods may be That no life lives forever; That dead men rise up never; That even the weariest river Winds somewhere safe to sea.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Septimus

    Arthur C. Clarke's 3rd law holds that "any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic." While we know this technology is currently being developed, on schedule, it's simply difficult to imagine the implications for humanity without it seeming somehow contrived. "Deus ex machina;" so it comes to this. Again, while I am convinced the premises are valid and the argument is sound, and therefore accept his projections as nearly true, it does not make them easier to believe. An Arthur C. Clarke's 3rd law holds that "any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic." While we know this technology is currently being developed, on schedule, it's simply difficult to imagine the implications for humanity without it seeming somehow contrived. "Deus ex machina;" so it comes to this. Again, while I am convinced the premises are valid and the argument is sound, and therefore accept his projections as nearly true, it does not make them easier to believe. And yet, as Mark Twain said, "truth is stranger than fiction." The truth is not bound by plausibility. Ultimately, my esteem for this book is derived primarily from Kurzweil's apparently thorough research prior to extrapolation, not to mention the fact that his projections have been vindicated through the decades. My lack of esteem is mostly due to his intoxication with the possibilities of the utopian world. This becomes more apparent toward the end of the book. To me, it smells like a religious mindset, which clouds judgment. Many futurists tend toward the same utopian fantasy, and I among them, but I think we should resist it by choice of pragmatic virtue and epistemic fidelity. Call me a wet blanket, I don't care. My concern is to be right as often as possible, which often requires being wrong, and religious devotion to any idea precludes the latter. Regardless, I think Kurzweil's projections are accurate enough to be a viable technologist's almanac. Get ready for a strange future.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Ray Kurzweil has been accused by some as being incredibly optimistic in his vision for the future of humanity and the computer's that we've created. His predictions, however, have an uncanny way of coming to pass, at least in large part. Spiritual Machines was written in 1999 and speaks of the advances that computers will make in the twenty-first century. Now, a decade later, it is possible to look at the first of Kurzweil's predictions, helpfully listed out in a chapter labeled "2009 Ray Kurzweil has been accused by some as being incredibly optimistic in his vision for the future of humanity and the computer's that we've created. His predictions, however, have an uncanny way of coming to pass, at least in large part. Spiritual Machines was written in 1999 and speaks of the advances that computers will make in the twenty-first century. Now, a decade later, it is possible to look at the first of Kurzweil's predictions, helpfully listed out in a chapter labeled "2009" and evaluate them. He missed the mark, badly, on a few things -- we've not yet reached a point where most books are consumed electronically, nor do we interface with out computers mostly through voice -- but he is more often right than wrong, and even when the predictions fall short, it's usually in a way that leaves the reader saying "well, not YET" ... these things will come, they've just been a little slower in getting here than predicted. Kurzweil is an unapologetic transhumanist - a person who believes that mankind can and should continue the evolutionary process through voluntarily seeking to "upgrade" his own body via technology. Whether this is done by re-engineering cells, creating remedies to sickness at the DNA level, inventing nanobots, or digitizing the human conscience and moving it to a machine reality seems to matter less to Kurzweil than that we continue to pursue all evolutionary options. Indeed, he would likely argue that we not only must force this self-evolution, but that we are incapable of NOT doing it. Even should our machines rise up, Terminator-like, and destroy us all, Kurzweil would still view this only as another evolutionary process. After all, was it not Homo Sapiens' superior intelligence and technology which allowed us to beat out the other human variants, such as the neanderthal? The Age of Spiritual Machines is an absolutely fascinating book even if you think Kurzweil's a crackpot. I don't. I share the belief that he's an optimist, and that some of the predictions he makes won't come fully to pass, or happen as quickly. Still, I feel that he is able to look at the future with an unflinching eye and, drawing from a wide variety of reputable sources (the footnotes in the book are so voluminous that they take up an entire chapter unto themselves), make many compelling statements about what humankind's ever-advancing technological capabilities may bring. This was by a wide margin the best book I've read so far this year, and one of the best of the last several years.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Belhor

    This was too easy. I need something with more detail; more in depth. The author is too optimistic. Plus the writing style wasn't as good as I'd expected.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Scott Lerch

    After reading this book I was completely giddy about the future. Everything suddenly seemed possible, nothing impossible, all without invoking anything supernatural. This is what I was looking for to replace my lost religion. Ray Kurzweil pointed out the now obvious end result of the rapid exponential advances in computer technology. Others discovered the trends long before but Ray Kurzweil put it all together in one incredibly fun book to read. Kurzweil’s thesis rests on the exponential growth After reading this book I was completely giddy about the future. Everything suddenly seemed possible, nothing impossible, all without invoking anything supernatural. This is what I was looking for to replace my lost religion. Ray Kurzweil pointed out the now obvious end result of the rapid exponential advances in computer technology. Others discovered the trends long before but Ray Kurzweil put it all together in one incredibly fun book to read. Kurzweil’s thesis rests on the exponential growth of computer power/memory/speed and the inevitability of computers one day exceeding human level intelligence. As a byproduct all sciences including biology, chemistry, and physics, will progress exponentially as well converging into a technological singularity. This is the event horizon where humans today cannot comprehend what lies beyond because our knowledge, and possibly minds, are currently too feeble. However, Ray Kurzweil still attempts to imagine what lies beyond the singularity and that’s where the book gets fun. Kurzweil imagines a world where anything is possible, which includes living forever, intelligent nanomachines, super machine intelligences, enhancing our brains and bodies beyond recognition, eradicating poverty, living in a utopian society, travelling across the universe with ease, and even creating new universes altogether. It’s fun to imagine and after reading I was a complete believer. However, with time I honed my skeptical skills and tempered my enthusiasm by realizing that this is still all speculation and not science. One thing has not changed though, and that is my excitement for advancing computer technology and the belief that one day man will create a machine that excels in every human activity.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    Kurzweil looks at history and demostrates to us that the rate of technological progress has always been growing exponentially. And that part of the book, part one, is a lot of fun to read. Borrow the book, read this section and enjoy. But where Kurzweil wants to go with this is into the future. And here you have to keep in mind that the book was written in 1998 so we're part of the future he's looking into. And, like many before him, not only does he not get a home run with every hit, he doesn't Kurzweil looks at history and demostrates to us that the rate of technological progress has always been growing exponentially. And that part of the book, part one, is a lot of fun to read. Borrow the book, read this section and enjoy. But where Kurzweil wants to go with this is into the future. And here you have to keep in mind that the book was written in 1998 so we're part of the future he's looking into. And, like many before him, not only does he not get a home run with every hit, he doesn't even get a hit every time he makes contact with the ball. But the main problem that I had with Part 3, To Face the Future, was that I found the whole section kind of boring. Our author is a better writer as a historian than as a tea-leaf reader. The book is about machines, humanity and the ties that closely bind us. Where this is headed should make for fascinating speculation but it's entirely possible that the speculation should be left to the fiction writers. I love a good science fiction story. Maybe I'll stick with that for my glimpses into the future.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Yaser Sulaiman

    At times thought-provoking and intriguing, but ultimately unconvincing. The words of Douglas Hofstadter pretty much summarize what I think of this book: "it's a very bizarre mixture of ideas that are solid and good with ideas that are crazy. It's as if you took a lot of very good food and some dog excrement and blended it all up so that you can't possibly figure out what's good or bad." Why a At times thought-provoking and intriguing, but ultimately unconvincing. The words of Douglas Hofstadter pretty much summarize what I think of this book: "it's a very bizarre mixture of ideas that are solid and good with ideas that are crazy. It's as if you took a lot of very good food and some dog excrement and blended it all up so that you can't possibly figure out what's good or bad." Why am I not convinced? Well, the exponential growth of computing power over the last 100 years is hardly deniable. Extrapolating that trend and predicting that it is will continue for some time is reasonable. But my crap detector starts to go off when Kurzweil goes from there to assert that computers will exceed human intelligence (causing a technological singularity in the not-so-distant future) and to make all those overly-optimistic transhumanistic predictions. For me, the main problem is equating computing power with intelligence. To quote Steven Pinker, "sheer processing power is not a pixie dust that magically solves all your problems." My current view is that the "brain as a computer" is a very powerful and useful metaphor, but it's still a metaphor: the brain is not a computer. And as Jaron Lanier puts it, "the distance between recognizing a great metaphor and treating it as the only metaphor is the same as the distance between humble science and dogmatic religion." Other than that, I was mainly disappointed to see that Kurzweil did not discuss different or opposing views adequately (as he apparently does in The Singularity is Near, in which he devotes a whole chapter to respond to critics). For example, he discussed the views of Roger Penrose in less than two pages, and he did not even mention John Searle other than in a footnote and in the Suggested Readings list. So, until further notice, I will remain in the collective camp of Searle, Penrose, Lanier, and the like despite its shortcomings because I find it more convincing. (Or could it be that I find it more comfortable because it agrees more with the way I want the world to be? Perish the thought!) In short, I would recommend skipping this book (unless you want to judge for yourself how Kurzweil's predictions for 2009 have fared) and, if you insist on reading Kurzweil, to try instead his later book, where he actually responds to critics (but, as I haven't read it yet, I don't guarantee it will be more convincing). P.S. I can't help but to draw a parallel to projects such as FuturICT, in which it is hoped that by throwing enough data at the problem, "we might be able to construct models of complicated phenomena even when we don't have any underlying laws on which to build them." But as David Weinberger notes in "The Machine That Would Predict the Future", "the practical difficulties quickly turn exponential. There is always another layer of detail, always another factor that may prove critical in the final accounting; without a prior understanding of how humans operate, we cannot know when our accounting is final." (On a side note, this throw-more-data-at-it also reminds me of the throw-more-hardware-at-it mentality in software development.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I put this on my to-read list and it magically appeared on my desk at work a few days later! It’s good to have friends who read…thank you JG! It wasn’t an easy book for me to read but by then I had made my goal of 50 so I dove in. I enjoyed his theories on how evolution is speeding up while the changes in the universe seem to be slowing down. It was a little hard to wrap my brain around it, but I appreciated it. He lost me in the philosophical sections but that’s on me – I’ve never be I put this on my to-read list and it magically appeared on my desk at work a few days later! It’s good to have friends who read…thank you JG! It wasn’t an easy book for me to read but by then I had made my goal of 50 so I dove in. I enjoyed his theories on how evolution is speeding up while the changes in the universe seem to be slowing down. It was a little hard to wrap my brain around it, but I appreciated it. He lost me in the philosophical sections but that’s on me – I’ve never been into philosophy. But! His predictions are pretty solid. I mean, I’m not eating things so that people can track my movement, but I do carry a tiny computer that pings out my location if I allow it to. And probably even if I don’t. Throughout the book, Kurzweil converses with Molly, a stand-in for the reader. Molly moves through time as Kurzweil remains in 1998 and she reports back the changes that are happening around her and to her. Three stars. I liked it, but did skim some parts.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Adam Bignell

    The Age of Spiritual Machines, while seeming perhaps too optimistic when read with 2016 eyes, is nonetheless an exciting adventure to the limits of imagination. It lays out in (keeping in mind the pop-science genre) relatively technical detail the means with which our technology will develop, and the impacts these developments will have on our environment, businesses, art, and relationships. It is akin to stepping inside a museum of the future; the technocracies of Hollywood pale in comparison t The Age of Spiritual Machines, while seeming perhaps too optimistic when read with 2016 eyes, is nonetheless an exciting adventure to the limits of imagination. It lays out in (keeping in mind the pop-science genre) relatively technical detail the means with which our technology will develop, and the impacts these developments will have on our environment, businesses, art, and relationships. It is akin to stepping inside a museum of the future; the technocracies of Hollywood pale in comparison to the sprawling technical Utopia that Kurzweil has curated. It is very rewarding when he nails a prediction (such as foreseeing smartphones, learning as a job unto itself, information as primary resource) and forgivable when he does not (he anticipated a far greater popularity for wearable such as the Fitbit, guessing that by 2009 these would be ubiquitous and built into virtually all accessories). If read to learn technically, a reader might find it too surface level (neural nets and the like are introduced, and the high level means to construct them is described), but this is not the real forte of the book. Instead, this book should be read as a sort of imagination catalyst, particularly for those of us who still think of computers as essentially static in their form and function. Of particular delight were Kurzweil's personal endeavors in the field (and although I initially thought his self-titled software was a little 'self-promotionish', further research indicates that he really undersells his achievements if anything). He speaks from the perspective of an excited child but with the skills of a practiced technician. It is the vivacity of the language and excitement for the future that really cemented the book as a fun, amusement park of a read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Robert Boyd

    Wow. I'd heard about this book for years and was familiar enough with the theory of singularity, but I just kept wishing I had read this sooner. It made me realize that I should make a point of reading more books written by geniuses. This book is prophetic. By now, many of Kurzweil's predictions have been realized (the fact that his predictions on wearable personal computers, electronic books, and text-to-speech technology were read to me by my Kindle device, which I had stowed in my Wow. I'd heard about this book for years and was familiar enough with the theory of singularity, but I just kept wishing I had read this sooner. It made me realize that I should make a point of reading more books written by geniuses. This book is prophetic. By now, many of Kurzweil's predictions have been realized (the fact that his predictions on wearable personal computers, electronic books, and text-to-speech technology were read to me by my Kindle device, which I had stowed in my coat pocket made a particular impression on me). This book is startling and riveting. In my opinion Kurzweil is a bit overoptimistic with a kind of we'll-cross-that-bridge-when-we-get-there attitude, especially around the grey goo/self-replicating nanovirus scenario. Personally, I also have an extremely difficult time reconciling fears and philosophical objections with the transfer of consciousness/original body destruction scenarios (another area where he sort of just suggests that it will become so common as to just be accepted without second thought). In other areas his prediction timeline has obviously already failed, but usually in a way that you can make concessions for ("well, this may have happened if it weren't for x or "well, we're almost there but not quite yet"). Retinal projection for virtual reality visualization and haptic systems come to mind. Regardless of some misses, many of the trends outlined can't be ignored and this book should probably hold a place on the reading lists of leading business schools for students to learn to recognize emerging industries. This book certainly left me with plenty to think about, and feelings of both amazement at the explosive rate of progress in human innovation and despair about the changing but ever-present human condition.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nate Huston

    Great book. Definitely one that I will return to, most likely a few times. One reason for that will be that Kurzweil has a habit of quickly accelerating into the realm of mind-bending, especially in his theoretical discussions. While those were mentally taxing to fully wrap my brain around, even the most complex ones were short and succinct. The most striking takeaway is Kurzweil's conception of technology as a continuation of "evolution by other means." Besides oblique reference to Uncle Carl, Great book. Definitely one that I will return to, most likely a few times. One reason for that will be that Kurzweil has a habit of quickly accelerating into the realm of mind-bending, especially in his theoretical discussions. While those were mentally taxing to fully wrap my brain around, even the most complex ones were short and succinct. The most striking takeaway is Kurzweil's conception of technology as a continuation of "evolution by other means." Besides oblique reference to Uncle Carl, he makes a convincing case for what otherwise might seem a bit "kooky." For Kurzweil, the evolution of technology is nothing more than a continuation of the evolution of humanity, which itself is the most advanced product of evolution on the earth writ large. No matter one's stance on his argument overall, his questions regarding the nature of intelligence and sentience vis-a-vis computers is extraordinarily thought-provoking and will doubtless one day play a more central role in public discourse than it does now. His reference to Turing's observation that "machine intelligence would become so pervasive, so comfortable, and so well integrated into our information-based economy that people would fail even to notice it" is, if reflected upon for just a moment, remarkably prescient. My own personal "line" that must be crossed to achieve "intelligence" in machines is likely much further out than my grandparents', and likely much closer in than my children's. Kurzweil believes were are at the "knee of the curve" in a path of exponential growth for technology. His argument is solid - he might be right.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Monwar Hussain

    I would love to give this book six stars. Even three quarters through the book, I could not believe Kurzweil had written this in Nineteen freaking Ninety-Eight!! The book is almost so good, I cannot read it for long. I myself am a huge technology enthusiast, and I suffer from the common problem in just gushing about Technology. Now, on a meta-level, Kurzweil does that too, I guess. :) But his writing is so measured, so specific, yet not lifeless and so powerful. This coming I would love to give this book six stars. Even three quarters through the book, I could not believe Kurzweil had written this in Nineteen freaking Ninety-Eight!! The book is almost so good, I cannot read it for long. I myself am a huge technology enthusiast, and I suffer from the common problem in just gushing about Technology. Now, on a meta-level, Kurzweil does that too, I guess. :) But his writing is so measured, so specific, yet not lifeless and so powerful. This coming after Antifragile where Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls Kurzweil the anti-Taleb! Amazingly, I love both! I learn from both. That is the beauty of literature. This book can have an almost Cosmos-like impact on you. It gives you new perspective. It is not necessary for Kurzweil to be right (and in 2013, we can see pretty clearly the areas where his predictions are falling behind). This books gave me tons of perspective and knowledge; an almost meta-analysis of the Technology wrapping our modern world. And I trust Kurzweil; I understand not everyone does, but I have been following this guy for a LONG time (my food habit is defined by Ray Kurzweil's Health Book, for example), and I was benefitted by this book. TRY IT. :)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Scott Lee

    I first encountered Kurzweil as either an interview or article subject (don't remember which) in WIRED magazine several years ago. I found his ideas fascinating (although I don't personally believe we're headed into his vision of the future) and in fact ended up spinning several short stories out of my own response to the ideas in the interview as transmogrified (gotta love Calvin & Hobbes!) by my brain in the intervening years. Unfortunately, when allowed to go on at length (as he does here I first encountered Kurzweil as either an interview or article subject (don't remember which) in WIRED magazine several years ago. I found his ideas fascinating (although I don't personally believe we're headed into his vision of the future) and in fact ended up spinning several short stories out of my own response to the ideas in the interview as transmogrified (gotta love Calvin & Hobbes!) by my brain in the intervening years. Unfortunately, when allowed to go on at length (as he does here), he's not nearly as entertaining. While portions of the book were interesting as a writer he has a tendency to belabor his point. He doesn't just hammer it home, he beats it into the ground like a tent stake. Still, bits and pieces of some very interesting stuff, and some of his predictions were uncannily accurate, something which, after reading the whole text and seeing where he believes we'll end up, I found rather disturbing, as his utopia (which is what he's building here, he even indicates that he's intentionally leaving out potential problems or only vaguely referring to them) is definitely not mine.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nefariousbig

    When I read this book in 2000, it blew my mind. It actually changed the way I looked at everything. It made me feel like I knew a secret, something important, that other people didn't know. While I still believe in Kurzweil's genius, and his futurist prophecies, this book is obsolete. For a current, in-depth look at Kurzweil's brilliant mind, find the 2009 documentary "Transcendent Man", and see Kurzweil talk about the fast approaching realization of his "singularity" theory. REMEMBER THIS? When I read this book in 2000, it blew my mind. It actually changed the way I looked at everything. It made me feel like I knew a secret, something important, that other people didn't know. While I still believe in Kurzweil's genius, and his futurist prophecies, this book is obsolete. For a current, in-depth look at Kurzweil's brilliant mind, find the 2009 documentary "Transcendent Man", and see Kurzweil talk about the fast approaching realization of his "singularity" theory. REMEMBER THIS? "There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call "The Twilight Zone"." -- Rod Serling, 1959 aw

  19. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    Really disliked this one. Surprised by the amount of text the author dedicates to cybersex. Buzz words and jargon used like a fog to mask a lack of actual explication. Kurzweil kept popping up in annoying ways -- name-dropping his inventions, talking about the deadline for the book, having an extended conversation with an imagined reader named Molly. Not a lot of substance here. Kurzweil does coherently present his Law of Accelerating Returns, but he doesn't address the problem of ene Really disliked this one. Surprised by the amount of text the author dedicates to cybersex. Buzz words and jargon used like a fog to mask a lack of actual explication. Kurzweil kept popping up in annoying ways -- name-dropping his inventions, talking about the deadline for the book, having an extended conversation with an imagined reader named Molly. Not a lot of substance here. Kurzweil does coherently present his Law of Accelerating Returns, but he doesn't address the problem of energy in a finite world. How will we continue to accelerate these returns when the oil runs out? I'm optimistic that we will be able to transition to new energy technologies; however, this issue is not even mentioned in passing by Kurzweil. I think that before we can take seriously any speculation about self-replicating nanobots, scanning our brains and downloading consciousness into neural computers, and other sci-fi funsies, we need to transition to wind, solar, and other non-fossil fuel technologies.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    Inventing the future While Kurzweil makes it clear that he believes it is "inevitable" that machine intelligence will exceed human intelligence--see especially page 253--he adds some clarifying "Failure Modes" on page 256. The most significant one is the possibility that "the entire evolutionary process" will be destroyed (think: a supernova in the neighborhood); but there is also the possibility that humans "together with...[our] technology may destroy" ourselves before we get there (think: rep Inventing the future While Kurzweil makes it clear that he believes it is "inevitable" that machine intelligence will exceed human intelligence--see especially page 253--he adds some clarifying "Failure Modes" on page 256. The most significant one is the possibility that "the entire evolutionary process" will be destroyed (think: a supernova in the neighborhood); but there is also the possibility that humans "together with...[our] technology may destroy" ourselves before we get there (think: replicating Osama Bin Ladens, perhaps as nanobots). But more interesting than the general theme are the implications. Kurzweil writes, "Improving our lives through neural implants on the mental level, and nanotechnology-enhanced bodies on the physical level, will be popular and compelling." (This is sometime after machines have gotten a lot smarter than we are and can help us with these tasks.) Kurzweil adds, "It is another one of those slippery slopes--there is no obvious place to stop this progression until the human race has largely replaced the brains and bodies that evolution first provided." (pp. 140-141) What Kurzweil is getting at might be expressed with these words, "Au revoir, carbon-based, humanoid bipeds!" In effect, he is saying that we will go the way of the dodo. It has long been a staple of science fiction that humans will be replaced by artificial intelligence, what Kurzweil calls "spiritual machines." We are toast, it's just a matter of when. What we didn't know was how and how soon. Kurzweil has the answer. We will replace ourselves with the artifacts of our technology, and we'll do it sooner rather than later. He believes there will no longer be "any clear distinction between humans and computers" by the year 2099. At the same time "Most conscious entities" will "not have a permanent physical presence." (p. 280) We will have become "software." Incidentally there will be no pain or sense of death along the way. It will happen as gradually and as imperceptibly (to us) as grass growing. To paraphrase T. S. Eliot: This is the way our world ends. Not with a bang, not even with a whimper. One of the striking things about Kurzweil's perception is that our children may live to see such a day, our grandchildren almost for sure. Wow. The implications of this spiritual transformation (to conjure up some perhaps apt New Age terminology) are beyond mind-boggling, they are mind-deleting! Yes, get ready to have your mind deleted. But it will be no big deal. This will happen some time after it is downloaded into a secure and long-lived spiritual machine. You won't care. The old biological you will transpire and the new happy you will live a long, long time. Or, another scenario is that you will be replaced so gradually that at no time will you realize that you are being replaced. The incremental changes will all seem positive and life-enhancing. As Kurzweil reminds us, the atoms in our bodies are replaced again and again as we pass through the events of our lives and at no time do we have any sense of dying. It may seem a bit astonishing but I think Kurzweil is on to something here. And I'm not the only one. Futurists around the world are very excited about the prospects that Kurzweil discusses in this book. For an example of the implications of these ideas and others, you might want to check out the "singularitywatch" web site. Site master John Smart believes that the rapidly accelerating pace of technological change is so explosive that as early as the year 2040 our technology will be so far in advance of today's that it will constitute from our viewpoint a "singularity." We cannot see across the event horizon from this side, but even if we could, we would not be able to comprehend what we saw. In effect, the future is invisible but can be discerned by the implications of our present technology and by an appreciation of what Kurzweil calls the "Law of Accelerating Returns." I've always been one for fantastic ideas. I love the "many worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics mainly because of the wondrous way it frees the mind. To imagine that a new universe is created with every quantum event is about as fantastic as it gets. The implication of such a mind expansion is that the reality of existence is vastly greater than anything we can imagine, and--guess what?--it is. For this reason alone I consider this a wonderful book, and I will not quibble about Kurzweil's many predictions, nor will I point out that the "Law of Accelerating Returns," which he derives from his more fundamental "Law of Time and Chaos" are laws in the same sense that Moore's Law is a law; that is, not in a scientific sense but in an observational and logical sense. They are predictions made from limited observations, and like all such predictions are subject to conditions and influences we know nothing about. What is absolutely fascinating about the ideas presented in this book is the way they make us think about what it means to be alive and have consciousness. The Eastern idea that we don't die and that our ego is an illusion fits very comfortably into a scenario that includes the gradual transformation of ourselves from carbon-based beings to software, or put another way, our gradual transformation to pure information. For a rationalist, being pure information may be what is meant by being spiritual. In short, what Kurzweil is postulating is nothing less than the end of life as we know it. For those who imagine that we are the immutable handiwork of a supernatural being, this is a heresy. For others who see humans as part of a larger process on the way to becoming, this book is something akin to an important sutra. --Dennis Littrell, author of “The World Is Not as We Think It Is”

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lorin Cary

    This is an amazing book. A futurist, Ray Kurzweil not only writes about technology, specifically, technology related to computing, he is a creator of technologies which have made computers 'smarter.' About half of the book is devoted to scenarios: the shape of technology in the society of 1999, 2009, 2019, 2029, and 2099. These are fascinating and provide a treasure trove for science fiction writers.A time line traces a variety of technological developments, scientific theories and thought modes This is an amazing book. A futurist, Ray Kurzweil not only writes about technology, specifically, technology related to computing, he is a creator of technologies which have made computers 'smarter.' About half of the book is devoted to scenarios: the shape of technology in the society of 1999, 2009, 2019, 2029, and 2099. These are fascinating and provide a treasure trove for science fiction writers.A time line traces a variety of technological developments, scientific theories and thought modes , starting 10-15 billion years back (this will drive fundamentalists nuts) and running forward to 2099.A glossary provides a guide to the meaning of terms used. Notes outline the sources for each chapter, Suggested Readings provide an impressive array of materials, and a separate list of Web Links completes the book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Iskreads

    Did you ever wondered if a computer can become more intelligent than humans. Age of Spiritual Machines is a book which will answer this question, give you new ideas, and really makes you feel like some body is talking to you through the book. The topics in this book and the answers to the questions in your mind is really great. The answers might be what you call "different" but really works. Ideas or at least ideas are very rare and interesting. The way the author talks about future, tel Did you ever wondered if a computer can become more intelligent than humans. Age of Spiritual Machines is a book which will answer this question, give you new ideas, and really makes you feel like some body is talking to you through the book. The topics in this book and the answers to the questions in your mind is really great. The answers might be what you call "different" but really works. Ideas or at least ideas are very rare and interesting. The way the author talks about future, telling what a machine is, etc. really opens your eyes. You start looking things in a new whole level.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Cebulski

    Started reading this because I've been playing Frictional Games' SOMA. It has a cool premise, but Kurzweil's projections are dated and the philosophy lacks much depth. Like many pop science books, its main goal is to popularize the ideas it presents (here being human identity and artificial intelligence) but doesn't delve terribly deep into the matter. Lots of summarizing, repetition, outlining of basic theories the audience probably already knows, etc.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gus

    Ray Kurzweil is hailed as one of the most accurate and brilliant futurists of our time and this book details his views on what our technological world will look like in 10, 20, 50, 100 years. It is fascinating and thought provoking.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jake Saunders

    I've wanted to read this since it was published in 2000 and finally got around to it! It did not disappoint. The intervening 15 years actually made it more interesting because we have seen so many of Kurzwell's predictions come true.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rakan

    we are in great trouble!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lokesh Joshi

    This books is all about how world is changing very fast in now a day time, (May be) how world will be run by AI. How time period is getting slow and fast in terms of technological advancement both by Universe and Human species. How time gets speed up after introduction of life forms, until then why time was so slow that it took around 9 billion year for earth to form after creation of universe and thanks to life forms introduction, its process got speed up. How storing information help This books is all about how world is changing very fast in now a day time, (May be) how world will be run by AI. How time period is getting slow and fast in terms of technological advancement both by Universe and Human species. How time gets speed up after introduction of life forms, until then why time was so slow that it took around 9 billion year for earth to form after creation of universe and thanks to life forms introduction, its process got speed up. How storing information helped every life forms to develop and evolve over time period. How creation of machines added extra power in human life and boosted speed of evolution of human life, and also helps to understand why now technological advancement takes less time then earlier. Also helps to understand "LAW of Chaos", how it works and how it build millions of galaxies and why it is still expanding to infinite process. This helps evolution to speed up and technological advancements. why and how machines will provide helping hands to humans as humans have certain limits to developments, machines can have power like humans but with more powerful advancement and technological advancement as they are having indefinite capacity to store data and perform multi tasking after setting different processes. This books also talks about what can be in year 2029 about computers and AI, based on current day research and studies. Why computers can take place of human teachers about teaching and providing learning. It also predicts about end of 21st century, it talks about reverse engineering to improve mind capacity of human mind and combine that with machines and hence it might change definitions of humans and might author want to talk about some sort of "Robocop" of futures around end of 21st Century. This book helps to understand why humans will need or rather than need, why we will create more advanced machines due to certain capacity of our brain and how after several advancement machines will be able to think like humans and in final conclusion, there might be no gap between humans and machines.

  28. 5 out of 5

    J. Alan

    Interesting book that sometimes shows its age (written in 1999). It’s kind of ironic that the author, Ray Kurzweil, makes the statement that futurists are notorious for overestimating what can be accomplished in the short term and underestimating what can be accomplished in the long term. He then immediately launches into his predictions for “ten years out,” (I.e., the year 2009). Those predictions were a little ahead of their time for the state of technology in 2009, but they were remarkably on Interesting book that sometimes shows its age (written in 1999). It’s kind of ironic that the author, Ray Kurzweil, makes the statement that futurists are notorious for overestimating what can be accomplished in the short term and underestimating what can be accomplished in the long term. He then immediately launches into his predictions for “ten years out,” (I.e., the year 2009). Those predictions were a little ahead of their time for the state of technology in 2009, but they were remarkably on point for 2019. So yes, he probably fell victim to his own admonition about overestimating what could be accomplished in the short term — or, overestimating the speed at which those things would be accomplished, anyway. But he eventually hit the mark reasonably well; he was just off by a factor of two for how long it would take. His predictions for 2019 were also a bit aggressive. Some of the things he mentions have not yet come to pass, but if his 2009 predictions mostly came to fruition (but behind schedule), maybe we’ll eventually get there? As his predictions went further into the 21st Century, we don’t really know yet what will actually happen, but he certainly raises some questions that are worth pondering. It probably is fair to say that humanity is reaching a point where we will soon be able to augment our bodies — and potentially our minds — in ways that will change the development of the species. That raises some ethical questions, and he is certainly not the first author to ask those questions. Nonetheless, those questions are still interesting to consider, and we might as well start entertaining them, because we will probably have to tackle at least some of the issues within our lifetimes.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mauro

    Fun read. It took me a while to finish, as Kurzweil goes off many interesting tangents and I often interrupted my reading to go to Wikipedia to learn more about a bit of trivia (like the mechanism of DNA replication, or the "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" thing, or about how an early AI program worked). The least interesting part for me were the chapters with predictions, but that's probably because I'm reading the book 20 years after it was written (2019), and it's clear by now th Fun read. It took me a while to finish, as Kurzweil goes off many interesting tangents and I often interrupted my reading to go to Wikipedia to learn more about a bit of trivia (like the mechanism of DNA replication, or the "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" thing, or about how an early AI program worked). The least interesting part for me were the chapters with predictions, but that's probably because I'm reading the book 20 years after it was written (2019), and it's clear by now that Kurzweil may have been a bit over-optimistic about a lot of things (he does say that he could get some time frames wrong). A lot of his predictions did pan out though. I still can't buy 20 petaflops for US$ 1000, but keyboard-less computers are ubiquitous (we call them smartphones), computer chips are going 3D, and, despite a couple of hiccups, the world did experience two decades of economic growth and prosperity [*], thanks in no little part to productivity gains brought about by technology. Maybe he's on to something with this "law of accelerating returns" after all. [*] except for my country, which has remained mostly stagnant since the 1990s. Oh well.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stone

    Kurzweil's visionary 1998 publication is a nice refresher and reminder of what we've achieved in the past two decades. It is quite astonishing to see that a large portion of his predictions in 1998 either became reality earlier or are in the process of realization. Though some of his more radical prognostications might not come as early as he expected, it is still amazing to see what he had successfully predicted -- namely the digitalization of virtually every form of media content, the automati Kurzweil's visionary 1998 publication is a nice refresher and reminder of what we've achieved in the past two decades. It is quite astonishing to see that a large portion of his predictions in 1998 either became reality earlier or are in the process of realization. Though some of his more radical prognostications might not come as early as he expected, it is still amazing to see what he had successfully predicted -- namely the digitalization of virtually every form of media content, the automation of more and more industries, the beginning of the age of quantum computing, and the unprecedented assimilation of artificial intelligence. The style of his writing was not as satisfying, for which I recommend reading the digested excerpts of the book now commonly found on the Internet.

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