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The Singularity is Near Paperback – 9 Mar 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 683 pages
  • Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd (9 Mar. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0715635611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0715635612
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 5 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Ray Kurzweil is the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence. His intriguing new book envisions a future in which information technologies have advanced so far and fast that they enable humanity to transcend its biological limitations - transforming our lives in ways we can't yet imagine' --Bill Gates

About the Author

Ray Kurzweil is one of the world's leading inventors, thinkers and futurists. A recipient of the National Medal of Technology and 12 honorary doctorates, he is the author of four previous books: 'Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever', 'The Age of Spiritual Machines', 'The 10 per cent Solution for a Healthy Life' and 'The Age of Intelligent Machines'.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Gordon Copestake on 19 Oct. 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ray Kurzweil isn't renowned for his authoring talents and is better known for his inventions. I remember many years ago owning a copy of Kerzweil's voice recognition program (I forget the exact title) and being impressed with its accuracy. Kerzweil is also renowned for his work in digital music and a vast array of other fields.
In this book the author expands on his vision of the future as he sees it in the next 50 years. The main thrust of the book is that Moore's law is continuing and as such computing power is increasing exponentially (exponentials are a large part of this book). The premise that as computing power increases dramatically we will be able to create even more technology, with the aim to "uploading" ourselves into our computers. This at first seems like science fiction but be assured that the author looks at every detail and examines the feasibility of each stage of his premise. The results are startling, and I must admit give me a strange feeling in the gut of my stomach when I realised the full breadth of his suggestions.
This book could be considered a sequel to the author's previous books, the Age of Intelligent Machines, and the Age of Spiritual Machines. However you don't need to have read these previous books to understand the concepts involved. A basic understanding of genetics and nanotechnology would help, but are not required.
I don't know if the authors predictions will come to pass (And I honestly hope they do!) but I would recommend this book to anyone seriously interested in the future and who wants to prepare themselves in advance.
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77 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Amerfas on 22 April 2010
Format: Paperback
I am a great fan of technology forecasting (and the Singularity - known as the Geek's Rapture - in particular) and fervently believe in extrapolating today's trends to illuminate the possible paths ahead. While this book has the scientific credibility to power the batteries, the filament (Kurzweil's opinion) is very selective in the future paths that it lights up. It is the author's subjectivity, and unabashed self-promotion that corrode the overall quality of what should have been the definitive post-human road-map.

My main issues:

Kurzweil's mortality:
A basic underlying current moving the direction of the discussion throughout the book appears to be Kurzweil's fear of death. The most frequently cited impact of the technologies he reports, are the ways in which it reduces / eliminates aging. The author is 56 years old (and is quite justifiably proud of biologically being only 40 years old), and constantly talks about how "technology X" currently in development could help avoid death in the next three decades. While it is important, making Ray live forever cannot be the most important feature of the Singularity.

The Singularity is Nearer the West Coast:
Kurzweil makes no attempt to either colour his research, or even explore the implications of the Singularity on anyone not living in California. I found this such a strong theme that it almost felt like chauvinism. The way in which he suggests the Singularity will change life are all to do with how people on the West Coast of the USA currently live. The ideas and projections would be far more accessible had he sought to stretch his horizons beyond San Diego / San Francisco.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Luke A. G. Palmer on 30 April 2008
Format: Paperback
For those of you who don't know, Ray Kurzweil is the man who invented Optical Character Recognition, along with various other pattern-recognition technologies. He is well-versed in what technology is theoretically capable of, and has spent his professional life trying to make it do these things.

I have nothing but good things to say about Ray Kurzweil, and this book in particular. The ideas that he puts forward may seem very optimistic, sometimes verging on techno-fanaticism, but nothing he is saying is negative. If he's right, the human race only has to survive until the 2040s and things will markedly improve.

However excellent I found the technological predictions made in this book, there are two points that brought it down to four stars. First, and a matter I admit is one of personal preference, there were far too many graphs to do with economy and business. This is an American book, so capitalism has to figure somewhere, and he is forgiven. The other point is that some of the speculations he is making are sociological ones and these are far more spurious than any technological speculations. However, they are not fundamental to what he is arguing.

All in all, an excellent, if at times overwhelming, read. I heartily recommend it as an introduction to transhumanism and futurism.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 16 July 2006
Format: Hardcover
The role of the "futurist" is difficult and often thankless. The more daring of the tribe, among whom Kurzweil is prominent, will apply deadlines to forecasts. That's always risky, and failure to meet them appears to undermine the concept. Kurzweil, however, is able to brush aside such trivial complaints to focus on the bigger issues. How fast is technology improving and how will these advances affect humanity. For him, the answer is clear - humanity and technology will merge. The result will be Version 2.0 of humanity with enhanced intellect and bodies that will not "wear out". Kurzweil's "Singularity" is that point at which the merger will be complete. And final - a word to keep in mind.

The basis of his thesis is the advance of technology, typified by GNR [Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics]. While these sound intimidating, one need not be highly conversant with the technologies to understand his argument. He explains them all clearly. Basing his project on the well-known "Moore's Law" - computing power will double every eighteen months - Kurzweil shows how computer processing capacity will soon outstrip that of the human brain. Once that transformation is achieved, it will be a short step to enhance existing technology to reforming the human body. The heart, an inefficient and vulnerable pump, can be replaced by a easily repairable mechanical version. The grumbling intestinal tract can dispense with all those E. coli bacteria and an energy transfer mechanism, requiring greatly reduced resources can take its place.

To transform the speed and capacity of a silicon-based device to a carbon-based biological entity seems anomalous to some and blasphemous to others. Kurzweil dismisses the second objection and carefully explains how the first is short-sighted.
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