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The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biologyby Ray Kurzweil
Synopses & Reviews
The great inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil is one of the best-known and controversial advocates for the role of machines in the future of humanity. In his latest, thrilling foray into the future, he envisions an eventÂ—the“singularit”Â—in which technological change becomes so rapid and so profound that our bodies and brains will merge with our machines.
The Singularity Is Near portrays what life will be like after this eventÂ—a human-machine civilization where our experiences shift from real reality to virtual reality and where our intelligence becomes nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than unaided human intelligence. In practical terms, this means that human aging and pollution will be reversed, world hunger will be solved, and our bodies and environment transformed by nanotechnology to overcome the limitations of biology, including death.
We will be able to create virtually any physical product just from information, resulting in radical wealth creation. In addition to outlining these fantastic changes, Kurzweil also considers their social and philosophical ramifications. With its radical but optimistic view of the course of human development, The Singularity Is Near is certain to be one of the most widely discussed and provocative books of 2005.
"Renowned inventor Kurzweil (The Age of Spiritual Machines) may be technology's most credibly hyperbolic optimist. Elsewhere he has argued that eliminating fat intake can prevent cancer; here, his quarry is the future of consciousness and intelligence. Humankind, it runs, is at the threshold of an epoch ('the singularity,' a reference to the theoretical limitlessness of exponential expansion) that will see the merging of our biology with the staggering achievements of 'GNR' (genetics, nanotechnology and robotics) to create a species of unrecognizably high intelligence, durability, comprehension, memory and so on. The word 'unrecognizable' is not chosen lightly: wherever this is heading, it won't look like us. Kurzweil's argument is necessarily twofold: it's not enough to argue that there are virtually no constraints on our capacity; he must also convince readers that such developments are desirable. In essence, he conflates the wholesale transformation of the species with 'immortality,' for which read a repeal of human limit. In less capable hands, this phantasmagoria of speculative extrapolation, which incorporates a bewildering variety of charts, quotations, playful Socratic dialogues and sidebars, would be easier to dismiss. But Kurzweil is a true scientist — a large-minded one at that — and gives due space both to 'the panoply of existential risks' as he sees them and the many presumed lines of attack others might bring to bear. What's arresting isn't the degree to which Kurzweil's heady and bracing vision fails to convince — given the scope of his projections, that's inevitable — but the degree to which it seems downright plausible. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A futurists in-depth look at the promise and perils of forecasting
An app on your phone knows youre getting married before you do. Your friends tweets can help data scientists predict your location with astounding accuracy, even if you dont use Twitter. Soon, well be able to know how many kids in a kindergarten class will catch a cold once the first one gets sick.
We are on the threshold of a historic transition in our ability to predict aspects of the future with ever-increasing precision. Computer-aided forecasting is poised for rapid growth over the next ten years. The rise of big data will enable us to predict not only events like earthquakes or epidemics, but also individual behavior.
Patrick Tucker explores the potential for abuse of predictive analytics as well as the benefits. Will we be able to predict guilt before a person commits a crime? Is it legal to quarantine someone 99 percent likely to have the superflu while theyre still healthy? These questions matter, because the naked future will be upon us sooner than we realize.
The renowned scientist and author of A Life Decoded examines the creation of life in the new field of synthetic genomics
In 2010, scientists led by J. Craig Venter became the first to successfully create synthetic life”—putting humankind at the threshold of the most important and exciting phase of biological research, one that will enable us to actually write the genetic code for designing new species to help us adapt and evolve for long-term survival. The science of synthetic genomics will have a profound impact on human existence, including chemical and energy generation, health, clean water and food production, environmental control, and possibly even our evolution.
In Life at the Speed of Light, Venter presents a fascinating and authoritative study of this emerging field from the inside—detailing its origins, current challenges and controversies, and projected effects on our lives. This scientific frontier provides an opportunity to ponder anew the age-old question What is life?” and examine what we really mean by playing God.” Life at the Speed of Light is a landmark work, written by a visionary at the dawn of a new era of biological engineering.
About the Author
Ray Kurzweil is a prize-winning author and scientist. Recipient of the MIT-Lemelson Prize (the world’s largest for innovation), and inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame, he received the 1999 National Medal of Technology. His books include The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Age of Intelligent Machines.
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