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The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biologyby Ray Kurzweil
The future of humanity in Kurzweil's eyes is a startling vision of humans moving beyond our biological bodies to join with computers — the human machine. Controversial and insightful, Singularity illuminates the technologies that are pushing the boundaries of humanness and reveals a future that hovers amazingly near.
Synopses & Reviews
The great inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil is one of the best-known and mostcontroversial advocates for the role of machines in the future of humanity. In his latest book, he envisions an event — the "singularity" — 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 event — 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. In practical terms, this means that human aging and pollution will be reversed; world hunger will be solved; our bodies and environment transformed by nanotechnology to overcome the limitations of biology, including death; and virtually any physical product can be created from information alone. The Singularity Is Near also considers the social and philosophical ramifications of these changes, and 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.)
"Anyone can grasp Mr. Kurzweil's main idea: that mankind's technological knowledge has been snowballing, with dizzying prospects for the future. The basics are clearly expressed. But for those more knowledgeable and inquisitive, the author argues his case in fascinating detail." Janet Maslin, New York Times
"Kurzweil backs his predictions with numerous citations of other experts, and while some of the arguments are dense, the book repays close attention. An attractive picture of a plausible future." Kirkus Reviews
"Kurzweil argues in terms borrowed from astrophysics, the approach of a historical 'singularity': a state of affairs so radically different from everything in the past that we can know virtually nothing about it." Foreign Affairs
"Kurzweil links a projected ascendance of artificial intelligence to the future of the evolutionary process itself....Like the graph of a mathematical singularity flipped on its side, it is a road that leads straight upward toward a momentous event." Oregonian
For over three decades, 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.
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.
For over three decades, 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.
About the Author
Ray Kurzweil is a prizewinning author and scientist. Recipient of the MIT-Lemelson Prize (the world's largest for innovation), and inducted into the Inventors' 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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