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 eventthe singularityin 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 eventa 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.)
Artfully envisions a breathtakingly better world. (Los Angeles Times
A pleasure to read. (The Wall Street Journal)
The best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence (Bill Gates)
Praise for J. Craig Venter:
“ [Venter is] not just trying to understand how life works; hes trying to make it work for him, and for us.”
“ [The] media has called Venter many things: maverick, publicity hound, risk-taker, brash, controversial, genius, manic, rebellious, visionary, audacious, arrogant, feisty, determined, provocative. His autobiography shows that they are all justified.”
“ A Life Decoded offers a window into the life and mind of a scientist who . . . has indisputably become an extraordinary figure.”
"When scientists finally succeed in transmitting to another galaxy the digital instructions for building a living organism, they will rely on science that Venter has pioneered.... Readers will thank Venter for an insiders perspective on epoch-making science."
“Craig Venter is a singular individual... at once inheritor of molecular biologys prior triumphs and the wellspring of its future…He compellingly depicts his diverse research as a concerted effort to shuttle biology between the material and the digital worlds…a gripping tale and welcome antidote to dry materials and methods sections that make such sagas feel disembodied and inevitable.”
"[A] remarkable book."
"A fascinating glimpse at a scientific frontier—not always easily understandable but well worth the effort."
"A great read."
~Ricki Lewis, PhD, PLOS.org
“One of the world's leading scientists delivers a history of molecular biology and its many ramifications depicted as it has been and will continue to be, a creator of the golden age of modern biology. His style is that of a dispatch from the front, urgent and engaged, as only a participant could write it, and the best of its genre since James D. Watson's The Double Helix.”
~Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
“Humanity is entering a period of radical transformation and one reason is due to Craig Venter's research in creating new life forms based on computer designed synthetic DNA. Life at the Speed of Light is his beautifully written, powerful and persuasive story on how DNA information and computers will blend in the coming singularity, that watershed in the evolution of humanity beyond which amazing new possibilities for life, society and everything we care about will emerge.”
~Ray Kurzweil, author of How to Create a Mind and The Singularity Is Near
In his latest, thrilling foray into the future, a great inventor and futurist envisions an event--the "singularity"--in which technological change becomes so rapid and so profound that human bodies and brains will merge with machines.
The bold and thrilling quest to finally understand the brainandmdash;and along with it our mental afflictions, from depression to autismandmdash;by a rising star in neuroscience
Sebastian Seung, a dynamic young professor at MIT, is at the forefront of a revolution in neuroscience. He believes that our identity lies not in our genes, but in the connections between our brain cellsandmdash;our own particular wiring. Seung and a dedicated group of researchers are leading the effort to map these connections, neuron by neuron, synapse by synapse. It is a monumental effortandmdash;the scientific equivalent of climbing Mount Everestandmdash;but if they succeed, they will uncover the basis of personality, identity, intelligence, memory, and perhaps disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. Seung explains how this new map of a human andldquo;connectomeandrdquo; might even enable us to andldquo;uploadandrdquo; our brains into a computer, making us effectively immortal.
Connectomeis a mind-bending adventure story, told with great passion and authority. It presents a daring scientific and technological vision for at last understanding what makes us who we are, both as individuals and as a species.
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 insidedetailing 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.
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.
Venter instills awe for biology as it is, and as it might become in our hands.” Publishers Weekly
On May 20, 2010, headlines around the world announced one of the most extraordinary accomplishments in modern science: the creation of the worlds first synthetic lifeform. In Life at the Speed of Light, scientist J. Craig Venter, best known for sequencing the human genome, shares the dramatic account of how he led a team of researchers in this pioneering effort in synthetic genomicsand how that work will have a profound impact on our existence in the years to come. This is a fascinating and authoritative study that provides readers an opportunity to ponder afresh the age-old question What is life?” at the dawn of a new era of biological engineering.
About the Author
J. Craig Venter is best known for sequencing the human genome. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of the J. Craig Venter Institute, a not-for-profit research organization dedicated to genomic research. He is also the founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics, Inc., as well as the author of A Life Decoded. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the 2008 United States National Medal of Science, and twice been named one Time's 100 most influential people. He lives in La Jolla, California. Visit jcvi.org.