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The Spike : How Our Lives Are Being…
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The Spike : How Our Lives Are Being Transformed by Rapidly Advancing… (2001)

by Damien Broderick

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If you are wondering why people around you are babbling strange words like “transhumanism” and “extropianism” and using a capital S to speak of a Singularity and then opening a university for it, this book is a good introduction to the field. Broderick looks at the currents of thought centered on the idea that the rate of technological advance is, itself, accelerating, for everything from transport speeds to gene sequencing to Moore’s Law, and speculating on what the world will be like if this acceleration continues.

I’ve been following the discussion for some time, so the book was largely review for me; it was quite nice to see a well-balanced look at the differing viewpoints on what Broderick calls the Spike. He covers the ramifications of molecular nanotechnology and artificial intelligence and human uploading, which may be a wild ride for someone who hasn’t been reading Vinge and Stross and Drexler already. Broderick pays careful attention to the skeptics as well as the gung-ho enthusiasts, and has an opinion similar to mine: we should be devoting a lot of careful thought to these matters now so we’re better able to avoid or solve problems when they come up. He’s a bit more optimistic about the matter than I am; I agree with Broderick that these technologies are well worth pursuing, but I’m with Jamais Cascio: “The Singularity is not a sustainability strategy.”

Any book about the future can go out of date very quickly; this is a 2001 vintage and still holding up fairly well, though there are more recent results in biology that stand out— he has the old estimate of humans having 100,000 genes, and makes no mention of synthetic biology. ( )
1 vote slothman | Aug 30, 2009 |
Years before Ray Kurzweil's book on the projected (2048? Maybe earlier.) technological singularity, there was this one by Aussie author Broderick. The extensive stuff on nanotech seemed dubious to me. Great chapter on the conundrums and implications of mind uploading. Another good volume for us transhumanists.
  fpagan | Sep 6, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 031287782X, Paperback)

If we are to believe the projections outlined in Damien Broderick's The Spike, the acceleration of change is increasing so sharply that the future is not just unknowable but unrecognizable. Dr. Broderick pulls together his vast learning to expand on Vernor Vinge's notion of the technological Singularity and to share with us his necessarily clouded vision of a posthuman future. Writing with a rare enthusiasm unmuted by years of dystopian fiction and news reports, Broderick peels back the layers of jargon enshrouding recent advances in nanotech, biotech, and all the other tech that's daring us to keep up.

It's hard for the reader to avoid feeling swept up in the rush of novelty, and that of course is the author's point. As we learn to modify even our deepest natures, how can we ever hope to maintain intellectual distance from our technology? Forewarned is forearmed, and Broderick hopes that awareness of the maelstrom will keep us from drowning; this might be the best cure for post-millennial despair. In any case, not everyone believes that the world of 2050 will be incomprehensible to those of us who lived through part of the 20th century. Will the curve spike, as Broderick suggests, or will it plateau? We should know in relatively little time, as we find ourselves either downloaded into space-traveling robots or watching the latest incarnation of holographic Star Trek. --Rob Lightner

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:20 -0400)

"Human life and the human condition are changing rapidly as we enter the new century, and they are about to change even faster and more radically. Scientific breakthroughs are changing how long we live, where we live, how we dress, how we communicate, how we work and what work we do, and even how we think and imagine. Scientist Vernor Vinge proposed that humanity is approaching what he called the Singularity and what Broderick has renamed the Spike: that moment in human history when heretofore unimaginable changes - the advent of artificial intelligence, of human immortality, of nanotechnology - occur with such rapidity and number that the human race will be transformed, or destroyed. And that moment, many experts predict, is almost upon us. This book of wonders and dangers brings it all together to stretch our minds."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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