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The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (1999)

by Ray Kurzweil

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1,830219,340 (3.69)5
Ray Kurzweil is the inventor of the most innovative and compelling technology of our era, an international authority on artificial intelligence, and one of our greatest living visionaries. Now he offers a framework for envisioning the twenty-first century--an age in which the marriage of human sensitivity and artificial intelligence fundamentally alters and improves the way we live. Kurzweil's prophetic blueprint for the future takes us through the advances that inexorably result in computers exceeding the memory capacity and computational ability of the human brain by the year 2020 (with human-level capabilities not far behind); in relationships with automated personalities who will be our teachers, companions, and lovers; and in information fed straight into our brains along direct neural pathways. Optimistic and challenging, thought-provoking and engaging, The Age of Spiritual Machines is the ultimate guide on our road into the next century.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Occasional insights, but painfully dated. ( )
  kenf | Dec 3, 2023 |
This one was a little flat for me, and not just because of the title. I can't fathom why he would equate "spiritual" and "intelligence" - of course, both are evolutionary products, but they are not synonymous in any way. Whenever humans build conscious machines, I really hope that those machines won't have the electronic equivalent of the human gene that makes them susceptible to superstition/belief. Still, the book was engaging enough until Kurzweil started talking about the "elegance of Buddhist notions of consciousness". After that, I just looked for the meat and not his forays into computer poetry.

I also was turned off by his dialogues at the end of each major section. I can only suppose he thought he was being cute or was trying to reach a different audience with that Socratic device, but it was just annoying to me. His predictions for 2009 were somewhat close, but are going to start failing big time come 2019 and beyond. His Law of Accelerating Returns might have some bearing on technological increases, but he's pipe-dreaming when it comes to socio-political matters.

And one last gripe...on quotes: When I see quotes in a book, I often like check on them to see if they are accurate, if there is anything interesting to go with the quote, or even if the quote is correctly attributed. Kurzweil peppers his books (all two of them I've read so far) with so many that pulling those threads would take too much time, and for the most part, they're fun. He blew it when he "quoted" Bill Gates...Gates never said "640,000 bytes of memory ought to be enough for anybody." Perhaps such a gaffe could be forgiven except that in one of his dialogues from the 2029 future prediction section, he said to his ... counterpoint? ... "at least there are fewer references to look up."

Should have looked up one more. ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
The author Ray Kurzweil has a fairly interesting premise - what happens when machines are able to duplicate the complexities of the human brain? He spends a lot of time trying to convince his readers of that eventuality but it's also apparent that he has drunk his own kool-aid. And he spends hardly any time on the most interesting question of his book - what makes us human?

And since his book was written in 1999, already some of his predictions are off the mark.

I skimmed the last few chapters as interest waned..... ( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
It had me thinking about this subject for a long while after reading the book. ( )
  tlockney | Sep 7, 2014 |
This was really unreadable. It's like techno-babble junk food. Never tries to back up its claims or present a logical argument. I found the question/answer format of some of the sections distracting and prone to digression. ( )
2 vote wweisser | Jul 6, 2013 |
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The universe is made of stories, not of atoms -Muriel Rukeyser
Is the universe a great mechanism, a great computation, a great symmetry, a great accident, or a great thought? -John D. Barrow
What if these theories are really true and we were magically shrunk and put into someone's brain while he was thinking. We would see all the pumps, pistons, gears and levers working away,and we would be able to describe their workings completely, in mechanical terms,thereby describing the thought processes of the brain. But that description would nowhere contain any description of thought! It would contain nothing but descriptions of pumps, pistons, levers! -Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
Artificial Stupidity (AS) may be defined as the attempt by computer scientists to create computer programs capable of causing problems of a type normally associated with human thought. -Wallace Marshal
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the science of how to get machines to do the things they do in the movies. -Astro Trller
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As we start at the beginning, we will notice an unusual attribute to the nature of time, one that is critical to our passage into the twenty-first century.
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Ray Kurzweil is the inventor of the most innovative and compelling technology of our era, an international authority on artificial intelligence, and one of our greatest living visionaries. Now he offers a framework for envisioning the twenty-first century--an age in which the marriage of human sensitivity and artificial intelligence fundamentally alters and improves the way we live. Kurzweil's prophetic blueprint for the future takes us through the advances that inexorably result in computers exceeding the memory capacity and computational ability of the human brain by the year 2020 (with human-level capabilities not far behind); in relationships with automated personalities who will be our teachers, companions, and lovers; and in information fed straight into our brains along direct neural pathways. Optimistic and challenging, thought-provoking and engaging, The Age of Spiritual Machines is the ultimate guide on our road into the next century.

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