Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Book Review: The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil

Interesting prognostications from a great inventor and thinker. In Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, he argues that by the year 2030, we will have computers that are as smart as humans, nanobots that can cure disease and eliminate aging, and we will transcend biology to mesh with technology. His evidence essentially stems from what he perceives as the accelerating pace of computation and knowledge until we reach the Singularity, the point where our creations are smarter than us and can enhance our abilities. While the evidence that the development of some technologies and knowledge are accelerating, it seems that we are really at the beginning of our pursuit of nano technology, manipulating genetics, and robotics. Further, it appears that our current understanding of these advanced technologies is so crude that it will be quite awhile before we can do some of the things that Kurzweil imagines.

Reading the book, you get the sense that some of Kurzweil's optimism stems from his fear of death and aging. He pops more than 250 supplements a day to try to slow the aging process so his baby boomer body will survive until the advances he predicts are available.

He also has a section devoted to the Singulitarian movement, which feels like a neo New Age, post-theology view of the utopia of the technology future. After a few pages, I gave the rest of it a miss.