Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Singularity is Near: a book review

I just finnished reading Kurzweil's latest book and it was loaded with insight. For those of you who arn't familiar with Ray he is one of the most preeminent inventors of our time, a respected futurist, and the author of "The Law of Accelerating Returns", which- in my opinion- will turn out to be one of the most important theories in the history of Science.
If you are familiar with Ray's work then this book really does not contain anything groundbreaking that you havn't heard before though it does contain lots of details you probably are unaware of. Essentialy the book consists of a thourough recapitulation of Kurzweil's Law (The Law of Accelerating Returns) in the first two chapters. The next two chapters go into detail about how Moore's Law will be transcended with three dimentional chips and how we will ultimately achieve processing speedes capable of emulating the functions of the human brain. Kurzweil then spends a good deal of time explaining the current state of the art concerning brain scanning technieques and argues that by 2029 we will be able to revearse engineer the human brain and hence have Turing test capable AI by that time.
In the Fith Chapter Ray returns to his well know GNR hypothesis which basically states that biotech, nanotech, and AI (genetic, nano, robotics) are all interconncted in feedback loops that fuel greater and greater acceleration of return. As Ray explaines it we will first see a boom in biotech over the next decade followed by a nanotech revolution which will together ultimately lead to the technology that will make strong AI possible. After this there is a discussion on how these technologies will affect verious aspects of human life. In chapter seven ray heads into a philosophical analysis of the hard problem of consciousness and what the ramifications will be on society when machines claim to be conscious. I found this chapter to be most interesting because it answered many questions I had about what Ray's believed concerning machine consciousness.
The last Two chapters of the book end with an analysis of the future perils we face because of technology and finally Ray answers specific criticisms and arguments leveled against him by a number of different people and camps. This last chapter is also very interesting because it really shows how much substance Ray's thinking has when up against the specious charecter of his opponents argumets.
If you are in any way interested in technological evolution, or if you desire to be an informed thinker then this book is an absolute must read.


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