The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology is a 2006 non-fiction book about artificial intelligence and the future of humanity by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil.
Ray Kurzweil is one of the world’s leading inventors, thinkers, and futurists, with a twenty-year track record of accurate predictions. Called “the restless genius” by The Wall Street Journal and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes magazine, Kurzweil was selected as one of the top entrepreneurs by Inc. magazine, which described him as the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison.” PBS selected him as one of “sixteen revolutionaries who made America,” along with other inventors of the past two centuries. An inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and recipient of the National Medal of Technology, the Lemelson-MIT Prize (the world’s largest award for innovation), thirteen honorary doctorates, and awards from three U.S. presidents, he is the author of four previous books: Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever (coauthored with Terry Grossman, M.D.), The Age of Spiritual Machines, The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life, and The Age of Intelligent Machines.
At the onset of the twenty-first century, humanity stands on the verge of the most transforming and thrilling period in its history. It will be an era in which the very nature of what it means to be human will be both enriched and challenged, as our species breaks the shackles of it genetic legacy and achieves inconceivable heights of intelligence, material progress, and longevity.
For over three decades, the great inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil has been one of the most respected and provocative advocates of the role of technology in our future. In his class The Age of Spiritual Machine, he presented the daring argument that with the ever-accelerating rate of technological change, computers would rival the full range of human intelligence at its best. Now, in The Singularity Is Near, 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 own creations.
The merging is the essence of the Singularity, an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today—the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend out biological limitations and amplify our creativity. In this new world, there will be no clear distinction between human and machine, real reality and virtual reality. We will be able to assume different bodies and take on a range of personae at will. In practical terms, human aging and illness will be reversed; pollution will be stopped; world hunger and poverty will be solved.
Nanotechnology will make it possible to create virtually any physical product using inexpensive information processes and will ultimately turn even death into a soluble problem.
While the social and philosophical ramifications of these changes will be profound, and the threats they pose considerable, The Singularity Is Near maintains a radically optimistic view of the future course of human development. As such, it offers a view of the coming age that is both a dramatic culmination of the centuries of technological ingenuity and a genuinely inspiring vision of our ultimate destiny.
“Anyone can grasp Mr. Kurzweil’s main idea: that mankind’s technological knowledge has been snowballing, with dizzying prospects for the future. The basics are clearly expressed. But for those more knowledgeable and inquisitive, the author argues his case in fascinating detail….The Singularity Is Near is startling in scope and bravado.”—JANET MASLIN, The New York Times
“Filled with imaginative, scientifically grounded speculation….The Singularity Is Near is worth reading just for its wealth of information, all lucidly presented….[It’s] an important book. Not everything that Kurzweil predicts may come to pass, but a lot of it will, and even if you don’t agree with everything he says, it’s all worth paying attention to.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“[An] exhilarating and terrifyingly deep look at where we are headed as a species….Mr. Kurzweil is a brilliant scientist and futurist, and he makes a compelling and, indeed, a very moving case for his view of the future.”—The New York Sun
“The book’s claims are so footnoted, documented, graphed, argued, and plausible in small detail, that it requires the equal in response. Yet its claims are so outrageous that if true, it would mean … well … the end of the world as we know it, and the beginning of utopia. Ray Kurzweil has taken all the strands of the Singularity meme circulating in the last decades and has united them into a single tome which he has nailed on our front door. I suspect this will be one of the most cited books of the decade. Like Paul Ehrlich’s upsetting 1972 book Population Bomb, fan or foe, it’s the wave at the epicenter you have to start with.”—KEVIN KELLY, founder of Wired
“One of the most important thinkers of our time, Kurzweil has followed up his earlier works … with a work of startling breadth and audacious scope.”—newmediamusings.com
“An attractive picture of a plausible future.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Kurzweil is a true scientist-a large-minded one at that….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.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Throughout this tour de force of boundless technological optimism, one is impressed by the author’s adamantine intellectual integrity….If you are at all interested in the evolution of technology in this century and its consequences for the humans who are creating it, this is certainly a book you should read.”—JOHN WALKER, inventor of Autodesk, in Fourmilab Change Log
“Ray Kurzweil is the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence. His intriguing new book envisions a future in which information technologies have advanced so far and fast that they enable humanity to transcend its biological limitations-transforming our lives in ways we can’t yet imagine.”—BILL GATES
“If you have ever wondered about the nature and impact of the next profound discontinuities that will fundamentally change the way we live, work, and perceive our world, read this book. Kurzweil’s Singularity is a tour de force, imagining the unimaginable and eloquently exploring the coming disruptive events that will alter our fundamental perspectives as significantly as did electricity and the computer.”—DEAN KAMEN, physicist and inventor of the first wearable insulin pump
“One of our leading AI practitioners, Ray Kurzweil, has once again created a ‘must read’ book for anyone interested in the future of science, the social impact of technology, and indeed the future of our species. His thought-provoking book envisages a future in which we transcend our biological limitations, while making a compelling case that a human civilization with superhuman capabilities is closer at hand than most people realize.”—RAJ REDDY, founding director, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University; recipient of the Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery
“Ray’s optimistic book well merits both reading and thoughtful response. For those like myself whose views differ from Ray’s on the balance of promise and peril, The Singularity Is Near is a clear call for a continuing dialogue to address the greater concerns arising from these accelerating possibilities.”—BILL JOY, cofounder and former chief scientist, Sun Microsystems