Summary and book reviews of The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil

The Singularity Is Near

When Humans Transcend Biology

by Ray Kurzweil

The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2005, 672 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2006, 672 pages

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Book Summary

The bestselling author of The Age of Spiritual Machines presents the next stage of his compelling view of the future: the merging of humans and machines.

The great inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil is one of the best-known and controversial advocates for the role of machines in the future of humanity. In his latest, thrilling foray into the future, he envisions an event — the "singularity" — in which technological change becomes so rapid and so profound that our bodies and brains will merge with our machines.

The Singularity Is Near
portrays what life will be like after this event—a human-machine civilization where our experiences shift from real reality to virtual reality and where our intelligence becomes nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than unaided human intelligence. In practical terms, this means that human aging and pollution will be reversed, world hunger will be solved, and our bodies and environment transformed by nanotechnology to overcome the limitations of biology, including death.

We will be able to create virtually any physical product just from information, resulting in radical wealth creation. In addition to outlining these fantastic changes, Kurzweil also considers their social and philosophical ramifications. With its radical but optimistic view of the course of human development, The Singularity Is Near is certain to be one of the most widely discussed and provocative books of 2005.

Prologue
The Power of Ideas

I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success.
—Nikola Tesla, 1896, inventor of alternating current.


At the age of five, I had the idea that I would become an inventor. I had the notion that inventions could change the world. When other kids were wondering aloud what they wanted to be, I already had the conceit that I knew what I was going to be. The rocket ship to the moon that I was then building (almost a decade before President Kennedy's challenge to the nation) did not work out. But at around the time I turned eight, my inventions became a little more realistic, such as a robotic theater with mechanical linkages that could move scenery and characters in and out of view, and virtual baseball games.

Having fled the Holocaust, my parents, both artists, wanted a more worldly, less provincial, ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Booklist - Gilbert Taylor

An involved presentation, this is best for readers of the wide-angle, journalistic treatment Radical Evolution (2005), by Joel Garreau.

Kirkus Reviews

Kurzweil backs his predictions with numerous citations of other experts, and while some of the arguments are dense, the book repays close attention. An attractive picture of a plausible future; in 20 years, we may know if it actually works.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.

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