The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence

Ray Kurzweil, Author Viking Books $25.95 (388p) ISBN 978-0-670-88217-5
According to the law of accelerating returns, explains futurist Kurzweil (The Age of Intelligent Machines), technological gains are made at an exponential rate. In his utopian vision of the 21st century, our lives will change not merely incrementally but fundamentally. The author is the inventor of reading and speech-recognition machines, among other technologies, but he isn't much of a writer. Using clunky prose and an awkward dialogue with a woman from the future, he sets up the history of evolution and technology and then offers a whirlwind tour through the next 100 years. Along the way, he makes some bizarre predictions. If Kurzweil has it right, in the next few decades humans will download books directly into their brains, run off with virtual secretaries and exist ""as software,"" as we become more like computers and computers become more like us. Other projections--e.g., that most diseases will be reversible or preventable--are less strange but seem similarly Panglossian. Still others are more realizable: human-embedded computers will track the location of practically anyone, at any time. More problematic is Kurzweil's self-congratulatory tone. Still, by addressing (if not quite satisfactorily) the overpowering distinction between intelligence and consciousness, and by addressing the difference between a giant database and an intuitive machine, this book serves as a very provocative, if not very persuasive, view of the future from a man who has studied and shaped it. B&w illustrations. Agent, Loretta Barrett; foreign rights sold in the U.K., Germany, Italy and Spain; simultaneous Penguin audio; author tour. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Paperback - 388 pages - 978-0-14-028202-3
Hardcover - 978-0-7528-2078-1
Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-92210-4
Open Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-101-06644-7
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 400 pages - 978-1-101-06930-1
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-14-086888-3
Open Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-101-07788-7
Hardcover - 399 pages - 978-1-58799-122-6
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