cover image The Singularity Is Nearer: When We Merge with AI

The Singularity Is Nearer: When We Merge with AI

Ray Kurzweil. Viking, $35 (448p) ISBN 978-0-399-56276-1

In this fanciful prognosis, Kurzweil explores how technological advances made since the publication of his 2005 book, The Singularity Is Near, will affect humanity’s future. His predictions are based on his belief that around 2045 and “aided by superhuman AI, we will engineer brain–computer interfaces that vastly expand our neocortices with layers of virtual neurons” in the cloud, achieving the “singularity” point at which humanity and technology will merge. Discussing some of the mind-bending possibilities such an event would engender, Kurzweil suggests it may one day be possible to transfer one’s memories and personality to a digital medium, raising questions over whether the digital version should be considered the same person as the biological original and whether “our subjective consciousness may somehow encompass all copies of this defining information.” Unfortunately, most of Kurzweil’s arguments cite as evidence only his unwavering confidence in the inevitable march of scientific progress. For example, he posits that “medical nanorobots” will forestall aging by repairing organs and adjusting blood levels without providing much detail on the science needed to realize such an innovation. The bounty of graphs suggesting that technological advances lie behind long-term declines in annual hours worked, violent crime, and authoritarianism paper over the potential negative consequences of advanced technology, which are treated largely in passing. This has more speculation than science. Agent: Nick Mullendore, Vertical Ink Agency. (June)