Monday, October 31, 2005

The Singularity Is Near by: Ray Kurzweil

Last week I finally found a copy of Ray Kurzweil's latest offering The Singularity is Near. Ray Kurzweil is best known as a prominent inventor, having developed reading devices for blind people and working with synthesizers as well. He does also dabble in books.

His latest book seems to continue with some of his thoughts that arose in his last book Age of the Spiritual Machines and, yes, that was the book that inspired that Our Lady Peace albume Spiritual Machines.

I've only just started to read The Singularity is Near and it's likely going to take me a while based on the fact that when a lot of thought-provoking concepts are introduced in a text I tend to have to put the book down to ponder them awhile. So far this is proving to be the case with his writing once again.

One of concepts that has always fascinated me when it comes to Kurzweil's books is how he explains how our lives will be lengthened perhaps indefinitely. Advances in computing and the emergence of nanotechnology, Kurzweil believes, are going to transform humanity into beings capable of transcending the limitations of their own biology. The thought is that we could very well be living hundreds of years if not as long as we want to live.

So far what I have read into his latest book he explains how most people look at human advancement as being linear in nature. He argues, though, that it should be viewed as being exponential. That is to say instead of judging how much we will advance technologically over the next 50 years, say, by judging how far we advanced technologically over the past 50 years, we should actually be thinking about it in terms of exponential growth. The rate at which we develop technology as a species is increasing as well so the sheer volume of advancements we are going to be making is only going to go up as well. Reading it like this things tend to make sense.

But, alas, that's just the beginning of the book and I'm already raving about it. I'll keep you posted on how things go as I make my way through the body of the text. Last time I read a Kurzweil book it affected my poetry greatly and I wonder if the same things will happen this time around.

Time will only tell.


brodie said...

Sounds cool. You've got to lend me Age of the Spiritual Machines. I'm starting to get interested in the topic.

Selina said...

Another recommendation on a similar topic: "Calculating God" by Robert J Sawyer- an excellent Canadian sci-fi writer. It starts out as a comical space-invasion story but segues into a thought provoking tale of an atheist scientist whose beliefs are challenged when he meets aliens searching for evidence of God...