Posted by: Olga Kharif on June 21, 2005
I just got a preview copy of Ray Kurzweil’s upcoming book, “The Singularity Is Near.” I am still going through the tome’s 603 pages, more than 100 of which are annotations and notes. What I’ve gleaned so far is, if you thought Kurzweil’s “The Age of Spiritual Machines,” which talked about a time when human and machine cognition would blur, was really out there, this new book is really, really out there. Delightfully so.
In his new book, the famed inventor is looking, once again, at the implications of merging biological and non-biological thinking. The possibilities include expanding beyond the solar system and using programmable blood (Kurzweil believes we’ll do away with human organs altogether).
One of my favorite chapters (so far, I've flipped through a bunch of them) talks about doing away with the heart. In a typical Kurzweilian fashion -- in his books, Kurzweil questions a lot of notions most of us take for granted -- the author says that we really don't need a heart, which can often be subject to failure. Instead, nanorobotic blood cells could be cruising through our blood vessels on their own.
But then again, perhaps we could do away with the blood vessels, too, by finding a more efficient way to deliver nutrients to the body, he says.
Out there as such ideas are, technologies that would make them possible might be rather near. Kurzweil believes our technological progress is accelerating at a great pace. Computer intelligence could start exceeding human intelligence around the year 2030.
That's only 25 years away. If you recall, 25 years ago we typed on a typewriter and had no idea what the Internet was.
The bottom line: Like Kurzweil's previous bestsellers, I think this book will make a delightful read for a techie or a sci-fi fan. It's well written, and it does a good job explaining scientific concepts in laymen's terms.
The book will become available in September. I'll blog more on it as I get through it.
Have you read Kurzweil's previous books? What did you think? There are lots of futurists out there; is Kurzweil more worth listening to than others, in your opinion?