Ray Kurzweil is the brains behind the Kurzweil Reading Machine (which helps Stevie Wonder "read" his mail), the Kurzweil synthesizer and the voice recognition program that appears on Windows 98. A decade ago, he predicted the emergence of the World Wide Web and that a computer would beat the world's chess champion. In this volume, rather than ...
Ray Kurzweil is the brains behind the Kurzweil Reading Machine (which helps Stevie Wonder "read" his mail), the Kurzweil synthesizer and the voice recognition program that appears on Windows 98. A decade ago, he predicted the emergence of the World Wide Web and that a computer would beat the world's chess champion. In this volume, rather than providing a list of predictions, he offers a framework for envisioning the 21st century in which one advance or invention leads inexorably to another. After establishing that technology is growing exponentially, Kurzweil forecasts that computers will exceed the memory capacity and computing speed of the human brain by 2020, with the other attributes of human intelligence not far behind. By that time, he asserts, paraplegics will be able to walk through a combination of merve stimulation and robotic devices. You will be able to choose the personality of your automated computer assistant, who will conduct business on your behalf with other automated personalities. A mere nine years later, you will be able to enhance your intelligence with neural implants. The upshot is that human identity will be called into question as never before, as a billion years of evolution are superseded in a mere hundred by machine technology that we ourselves have created.
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Publishers Weekly, 1999-03-01 Kurzweil's reasoned scenarios of a "post-biological future" are as harrowing as any science fiction. That's the appeal of listening on tape to the inventor and MIT professor's provocative speculations on what could occur once computers reach or surpass human-level intelligence?then start to self-replicate. Computers, with their integrated circuit chip complexity, are sneaking up on us on an accelerated curve, he argues, citing the example of chess master Gary Kasparov's shocking loss to IBM's machine Deep Blue in 1997. Do computers represent "the next stage of evolution"? Will technology create its own next generations? Kurzweil suggests a timeline inhabited by "neural-nets," "nanobot" robots and scenarios of virtual reality where sexuality and spirituality become completely simulated. It's bracing and compelling stuff, propelled by the author's own strong egotistical will to prove his version of the future. Reader Sklar is thoughtful, if at times overly heavy on the ironies. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover. (Feb.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 1998-12-21 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 projectionsŠe.g., that most diseases will be reversible or preventableŠare 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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