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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Book Review: The Singularity is Near

    Yesterday, my haul from Amazon came in. I order movies and books about once a month or so.

    Included in this month's haul?

    "The Singularity is Near" by futurist Ray Kurzweil. The book discusses something I personally have always been aware of and even quantified in a paper - the technological curve is exponential, and indeed all evolution is, and there will come a point very soon where an event—the “singularity”—in which technological change becomes so rapid and so profound that our bodies and brains will merge with our machines.

    An exponential curve is most readily explained when one assumes you have one penny. You double it every day. In a month, you'll be a millionaire. The early parts of the month, it doesn't look like much is happening, the curve seems flat. But at some point, around mid-month, the "tipping point" occurs and each new figure doubling upon itself causes explosive growth. You have your million pennies somewhere around the 20th of the month, and the curve continues upward at a alarming rate - you have over 16 million by the 26th, and so on. This is what is happening with mankind's technological evolution, we're merely not able to perceive it as yet.

    Kurzweil proposes that the exponent itself will increase - so that in the example above, midway through the month you're tripling that penny instead of just doubling - and we will rapidly reach the technological Singularity within the next ten years or so.

    The Singularity Is Near portrays what life will be like after this event—a human-machine civilization where our experiences shift from real reality to virtual reality and where our intelligence becomes nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than unaided human intelligence. In practical terms, this means that human aging and pollution will be reversed, world hunger will be solved, and our bodies and environment transformed by nanotechnology to overcome the limitations of biology, including death.

    We will be able to create virtually any physical product just from information, resulting in radical wealth creation. In addition to outlining these fantastic changes, Kurzweil also considers their social and philosophical ramifications.

    I was aware of the exponential technological curve - but Kurzweil takes it a step further and proves that not only is it exponential, the exponent itself is exponential!

    The book isn't speculative fiction. It draws conclusions based on evidence both mathematical and physical. Recommended reading for everyone. Kurzweil's vision my be a bit more optimistic than many will accept, however.

    Thought provoking, I give it a 9.3 out of possible 10.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location Location!

    Re: Book Review: The Singularity is Near

    Sounds like a good read!

    "Wag more, bark less."

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Re: Book Review: The Singularity is Near

    Quote Originally Posted by walksthedogs View Post
    Sounds like a good read!

    Take out a calculator and turn it on. Enter 1 then multiply it times 2 then hit equals. Now go times two again, and keep hitting equals. Count how many times you hit equal, these are the days going by.

    You have just done a exponential curve exercise. By the 20th, you have over a million. By the 30th? Overflow - you need a bigger calculator.

    Man's technological evolution has followed a similar exponential curve. It took us a million years to master fire. Another 100,000 to begin making and using tools, another 50,000 to begin writing. Doesn't seem like much was happening back then, advancement-wise. We were at the beginning of the curve, the line looks linear.

    BUT.... Back in 1985 the best minds agreed that although discovering DNA was great, we wouldn't be able to map the human genome for at least another 100 years. Oops, it was done in less than 20 after that.

    In 1992, Gary Kasparov expressed his total disdain at the state of computers playing chess. Said they would never equal man in this arena. Machines offered no competition whatsoever for him. Seven years later? A computer beat him! Didn't just get a draw, BEAT him. It was thought impossible.

    Today? It's really impossible to beat a computer at chess.

    Examples abound of the exponential curve we are unable to perceive.... Humans think in linear terms.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2004

    Re: Book Review: The Singularity is Near

    yah, i think you hit it when you said TOO OPTIMISTIC!? utopia stuff of dreams!? :bah: ing1: :crazy1: :smurf:
    i do not endorse/recommend any advertising on scam.com associated with my name /posts or otherwise. thank you

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