Summary of The Age of Spiritual Machines

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The Age of Spiritual Machines book summary

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Ray Kurzweil, an inventor of new technologies, discusses how today’s rapid advances in computer intelligence will eventually lead to machines that are more intelligent than human beings. He suggests that these machines also will develop human sensitivities, leading to an increased blurring between machines and humans. Drawing on the latest developments in science and technology, Kurzweil presents a fairly compelling argument, though some readers may find the discussions hard to follow since he frequently cites physics, biology and other scientific disciplines. Kurzweil is trying to simplify a complex theoretical and technical subject, so getAbstract forgives the occasional repetition of his main arguments, and recommends this fascinating, well-researched and well-reasoned book.

About the Author

Ray Kurzweil ’s inventions include reading machines for the blind and music synthesizers. He has also been involved in marketing speech-recognition technology. He wrote The Age of Intelligent Machines , which won the Association of Science Book of 1990 award, and is also the author of The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life. He received the Dickson Prize, Carnegie Mellon’s top science prize, in 1994. The recipient of nine honorary degrees and of honors from two U.S. presidents, Kurzweil was named 1988 Inventor of the Year by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


New Intelligence

Given the rapid increase in computing speed and processing, computer intelligence will equal and then surpass human intelligence in the 21st century. During their early development in the mid-20th century, computers doubled in speed every three years. By the 1950s and 1960s, their speed doubled every two years, and now their speed doubles every 12 months. By 2020, if speeds continue to increase at this rate, computers will have the memory capacity and computing speed of human beings.

However, memory and speed are not enough. The organization and content of the software that provides intelligence also matters. One way to achieve perfect software may involve using reverse engineering to scan a human brain - which will be possible early this century - and to copy its neural circuitry into a neural computer, which simulates human neurons.

Once this highly complex organizational structure becomes possible, computers will be able to mimic many human behaviors. They will be able to read and understand what they have read. They will be able to move into the physical world, access information and share knowledge with each other. Once computers achieve...

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