The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence

Ray Kurzweil is one of the most vocal proponents of the acendency of thinking machines. His The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, written in 1999 is dated, but that is a good thing for a book predicting the future! You can see how many predictions have come true. Much of what he predicted for 2009 is on the money. The interesting thing is that these predictions, which must have seemed wild in the last century, are just part of our everyday life!
The picture of the future he paints is one where machines and humans join to form a new intelligent species. His positive view of this brave new world is infectuous, but he is careful to evaluate the position of the naysayers, and respond. The Age of Spiritual Machines is an easy read that will amaze you at the changes that have occurred since computing machines were invented. Computing machines are everywhere, from microwave ovens, to iPods, to XBoxes to pacemakers and bionic legs. His theory is that as computers increase in capacity and speed they will take upon more and more of the characteristics of human thought. Like Moore’s Law, technical innovation increases at an exponential rate.
The structures for future computers will probably not be the Van Neumann machines we work with today, but will be a hybrid of neural nets, web connected artifical intelligence and our own human minds. As these computers become more able to emulate human thought processes, there will come a time when they easily pass the Turing Test, and claim to be human. We will develop relationships with machines that will make it hard to tell when the biological human leaves off and the machine begins.

Unlike the Borg, Kurzweil’s future is very positive for the human race. It may just be a little more difficult to tell where the humans are.

Other books by Ray Kurzewil are:

The Singularity Is Near : When Humans Transcend Biology


Virtual Humans: A Build-It-Yourself Kit, Complete With Software and Step-By-Step Instructions