The Age of Spiritual Machines Summary- Unearned Wisdom

The Singularity

Of course, there are many basic activities that computers can’t do, and that children find simple and straightforward. In addition, human beings are very well rounded.

We are competent at many tasks whereas AI is hyper specialized on singular objectives. But eventually, they will become more complex and will communicate with each other — and thus retain and build knowledge at a speed that we cannot comprehend.

But a likely scenario is that we will merge with AI and there will cease to be a difference between the two. Once this merger occurs sometime in the next century, we will not be able to tell the difference between our own thoughts and those generated by the vast intelligence we are connected to. We will become superhuman and be able to learn and do things at an astronomical pace. Nanobots will be able to diagnose any deficiencies in our internal biological machinery. Our virtual experiences will be as rich — if not richer — than our real experiences. And every day, we move closer to this point — “The Singularity”.

Some human beings (luddites) may choose to be left behind, but the vast majority will need keep up. Kurzweil doesn’t minimize the arguments presented by people who oppose technology, including Ted Kaczynski — who’s careful, well-reasoned analysis of the state of modern society is appreciated and taken seriously. But Kurzweil contends that it’s too late for human beings to go back to living in nature — there isn’t enough nature left for the number of people on the planet. Urbanization and efficient technological progress are not choices, but necessary developments.

The Law of Accelerating Returns

Every period of technological progress accelerates the speed of progress we will experience in the subsequent period. The same process can be seen in evolution as we emerged from single-celled organism where very little was going on for most of the time, but then in a very short period, incredible complexity emerges.

Moore’s Law

As we move across this ever-curving line through time, our technological breakthroughs will occur at a more rapid rate. So rapid, in fact, that we will become less able to perceive the speed of these changes and will be utterly incapable of correctly predicting how the trend will continue.

Kurzweil is an inventor and has spent his life studying AI and has taken it upon himself to share with us his inventions. His predictions in the past have been remarkably accurate. He is something of a scientific Nostradamus — far more robust, but no less creepy.

Evaluation

  • I Will Read This Book Again: 1.5/2
  • This Book Taught Me Something New: 2.5/3
  • Reading Experience (Style, Length, Flow): 4/5

Rating: 8/10

Given the length of the book, a more thorough discussion about the moral complexities that will emerge in the future could have been given. While he doesn’t oversimplify the counter-position given by the Luddites, he doesn’t develop that argument far enough, leaving the reader with many questions about whether we are moving in the right direction. To brush off these concerns as being irrelevant since we’ve already become too interdependent and populous misses the point. And finally, there is little discussion of why this direction is optimal. What is our objective? Is it to become Gods of the universe? What does that even mean? And at what cost?

The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence

If you want to understand how quickly technology has been advancing, how accurate Kurzweil has been in the past in predicting future events, and what his vision is for the future. Read this book. You may not agree with Kurzweil’s views or philosophy, but his predictions have been accurate, impressive, well founded. I’ve seen many people attempt to arm chair diagnose Kurzweil with existential angst and dismiss him as a whack job. I saw neither in his writings. This book was entertaining, informative, and thought-provoking.

Originally published at https://unearnedwisdom.com.

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Sud Alogu

I write about ideas that matter to me. In other words, revolutionary.