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2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Spiritual Machines? Oh, come on, I said...at first...
This book is definitely an adventure. I'll admit I found some parts challenging, such as some of the quantum physics stuff, but like all good books, this one is worth more than a few reads. Just the historical perspective is valuable - Mr. Kurzweil has put together a very comprehensive overview of the development of key ideas in Western civilization relevant to his...
Am 16. April 1999 veröffentlicht

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3.0 von 5 Sternen Very interesting and worth reading. A provocative thinker.
I'm very critical so 3 stars is a pretty good mark. Kurzweil is quite intelligent and thoughtful, and lays his predictions on the line. He also displays none of this false modesty that is so annoying. He weaves together the latest theories, with his powerful imagination and extensive experience on the cutting edge of technology. His predictions are very...
Am 26. Januar 1999 veröffentlicht


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4.0 von 5 Sternen Fascinating thoughts - if only Kurzweil weren't so uncritically in love with his own ideas..., 22. August 2009
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (Taschenbuch)
There are lots of reasons to criticize this book, especially ten years after it was written. Nevertheless, I completely endorse it, whether you agree with the author or not. "The Age of Spiritual Machines" is about no less than the future evolution of mankind, and this is a topic everybody should be concerned about and (still) almost nobody is.

Kurzweil is a relentless optimist, both about the time frame of his predictions and about their implications. Reading his predictions for the year 2009, two economy crashes after the book was written, makes you want to smile about the naivete prevailing in the late nineties, the New Economy times when everything seemed possible. Kurzweil also mostly ignores social and political factors, basing his book solely on a technological view of development. That there are more factors to societal progress than technology was clear even in the nineties. In ignoring those factors, Kurzweil outs himself as a complete technocrat, a computer geek without much contact with the "Real World (TM)".

Also, he bases all his assumptions on his self-styled "Law of Accelerating Returns", which (simplified) states that evolution accelerates exponentially, that evolution compulsorily leads to technology and computing, and that computing power grows exponentially over time (as per Moore's Law). While his deduction of this so-called law is plausible, it is by no means scientifically sound. Plausibility is no substitute for scientific rigor. (The idea that god placed dinosaur bones in the ground when he created the Earth six thousand years ago is plausible too, if only you want to believe it.) This law could at best be called a conjecture. Still, Kurzweil accepts it uncritically as a fact and bases his book entirely on it.

Kurzweil is no scientist, of course. He is an inventor. As an inventor, he must have both the vision and the enthusiasm to carry his vision through. This explains why he is so in love with his own ideas. It also explains why the book is, despite the deep flaws in it foundation, a great read. While Kurzweil is wrong about the time scale and the inevitability of the development of machine intelligence, his arguments are well researched and entertainingly written. Kurzweil has worked at the cutting edge of research into usable artificial intelligence, and he knows what he is talking about. The book is full of ideas about how machine intelligence can develop, what it might mean, and what it can be good for. Even if the book is far more speculative than he might want to admit, its value lies in making one central point: That evolution does not end with homo sapiens sapiens, that computers are a strong candidate for the next step on evolution's ladder, and that they could evolve much sooner than we'd like to think.

The influence of this book is hard to overestimate. That Kurzweil actually manages to overestimate it, and that he plugs himself too shamelessly, accounts for the deduction in stars I'm giving this book.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Spiritual Machines? Oh, come on, I said...at first..., 16. April 1999
Von Ein Kunde
This book is definitely an adventure. I'll admit I found some parts challenging, such as some of the quantum physics stuff, but like all good books, this one is worth more than a few reads. Just the historical perspective is valuable - Mr. Kurzweil has put together a very comprehensive overview of the development of key ideas in Western civilization relevant to his ideas about the future. I especially appreciate that he discusses, in detail, the philosophical views that have shaped our world. And the timeline is fascinating. It is just amazing how quickly technology has advanced, especially over the past 50 or so years. One important aspect that a lot of futurists seem to miss is this accelerating pace of technical advancement. One of the things I really like about this book is that it does not present farfetched visions and is not based on a limited worldview. Because the logic behind Kurzweil's train of thought is so grounded in facts and rational progressions, the predictions are unsettling, if not downright scary. He never says that computers will necessarily be conscious or "spiritual." He only says that we will eventually accept that they are. Although I am convinced, after reading the book, that extremely advanced new forms of intelligence will happen, exactly how this will all play out is not yet clear. Our earth, the universe, and we humans are all ultimately unpredictable in the actual stories that will unfold. He acknowledges that a man-made, environmental, or celestial disaster could put and end to the current trend in technological growth - although, he does firmly believe that technology, as a natural extension of evolution, will inevitably develop beyond its organic origins. Although I am not a scientist myself, I know an important book when I see one. And, I would encourage teachers to include this book in their curriculums - lots to think about!
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4.0 von 5 Sternen A Flawed Masterpiece, 26. Januar 1999
Von 
Robert Carlberg (Seattle) - Alle meine Rezensionen ansehen
(REAL NAME)   
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Age of Spiritual Machines (Hörkassette)
Although not a perfect book, "The Age of Spiritual Machines" is destined (IMO) to become one of the more important books of the late 20th Century.
Kurzweil begins all the way back at the Big Bang, clearly unable to limit his scope to something more appropriate. He starts with an outdated summary of creation physics, then contrasts the slowing timeline of phase changes in the universe with the speeding up of the evolution of life -- as if the two are somehow related. He puts forth the curious idea that technology is "inevitable" wherever life evolves. Both these arguments exemplify the homocentric hubris that the universe was created for the emergence of mankind.
Nevermind. Skip the first chapter (as Kurzweil himself suggests in the prefatory note) and you'll quickly get into the good stuff. His chapters on the evolution of intelligence and the growth of computing power are well founded.
Where he really hits his stride however is in the second section, "Preparing the Present," where he puts forth cogent arguments for quantum computing based on DNA, mentality-enhancing neural implants, and "downloading your mind to your personal computer." He then goes on to discuss nanotechnology and life-extending technologies. This section alone is worth the price of the book.
After the past and the present, he gives quick snapshots of where he thinks we may be in 10, 20, 30, and 100 years. These too are well thought out and insightful. He is generally conservative, foreseeing no large "phase changes" which could radically affect current trends. It'll be interesting to check back to see how his predictions held up.
Other pluses: an excellent "further reading" list, extensive web links, and far-ranging footnotes.
Minuses: he takes Roger Penrose seriously, he fails to mention Racter in the discussion of computer authors, and he spends just a wee bit too much time tooting his own horn (Kurzweil Computer Products, Kurzweil Reading Machine, Kurzweil Data Entry Machine, Kurzweil Music Systems, Kurzweil Applied Intelligence, Kurzweil Education Systems, Ray Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet...) But to be fair, he HAS pioneered in all these areas, so perhaps he has earned his immodesty.
Overall, a fascinating, thought-provoking book which is not afraid to make concrete predictions. Given Kurzweil's track record, he may just prove to be 100% right.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Kurzweil on the Evolution of Evolution, 25. Januar 1999
Von Ein Kunde
Suppose that, in 1899, someone had published a book predicting that in a hundred years we would be living, on average, into our mid seventies; communicating instantaneously around the world; hurtling through the air in metal birds; watching theatre on little boxes; visiting other planets; and creating new lifeforms in our laboratories. Practical, no-nonsense readers of such a book would doubtless have concluded that the author was a lunatic. Yet here we are. Given the viral nature of memes; the creative cross-fertilization that occurs when people are connected; and the exponential growth of technology in general and of connectedness in particular, it is reasonable to conclude that we ain't seen nothin yet. Take a glimpse at Ray Kurzweil's vision of our future, and you'll be inclined to agree.
There will be people who think that Kurzweil has written a crazy book, but from the perspective of our descendants a hundred years from now, the book might not seem crazy enough. Kurzweil has the insight to recognize that we are creating technologies that will change everything, utterly. Imagine a world in which you can plug in extra processing power or memory, in which you can download to your mind many lifetimes of knowledge and experience, in which consciousness can be shared, in which you can experience what it is like to be your spouse or what it is like to be a bat. Imagine a world in which you will not have to die. The imaginations of science fiction writers pale in comparison to what real science has in store for us, and Kurzweil has given us a sneak peek at some of the most profound possibilities.
On two fronts-computer science and genetics-we are taking charge of our own evolution. Kurzweil deals skillfully (and entertainingly) with the former. To my knowledge, the definitive popular exposition of the latter has yet to be written.
Computer science and recombinant DNA technology will soon give us the power to make our evolution depend on memes (our cultural creations, our ideas and artifacts) rather than on genes. Memes evolve exponentially because, unlike genes, they do encode acquired characteristics, so in the very near future, it is likely that our descendants will be as far removed from us as we are from sponges, much less Australopithecus afarensis. The inevitable merging of our minds with those of the machines that we create will change our basic ontological situation-what it is like to be us and what experiences are possible. This is Kurzweil's theme. I know of no other writer who has seen more clearly that with the emergence of these technologies for controling its own evolution, life on earth is entering an entirely new phase.
Kurzweil's timetables might be a little off, but it is hard for me to imagine that the bizarre futures that he foresees will not come to pass. The Age of Spiritual Machines is one of those books (like Herb Simon's The Sciences of the Artificial or Marvin Minsky's The Society of Mind) that no thinking person should miss. It is more than simply a masterful synthesis and projection of current technological trends. It is a brave, bold work that cannot fail to shake you up. I hope that this book will be the beginning of a public dialogue about what we want to be and to become.
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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Must read for anyone interested in how things may pan out, 11. April 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (Taschenbuch)
I bought the book after attending a symposium organised by DougHofstadter at Stanford and featuring Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec(among others.) It really is a best seller in the US - at least intech book terms - WAKE UP Britian! The central theme of this book (and Moravec's Mind Children and Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind and Paul & Cox's Beyond Humanity), is that we are approaching the crossover ie we are roughly 20 years away from when machine intelligence will overtake human intelligence. And that once this happens, machine intelligence will accelerate into uncharted waters. I think that a convincing case is built that we are on track to do this within approximately this time span.
It's quite possible to nit-pick over much of what Kurzweil says - but that's not the point. The point is the general vision of where we are headed. Kurzweil's view is that there is a 50% plus chance that humanity will make it through this transitory phase (ie the next century), that we will successfully combat the comming threats of self replicating biotech pathogens, software pathogens and self replicating nanopathogens, to complete the process of integration with our technology - and abandonment of our biological roots that we are now in the early/final stages of. Early because we are currently only fractionally fused with our technology (language, books, machines etc). Final because the maybe 40,000 year process is, because of the exponential acceleration of technological development, perhaps only 50-100 years or so away from completion.
I guess this is likely to seem utterly far fetched to 99.9% of the public - just as would mobile phones, the internet and robotic jet travel have seemed beyond belief to a 1900 audience. My belief is that these guys are very much on the right track. Bottom line - If you are interested in how this century might pan out, this is as good a place to start as any. END
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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen It's good to read a book like this at least once a year, 5. Dezember 1999
This book got me excited. It changed the way I think about the future, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the possibilities that the future holds.
Kurzweil presents his theories a lot more convincingly than I can, but I've certainly tried a lot since I read this book. It stimulates philosophical debate on the nature of life and intelligence, but grounds its philosophical wanderings in believable theory.
The book is not without its problems. The jump into the future of nanotechnology leaves is abrupt and the Law of Accelerating returns is not a law but a trend. He ignores the possibility of social movements or government action to prevent Artificial Intelligence research once it reaches a certain level. When he speaks about specific aspects of humanity or sex, he reveals an incomplete understanding of the way people feel and love.
But these flaws only serve to remind the reader that the book is indeed speculation, not fact. And the speculation is beautiful, absolutely inspiring. It introduced possibilities and ideas that I'm still turning over in my mind, and it did it all with clear, entertaining writing that a non-scientist like me can understand.
Pick up this book, read it, make your friends read it, and enjoy the time you spend discussing it. The resulting conversations will be so much more interesting than your usual social fare.
In fact, read a book like this every year, whether it's something totally off the wall (Robert Anton Wilson's "Prometheus Rising") or a little more grounded in current science (Kevin Kelly's "Out of Control"). It will broaden your "reality-tunnel" and get your mind working with big, fun concepts.
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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen A very good book, but..., 19. April 1999
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Age of Spiritual Machines (Hörkassette)
I enjoyed this book very much; there is no doubt Kurzweil is an engaging, convincing, and even daring author with an impressive track record for his predictions. However, I do have a couple of issues with one of his predictions.
Kurzweil predicts that machine intelligences will exceed humans by the year 2020. I have two issues with this. Although Kurzweil does discuss the complexity of the brain, I believe he has oversimplified the problem. By this time Kurzweil maintains that most brain areas will have been scanned and reverse-engineered.
Perhaps... but as I said, he has underestimated the complexity of the problem. For example, the human brain has about 15,000 major and minor brain centers, and after 100 years of research, not a single central neural code for a single brain center has ever been deciphered. So if Kurzweil's prediction relies on our figuring out the actual 'wetware,' good luck. Of course, machine intelligence of respectable power may become possible without our understanding how the brain does it, but in my opinion, these machine intelligences will not have the generality of their human counterparts, although they may be able to beat humans in certain specialist areas (such as chess and spectrology).
I have another issue. Let's consider the difference between a human brain and a modern CPU in terms of the number of computing elements. Current microchips only have a few million transisters. A human brain has over 60 trillion neurons. Even if we start packing that many transistors on a chip, that's only part of the problem. Each neuron has between 10,000 and 100,000 different connections with other neurons (the figure Kurzweil quotes is too low). This means that the total number of connections in a human brain is greater than the number of atoms in the known universe. Or to put it another way, you could add up all the computer chips on earth and they probably wouldn't equal one human brain in terms of the total synaptic connectivity. This doesn't mean it won't happen, but this gives you some idea of the complexity of the organ Kurzweil is predicting a machine will soon exceed.
To give another analogy, a human liver can catalyze about 2000 different biochemical reactions. The most sophisticated chemical factory in the world can't do even a small fraction of that. A human brain is orders of magnitude more complex, just in terms of the 'hardware.' This means that current computers will have to be thousands, perhaps, millions of times, more complex to emulate a human on this level. And we haven't even gotten to the issue of the 'software' or 'wetware,' of which, as I said, hardly anything is known. Perhaps machine intelligence will do it another way without all the hardware-level complexity a human brain has. Certainly they are faster than we are, by many orders of magnitude, but speed is not the same as power. We shall see...
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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Very interesting and worth reading. A provocative thinker., 26. Januar 1999
Von Ein Kunde
I'm very critical so 3 stars is a pretty good mark. Kurzweil is quite intelligent and thoughtful, and lays his predictions on the line. He also displays none of this false modesty that is so annoying. He weaves together the latest theories, with his powerful imagination and extensive experience on the cutting edge of technology. His predictions are very well-informed (though not always convincing). I also liked that he seems to be pretty much in favor of free market ideas. When he mentioned some welfare type laws' likely existence in the future, it was more a prediction than an endorsement.
However, although I do not go for false modesty, his references to his achievements did not impress me that much, like starting the VoiceExpress software and all that. He may be well-known in some circles but may believe he is much more well-known than he actually is.
The biggest problem with his predictions is that a lot of his predictions of future progress depends on his theory of entropy and the Law of Accelerating Returns. However, this theory is never rigorously defined or proved (although there are some intuitive aspects to it). Thus his assumption of ever-increasing rates of progress has a basis in the past march of progress, but not in his "Law". Although I agree with him that technological progress will continue, I do not think it will be at the pace he says it will, nor is it as inexorable or necessarily exponential, as he maintains.
For instance, his predictions on quantum computers and nanotechnology all seem extremely fanciful to me.
His predictions are thus far too optimistic, and, therefore, also too pessimistic (the doomsday scenarios are less likely if the underlying technology making it possible is less likely). He realizes many in the past have been poor prognosticators, yet somehow thinks he can outdo the others. It's a valiant effort, and he certainly has the credentials and experience and mind to be among the best, but the future is inherently unknowable, and I suspect his vision, while better than most others, is wildly off base.
For instance, he is too optimistic in assuming all the new gadgets will be adopted on a wide scale just around the corner, e.g. in 2009 and 2019. I know too many people who still have 25-year-old black-and-white TVs with rabbit ears to think that all this new stuff will be in place as quickly as he thinks: there is a lot of inertia and reluctance to give up the things we have that already work. Change will happen, but I believe much more slowly than he predicts, and I do not know if it will ever get to the point he predicts it will be in 100 years.
All in all, quite worth reading, and I admire his intelligence, energy, imagination, and optimism, as well as his recognition that whatever is going to happen is going to happen, and there's not too much we can do about it.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Fairly interesting, but rather nutty, 4. Februar 1999
Von Ein Kunde
Kurzweil is either a true visionary, or somewhat of a kook. Overall, the book is fairly interesting. It has some OK history, some interesting speculations. My problems with the book are as follows:
1. Kurzweil overestimates the power of today's computers. Or he's overimpressed. Nowadays we have all this memory and processing power, and all we get is Windows?
Deep Blue did not "sail past" Gary Kasparov. Etc. Kurzweil needs to be more realistic and less elegiac about these matters.
2. Kurzweil underestimates the truly great accomplishments of humans: great art, great music, great scientific insights.
3. Kurzweil gets all kinds of philisophical issues wrong, or he misses them. For instance, humans have done the things they have done because they live in an environment with all kinds pains and pleasures. How the conscious computers of the future could have a "real" context without physical, mental or spiritual necessities is never explained. Why a conscious computer, which could just shut itself off and forget about consciousness and everything else, would not do so is never explained.
4. Kurzweil has padded his book quite nicely. The material in the chapters also fills a long timeline. There is a huge bibliography. You'll see.
Kurzweil may be right, but I hope he is wrong. The world he suggests would quickly degenerate into something we humans would never accept.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Engaging reading, but superficial treatment of consciousness, 27. Januar 1999
Von Ein Kunde
Kurzweil writes with enthusiasm and insight on a wide range of topics. The book is engrossing, informative and fun. The weak area is in the author's treatment of consciousness, about which he takes the unadorned "mind = software" view.
Those interested in consciousness, and especially, those who follow the contemporary state of the art in consciousness studies, will probably find Kurzweil's assumptions about the nature of consciousness and mentality to be unsatisfactory, a bit dated, and superficial. In fairness, Kurzweil himself acknowledges, albeit fleetingly, some "hurdles" that his view of consciousness must overcome (e.g. downloading a copy of a mind [understood to be 'program'], will create identity problems across copies.)
Notwithstanding this objection, the book is still a worthwhile "read." His idea that our evolutionary destiny may be to create our successors, through advanced technologies, is very intriguing, and his arguments are interesting.
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