Reviews for The Singularity Is Nearer

by Ray Kurzweil

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The acclaimed futurist demonstrates how a revolutionary future is closer than you might think. Kurzweil, principal researcher and AI visionary at Google, is very good at thinking ahead, especially in linking technological innovation with social impacts. He has written a string of thought-provoking books, most notably the 2005 work The Singularity Is Near, in which he predicted that by 2029, computers would reach and perhaps exceed human-level intelligence, as well as pass the critical Turing test. It certainly was a bold forecast, but now it seems plausible, if not inevitable. In his latest book, the author tracks the breakthroughs of the past decade that will contribute to reaching the goal, tying together artificial intelligence, machine learning, and quantum processing. He looks closely at how the latest computers can display sentient thinking and communicate through plain speech, an area he studies at Google. Along the way, Kurzweil examines advances and makes predictions in the areas of renewable energy, food production, 3-D printing, and health and medicine. In his 2005 book, the author also made the claim that by 2040, humans would be able to directly interface with computers through brain connectivity. “A key capability in the 2030s,” he writes, “will be to connect the upper ranges of our neocortex to the cloud.” Nearly 20 years ago, this concept felt like it was ripped from a sci-fi movie, but his latest book capably explains the recent developments in biotechnology and nanotechnology that could enable it. Of course, if these developments were to occur, they would constitute a major shift in consciousness. It still sounds somewhat fanciful, but Kurzweil’s capacity for predictive thinking should not be underestimated—and 2040 is only a generation away. As the author might say, stay tuned. This book brims with ideas about what lies ahead, and Kurzweil presents his vision with clarity and passion. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.