Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Ray Kurzweil is one of my favorite people. He may be a little crazy, trying to live forever is ambitious to say the least, but his books always leave me excited about the future, and eager for exploration. This latest book, How to Create a Mind, focuses specifically on the process of understand, recreating, and eventually expanding human intelligence. The book is interesting on its own, as an accessible exploration of the possibilities of computational neuroscience  But I enjoyed it more as a signal that Kurzweil's bigger vision isn't so far fetched.

Kurzweil's previous books focused on forcasting the future in a broad sense. The Age of Spiritual Machines and Age of Intelligent Machines were especially focused on what events would happen when. Many of these predictions have proven correct, others not. More important are the ideas. The Age of Spiritual Machine briefly converted me to Singularitarianism. While I'm scepticle about the certainty of the durability of Law of Accelerating Returns (LOAR), I've since had ample food for thinking about the past, the future, and the universe. 

A very rough summary of Kurzweil's vision is that information based technology will continue to accelerate into the future. Unimpeded by war, famine, economic recession computers continue (as they have for 100 years) to become smaller, faster, and cheaper at an accelerating rate. As computers prevade others aspect of our lives they will likewise be accelerated: food production, energy production, medicine, everything. And most remarkable is that that we eventually will computing to augment ourselves. Even human intelligence will begin to accelerate. And this future is not so far off. At current rates $1000 computers will have the computing power of the human brain in 2030.

This vision is jarring to everyone the first time it is presented. I'm not an expert in Neuroscience or Artificial Intelligence, or the myriad subjects Kurzweil touches on, so I'm not in the position to discuss the particulars of Kurzweil's ideas. But I find the reasoning is at least plausible. And the ideas are so big and radical, that they affect every aspect human live. Ive you're concerned about food, water, energy, love, disease, morality you should be interested in hearing his ideas.

"Waking up the universe... is our destiny." epilogue How to Create a Mind

This final chapter of How to create a mind, true to LOAR, accelerates into the future, jumping from the near future to envisioning human expansion into the universe. The vision is harnessing the very fabric of the cosmos, and creating a better future. It's hard for me not to get swept away in visions of the triumph of intelligence over chaos and entropy. Intelligence is natures most remarkable creation, and it its expansion and survival seems a worthy goal. 

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