e-book: The Age of Spiritual Machines

The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence

September 8, 2009
Author:
Ray Kurzweil
Publisher:
Penguin Books (1999)

Amazon | How much do we humans enjoy our current status as the most intelligent beings on earth? Enough to try to stop our own inventions from surpassing us in smarts? If so, we’d better pull the plug right now, because if Ray Kurzweil is right we’ve only got until about 2020 before computers outpace the human brain in computational power.

Kurzweil, artificial intelligence expert and author… read more

THE AGE of SPIRITUAL MACHINES | A Note to the Reader

August 8, 2001
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Author:
Ray Kurzweil
Publisher:
Penguin Books (1999)

As a photon wends its way through an arrangement of glass panes and mirrors, its path remains ambiguous. It essentially takes every possible path available to it (apparently these photons have not read Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”). This ambiguity remains until observation by a conscious observer forces the particle to decide which path it had taken. Then the uncertainty is resolved–retroactively–and it is as if the selected path had been taken all along.… read more

THE AGE of SPIRITUAL MACHINES | Annotated Contents

August 8, 2001
Author:
Ray Kurzweil
Publisher:
Penguin Books (1999)

Before the next century is over, human beings will no longer be the most intelligent or capable type of entity on the planet. Actually, let me take that back. The truth of that last statement depends on how we define human.

PART ONE: Probing the Past

Chapter One: The Law of Time and Chaos

For the past forty years, in accordance with Moore’s Law, the power of transistor-based computing has been growing exponentially. But by the year 2020, transistor features will be just a few atoms thick, and Moore’s Law will have run its course. What then? To answer this critical question, we need to understand the exponential nature of time.… read more

THE AGE of SPIRITUAL MACHINES | Acknowledgments

August 8, 2001
Author:
Ray Kurzweil
Publisher:
Penguin Books (1999)

I would like to express my gratitude to the many persons who have provided inspiration, patience, ideas, criticism, insight, and all manner of assistance for this project. In particular, I would like to thank:… read more

THE AGE of SPIRITUAL MACHINES | Prologue: An Inexorable Emergence

August 8, 2001
Author:
Ray Kurzweil
Publisher:
Penguin Books (1999)

The gambler had not expected to be here. But on reflection, he thought he had shown some kindness in his time. And this place was even more beautiful and satisfying than he had imagined. Everywhere there were magnificent crystal chandeliers, the finest handmade carpets, the most sumptuous foods, and, yes, the most beautiful women, who seemed intrigued with their new heaven mate. He tried his hand at roulette, and amazingly his number came up time after time. He tried the gaming tables, and his luck was nothing short of remarkable: He won game after game. Indeed his winnings were causing quite a stir, attracting much excitement from the attentive staff, and from the beautiful women.… read more

THE AGE of SPIRITUAL MACHINES | Chapter 1: The Law of Time and Chaos

August 8, 2001
Author:
Ray Kurzweil

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”  –Muriel Rukeyser

“Is the universe a great mechanism, a great computation, a great symmetry, a great accident or a great thought?”  – John D. Barrow

As we start at the beginning, we will notice an unusual attribute of the nature of time, one that is critical to our passage to the twenty-first century. Our story begins perhaps 15 billion years ago. No conscious life existed to appreciate the birth of our Universe at the time, but we appreciate it now, so retroactively it did happen. (In retrospect–from one perspective of quantum mechanics–we could say that any Universe that fails to evolve conscious life to apprehend its existence never existed in the first place.)… read more

THE AGE of SPIRITUAL MACHINES | Chapter 6: Building New Brains. . .

August 8, 2001
Author:
Ray Kurzweil

The Hardware of Intelligence

You can only make a certain amount with your hands, but with your mind, it’s unlimited.
–Kal Seinfeld’s advice to his son, Jerry

Let’s review what we need to build an intelligent machine. One resource required is the right set of formulas. We examined three quintessential formulas in chapter 4. There are dozens of others in use, and a more complete understanding of the brain will undoubtedly introduce hundreds more. But all of these appear to be variations on the three basic themes: recursive search, self-organizing networks of elements, and evolutionary improvement through repeated struggle among competing designs.

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THE AGE of SPIRITUAL MACHINES | Chapter 9: 2009

August 8, 2001
Author:
Ray Kurzweil

Ever since I could remember, I’d wished I’d been lucky enough to be alive at a great time–when something big was going on, like a crucifixion. And suddenly I realized I was.
–Ben Shahn
As we say in the computer business, “shift happens.”
–Tim Romero
It is said that people overestimate what can be accomplished in the short term, and underestimate the changes that will occur in the long term. With the pace of change continuing to accelerate, we can consider even the first decade in the twenty-first century to constitute a long-term view. With that in mind, let us consider the beginning of the next century.… read more

THE AGE of SPIRITUAL MACHINES | Timeline

August 8, 2001
Author:
Ray Kurzweil

10-15 billion years agoThe Universe is born.

10243 seconds laterThe temperature cools to 100 million trillion trillion degrees and gravity evolves.

10234 seconds laterThe temperature cools to 1 billion billion billion degrees and matter emerges in the form of quarks and electrons. Antimatter also appears.

10210 seconds laterThe electroweak force splits into the electromagnetic and weak forces.… read more

THE AGE of SPIRITUAL MACHINES | Glossary

August 8, 2001
Author:
Ray Kurzweil

Aaron A computerized robot (and associated software), designed by Harold Cohen, that creates original drawings and paintings.

Alexander’s solution A term referring to Alexander the Great’s slicing of the Gordian knot with his sword. A reference to solving an insoluble problem with decisive yet unexpected and indirect means.

Algorithm A sequence of rules and instructions that describes a procedure to solve a problem. A computer program expresses one or more algorithms in a manner understandable by a computer.

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