Review: The Singularity Is Near

Ray Kurzweil is an advocate for the idea that strong artificial intelligence will develop in the fairly near term and merge with human intelligence. He believes that this, combined with a combination of personality uploading and biohacking, will extend human lives arbitrarily.  The Singularity Is Near is one of his books outlining that position in some detail.  I’m unconvinced.

Part of this is undeniably because Singularity was published in 2006 and there’s a certain datedness to the text and technology. It makes the read feel like Kurzweil is behind the times, though at the time he obviously wasn’t.

That wasn’t where his arguments fall apart for me, though.  Kurweil spends a lot of his time talking about the accelerating performance of technology, but little on accelerating depth of understanding.  It seems to me that until we understand what we’re talking about when we talk about consciousness, there’s little hope of capturing it. I don’t believe that there’s any mystical element to capture, but whatever complexities produce a sense of self remain elusive.

It was an interesting read, but to me more of a diverting artifact than a convincing argument.

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