The most relevant conclusion to draw from the long list of honorary degrees and professional awards, the praise by colleagues and the media, is that Ray Kurzweil is a smart man who people listen to. The Age of Spiritual Machines is his latest effort to explore the future of technology, a future he sees filled with machines as intelligent as their owners.
In 10 years, your personal computer will perform a trillion calculations per second, and supercomputers will have the raw computing power, if not the software, of the human brain...
In 20 years, scientists will have largely reverse-engineered the brain, and all-encompassing virtual tactile environments will allow you to do virtually anything with anyone, no matter where they are...
In 30 years, 99% of the intelligence on earth will be artificial, human cognition will have been ported to machines, and neural implants will enhance "real" humans... In 50 to 100 years, few human intelligences will still depend on carbon-based organisms, and most "people" will have merged with their computational assistants. In the process, they will absorb expansive galaxies of unparalleld knowledge and insight.
Bottom line: if you eat right and avoid bungee jumping, you've got a shot at living forever. Of course, you'll be living on the "net," with billions of other minds, all operating at speeds incomprehensibly faster than neurons fire and grey matter thinks. And you'd better remember to keep backups of yourself!
Whose predictions are these, anyhow? Just Ray Kurzweil's, the "restless genius" (Wall Street Journal's words) who's created the first reading machines, text-to-speech machines, commercial speech recognition systems, breakthrough music synthesizers-one revolution after another. Over 30 years-in his books, and in his work-he's been right about the future repeatedly. And his newest book, The Age of Spiritual Machines, is simply breathtaking.
Kurzweil shows just how surrounded you are by artificial intelligence right now. He works through the implications of today's research into massively parallel neural network computers, optical, molecular and quantum computing, nanotubes, evolutionary algorithms, brain scanning, and more. Along the way, he romps through the history of the universe, the nature of consciousness, the future of space exploration, why the Unabomber Manifesto "makes a compelling case" about technology's risks (if not the alternatives), and plenty more.
Best of all, through imaginary conversations with a resident of the future, he gives you a sense of what the 21st century will feel like. If you're planning to live there, read this book!