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Author: Ray Kurzweil

What is it about? Futurist Ray Kurzweil writes about the future course of humanity, focusing on the development of artificial intelligence and its effect on human consciousness. Kurzweil’s predictions of the future are based on Moore’s Law, which states that since the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958, the amount of transistors which can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has increased exponentially, doubling every two years. The trend has continued on until 2005, and continues to do so today. Kurzweil uses this Law to make predictions about the future of computers and their continued interactions with the human brain.

Excerpts:A prediction about 2019: Most people own more than one P.C., though the concept of what a “computer” is has changed considerably: Computers are no longer limited in design to laptops or CPUs contained in a large box connected to a monitor. Instead, devices with computer capabilities come in all sorts of unexpected shapes and sizes.” – Ray Kurzweil, 1999

Sound a little bit like all those Blackberrys and iPhones you see everywhere? It’s starting to happen even earlier than he predicted.

My Two Cents: Despite his occasionally accurate predictions (he predicted the approximate date at which a computer would beat a human being at chess, among others) it’s hard to take everything Kurzweil predicts seriously. He mixes fact from present day studies with narrative from a future person named Molly, often confusing the line between fact and (science) fiction. It certainly did make me think about the future, and just how different it would be from my parents’ or grandparents’ visions of the future in 1970 or 1935. It made me realize how our jumps in technological advances from generation to generation are huger than they’ve ever been in human history.

This book made me highly doubt that there has ever been a period of 100 years quite like the last 100 of Earth’s history. The world was a much smaller place in the past,  and the gradual increase in world-wide communication has really connected a lot of different people, ideas, and cultures. One thing this book made me think about was how my grandma used to tell me that she remembers hearing about the invention of the television, and she just couldn’t comprehend how they could get those pictures to move on that screen. Hearing her tell me that made me think, “Damn, she remembers when the television was invented!” and then I think about how in 2075, I’ll be telling my grandchildren that I clearly remember being 13 years old when I first used the Internet.

You might like it if you like: Movies like The Matrix, computers, technology.

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