When Humans Transcend Biology

By Ray Kurzweil, Viking Press

About the Book

At the onset of the twenty-first century, humanity stands on the verge of the most transforming and the most thrilling period in its history. It will be an era in which the very nature of what it means to be human will be both enriched and challenged, as our species breaks the shackles of its genetic legacy and achieves inconceivable heights of intelligence, material progress, and longevity.

For over three decades, the great inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil has been one of the most respected and provocative advocates of the role of technology in our future. In his classic The Age of Spiritual Machines, he presented the daring argument that with the ever-accelerating rate of technological change, computers would rival the full range of human intelligence at its best. Now, in The Singularity Is Near, he examines the next step in this inexorable evolutionary process: the union of human and machine, in which the knowledge and skills embedded in our brains will be combined with the vastly greater capacity, speed, and knowledge-sharing ability of our own creations.

That merging is the essence of the Singularity, an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today—the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity. In this new world, there will be no clear distinction between human and machine, real reality and virtual reality. We will be able to assume different bodies and take on a range of personae at will. In practical terms, human aging and illness will be reversed; pollution will be stopped; world hunger and poverty will be solved. Nanotechnology will make it possible to create virtually any physical product using inexpensive information processes and will ultimately turn even death into a soluble problem.

While the social and philosophical ramifications of these changes will be profound, and the threats they pose considerable, The Singularity Is Near maintains a radically optimistic view of the future course of human development. As such, it offers a view of the coming age that is both a dramatic culmination of centuries of technological ingenuity and a genuinely inspiring vision of our ultimate destiny.

Hardcover: 672 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult (September 22, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN: 0670033847

Jacket Quotes

“Ray Kurzweil is the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence. His intriguing new book envisions a future in which information technologies have advanced so far and fast that they enable humanity to transcend its biological limitations—transforming our lives in ways we can’t yet imagine.”
–Bill Gates

“A brilliant book with deep insights into the future from one of the leading futurists of our time.”
–Marvin Minsky,
Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, MIT
“If you have ever wondered about the nature and impact of the next profound discontinuities that will fundamentally change the way we live, work, and perceive our world, read this book. Kurzweil’s Singularity is a tour de force, imagining the unimaginable and eloquently exploring the coming disruptive events that will alter our fundamental perspectives as significantly as did electricity and the computer.
–Dean Kamen,
physicist and inventor of the first wearable insulin pump, the HomeChoice portable dialysis machine, the IBOT Mobility System, and the Segway Human Transporter; recipient of the National Medal of Technology
“One of our leading AI practitioners, Ray Kurzweil, has once again created a ‘must-read’ book for anyone interested in the future of science, the social impact of technology, and indeed the future of our species. His thought-provoking book envisages a future in which we transcend our biological limitations, while making a compelling case that a human civilization with superhuman capabilities is closer at hand than most people realize.”
–Raj Reddy,
founding director, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University;
recipient of the Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery

“Ray’s optimistic book well merits both reading and thoughtful response. For those like myself whose views differ from Ray’s on the balance of promise and peril, The Singularity Is Near is a clear call for continuing dialogue to address the greater concerns arising from these accelerating possibilities.”
–Bill Joy,
cofounder and former chief scientist, Sun Microsystems