Monday, February 7, 2011

"The Age of Spiritual Machines" by Ray Kurzweil [1999]

Looking back, I should have realized what I was getting in to. After all, Kurzweil is a man who - if I remember correctly - is doing everything in his power to extend his lifespan so he can see technology evolve to a point where he'll be able to download his consciousness into a machine. And, thusly, live forever.

Wow.

So, it should not have been a surprise that some of his theories struck me as a bit... off. Even though he uses persuasive logic, and even though he arrives at his conclusions about the future in an unbroken chain of assumptions and deductions, I still found myself reacting, more often than not, with a derisive snort and a muttered "Yeah, OK!"

Of course, that's not to say the entire book should be discounted. He does make some interesting points and even if they are baseless assumptions about the end of humanity and the rise of machines, he'll still have made me think. Even as I discount his wild assumptions, out-of-hand, I'll come away with some questions about the future that I'd not thought to ask before. And I'll find myself mulling these over, long after I've put the book down.

Really, the best thing a book like this can be is disagreeable. Why bother reading a work such as this one that is preaching to your choir? Sure, you get to say, "TOO RIGHT!" a lot, and nod your head while you're digesting the oh-so-agreeable facts (to the outside observer, making you look like a bobble head and/or crazy person) but you only increase your stockpile of facts about a subject. No, a disagreeable book makes you challenge yourself to put - into clear thoughts - your own disputation of the author's theories. And to generate your own theories; to make up your own what-ifs. Make Uatu proud!

This book'll have made me do a lot of that. (Making up my own theories, that is, not making Uatu proud.)

Or, at the very least, it'll have given me some ideas for some short sci-fi stories. Either way: Win!

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): B+


BUY IT: The Age of Spiritual Machines at Amazon

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