The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (Anglais) Broché – 1 janvier 2000
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Ray Kurzweil with more recent books took us into the clouds of his cloud computing and appeared on these clouds like some Messiah who was the rainmaker of the apocalypse, that time when humans will be taken over by another world entirely dominated by a non-human intelligence, even if created originally by man himself. He tries to be the prophet of the future of a world created by evolution stated as intelligent (whose intelligence?) and later by man's intelligence, and then destroyed for plain humans by the machines created by this human intelligence. The vision is a mixture of Terminator 1-2-3-4, Matrix 1-2-3, The Stand, and The Book of Revelation.Lire la suite ›
Parfois un peu trop argumenté et donc répétitif il se lit comme un roman et fait beaucoup réfléchir. Les implications sont énormes et font parfois froid dasn le dos. On hésite à en parler car on pourrait passer pour un fou furieux...
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Kurzweil presents his theories a lot more convincingly than I can, but I've certainly tried a lot since I read this book. It stimulates philosophical debate on the nature of life and intelligence, but grounds its philosophical wanderings in believable theory.
The book is not without its problems. The jump into the future of nanotechnology leaves is abrupt and the Law of Accelerating returns is not a law but a trend. He ignores the possibility of social movements or government action to prevent Artificial Intelligence research once it reaches a certain level. When he speaks about specific aspects of humanity or sex, he reveals an incomplete understanding of the way people feel and love.
But these flaws only serve to remind the reader that the book is indeed speculation, not fact. And the speculation is beautiful, absolutely inspiring. It introduced possibilities and ideas that I'm still turning over in my mind, and it did it all with clear, entertaining writing that a non-scientist like me can understand.
Pick up this book, read it, make your friends read it, and enjoy the time you spend discussing it. The resulting conversations will be so much more interesting than your usual social fare.
In fact, read a book like this every year, whether it's something totally off the wall (Robert Anton Wilson's "Prometheus Rising") or a little more grounded in current science (Kevin Kelly's "Out of Control"). It will broaden your "reality-tunnel" and get your mind working with big, fun concepts.
Kurzweil starts by describing the exponential growth of computer power, Moore's Law, and transistor-based computing. The present and the future are described until quantum effects start becoming a problem and a completely new kind of technology becomes necessary (some alternatives are mentioned, Quantum computation is of course, mentioned). The book proceeds to more metaphysical subjects, and questions if we can create another intelligence form more intelligent than ourselves. Can the created exceed the creator?
It will then proceed to cover consciousness and feelings; Kurzweil gets philosophical in what in my opinion is one of the book's weakest chapters The methods available to solve a wide range of intelligent problems (when combined with heavy doses of computation) will follow, in a chapter that covers subjects from recursive formulas to neural nets, and of course, enough space is dedicated to Alan Turing, the father of all modern computers.
Part 2 starts with my favourite chapter of this title; Kurzweil discusses how evolution has found a way around the computational limitations of normal neural circuitry. And from nature's lessons we move to ideas about molecular computing harnessing the DNA molecule itself as a practical computing device, now a possibility under investigation. I wish I had this book last year when I was doing some research on general quantum computing for college, Kurzweil fully managed to transmit the impact that future developments in these areas might cause, and the problems that will be caused by ultra-fast parallel computation (especially with cryptography). The port of slow mammalian carbon-based neurons to speedier electronic and photonic equivalents is covered with simplicity, but convincingly.
Next comes the problem of the body. A disembodied mind will quickly get depressed, no matter how powerful. So what kind of bodies should our machines have, or later on, what kind of bodies will they provide for themselves?
Part 2 ends with a few thoughts on the array of tasks that are now performed by computers, lacking sense of humour, talent for small talk and other endearing qualities, but still vital for tasks that previously required human intelligence: How much do we depend on modern technology? If all the computers stopped functioning, would chaos rise? Is our world too based on technology and vulnerable to global disasters?
After 2009, the book truly starts facing the future. You will be shown how extremely cheap and powerful (compared to today's standards) computers will be imbedded in clothing and jewellery, among other items, surrounding us completely. Virtual personalities start emerging, and Kurzweil dares to predict real time translating telephones and even human musicians jamming routinely with cybernetic musicians. Also interesting, I thought, is the possibility of some sort of neo-Luddite movement growing around this time.
Next stage is 2019. By this time, Kurzweil believes that a $1k computing device will be approximately equal to the computational ability of the human brain. Computers should be almost invisible, and will be everywhere. 3D virtual reality will reach good quality levels, and VR displays are embedded in glasses and contacts lenses, providing a new interface (and the main interface) for communication with other persons (via the future version of the Web). Interaction with computers is made through gestures and 2-way natural language. A few thoughts on relationships with automated personalities end the chapter.
By 2029, Kurzweil's predictions turn to direct neural pathways that somehow have perfected some soft of high-bandwidth connection to the human brain. Ultra fast learning à-la-Neo from Matrix in less than 28 years? Kurzweil suspects so. Neural implants become widely available to enhance visual and auditory perception and interpretation, as well as memory and reasoning. People with physical problems and strongly helped by implants. Computers have "read" all available human literature and the discussion about legal rights of computers and what constitutes being human. Machines claim to be conscious.
Around 2099, human thinking starts merging with the world of machine intelligence. There is no clear distinction between humans and computers. Most of the intelligences are not tied to a specific processing unit, but widely spread. This chapter's most interesting aspect is perhaps the discussion about software based humans, when compared to those still using carbon-based neurons. The use of neural implant technology provides enormous augmentation of human perceptual and cognitive abilities, creating some sort of division between first class and second-class humans. Kurzweil implies that those who do not utilize such "enhancements" will be unable to meaningfully participate in dialogues with those who do. Being alive no longer means what it used to mean. Life expectancy is no longer a viable term in relation to intelligent, machine-based intelligent beings.
The books ends with a few thoughts on the fate of the whole universe, a part that is probably the weakest of the whole book, extremely pale when compared to Michio Kaku's "Visions" look. Kurzweil might do a good job describing a universe in which artificial intelligence and nanotechnology combine to bring longevity, but failed partially when discussing that longevity and the coming connections of computers with immortality, a subject that deserved a lot more attention and space in this book. Left me wanting more.
You will find this book fascinating if you're particularly interested in what the future holds when it comes to computers. Kurzweil knows his science well and adding a bit of common sense and humour, is enough to result in a very enjoyable title. If the predictions turn to follow the expected timeline, well, frankly I don't care much, and I don't think it's very relevant to discuss it; Most of it will happen precisely as the author puts it, but it might take more or less time. This book is not complex, and has many references and notes; so even people with a poor background in computer science will be able to follow the author's ideas. Of course knowing what's behind it will make your experience a lot richer. You also get a decent glossary, very valuable if you're new to the subject.
Overall, a good book, but lacking depth in some areas (especially machine based existence and immortality). Sometimes too over simplified. Still, check it out and see where we're heading. Combine it with Neuromancer, Visions and a few more technical titles and you will wish you could live 300 years...then again, maybe not. ;-)
If you read the last chapters first it would be easy to conclude that Mr. Kurzweil is crazy. However, we have here an obviously highly educated computer scientist, successful business person, and superb writer, who also apparently has spent significant time and personal engergy considering the implications of our present science. Given the attributes and qualifications of this author, the substantive content of the book then becomes extremely difficult to ignore or dismiss, and I certainly wonder when the implications here presented will begin to create the expected anxiety among our general population.
Mr. Kurzweil carefully sets the stage for his various futurist predictions. He presents a most interesting history of computer science; an intro to the law of "chaos" theory, and a rendition of the theory of evolution intelligent enough to permanently stifle any creationist; a comprehensive, informative explanation of both machine and human intelligence, which upon reading, I finally understand the mental machinations of my animals and of myself--call it "consciousness explained", and we are made aware of its scientific limits and possibilities. And, for those who have any question at all that machine intelligence equivalent to human intelligence is possible, Mr. Kurzweil breaks it down into both understandable and frightening reality.
The book examines the present state of knowledge regarding both human and computer intelligence from the established technology to the most esoteric research, and then proceeds to project where all this will take us on a timeline ending in the year 2099.
Mr. Kurzweil several times states his own optimism about what he projects and predicts, but in truth can his surmises suppose anything but the end of the human race as we know it. Mr. Kurzweil has machines going to church, a mother merging with her computer, human brains which become software programs, and on and on. Thankfully Kurzweil ends at the year 2099, since for me one of the unwritten implications of going further would be to question what really is the difference between God and Kurzweil's machines.
The author W. Somerset Maughm (Of Human Bondage) use to walk into bookstores, purchase a book or books, and rip out the first 30 pages. When he would go on holiday as the Europeans say, which was constant, he would read the 30 pages of each work. If he liked what he was reading, he would return to pick up the rest of the book and finish it at his leisure. If he didn't, he would never pick up the rest of the book.
I mention this because the ideas that Kurzweil is presenting are so COMPELLING, that they reach out and grab you. Every page has something new and important that you need to know if you are into Futurology, and who isn't. The book basically lays out a chronological timetable of the future of computers, artificial intelligence and when you really come right down to it, MACHINE INTELLIGENCE.
Kurzweil believes that eventually machine intelligence will overtake human intelligence, and he lays it out step-by-step, and decade-by-decade. He also gives the reader an overview of the growth of computer power via Moore's Law since the inception. I am reminded of the 1950's when then President Eisenhower was taken to see a computer in action. The primitive device by our standards was huge, occupying an entire wing of a building. They told the President, you could ask it any question, and it would give you an answer.
Eisenhower asked, "Is there a God?" The thousands of vacuum tubes whizzed away with their shining lights, noises could be heard, and the computer replied, "Now there is." In a sense this is what Kurzweil is telling us is in our future. Maybe it was funny for the President, not so funny for us.
One of the reasons that computers will be able to do this is the ever-increasing capacity to continue to miniaturize the chips that will allow this to happen. At the moment human beings still win out, and one of the reasons is that the neurons in our brains are so tightly condensed together. Our brain is perhaps Nature's most remarkable achievement to date.
When we move towards computers, which employ nanotechnology we might reach the point where the circuitry for want of a better word will be more tightly compacted in computers, than the neurons that we humans have to settle for. There is also the possibility and Kurzweil feels it's coming, that cells derived from nanotechnology will be infused with our own cells to give us a BOOST if you will. We will wind up MERGING TOGETHER. Next time I run into Kurzweil at a conference, I have to find out if sex gets a boost too.
We also have to deal with the fact that 80% of our brain is devoted to maintenance (keeping our hearts going, running digestive functions, etc.), while less than 20% is allocated towards intelligence (thinking). As the machines advance in power, a 100% of their capacity or close to a 100% may be devoted to intelligence.
I think this book is nothing short of fabulous. It doesn't mean that Kurzweil is totally accurate, or even completely hitting the mark all the time. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that he is making us THINK. He is challenging convention, and the norm, and that all by itself makes the book worthwhile.
If one wanted to attempt to poke holes into the main thrust of his thoughts, you merely have to read Douglas Hofstadter's works. You might remember his Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Braid. Hofstadter is an expert himself in Artificial Intelligence. He has written, and Kurzweil quotes Hofstadter as well in one of his books, "it could be simply an accident of fate that our brains are too weak to understand themselves."
There is a bigger issue as to how complete an understanding we as human beings have of ourselves, and our brains. After all, the double helix discovery is only 50 years ago. We might be at the same stage of understanding the human mind, as physicists were in 1900 trying to understand the atom before relativity, and quantum theory.
Scientists cannot explain the breakout of culture somewhere around 12,000 years ago, after five million years of evolutionary biology had taken place leading to us. It is now believed that perhaps there was a gene mutation at that point in time, which lead to language, and thus the ability to communicate to one another. In 12,000 years, we've come a long way.
If in fact our understanding of our own complexity is at the absolute base of the pyramid, and we have thousands of years to go, maybe we can't even begin to model ourselves effectively via machine intelligence. In any event if you take the time to read the work of this magnificent thinker, you are granting yourself the rare privilege to have your thinking challenged, and your mind expanded. In the end that's a very good thing, isn't it?