The Singularity Is Nearer

Image of The Singularity Is Nearer: When We Merge with AI
Release Date: 
June 4, 2024
Reviewed by: 

“Buckle your seatbelts and look forward to the futuristic ride of your lifetime.”

The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) is inescapable in virtually every form of media on a daily basis. It has been written many times that AI will revolutionize society. Depending on one’s understanding of what a computer/machine can do and what it cannot do, people are either excitedly overjoyed, at times uninformed, or terrified of a calamity leading to the end of our planet or the end of humanity itself. The speed with which AI is infusing itself into virtually all aspects of human life is incredible. 

What most of us need now are competent predictions of what is likely to happen and in what time frame. Author Ray Kurzweil, computer scientist author and designated futurist for Google, has already begun to provide us with some of this information in his previous nine books. In his 2005 book The Singularity Is Near, he gave an expectation that the ability of a computer to match AGI (Average General Intelligence) i.e. cognitively perform as well or better than most human beings would occur by 2029.                                                                                                                                                           

Because of the speed with which AI is remolding and improving itself as well as integrating itself into the behaviors of human beings, in his new book The Singularity is Nearer, he stands by that date but says that wrong answers produced as correct ones (hallucinations) will dramatically decrease. Machines will more often recognize what they do not know and say so rather than produce an incorrect output.

For Kurzweil the singularity is the point at which human brains and the technology of the internet can be interfaced and interdigitated. Our brains will merge with the cloud in a way that there can be co-creation. When this occurs, human beings will become free of the restrictive limits of our current human mental capability. Our minds will be empowered to grow exponentially expanding our intelligence millions-fold.

Many readers of his prior books thought his ideas were fantastical and even absurd, yet they have come to pass with lightning speed, exponential growth, and remarkable accuracy. While many people still believe that there will be conflict and competition between humans and machines, he predicts there will be a merger leading to unbelievable positive changes.

When it comes down to being positive or afraid of artificial intelligence, the author is clearly on the optimistic side. Counting the pages devoted to the benefits of the singularity (285 pages) compared with the author’s assessment of risk and peril (18 pages) there is no doubt where his sentiments lie. 

Just some of the advances which will result in the next decade from the singularity are:

• vast improvements in drug development and healthcare in general

• longevity of life will be expanded

• an ability to decrease extreme poverty and increase literacy

• new sources of renewable energy will be found and improved 

• objects will be mass produced quickly and cheaply via 3-D printing and miniaturization through nanotechnology 

• clean water access and vertical agriculture (growing plants upward not horizontally) will lead to abundant food supply.

He does discuss the commonly feared beliefs:

• job loss (new and more jobs will be created than those that will be lost), 

• there will be a takeover of humanity by machines (effective guardrails can be put in place to prevent this) 

• machines will find human beings unnecessary and to be eliminated (this just won't happen.) 

• bad actors will use machines or nanobots maliciously (there will always be dangerous enemies).

There is little doubt that individuals with a smattering of curiosity and interest in the fields of technology, computers, and society will jump to obtain this book. Even those who perhaps fear the evolution of technology will benefit from reading the thoughts of a true expert whose ability to envision the future has been remarkably accurate.

One caveat should be made to readers who are less technologically sophisticated. Do not be put off by the first third of the text which includes many terms, some of which the author defines and others of which he does not. The latter two thirds of the text begin to focus on specific areas of human functioning that will be improved by the merger of human brains and technology. These topics are much more interesting and well worth having pursued through the initial more difficult section of the text.

Buckle your seatbelts and look forward to the futuristic ride of your lifetime.