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Books on the Singularity

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The Spike: How Our Lives Are Being Transformed by Rapidly Advancing Technologies
by Wikipedia link Damien Broderick

accessibility: basic level
quality: 4 out of 5 stars

Broderick is an Australian science fiction writer who has written a light and breezy, at times very insightful, popular introduction to and commentary on the Singularity, or more specifically, to Vernor Vinge's concept of the technological Singularity, to Transhumanism, nanotech, mind uploads, and all the other weird and wonderful things that may well be coming our way very soon. Unfortunately, although the presentation is simple and clear enough for someone with no background knowledge to appreciate (and indeed if you are even basically familiar with these concepts you would do well to skip the first few chapters), the prose is uneven. For example, when something incredible is mentioned, Broderick tends to write some perhaps (in the opinion of the present reviewer) over melodramtaic phrase to express amazement. Also irritating is his habit (fortunately he doesn't do it too often) of coining unfamiliar or confusing neologisms when better known terms would do just as well - e.g. "minting" for nanofabrication, and "spike" instead of Vinge's more familiar "singularity". But for all it's faults, you could do a lot worse than this book for a simple and readable introduction to what the Singularity and Transhumanism are all about

Broderick has also written a follow-up, The Last Mortal Generation, although I haven't read that one. But it seems to be basically elaborating further on the same themes covered in The Spike.

The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence
by Wikipedia link Ray Kurzweil

accessibility: non-technical, but moderately advanced
quality: 4 out of 5 stars

In style and presentation, this book is worlds away from Broderick's Spike. Yet both cover the same ground - the Singularity, its implications, and what sort of future we are rushing towards. Kurzweil has become a major exponent for the Singularity and Transhumanism, and his external link web site is certainly one of the best places you could go for all this stuff and more.

Compared to Broderick, his style is heavy going, and a lot of it I found rather tedious. Just going over arguments that I already knew. But again, if you are coming at this subject from outside, and with a critical philosophical eye, this is the one to go for

Most fascinating and provocative of all - and in many ways the core of the book - is Kurzweil's timeline. If he is correct in his predictions, we can expect very big changes in a very short period of time

Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence
by Wikipedia link Hans P. Moravec

The classic work by the famous roboticist and artificial intelligence researcher Hans Moravec.

Beyond Humanity: Cyberevolution and Future Minds
by Gregory S. Paul and Earl Cox

A paleontologist (Gregory S. Paul is author of Predatory Dinosaurs of the World) and an artificial intelligence guru team up to look at the implications of a future world inhabited by thinking machines, nanotech and transhuman advances. Looks at some of the sociological, theological, and scientific issues that we will face in the 21st century.

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Unless otherwise attributed or quoted, all text is licensed under a non commercial attribution Creative Commons License 1.0 and a 2.0.
content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 5 July 2001
page last modified 7 August 2005