The Age of Spiritual Machines is a non-fiction book by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil about artificial intelligence and the future course of humanity. First the age of intelligent machines pdf in hardcover on January 1, 1999 by Viking, it has received attention from The New York Times, The New York Review of Books and The Atlantic.
In the book Kurzweil outlines his vision for how technology will progress during the 21st century. Kurzweil believes evolution provides evidence that humans will one day create machines more intelligent than they are.
He presents his law of accelerating returns to explain why “key events” happen more frequently as time marches on. It also explains why the computational capacity of computers is increasing exponentially. Kurzweil predicts machines with human-level intelligence will be available from affordable computing devices within a couple of decades, revolutionizing most aspects of life.
He says nanotechnology will augment our bodies and cure cancer even as humans connect to computers via direct neural interfaces or live full-time in virtual reality. Kurzweil predicts the machines “will appear to have their own free will” and even “spiritual experiences”. He says humans will essentially live forever as humanity and its machinery become one and the same. He predicts that intelligence will expand outward from earth until it grows powerful enough to influence the fate of the universe.
Reviewers appreciated Kurzweil’s track record with predictions, his ability to extrapolate technology trends, and his clear explanations. However, there was disagreement on whether computers will one day be conscious.
Searle deploys a variant of his well-known Chinese room argument, this time tailored to computers playing chess, a topic Kurzweil covers. Searle writes that computers can only manipulate symbols which are meaningless to them, an assertion which if true subverts much of the vision of the book.
Ray Kurzweil is an inventor and serial entrepreneur. When The Age of Spiritual Machines was published he had already started four companies: Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc.