The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology is a 2005 update of Raymond Kurzweil‘s 1999 book, The Age of Spiritual Machines and his 1990 book The Age of Intelligent Machines. In it, as in the two previous versions, Kurzweil attempts to give a glimpse of what awaits us in the near future. He proposes a coming technological singularity, and how we would thus be able to augment our bodies and minds with technology.
He describes the singularity as resulting from a combination of three important technologies of the 21st century: genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (including artificial intelligence).
Four central postulates of the book are as follows:
- A technological-evolutionary point known as “the singularity” exists as an achievable goal for humanity.
- Through a law of accelerating returns, technology is progressing toward the singularity at an exponential rate.
- The functionality of the human brain is quantifiable in terms of technology that we can build in the near future.
- Medical advancements make it possible for a significant number of his generation (Baby Boomers) to live long enough for the exponential growth of technology to intersect and surpass the processing of the human brain.
Kurzweil’s speculative reasoning and selective use of growth indicators has been heavily debated and challenged. (See criticisms at Technological Singularity) In response to this, in the last chapter he gives responses to some of the criticisms he has received.