Review of The Age of Spiritual Machines and Artificial Intelligence.

Essay by kalexanderUniversity, Master'sA+, December 2003

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The first chapters of The Age of Spiritual Machines provide the foundation for Ray Kurzweil to issue his predictions later in the book. They include many theorems of physics and mathematics so it is possible to miss the essential principles later in the book without reading them. Nevertheless, his choice of words delineates some difficult concepts, making this tough but rewarding reading. The first chapter ultimately leads up to the most important principle of the book, The Law of Accelerating Returns, which is that an evolutionary process is not a closed system; therefore, evolution draws upon the chaos in the larger system in which it takes place for its options of diversity. Also, evolution builds on its own increasing order. In an evolutionary process, order increases exponentially. Time exponentially speeds up and the valuable products of the process accelerate. Kurzweil uses this fundamental principle, in addition to others, to justify his many predictions.

The next chapter deals with the process of evolution. The evolution of intelligent beings has taken billions of years. But we have created something that is evolving at an extremely faster pace, technology. In a matter of about a thousand years, human-created technology has changed from nonexistent to essential to most people. Human intelligence, a product of evolution, is far more intelligent than its creator. And so, too, will the intelligence that we are creating come to exceed the intelligence of its creator; the Law of Accelerating Returns predicts it.

Alan Turing, a British mathematician who helped crack Germany's Enigma code during World War II, was on the forefront of artificial intelligence. He devised a test, duly called the Turing Test, in which a human judge interviews both a computer and one or more human foils using terminals. If the human judge is unable to...