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THE AGE OF SPIRITUAL MACHINES WHEN COMPUTERS EXCEED HUMAN INTELLIGENCE RAY KURZWEIL Page 1 U.S. $25.95 CANADA $36.99 (continued from front flap) Imagine a world where the difference between man and machine blurs, where the difference between humanity and technology fades, where the soul and the silicon chip unite. This is not science fiction. This is the twenty-first century according to Ray Kurzweil, the “restless genius” (Wall Street Journal) and inventor of the most innovative and compelling technology of our era. In The Age of Spiritual Machines, the brains behind the Kurzweil Reading Machine, the Kurzweil Synthesizer, advanced speech recognition, and other technologies devises a framework for envisioning the next century. In his inspiring hands, life in the new millennium no longer seems daunting. Instead, Kurzweil’s twenty- first century promises to be age in which the marriage of human sensitivity and artificial intelligence fundamentally alters and improves the way we live. The Age of Spiritual Machines is no mere list of predictions but a prophetic blueprint for the future. Kurzweil guides us through the inexorable advances that will results in computers exceeding the memory capacity and computational ability of the human brain. According to Kurzweil, machines will achieve all this by 2020, with human attributes not far behind. We will begin to have relationships with automated personalities and use them as teachers, companions, and lovers. A mere ten years later, information will be fed straight into out brains along direct neural pathways; computers, for their part, will have read all the world’s literature. The distinction between us and computers will have become sufficiently blurred that when the machines claim to be conscious, we will believe them. In The Age Of Spiritual Machines, the “ultimate thinking machine” (Forbes) forges the ultimate road to the next century. Ray Kurzweil is the author of The Age of Intelligent Machines, which won the Association American Publishers’ Award for The Most Outstanding Computer Science Book of 1990. He was awarded the Dickson Prize, Carnegie Mellon’s top science prize, in 1994. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology named him the Inventor of the Year in 1988. He is the recipient of nine honorary doctorates and honors from two U.S. presidents. Kurzweil lives in a suburb of Boston. JACKET DESIGN BY DAVID J. HIGH AUTHOR PHOTOGRAPH BY JERRY BAUER (continued on back flap) 0199 A Member of Penguin Putnam Inc 375 Hudson Street, New York, N.Y. 10014 Printed in U.S.A. Page 2 NOTE: This document was formatted in Microsoft Word, and so looks best when viewed from there. In particular, the tables and charts may look goofy in other programs. ***************************************************** We are the last. The last generation to be unaugmented. The last generation to be intellectually alone. The last generation to be limited by our bodies. We are the first. The first generation to be augmented. The first generation to be intellectually together. The first generation to be limited only by our imaginations. We stand both before and after, balancing on the razor edge of the Event Horizon of the Singularity. That this sublime juxtapositional tautology has gone unnoticed until now is itself remarkable. We're so exquisitely privileged to be living in this time, to be born right on the precipice of the greatest paradigm shift in human history, the only thing that approaches the importance of that reality is finding like minds that realize the same, and being able to make some connection with them. If these books have influenced you the same way that they have us, we invite your contact at the email addresses listed below. Enjoy, Michael Beight, [email protected] Steven Reddell, [email protected] Page 3 Here are some new links that we’ve found interesting: News articles, essays, and discussion on the latest topics in technology and accelerating intelligence. The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence: A think tank devoted to increasing Humanity’s odds of experiencing a safe, beneficial Singularity. Many interesting articles on such topics as Friendly AI, Existential Risks. Videos, audio, and PowerPoints from the Singularity Summits; and videos about SIAI’s purpose. Videos on the internet in which the word “Kurzweil” is spoken. Great new resource! Page 4 [Index omitted] Page 5 THE AGE OF SPIRITUAL MACHINES Page 6 ALSO BY RAY KURZWEIL The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life The Age of Intelligent Machines Page 7 VIKING Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England Penguin Books Australia Ltd., Ringwood, Victoria, Australia Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2 Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182–190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand Penguin India, 210 Chiranjiv Tower, 43 Nehru Place, New Delhi 11009, India Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England First Published in 1999 by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Books Inc. 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 Copyright © Ray Kurzweil, 1999 All rights reserved Illustrations credits Pages 24, 26–27, 104, 156: Concept and text by Ray Kurzweil. Illustration by Rose Russo and Robert Brun. Page 72: © 1977 by Sidney Harris Pages 167–168: Paintings by Aaron, a computerized robot built and programmed by Harold Cohen. Photographed by Becky Cohen. Page 188: Roz Chast © 1998. From The Cartoon Bank. All rights reserved. Page 194: Danny Shanahan © 1994. From The New Yorker Collection. All rights reserved. Page 219: Peter Steiner © 1997. From The New Yorker Collection. All rights reserved. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA Kurzweil, Ray. The age of spiritual machines / Ray Kurzweil. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-670-88217-8 1. Artificial Intelligence. 2. Computers. 3. Title. Q335.K88 1999 006.3—dc21 98–38804 This book is printed on acid-free paper.  Printed in the United States of America Set in Berkeley Oldstyle Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. Page 8 A NOTE TO THE READER As a photon wends its way through an arrangement of glass panes and mirrors, its path remains ambiguous. It essentially takes every possible path available to it (apparently these photons have not read Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken"). This ambiguity remains until observation by a conscious observer forces the particle to decide which path it had taken. Then the uncertainty is resolved—retroactively—and it is as if the selected path had been taken all along. Like these quantum particles, you—the reader—have choices to make in your path through this book. You can read the chapters as I intended them to be read, in sequential order. Or, after reading the Prologue, you may decide that the future can't wait, and you wish to immediately jump to the chapters in Part III on the twenty-first century (the table of contents on the next pages offers a description of each chapter). You may then make your way back to the earlier chapters that describe the nature and origin of the trends and forces that will manifest themselves in this coming century. Or, perhaps, your course will remain ambiguous until the end. But when you come to the Epilogue, any remaining ambiguity will be resolved, and it will be as if you had always intended to read the book in the order that you selected. Page 9 CONTENTS A NOTE TO THE READER 9 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 13 PROLOGUE: AN INEXORABLE EMERGENCE 14 Before the next century is over, human beings will no longer be the most intelligent or capable type of entity on the planet. Actually, let me take that back. The truth of that last statement depends on how we define human. PART ONE: PROBING THE PAST CHAPTER ONE: THE LAW OF TIME AND CHAOS 19 For the past forty years, in accordance with Moore's Law, the power of transistor-based computing has been growing exponentially. But by the year 2020, transistor features will be just a few atoms thick, and Moore's Law will have run its course. What then? To answer this critical question, we need to understand the exponential nature of time. CHAPTER TWO: THE INTELLIGENCE OF THE UNIVERSE 40 Can an intelligence create another intelligence more intelligent than itself? Are we more intelligent than the evolutionary process that created us? In turn, will the intelligence that we are creating come to exceed that of its creator? CHAPTER THREE: OF MIND AND MACHINES 47 "I am lonely and bored, please keep me company." If your computer displayed this message on its screen, would that convince you that it is conscious and has feelings? Before you say no too quickly, we need to consider how such a plaintive message originated. CHAPTER FOUR: A NEW FORM OF INTELLIGENCE ON EARTH 56 Intelligence rapidly creates satisfying, sometimes surprising plans that meet an array of constraints. Clearly, no simple formula can emulate this most powerful of phenomena. Actually, that's wrong. All that is needed to solve a surprisingly wide range of intelligent problems is exactly this: simple methods combined with heavy doses of computation, itself a simple process. Page 10 CHAPTER FIVE: CONTEXT AND KNOWLEDGE 71 It is sensible to remember today's insights for tomorrow's challenges. It is not fruitful to rethink every problem that comes along. This is particularly true for humans, due to the extremely slow speed of our computing circuitry. PART TWO: PREPARING THE PRESENT CHAPTER SIX: BUILDING NEW BRAINS . . . 78 Evolution has found a way around the computational limitations of neural circuitry. Cleverly, it has created organisms who in turn invented a computational technology a million times faster than carbon-based neurons. Ultimately, the computing conducted on extremely slow mammalian neural circuits will be ported to a far more versatile and speedier electronic (and photonic) equivalent. CHAPTER SEVEN: . . . AND BODIES 98 A disembodied mind will quickly get depressed. So what kind of bodies will we provide for our twenty-first- century machines? Later on, the question will become: What sort of bodies will they provide for themselves? CHAPTER EIGHT: 1999 114 If all the computers in 1960 stopped functioning, few people would have noticed. Circa 1999 is another matter. Although computers still lack a sense of humor, a gift for small talk, and other endearing qualities of human thought, they are nonetheless mastering an increasingly diverse array of tasks that previously required human intelligence. PART THREE: TO FACE THE FUTURE CHAPTER NINE: 2009 137 It is now 2009. A $1,000 personal computer can perform about a trillion calculations per second. Computers are imbedded in clothing and jewelry. Most routine business transactions take place between a human and a virtual personality. Translating telephones are commonly used. Human musicians routinely jam with cybernetic musicians. The neo-Luddite movement is growing. CHAPTER TEN: 2019 146 A $1,000 computing device is now approximately equal to the computational ability of the human brain. Computers are now largely invisible and are embedded everywhere. Three-dimensional virtual-reality displays, embedded in glasses and contact lenses, provide the primary interface for communication with other persons, the Web, and virtual reality. Most interaction with computing is through gestures and two-way natural-language spoken communication. Realistic all-encompassing visual, auditory, and tactile environments enable people to do virtually anything with anybody regardless of physical proximity. People are beginning to have relationships with automated personalities as companions, teachers, caretakers, and lovers. CHAPTER ELEVEN: 2029 161 Page 11 A $1,000 unit of computation has the computing capacity of approximately one thousand human brains. Direct neural pathways have been perfected for high-bandwidth connection to the human brain. A range of neural implants is becoming available to enhance visual and auditory perception and interpretation, memory, and reasoning. Computers have read all available human- and machine-generated literature and multimedia material. There is growing discussion about the legal rights of computers and what constitutes being human. Machines claim to be conscious and these claims are largely accepted. CHAPTER TWELVE: 2099 173 There is a strong trend toward a merger of human thinking with the world of machine intelligence that the human species initially created. There is no longer any clear distinction between humans and computers. Most conscious entities do not have a permanent physical presence. Machine-based intelligences derived from extended models of human intelligence claim to be human. Most of these intelligences are not tied to a specific computational processing unit. The number of software-based humans vastly exceeds those still using native neuron-cell-based computation. Even among those human intelligences still using carbon-based neurons, there is ubiquitous use of neural-implant technology that provides enormous augmentation of human perceptual and cognitive abilities. Humans who do not utilize such implants are unable to meaningfully participate in dialogues with those who do. Life expectancy is no longer a viable term in relation to intelligent beings. EPILOGUE: THE REST OF THE UNIVERSE REVISITED 191 Intelligent beings consider the fate of the universe. TIME LINE 196 HOW TO BUILD AN INTELLIGENT MACHINE IN THREE EASY PARADIGMS 213 GLOSSARY 227 NOTES 241 SUGGESTED READINGS 263 WEB LINKS 282 INDEX [Omitted] 289 Page 12 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to express my gratitude to the many persons who have provided inspiration, patience, ideas, criticism, insight, and all manner of assistance for this project. In particular, I would like to thank:  My wife, Sonya, for her loving patience through the twists and turns of the creative process  My mother for long engaging walks with me when I was a child in the Woods of Queens (yes, there were forests in Queens, New York, when I was growing up) and for her enthusiastic interest in and early support for my not-always-fully-baked ideas  My Viking editors, Barbara Grossman and Dawn Drzal, for their insightful guidance and editorial expertise and the dedicated team at Viking Penguin, including Susan Petersen, publisher; Ivan Held and Paul Slovak, marketing executives; John Jusino, copy editor; Betty Lew, designer; Jariya Wanapun, editorial assistant, and Laura Ogar, indexer  Jerry Bauer for his patient photography  David High for actually devising a spiritual machine for the cover My literary agent, Loretta Barrett, for helping to shape this project  My wonderfully capable researchers, Wendy Dennis and Nancy Mulford, for their dedicated and resourceful efforts, and Tom Garfield for his valuable assistance  Rose Russo and Robert Brun for turning illustration ideas into beautiful visual presentations  Aaron Kleiner for his encouragement and support  George Gilder for his stimulating thoughts and insights  Harry George, Don Gonson, Larry Janowitch, Hannah Kurzweil, Rob Pressman, and Mickey Singer for engaging and helpful discussions on these topics  My readers: Peter Arnold, Melanie Baker-Futorian, Loretta Barrett, Stephen Baum, Bryan Bergeron, Mike Brown, Cheryl Cordima, Avi Coren, Wendy Dennis, Mark Dionne, Dawn Drzal, Nicholas Fabijanic, Gil Fischman, Ozzie Frankell, Vicky Frankell, Bob Frankston, Francis Ganong, Tom Garfield, Harry George, Audra Gerhardt, George Gilder, Don Gonson, Martin Greenberger, Barbara Grossman, Larry Janowitch, Aaron Kleiner, Jerry Kleiner, Allen Kurzweil, Amy Kurzweil, Arielle Kurzweil, Edith Kurzweil, Ethan Kurzweil, Hannah Kurzweil, Lenny Kurzweil, Missy Kurzweil, Nancy Kurzweil, Peter Kurzweil, Rachel Kurzweil, Sonya Kurzweil, Jo Lernout, Jon Lieff, Elliot Lobel, Cyrus Mehta, Nancy Mulford, Nicholas Mullendore, Rob Pressman, Vlad Sejnoha, Mickey Singer, Mike Sokol, Kim Storey, and Barbara Tyrell for their compliments and criticisms (the latter being the most helpful) and many invaluable suggestions  Finally, all the scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and artists who are busy creating the age of spiritual machines. Page 13 PROLOGUE: AN INEXORABLE EMERGENCE The gambler had not expected to be here. But on reflection, he thought he had shown some kindness in his time. And this place was even more beautiful and satisfying than he had imagined. Everywhere there were magnificent crystal chandeliers, the finest handmade carpets, the most sumptuous foods, and, yes, the most beautiful women, who seemed intrigued with their new heaven mate. He tried his hand at roulette, and amazingly his number came up time after time. He tried the gaming tables and his luck was nothing short of remarkable: He won game after game. Indeed his winnings were causing quite a stir, attracting much excitement from the attentive staff, and from the beautiful women. This continued day after day, week after week, with the gambler winning every game, accumulating bigger and bigger earnings. Everything was going his way. He just kept on winning. And week after week, month after month, the gambler's streak of success remained unbreakable. After a while, this started to get tedious. The gambler was getting restless; the winning was starting to lose its meaning. Yet nothing changed. He just kept on winning every game, until one day, the now anguished gambler turned to the angel who seemed to be in charge and said that he couldn't take it anymore. Heaven was not for him after all. He had figured he was destined for the "other place" nonetheless, and indeed that is where he wanted to be. "But this is the other place," came the reply. That is my recollection of an episode of The Twilight Zone that I saw as a young child. I don't recall the title, but I would call it "Be Careful What You Wish For." [1] As this engaging series was wont to do, it illustrated one of the paradoxes of human nature: We like to solve problems, but we don't want them all solved, not too quickly, anyway. We are more attached to the problems than to the solutions. Take death, for example. A great deal of our effort goes into avoiding it. We make extraordinary efforts to delay it, and indeed often consider its intrusion a tragic event. Yet we would find it hard to live without it. Death gives meaning to our lives. It gives importance and value to time. Time would become meaningless if there were too much of it. If death were indefinitely put off, the human psyche would end up, well, like the gambler in The Twilight Zone episode. We do not yet have this predicament. We have no shortage today of either death or human problems. Few observers feel that the twentieth century has left us with too much of a good thing. There is growing prosperity, fueled not incidentally by information technology, but the human species is still challenged by issues and difficulties not altogether different than those with which it has struggled from the beginning of its recorded history. The twenty-first century will be different. The human species, along with the computational technology it created, will be able to solve age-old problems of need, if not desire, and will be in a position to change the nature of mortality in a post-biological future. Do we have the psychological capacity for all the good things that await us? Probably not. That, however, might change as well. Before the next century is over, human beings will no longer be the most intelligent or capable type of entity on the planet. Actually, let me take that back. The truth of that last statement depends on how we define human. And Page 14 here we see one profound difference between these two centuries: The primary political and philosophical issue of the next century will be the definition of who we are. [2] But I am getting ahead of myself. This last century has seen enormous technological change and the social upheavals that go along with it, which few pundits circa 1899 foresaw. The pace of change is accelerating and has been since the inception of invention (as I will discuss in the first chapter, this acceleration is an inherent feature of technology). The result will be far greater transformations in the first two decades of the twenty-first century than we saw in the entire twentieth century. However, to appreciate the inexorable logic of where the twenty-first century will bring us, we have to go back and start with the present. TRANSITION TO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY Computers today exceed human intelligence in a broad variety of intelligent yet narrow domains such as playing chess, diagnosing certain medical conditions, buying and selling stocks, and guiding cruise missiles. Yet human intelligence overall remains far more supple and flexible. Computers are still unable to describe the objects on a crowded kitchen table, write a summary of a movie, tie a pair of shoelaces, tell the difference between a dog and a cat (although this feat, I believe, is becoming feasible today with contemporary neural nets—computer simulations of human neurons), [3] recognize humor, or perform other subtle tasks in which their human creators excel. One reason for this disparity in capabilities is that our most advanced computers are still simpler than the human brain currently about a million times simpler (give or take one or two orders of magnitude depending on the assumptions used). But this disparity will not remain the case as we go through the early part of the next century. Computers doubled in speed every three years at the beginning of the twentieth century, every two years in the 1950s and 1960s, and are now doubling in speed every twelve months. This trend will continue, with computers achieving the memory capacity and computing speed of the human brain by around the year 2020. Achieving the basic complexity and capacity of the human brain will not automatically result in computers matching the flexibility of human intelligence. The organization and content of these resources—the software of intelligence—is equally important. One approach to emulating the brain's software is through reverse engineering— scanning a human brain (which will be achievable early in the next century) [4] and essentially copying its neural circuitry in a neural computer (a computer designed to simulate a massive number of human neurons) of sufficient capacity. There is a plethora of credible scenarios for achieving human-level intelligence in a machine. We will be able to evolve and train a system combining massively parallel neural nets with other paradigms to understand language and model knowledge, including the ability to read and understand written documents. Although the ability of today's computers to extract and learn knowledge from natural-language documents is quite limited, their abilities in this domain are improving rapidly. Computers will be able to read on their own, understanding and modeling what they have read, by the second decade of the twenty-first century. We can then have our computers read all of the world's literature books, magazines, scientific journals, and other available material. Ultimately, the machines will gather knowledge on their own by venturing into the physical world, drawing from the full spectrum of media and information services, and sharing knowledge with each other (which machines can do far more easily than their human creators). Once a computer achieves a human level of intelligence, it will necessarily roar past it. Since their inception, computers have significantly exceeded human mental dexterity in their ability to remember and process information. A computer can remember billions or even trillions of facts perfectly while we are hard pressed to remember a handful of phone numbers. A computer can quickly search a database with billions of records in fractions of a second. Computers can readily share their knowledge bases. The combination of human-level intelligence in a machine with a computer's inherent superiority in the speed, accuracy, and sharing ability of its memory will be formidable. Mammalian neurons are marvelous creations, but we wouldn't build them the same way. Much of their complexity is devoted to supporting their own life processes, not to their information-handling abilities. Furthermore, neurons are extremely slow; electronic circuits are at least a million times faster. Once a computer achieves a human level of ability in understanding abstract concepts, recognizing patterns, and other attributes of human intelligence, it will be able to apply this ability to a knowledge base of all human-acquired-and machine-acquired-knowledge. A common reaction to the proposition that computers will seriously compete with human intelligence is to dismiss this specter based primarily on an examination of contemporary capability. After all, when I interact with my Page 15

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