The Age of Intelligent Machines

The Age of Intelligent Machines is a non-fiction book about artificial intelligence by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil . This was his first book and the Association of American Publishers named the Most Outstanding Computer Science Book of 1990 . [1] It was reviewed in The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor . Daniel Dennett , Douglas Hofstadter , and Marvin Minsky, The format is a combination of monograph and anthology contributed by artificial intelligence experts. [2]

Kurzweil surveys the philosophical , mathematical and technological roots of artificial intelligence, starting with the assumption that a sufficiently advanced computer program could exhibit human-level intelligence . Kurzweil argues the creation of humans through evolution that humans should be able to be more intelligent than themselves. He believes pattern recognition , as demonstrated by vision , and knowledge representation, as seen in language , are two key components of intelligence. Kurzweil details how quickly computers are advancing in each domain.

Driven by the exponential improvements in computer power, Kurzweil believes artificial intelligence will be possible and then commonplace. He explains how it will impact all areas of people’s lives, including work , education , medicine , and warfare . Kurzweil says it’s going to be difficult to figure it out.


Ray Kurzweil is an inventor and serial entrepreneur. In 1990, Kurzweil Computer Products, Kurzweil Music Systems , and Kurzweil Applied Intelligence. For the blind, music synthesizers, and speech recognition software respectively. [3] Optical character recognition , which he used in the reading machine, and speech recognition are both featured in the book. [4] [5] After the publication of The Age of Intelligent Machines he expanded it ict ideas with two follow-on books: The Age of Spiritual Machinesand the best selling The Singularity is Near . [6]


Definition and history

Kurzweil believes evolution can be more intelligent than themselves.

Kurzweil starts by trying to define artificial intelligence. He leans towards Marvin Minsky’s “moving frontier” formulation: “the study of computer problems which has not yet been solved”. [7] Then he struggles with defining intelligence and concludes “there appears to be no simple definition of intelligence that is satisfactory to most observers”. [8] That leads to a discussion about whether evolution , the process, could be considered intelligent. [9]

Kurzweil concludes that evolution is intelligent, but with an IQ only “infinitesimally greater than zero”. He penalizes the evolution of the extremely long time it takes to create its designs. The human brain operates much more quickly, evidenced by the rate of progress in the last few thousand years, so the brain is more intelligent than its creator. Kurzweil concludes that the human brain is more likely than itself, and suggests that “a sufficient number of decades or centuries into the future” will be surpassed by their creations. [9]

The field of artificial intelligence presupposes that the human brain is a machine, and that an alternative implementation could be built, as a computer program, which would have the same faculties as the real thing. Kurzweil traces the philosophical underpinnings of this tenet, which is unique to the human mind. Kurzweil starts with Platoand touches quickly on Descartes , Newton , Kant , Wittgenstein and ends with Hubert Dreyfus . [10] Kurzweil also presents the mathematical roots of Artificial Intelligence by Bertrand Russell ,Alan Turing , Alonzo Church , and Kurt Gödel . The Turing test is a new way of testing. [11]

Chess and pattern recognition

It is much harder to program computers to play the Chinese game of chess.

Kurzweil discusses how computers play chess in detail, building to his prediction that “we will see a [computer] world champion by the year 2000”. [12] The Chinese strategy game of Go , HOWEVER, HAS proven much more difficulty for computers to play well. He considers to be a “level 3” problem, the type of problem where there is no single unifying formula which solves it. Then Kurzweil reveals that pattern recognition, which is crucial to artificial intelligence, is also a level 3 problem. [13]

Kurzweil traces various ways of doing pattern recognition, from the rise and fall of perceptrons to random neural nets and decision trees , finally explaining that intelligence is a hierarchy of heterogeneous processes “communicating and influencing each other”. [14] He Believes Marvin Minsky ‘s Society of Mind and Jerome Lettvin ‘s Society of neurons are Useful models. Kurzweil differentiates logical thinking from pattern recognition, and explains that AI has had much more trouble with pattern recognition, exemplified by efforts to create artificial vision. [15]

Kurzweil estimates that the human vision system is the equivalent of 100 trillion multiplications per second where “a typical personal computer” of the day could only do 100,000 multiplications per second. [16] The way out of this dilemma is parallel processing, having millions of billions of simultaneous processes all computing at the same time, something Kurzweil felt would happen in the future. [17] Kurzweil also discusses speech recognition, which requires vision requires complex pattern recognition. [5]

Knowledge and art

Facts alone do not constitute knowledge. For information to become knowledge, it is necessary to incorporate the relationships between ideas. And for the knowledge to be useful, the links describing how to interact

Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Intelligent Machines p. 284

In addition to a pattern recognition, representative knowledge is also an important aspect of intelligence. Kurzweil details several types of expert systems in medicine, insurance and one for garage mechanics. [18] Knowledge is Expressed by language and Kurzweil Discusses the state of language understanding Including projects Such As Terry Winograd ‘s SHRDLU . [19] Kurzweil says robotics is where AI technologies are used: “vision, pattern recognition, knowledge engineering, decision making, natural-language understanding and others”. [20]He explains how efficient robots are likely to be developed, and predicts that “effective robotic servants in the home will probably not appear until early next century”. [21]

As a high school student Kurzweil built a computer that could compose music and show it on the national TV show I’ve Got a Secret . [22] In The Age of Intelligent Machines he discusses the relationship between artificial intelligence and the production of music and visual art by computers. He includes the freehand drawings of AARON as well as a plotter by Colette and Charles Bangert. He briefly mentions artificial life, shows a number of computer generated fractals, and writes that “the role of the computer is not to displace human creativity but rather to amplify it.” [23]


Main article: Predictions made by Ray Kurzweil

Kurzweil explains that the “functionality per unit cost” in the computer industry has been increasing exponentially for decades. He says computer memory costs one-hundred millionth of what it did in 1950, for example. [24] Kurzweil admits exponential trends, but is not last forever, but is convinced of the possibility of success. If these trends continue, Kurzweil argues, we will see a “translating telephone” by 2010, intelligent assistants by the mid-1990s, and a “completely driverless” by “well into the first half” of the 21st century. [25] He anticipates we will prove our identity by finger and voice prints and that artificial will be present as holograms or robots. [26]

Kurzweil believes computers will pass the Turing test this century.

Kurzweil goes into detail about the Turing test and explains that “sometime between 2020 and 2070” the test will be passed to such a degree that “no reasonable person familiar with the field” will question the result. [27] Kurzweil insists there will still be a net gain of jobs. [28] He says fields like “communication, teaching, learning, selling, strategic-deci- sion-making and innovation” will continue to be staffed by humans. At work he Predicts people will use electronic document That Will Be a “web of relationships” like Ted Nelson ‘s hypertext INSTEAD of linear like a book. [29]

As far as education is concerned, Kurzweil feels like a “smart and entertaining courseware”. Papers, exams, electronic mail and even “love notes” will be sent over wireless networks. [30] All the advanced capabilities of the world, leading to laser and particle beam weapons, and planes without human pilots. [31] Medicine will be diagnosed, specialized data banks of patient histories, realistic simulations for drug designers, and robotically assisted surgery. This leaves humans open to do research, organize knowledge and administer “comfort and caring”. [32]

Handicapped individuals will be assisted by the advancing technology with reading machines, hearing machines, and robotic exoskeletons. Kurzweil believes the disadvantage of the disabled will be overcome with their new abilities. [33] Kurzweil concludes the book by explaining that all of these advances will challenge us; As computers are more often than not, we are more likely to use them than we are. [34]


Sprinkled throughout the book are 23 essays, 4 of them by Kurzweil himself and 19 others by: Margaret Litvin, Daniel Dennett , Mitchell Waldrop, Sherry Turkle , Mathieu Blaine, Seymour Papert , Douglas Hofstadter , Marvin Minsky , Edward Feigenbaum, Jeff Pepper , K. Fuchi, Brian Oakley , Harold Cohen , Charles Ames, Michael Lebowitz, Roger Schank and Christopher Owens, Allen Newell , Margaret Boden , and George Gilder . [35] The book closes with a “chronology” listing events from the age of the dinosaurs to the year 2070,[36] Fifty pages of end notes and suggested readings, [37] a glossary [38] and an index. [39]


Jay Garfield in the New York Times wrote that Kurzweil is “clear, current and informative” when he wrote about areas where he was working directly, but “sloppy and vague” when talking about philosophy, logic and psychology. Garfield says Kurzweil overlooks “the mammoth difficulties that confront anyone who tries to accomplish such a task”. [40]

The Futurist calls it an “impressive volume” which is “handsomely illustrated” and “a feast for the mind and eye”., [41] while Simson Garfinkel in The Christian Science Monitor says The Age of Intelligent Machines is a tour de force the history of artificial intelligence “and the fact that the book is orderly, it is not organized” and complains that “details are missing throughout”. [42]

Linda Strauss writing for Science, Technology and Human Values calls the book “a rich assembly of glittering parts, rather awkwardly joined”. She points out that Kurzweil really can not define artificial intelligence, the subject of the book, because he can not define intelligence. Instead he subsequently assembled on the Turing test and is Marvin Minsky’s notion of intelligence as a moving horizon of unsolved problems. Strauss feels Kurzweil does not consider the cultural and societal implications of his futuristic visions. [43]


  1. Jump up^ Colin, Johnson (1998-12-28). “Era of Smart People is Dawning”. Electronic Engineering Times .
  2. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990.
  3. Jump up^ “A Biography of Ray Kurzweil” . Kurzweil Technologies . Retrieved 2013-03-10 .
  4. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, pp. 238-247.
  5. ^ Jump up to:b Kurzweil 1990 , pp. 263-271.
  6. Jump up^ “Ray Kurzweil: Inventor, futurist” . TED . Retrieved 2013-03-10 .
  7. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 14.
  8. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 18.
  9. ^ Jump up to:b Kurzweil 1990 , p. 21.
  10. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, pp. 23-39.
  11. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, pp. 103-117.
  12. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 133.
  13. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, pp. 138-139.
  14. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, pp. 139-145.
  15. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 224.
  16. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 227.
  17. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 229.
  18. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, pp. 292-302.
  19. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 307.
  20. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 321.
  21. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 322.
  22. Jump up^ Grossman, Lev (2011-02-10). “2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal” . Time Magazine . Retrieved 2013-03-01 .
  23. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 368.
  24. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 401.
  25. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 411.
  26. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, pp. 405-414.
  27. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 416.
  28. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 426.
  29. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 428.
  30. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 431.
  31. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 437.
  32. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 441.
  33. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 442.
  34. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, p. 449.
  35. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, pp. VII-XI.
  36. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, pp. 464-483.
  37. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, pp. 485-439.
  38. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, pp. 541-552.
  39. Jump up^ Kurzweil 1990, pp. 553-565.
  40. Jump up^ Garfield, Jay (9 September 1990). “Machine See, Machine Do” . The New York Times . Retrieved 8 February 2013 .
  41. Jump up^ “The Age of Intelligent Machines” . The Futurist . 1991-03-01 . Retrieved 2013-02-28 .
  42. Jump up^ Simson, Garfinkel (2 October 1990). “Trying to Make More Computers Like Humans” . The Christian Science Monitor . Retrieved 8 February 2013 .
  43. Jump up^ Strauss, Linda. “Book Reviews: The Age of Intelligent Machines by Raymond Kurzweil”. Science, Technology & Human Values . 17 (3, Summer 1992): 396-401. doi : 10.1177 / 016224399201700310 .

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