The Singularity Is Near

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology is a 2005 non-fiction book about artificial intelligence and the future of humanity by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil .

The book builds on the ideas introduced in Kurzweil’s previous books, The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990) and The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999). This time, however, Kurzweil embraces the term Singularity , which was popularized by Vernor Vinge in his 1993 essay “The Coming Technological Singularity” more than a decade earlier. [1]

Kurzweil Describes His law of accelerating returns qui year Predicts Increase in exponential technologies like computers , genetics , nanotechnology , robotics and artificial intelligence . Once the Singularity has been reached, Kurzweil says that machine intelligence will be infinitely more powerful than all human intelligence combined. Afterwards he predicts intelligence will radiate outward from the planet until it saturates the universe. The Singularity is also the point at which machines intelligence and humans would merge.


Exponential growth

Kurzweil characterizes the evolution of all time as progressing through six epochs, each one building on the one before. He says that it has been the case for Physics and Chemistry , Biology and DNA , Brains , and Technology . Kurzweil predicts the Singularity will coincide with the next epoch, The Merger of Human Technology with Human Intelligence . After the Singularity he says the final epoch will occur, The Universe Wakes Up . [2]

Kurzweil explains that evolutionary progress is exponential because of positive feedback ; the results of one stage are used to create the next stage. Exponential growth is deceptive, almost flat at first until it hits what Kurzweil calls “the knee in the curve” then rises almost vertically. [3]In fact Kurzweil believes evolutionary progress is super-exponential because more resources are deployed to the winning process. As an example of super-exponential growth Kurzweil quotes the computer chip business. The overall budget for the whole industry over time, since the fruits of exponential growth make it an attractive investment; meanwhile the additional budget fuels more innovation which makes the industry grow even faster, effectively an example of “double” exponential growth. [4]

Kurzweil says evolutionary progress looks smooth, but it’s really divided into paradigms, specific methods of solving problems. Each paradigm starts with slow growth, builds up to rapid growth, and then levels off. As one paradigm levels off, or build new paradigm. So what looks like a smooth curve is really series of smaller S curves . [5] For example Kurzweil notes that when vacuum tubes stopped getting faster, cheaper transistors became popular and continued the overall exponential growth. [6]

Kurzweil calls this exponential growth of the law of accelerating returns, and he believes it to many human-created technologies such as computer memory , transistors , microprocessors , DNA sequencing , magnetic storage , the number of Internet hosts , Internet traffic , decrease in device size , and nanotech quotes and patents. [7] Kurzweil cites two historical examples of exponential growth: the Human Genome Project and the growth of the Internet . [8]Kurzweil claims the growing world economy is growing rapidly. [9]

Computational capacity

Moore’s Law
An updated version of Moore’s Law over 120 Years (based on Kurzweil’s graph ). The 7 most recent data points are all NVIDIA GPUs .

A fundamental pillar of Kurzweil’s argument is that to get to the singularity, computational capacity is as much of an understanding of algorithms and understanding of the human brain. Moore’s Law predicts the capacity of integrated circuits grows exponentially, but not indefinitely. Kurzweil feels the increase in the capacity of integrated circuits will probably slow down by the 2020. [10]He feels confident that a new paradigm will start at the point of growth of the exponential growth predicted by his law of accelerating returns. Kurzweil describes four paradigms of computation that came before electromechanical, relay, vacuum tube, and transistors. [10] What technology will follow integrated circuits, to serve the sixth paradigm, is unknown, but Kurzweil believes nanotubes are the most likely alternative among a number of possibilities:

nanotube and nanotube circuitry, molecular computing, self – assembly in nanotube circuits, biological systems emulating circuit assembly, computing with DNA , spintronics(computing with the spin of electrons), computing with light , and quantum computing . [11]

Since Kurzweil believes computational capacity will continue to grow exponentially long after Moore’s Law ends it will eventually rival the raw computing power of the human brain. Kurzweil looks at several different estimates of how much computational capacity is in the brain and settles on 10 16 calculations per second and 10 13 bits of memory. He writes that $ 1,000 will buy a single-minded “by around 2020” [12] while by 2045, the onset of the singularity, he says . [13]Kurzweil admits the exponential trend in increased computing power will eventually hit a limit, but he calculates that the limit is needed for the Singularity. [14]

The brain

Exponential Growth of Computing

Kurzweil notes that computational capacity alone will not create artificial intelligence. He asserts that the best way to build machine intelligence is to understand human intelligence. The first step is to the brain, to peer inside it. Kurzweil claims imaging technologies such as PET and fMRI are increasing exponentially in resolution [15] while he predicts even greater detail will be obtained during the 2020s when it becomes possible to scan the brain from inside using nanobots. [16] Kurzweil says that researchers know how to produce and produce sub-cellular components and synapses all the way up to whole brain regions. [17]The human brain is a complex hierarchy of complex systems, but it does not represent a level of complexity beyond what we are already capable of handling. [18]

Beyond reverse engineering the brain in order to understand and emulate it, Kurzweil introduces the idea of ​​”uploading” to a specific brain with every mental process intact, to be instantiated on a “suitably powerful computational substrate”. He writes That general modeling requires 10 16 calculations per second and 10 13 bits of memory, goal Then Explains uploading requires additional detail, Perhaps as Many HAVE 10 19 cps and 10 18 -bit. Kurzweil says the technology will be available by 2040. [19]Rather than an instantaneous scan and a conversion to a digital form, they are more likely to increase their proportion of neuronal implants, increasing their proportion of non-biological intelligence slowly over time. [20]

Kurzweil believes there is “no objective test that can conclusively determine” the presence of consciousness. [21] Therefore he says nonbiological intelligences will claim to have consciousness and “the full range of emotional and spiritual experiences that humans claim to have”; [22] he feels such claims will be accepted.

Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics (AI)

Kurzweil says revolutions in genetics , nanotechnology and robotics will usher in the beginning of the Singularity. [23] Kurzweil believes that it is possible to maintain the body indefinitely, reversing aging while curing cancer , heart disease and other illnesses. [24] Much of this will be possible thanks to nanotechnology, the second revolution, which entails the molecule by molecule construction of tools that they can “rebuild the physical world”. [25]Finally, the revolution in robotics will really be the development of strong AI, defined as machines which have human-level intelligence or greater. [26] This development will be the most important of the century, “comparable in importance to the development of biology itself”. [27]

Kurzweil concedes that every technology carries with it the risk of misuse or abuse, from viruses and nanobots to out-of-control AI machines. He believes the only countermeasure is to invest in defensive technologies, for example by allowing new genetic and medical treatments, monitoring for dangerous pathogens, and creating limited moratoriums on certain technologies. As for artificial intelligence Kurzweil feels the best defense is to increase the “values ​​of liberty, tolerance, and respect for knowledge and diversity” in society, because “the nonbiological intelligence will be embedded in our society and will reflect our values”. [28]

The Singularity

Main article: Technological singularity
Countdown to the Singularity

Kurzweil on the history of the Singularity concept, tracing it back to John von Neumann in the 1950s and IJ Good in the 1960s. He compares his Singularity to that of a mathematical or astrophysical singularity. While his ideas of a Singularity is not actually infinite, he says it is a way of life. [29]

During the Singularity, Kurzweil predicts that “human life will be irreversibly transformed” [30] and that humans will transcend the “limitations of our biological bodies and brain”. [31] He looks beyond the singularity to say that “the intelligence that will emerge will continue to represent the human civilization.” Further, he feels that “future machines will be human, even if they are not biological”. [32]

Kurzweil claims that nonbiological intelligence will predominate the nature of human life will be radically altered: [33] There will be radical changes in human readings , work, play, and wage war. [34] Kurzweil envisions nanobots which allow people to eat whatever they want, to provide copious energy, fight off infections or cancer, replace organs and increase their brains. Eventually people’s bodies will be so much increase they will be able to alter their “physical manifestation at will”. [35]

Kurzweil says the law of accelerating returns that a civilization develops primitive mechanical technologies, it is only a few centuries before they achieve everything outlined in the book, at which point it will start expanding upward, saturating the universe with intelligence. Since they have found no evidence of other civilizations, Kurzweil believes humans are likely to be alone in the universe. Thus, Kurzweil concludes it is the destiny of the saturating, enlisting all matter and energy in the process. [36] [37]

As for individual identities during these radical changes, Kurzweil suggests people think of themselves as an evolving pattern rather than a specific collection of molecules. Kurzweil says evolution moves towards “greater complexity, greater elegance, greater knowledge, greater intelligence, greater beauty, greater creativity, and greater levels of subtle attributes such as love”. [38] He says that these attributes, in the limit, are used to describe God. That means, he continues, that evolution is moving towards a conception of God and that the transition from biological roots is in fact a spiritual undertaking. [38]


Main article: Predictions made by Ray Kurzweil

Kurzweil does not include an actual written timeline of the past and future, as he did in The Age of Intelligent Machines and the Age of Spiritual Machines , but he still makes many specific predictions. Kurzweil writes that by 2010 a supercomputer will have the computational capacity to emulate human intelligence [39] and “by around 2020” this same capacity will be available “for one thousand dollars”. [12] After that milestone he expects human brain scanning to contribute to an effective model of human intelligence “by the mid-2020s”. [40] These two elements will culminate in computers that can pass the Turing test by 2029. [41]By the early 2030s the amount of non-biological computation will exceed the “capacity of all living biological human intelligence”. [42] Finally, the exponential growth in computing capacity will lead to the Singularity. Kurzweil spells out the date very clearly: “I set the date for the Singularity-representing a profound and disruptive transformation in human capability-as 2045”. [13]



A common criticism of the book relates to the “exponential growth fallacy”. As an example, in 1969, man landed on the moon. Extrapolating exponential growth from there one would expect huge lunar bases and manned missions to distant planets. Instead, exploration stalled or even regressed after that. Paul Davies writes “the key point about exponential growth is that it never lasts” [43] often due to resource constraints.

Theodore Modis says “nothing in nature follows a pure exponential” and suggests the logistic function is a better fit for “a real growth process”. The logistic function looks like an exponential at first but then tapers off and flattens completely. For example, the United States and the United States of America have produced production both of which have risen exponentially. Kurzweil says “the knee in the curve” is the time when the exponential trend is going to explode, while modis claims the process is logistic when you hit the “knee” the quantity is only going to increase by a factor of 100 more. [44]

While Some critics complain que le law of accelerating returns is not a law of nature [43] others issue the religious motivations or implications of Kurzweil’s Singularity. The buildup towards the Singularity is compared with Judeo-Christian end-of-time scenarios. Beam calls it ” Buck Rogers vision of the Christian Christian Rapture”. [45] John Gray says “the Singularity echoes apocalyptic myths in which history is about to be interrupted by a world-transforming event”. [46]

The radical nature of Kurzweil’s predictions is often discussed. Anthony Doerr says that before you “dismiss it as techno-zeal” consider that “every day the line between what is human and what is not quite human blurs a bit more”. He lists technology of the day, in 2006, as well as in the field of supersonic airplanes or in vitro fertility treatments and applications that make the brain think that the access to the internet is very high. [47]

In regard to reverse engineer the brain, neuroscientist David J. Linden writes That “Kurzweil is conflating biological data collection with biological insight”. He feels that data collection might be growing exponentially, but insight is increasing only linearly. For example, the speed and cost of sequencing genomes is also improving exponentially. As for nanobots Linden believes the spaces available in the brain for navigation are simply too small. He will be fully aware of the brain, just not on Kurzweil’s timetable. [48]


Paul Davies wrote in Nature That The Singularity Is Nearly a “breathless breakthrough in the world of opportunity” while “warning” is the most important thing to do, but needs to be taken with a huge dose of salt. [43]

Anthony Doerr in The Boston Globe wrote, “Kurzweil’s book is surprisingly elaborate, smart, and persuasive.” He writes clean methodical sentences, “and it’s almost always accessible.” [47] while his colleague Alex Beam points out that “Singularitarians have been greeted with hooting skepticism” [45] Janet Maslin in The New York Times wrote: ” The Singularity is Nearly Butling in Scope and Bravado”, but says “much of his thinking in the sky. She observes that he is more focused on optimistic outcomes than risks. [49]

Movie adaptations

In 2006, Barry Ptolemy and his production company Ptolemaic Productions licensed to the Singularity Is Near from Kurzweil. Inspired by the book, Ptolemy directed and produced the movie Transcendent Man , which went on to bring attention to the book.

Kurzweil has also directed his own adaptation, called The Singularity is Near , which mixes documentary with a science-fiction story involving his robotic avatar Ramona’s transformation into an artificial general intelligence . It was screened at the World Film Festival , the Woodstock Film Festival , the Warsaw International FilmFest , the San Antonio Film Festival in 2010 and the San Francisco Indie Film Festival in 2011. The film was released on July 20, 2012. [50] It is available on DVD or digital download [51] and a trailer is available. [52]

The 2014 movie Lucy is roughly based on the predictions made by Kurzweil about what the year 2045 will look like, including the immortality of man. [53]


  • 奇 点 迫近 [奇 点 临近] Translator: Zhenhua Dong
  • Dutch: Singulariteit is nabij
  • English: Humanity 2.0
  • Hungarian: A szingularitás küszöbén
  • Italian: The singolarità è vicina
  • Korean: 특이점 이 온다
  • Spanish: The Singularidad está cerca
  • German: Menschheit 2.0
  • Polish: Nadchodzi Osobliwość

See also

  • Limits to computation
  • Paradigm shift
  • Simulated reality
  • Singularitarianism
  • Technological singularity
  • Transcendent Man
  • Transhumanism


  1. Jump up^ Vinge 2005.
  2. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2005, p. 15.
  3. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2005, p. 10.
  4. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2005, pp. 40-41.
  5. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2005, pp. 43-44.
  6. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2005, pp. 67.
  7. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2005, pp. 56-84.
  8. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2005, p. 12.
  9. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2005, p. 97.
  10. ^ Jump up to:b Kurzweil 2006 , p. 67.
  11. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, pp. 112-113.
  12. ^ Jump up to:b Kurzweil 2006 , p. 126.
  13. ^ Jump up to:b Kurzweil 2006 , p. 136.
  14. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 134.
  15. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, pp. 160-161.
  16. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 163-167.
  17. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, pp. 167-181.
  18. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 145.
  19. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, pp. 199-200.
  20. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, pp. 201.
  21. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 378.
  22. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 377.
  23. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 205.
  24. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, pp. 212-219.
  25. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, pp. 226-227.
  26. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 260.
  27. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 296.
  28. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, pp. 422-424.
  29. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2005, p. 23.
  30. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 7.
  31. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 9.
  32. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 30.
  33. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 299.
  34. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2005, pp. 331-341.
  35. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, pp. 301-310.
  36. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 344.
  37. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 365.
  38. ^ Jump up to:b Kurzweil 2006 , p. 389.
  39. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 25.
  40. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2005, p. 25.
  41. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2005, p. 200.
  42. Jump up^ Kurzweil 2006, p. 125.
  43. ^ Jump up to:c Davies, Paul (2006-03-23). “When computers take over” (PDF) . Nature . 440 : 421-422. doi : 10.1038 / 440421a . Retrieved 2013-02-15 .
  44. Jump up^ Modis, Theodore (2006). “The Singularity Myth” . Technological Forecasting & Social Change . 73.2 . Retrieved 2013-02-13 .
  45. ^ Jump up to:b Beam, Alex (2005-02-24). “That Singularity Sensation” . The Boston Globe . Retrieved 2013-02-15 .
  46. Jump up^ Gray, John (2011-11-24). “On the Road to Immortality” . The New York Review of Books . Retrieved 2013-03-19 .
  47. ^ Jump up to:b Doerr, Anthony (2005-10-02). “Which Way Will Technology Take Us?” . The Boston Globe . Retrieved 2013-02-15 .
  48. Jump up^ Linden, David. “The Singularity is Far: A Neruoscientist’s View” . Boing Boing . Retrieved 2013-02-19 .
  49. Jump up^ Maslin, Janet (2005-10-03). “Will the Future Be a Trillion Times Better?” . The New York Times . Retrieved 2013-02-19 .
  50. Jump up^ “Release dates for The Singularity Is Near” . IMDB. Retrieved 2013-02-14 .
  51. Jump up^ “The Singularity Is Near, The Movie” . The Singularity is Near .
  52. Jump up^ “The Singularity Is Near, The Movie – Homepage” . The Singularity Is Near, The Movie .
  53. Jump up^ “The Lucy Movie: Transhumanism’s False Promise To Become A God – Beginning And End” . Beginning And End .

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