(Replicated from Amazon book reviews
***** A Significant Advance in Singularity Scholarship
This volume is a significant advance in scholarship about the likelihood and nature of a forthcoming technological singularity. It hits the sweet spot between short-term trend extrapolation and Sci-Fi speculation to deconstruct and analyze the arguments for a tipping point or discontinuity in information technology that will transform the world as we know it.
Many of the arguments here can be found in other places, but the collection is much more than the sum of its parts. It imposes a dialectical logic on the discussion whereby every essay is responded to with one or more critical essays. The introductory essay, which can be read free on amazon.com, raises a very well thought out set of questions that will define debate on the singularity for years to come. The essays that follow provide thoughtful, comprehensive and insightful answers to the questions.
The skeptics are given more than ample opportunity to develop their arguments, which are then subjected to serious criticism. The criticisms are telling: many of the skeptics demolish straw men. They go to great pains to demonstrate that no one can "prove" the singularity with mathematical or logical certainty, something which none of the authors in the volume assert. Much of the skepticism is addressed to Ray Kurzweil's more popular work, rather than to the more careful state-of-the-art futurism in this volume. The skeptics are actually more "fideistic" (arguing from faith) than the scientists (I won't call them "believers") who do their best to assess the likelihood and nature of a singularity.
The skeptics are perhaps most convincing on the issue of timing. But even here, the criticism applies more to Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near than to the essays in this book which have absorbed and incorporated the criticisms of Kurzweil. These essays admit what we don't know, but have the courage to make the most of what we do. They accept the challenge of predicting likely turning-points in the medium-term future of information technology, and of suggesting what we can do to prepare for them.
, Professor, Sociology Department, Rutgers University
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