The Age of Spiritual Machines

by Ray Kurzweil

(Penguin Audiobook)


Ray Kurzweil, renowned inventor and thinker, peered into the future in 1998 and made predictions for the 21st century.  Fundamentally, he predicts the continuing rapid increase in the availability of computing power per dollar.  This increase will help increase the rate of advances in neuroscience, cognition, artificial intelligence, medical science, nanotechnology and other areas of knowledge.  These increases will result first in augmented human health, life spans, senses, and intelligence, and, ultimately, in the merger of organic intelligence with machine computing abilities and intelligences in an continuum without clear demarcation between “human” and “machine.”  He notes the twin historic fallacies of prognosticators: predicting too much in the short term and too little in the long.  I enjoyed considering his prognostications, especially because they come from someone whose ability to see the emergent possibilities in technology has been so clearly demonstrated.  And, I believe we should periodically peer into the future, or at least listen to those who have, just to cope with the increasing rate of change we are experiencing.  This particular vision, however, may be in that interval when it is too old to be fresh, and too new to be tested for its overall accuracy. 


As for education, Mr. Kurzweil suggtests:


  • The level of skills, knowledge, and expertise required to make knowledge contributions to our society will continue to increase rapidly.
  • Computer mediated and delivered instruction will continue to increase in sophistication and importance.
  • Ultimately, the primary activity of humans will be the acquisition of knowledge.


For a science-fiction presentation of education much like what Mr. Kurzweil suggests, read The Diamond Age.  

Note written: June, 2003.