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VWN Product Reviews: The Singularity is Near
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Ray Kurzweil is a formidable force in VR and AI. Hell, he is a formidable force anywhere he has turned his attention. Still in his forties, Ray has worked in such areas as music synthesis, speech recognition, character recognition, reading technology, virtual reality and cybernetic art. Each field he touches he either kick-starts, or adds revolutionary progress. Ray was the principal developer of the first Omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first text-to-speech synthesiser, the first music synthesiser capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition. It seems to be a knack. Another knack of his is accurately predicting the future ? so far not a single one of his predictions has ever been wrong.

His new book, ?The Singularity is Near? is likely no exception. It paints the familiar picture of his proposition of the law of Accelerating Intelligence in vivid detail ? the law that technological progress or evolution is not a linear event, but an exponential curve ? 2^x ? and we are seeing a doubling every other year.

More than that, we are now approaching the knee of the curve, the point at which technological growth expands almost wildly in all directions, and we can no longer use the amount of change that occurred in the last five years, as an indicator of change in the next five years, more like in the next two.

This changing world is evidenced at less dramatic leaps in the past, and this redoubling effect has caught more than a few off guard. As we head for the point Ray dubs the ?Singularity? ? the point of the knee, at which progressive change starts to occur so quickly that it tears everything apart in its wake, everyone who works in persistent industries within technology, should be reading, and preparing to plan for tomorrows challenges and opportunities, which are going to come in at an ever-faster rate.

 

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