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The Age of Spiritual Machines

When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence

By Ray Kurzweil
12-minute read
Audio available
The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence by Ray Kurzweil

The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999) is your guide to the future. These blinks explain the new age of machines and what robotic intelligence will mean for life as we know it.

  • Anyone freaking out about artificial intelligence
  • Computer and social scientists
  • Futurists and inventors

Ray Kurzweil is an inventor, computer scientist and futurist. He’s the inventor of a reading machine for blind people, speech-recognition technology and multiple music synthesizers. Among other titles, he’s the author of The Singularity is Near, How to Create a Mind, and The Age of Intelligent Machines.

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The Age of Spiritual Machines

When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence

By Ray Kurzweil
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence by Ray Kurzweil
Synopsis

The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999) is your guide to the future. These blinks explain the new age of machines and what robotic intelligence will mean for life as we know it.

Key idea 1 of 7

Time slowed down when the universe first developed but sped up as life-forms evolved.

Technology is accelerating at an ever-greater pace. We now live in a world of artificial intelligence, drones and 3D printing, but all this rapid-fire change stands in stark contrast to the origins of the universe. In fact, as the universe began to grow, time actually slowed down.

Here’s the story:

About 15 billion years ago, the universe was born. From there, it took just 10-43 seconds, a tiny fraction of a blink of an eye, for the newly created cosmos to cool down to what was still a whopping hundred million trillion trillion degrees, a temperature low enough for gravity to develop.

About 10-34 seconds after the development of gravity, the universe had cooled to a billion billion billion degrees, which allowed matter – subatomic particles like electrons and quarks – to arise. Approximately 10-10 seconds after matter was created, electromagnetic forces like light began to emerge. And, finally, 10-5 seconds after electromagnetic forces were born, the temperature cooled to a paltry trillion degrees. Quarks could then form protons and neutrons.

But then things began to slow down. As the universe expanded, events became more spaced out. From tiny fractions of seconds to hours, years, hundreds of thousands of years, and so on.

The basic building blocks of the universe popped into existence in no time at all, but the larger pieces came into existence much more slowly – it was hundreds of thousands of years before the first atom formed, and hundreds of millions before the formation of galaxies. Earth didn’t exist until nine billion years later!

As life-forms began to evolve on Earth, however, time began to speed up. The first of these single-celled organisms was formed some 3.4 billion years ago, about a billion years after the formation of Earth. From that point on, evolution gained momentum.

Seven hundred million years ago, plants and animals – the first multicellular creatures – evolved. In the 130 million years that followed, the basic physiological structures of animals, like spinal cords, appeared. These new structures not only enabled primordial fish to propel themselves through the water, they also marked a significant acceleration in evolutionary time.

As this pattern continued, the primates emerged and, pretty soon, evolution could be measured in tens of millions of years, rather than hundreds.

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