If artificial intelligence once seemed daunting or simply unrealistic, those days are gone. As Ray Kurzweil, one of AI’s most energetic visionaries points out, today we’re surrounded by the fruits of AI, from email and smart phones to Watson, the “15-terabyte” Jeopardy! Champion—not to mention the automated factories that built these machines. In How to Create a Mind (Viking, $27.95), Kurzweil tells us what’s next. But first, like the innovative science he describes, he looks back. Surveying the human mind’s great accomplishments, such as the theories of evolution and relativity (and problems it’s still working on, like the nature of consciousness and free will), Kurzweil lays out the fascinating neuroscience of thinking, focusing on the brain’s predilection for patterns. The brain doesn’t only identify patterns, it’s made of them itself, and by turning this information back on its source, we can create ever more complex synthetic versions of mind. As he did in his ground-breaking The Age of Spiritual Machines, Kurzweil makes cutting-edge technology clear and vivid; after all, everyone is part computer geek now.
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