Reviewing Kurzweil’s Latest

Our own Ari Schulman recently reviewed Ray Kurzweil’s latest book How to Create a Mind for The American Conservative. Ari’s review challenges both Kurzweil’s ideas and his aspirations, which are, as is quite often the case in transhumanist fantasies, rather base — virtual sex and so on. Here Ari criticizes Kurzweil’s dismissal of human consciousness:

The fact that Kurzweil ignores or even denies the great mystery of consciousness may help explain why his theory has yet to create a mind. In truth, despite the revelatory suggestion of the book’s title, his theory is only a minor variation on ideas that date back decades, to when Kurzweil used them to build text-recognition systems. And while these techniques have produced many remarkable results in specialized artificial-intelligence tasks, they have yet to create generalized intelligence or creativity, much less sentience or first-person awareness.

Perhaps owing to this failure, Kurzweil spends much of the book suggesting that the features of consciousness he cannot explain — the qualities of the senses and the rest of our felt life and their role in deliberate thought and action — are mostly irrelevant to human cognition. Of course, Kurzweil is only the latest in a long line of theorists whose attempts to describe and replicate human cognition have sidelined the role of first-person awareness, subjective motivations, willful action, creativity, and other aspects of how we actually experience our lives and our decisions.

Read the whole thing here.

Another worthy take on Kurzweil’s book can be found in a review by Edward Feser, the fine philosophical duelist (and dualist) who recently caused a stir for his able defense of Thomas Nagel.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.