Ray Kurzweil's The Age Of Spiritual Machines is a commentary which looks into the instance of humanity's existence alongside machines which, over the decades have grown to transcend more than intelligence and acquire, much as the title of the book connotes, a degree of spirituality, inherent to humans, and not generally attributed or associated with the latter.

The idea of machines, of advanced technology and artificial intelligence taking over the world we know and putting humans to work, or dispensing of us altogether is one view of the future no longer found “dim” or “dystopic” because it is a view which comes naturally and automatically associated with the subject where computers/machines and the future is concerned. But Kurzweil departs from this ideology and addresses the relatively new concept that is The Age of Spiritual Machines.

Chapter six and seven of Kurzweil's book entitled, “Building New Brains...” “...And Bodies” delves further into the said 'spirituality,' associated with machines under the heading, “Preparing the Present.” Kurzweil discusses two components central to humanity's existence  - mind and body – and the integration of the said components of humanity to the effective creation of 'better' machines.

“Building New Brains...” retreats to the concept of artificial intelligence as humanity's way of creating, as the title implies, “new brains.” The premise of the said chapter revolves on the creation of computers and machines to assist us in complex mental processes, and as extension of our limited retention and mental capacities.

The reality of the evolution of the machine's 'brain' or artificial intelligence however, is that it has no doubt grown to become faster, more versatile and efficient than the human brain which created it. And despite greatly lacking innate, let alone simulated human qualities such as wit, humor, the ability to engage in small talk, and so on, the idea that the human brain is soon to be replaced with the technological one, is a scenario which is believed likely to happen.

Chapter seven, “...And Bodies” continues under the same line of thinking, of technology and artificial intelligence as replacement for the human brain, but moving further from the subject by posing the question; If human brains are to be replaced with faster, 'better,'  new century versions of it, would the human body, prone to sentiments, feelings, and similar seeming weaknesses still be regarded as a fit avenue by which the 'better' brain is supposed to work inside of? The proposition of a 'better' body to work effectively with our 'better' brains is addressed as another issue and concern.

This subject appears to be approached in the instance of virtual reality, and in the specific crudeness of virtual voyeurism and cyber pornography, constant realities which appear to occur where the exploitation of technology and the World Wide Web is concerned. On the subject of virtual reality, the 'body' exists and is defined by the mind, as opposed to the physical and tangible aspect of humanity we are residing in now.

Ultimately, the concept of mind and body being commuted from humanity to the technological advances afforded by the turn of every century is one which requires an optimistic point of view to be fully accepted. And while human beings are capable of hope and optimism, the marriage of man and machine, despite promises of greatness, betterment and positive change which lies therein, will continue to sound less than appealing, because it diminishes a significant component that makes up who we are: humanity.


     Kurzweil, Ray. (2000) The Age Of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceeded Human   Intelligence. Penguin.