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THE SINGULARITY IS NEARER

This book brims with ideas about what lies ahead, and Kurzweil presents his vision with clarity and passion.

The acclaimed futurist demonstrates how a revolutionary future is closer than you might think.

Kurzweil, principal researcher and AI visionary at Google, is very good at thinking ahead, especially in linking technological innovation with social impacts. He has written a string of thought-provoking books, most notably the 2005 work The Singularity Is Near, in which he predicted that by 2029, computers would reach and perhaps exceed human-level intelligence, as well as pass the critical Turing test. It certainly was a bold forecast, but now it seems plausible, if not inevitable. In his latest book, the author tracks the breakthroughs of the past decade that will contribute to reaching the goal, tying together artificial intelligence, machine learning, and quantum processing. He looks closely at how the latest computers can display sentient thinking and communicate through plain speech, an area he studies at Google. Along the way, Kurzweil examines advances and makes predictions in the areas of renewable energy, food production, 3-D printing, and health and medicine. In his 2005 book, the author also made the claim that by 2040, humans would be able to directly interface with computers through brain connectivity. “A key capability in the 2030s,” he writes, “will be to connect the upper ranges of our neocortex to the cloud.” Nearly 20 years ago, this concept felt like it was ripped from a sci-fi movie, but his latest book capably explains the recent developments in biotechnology and nanotechnology that could enable it. Of course, if these developments were to occur, they would constitute a major shift in consciousness. It still sounds somewhat fanciful, but Kurzweil’s capacity for predictive thinking should not be underestimated—and 2040 is only a generation away. As the author might say, stay tuned.

This book brims with ideas about what lies ahead, and Kurzweil presents his vision with clarity and passion.

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9780399562761

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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