Biography

Raymond "Ray" Kurzweil is an American author, inventor, futurist, and Director of Engineering at Google. Aside from futurology, he is involved in fields such as optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. He is the author of several books on health, artificial intelligence (AI), transhumanism, the technological singularity, and futurism.

Kurzweil is generally recognized as a public advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements, due to his stances on life extension technologies, his efforts to forecast future advances in technology, and his interest in the concept of the technological singularity. At the same time, he has attracted significant criticism from scientists and thinkers. Ray Kurzweil has been described as “the restless genius” by The Wall Street Journal, and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes. Inc. magazine ranked him #8 among entrepreneurs in the United States, calling him the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison,” and PBS included Ray as one of 16 “revolutionaries who made America,” along with other inventors of the past two centuries.

Ray was the principal inventor of the first CCD flatbed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer[citation needed], the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition.

Ray is the recipient of the $500,000 MIT-Lemelson Prize, the world’s largest for innovation. In 1999, he received the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest honor in technology, from President Clinton in a White House ceremony. And in 2002, he was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame, established by the U.S. Patent Office. He has received nineteen honorary doctorates, and honors from three U.S. presidents. Ray has authored seven books, five of which have been national bestsellers. The Age of Spiritual Machines has been translated into 9 languages and was the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in science.

Kurzweil has received many awards and honors, including: First place in the International Science Fair for inventing the classical music synthesizing computer, the Grace Murray Hopper Award from the Association for Computing Machinery. He was named the 1990 "Engineer of the Year" award from Design News. He also received the Dickson Prize in Science, awarded by Carnegie Mellon University, the 1998 "Inventor of the Year" award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the 1999 National Medal of Technology, the Telluride Tech Festival Award of Technology, the Lemelson-MIT Prize for a lifetime of developing technologies to help the disabled and to enrich the arts. Kurzweil was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002 for inventing the Kurzweil Reading Machine, and won the Arthur C. Clarke Lifetime Achievement Award on April 20, 2009 for lifetime achievement as an inventor and futurist in computer-based technologies. He has received eighteen honorary doctorates, and was named a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council.