Raymond "Ray" Kurzweil (born February 12, 1948) 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, 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.
Ray’s book, The Singularity Is Near, was a New York Times bestseller, and has been the #1 book on Amazon in both science and philosophy. His latest bestseller is How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed.
His e-magazine and newsletter, KurzweilAI.net, has over two and half million readers annually. The "Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence newsletter" concisely covers relevant major science and technology breakthroughs daily. It also profiles a blog, essays, events, videos, and books related to science and technology.
Ray Kurzweil speaks widely to audiences public and private, and is a routine keynote at notable industry conferences like DEMO, SXSW and TED. Coverage of his public speaking and print and media appearances is cataloged on his website.
Kurzweil's first book, The Age of Intelligent Machines, was published in 1990. The nonfiction work discusses the history of computer AI and also makes forecasts regarding future developments. Other experts in the field of AI contribute heavily to the work in the form of essays. The Association of American Publishers' awarded it the status of Most Outstanding Computer Science Book of 1990.
Next, Kurzweil published a book on nutrition in 1993 called The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life. The book's main idea is that high levels of fat intake are the cause of many health disorders common in the U.S., and thus that cutting fat consumption down to 10% of the total calories consumed would be optimal for most people.
In 1998, Kurzweil published The Age of Spiritual Machines, which focuses heavily on further elucidating his theories regarding the future of technology, which themselves stem from his analysis of long-term trends in biological and technological evolution. Much focus goes into examining the likely course of AI development, along with the future of computer architecture.
Kurzweil's next book published in 2004, returned to the subject of human health and nutrition. Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever was co-authored by Kurzweil and Terry Grossman, a medical doctor and specialist in alternative medicine. The Singularity Is Near was published in 2005. The book was made into a movie starring Pauley Perrette in February 2007, Ptolemaic Productions acquired the rights to The Singularity is Near, The Age of Spiritual Machines and Fantastic Voyage including the rights to Kurzweil's life and ideas for the film Transcendent Man. The feature length documentary was directed by Barry Ptolemy.
Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever, a follow-up to Fantastic Voyage, was released on April 28, 2009.
Kurzweil's latest book, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, was released on November 13, 2012. Kurzweil has explored for decades the potential for artificial intelligence to enrich and increase human capabilities. Now, in his newest book he brings it all up a level by delving into reverse-engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works, and then applying that knowledge to create extremely intelligent machines. Kurzweil describes his new theory of how the neocortex, or the thinking part of the brain, works: as a self-organizing hierarchical system of pattern recognizers by compiling the most recent neuroscience research, his own research and inventions in artificial intelligence, and convincing thought experiments.
He then goes on to show how such insights will enable people to greatly improve the powers of our own mind and at the same time provides a roadmap for the creation of superintelligence. He is also writing a novel called Danielle, about his imaginary superheroine daughter who solves problems through intelligence.