Ray Kurzweil

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Ray Kurzweil.jpg
Photo by Michael Lutch.
Birthname Ray Kurzweil
Date of Birth February 12, 1948
Birth Place Queens, New York City, NY
Nationality American
Occupation Author and Computer Professional
Biography Best known for his work with OCR and AI. Photo courtesy of Kurzweil Technologies, Inc., CC BY 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3324313

Raymond "Ray" Kurzweil (born February 12, 1948) is an American author, computer scientist, and inventor. Among his early contributions to the field of computer science, Kurzweil worked with optical character recognition, image scanning, and piano synthesizer technology. His literary works focus on topics related to the ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI), life extension, and transhumanism. Additionally, Kurzweil is known for his views on post-biological life extension.

Early Life

Raymond Kurzweil was born in 1948 in Queens New York. At age 15, Kurzweil began experimenting with pattern recognition. This interest continued into his college education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he created a software, called the Select College Consulting Program, that matched high school students with colleges. He went on to sell this program for $100,000. Kurzweil graduated with a B.S in Computer Science from MIT in 1970.[1]


Kurzweil Computer Products (1974)

Kurzweil founded Kurzweil Computer Products shortly after his graduation from MIT. His company is credited with inventing the first charge coupled device (CCD) flatbed scanner, the first optical character recognition (OCR) software, and the most powerful speech synthesizer. When these products were coupled together, it was able to read printed documents, interpret written characters regardless of font, and read aloud the content of the printed work. The Kurzweil Reading Machine of 1976 provided the framework for all subsequent text-to-speech technology.[2]Kurzweil Kurzweil Computer Products was sold to Xerox in 1980[3]

Kurzweil Music Systems (1982)

Kurzweil Music Systems, which Kurzweil founded with Stevie Wonder in 1982, sought to replicate the true sound of musical instruments. In these pursuits, the company developed the K250 piano synthesizer in 1983. Believing their technology to have successfully created a synthesizer capable of emulating acoustic instruments in a way indistinguishable from the original acoustic instrument, Kurzweil Music Systems was sold in 1990.[4]

Kurzweil Applied Intelligence (1982)

Kurzweil Applied Intelligence developed and marketed the first commercially available speech-recognition software.[5]


Visions of the Future (1985)

A collection of future-themed short stories and essays by multiple authors.

The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990)

A non-fiction book about Artificial intelligence published by MIT Press.

The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life (1993)

A diet book published by Three Rivers Press

The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999)

A non-fiction book about artificial intelligence and the future of technology published by Viking Press.

Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever (2004)

A non-fiction book co-written with Dr. Terry Grossman that addresses health and life extension published by Rodale, Inc.

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (2005)

A non-fiction book about artificial intelligence published by Penguin Books.

Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever (2009)

A non-fiction health book co-written with Dr. Terry Grossman that addresses health and life extension published by Rodale Books.

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed (2012)

A non-fiction book about human and artificial brains published by Viking Penguin.

Futurist Concepts

Accelerating Returns

Kurzweil proposes that technological innovation is measurably increasing exponentially and, furthermore, that exponential growth is also growing exponentially, the implication being that technological change will outpace current estimates for the pace of innovation leading toward a rate of change incomprehensible to the human mind, which he refers to as ‘’the Singularity.’’[7]


Kurzweil proposes a moment in the future, a tipping point on the curve of the accelerating acceleration of technological innovation described in ‘’The Law of Accelerating Returns’’, where artificial intelligence has surpassed the capacity of human intelligence and, combined with self-replicating technology, creates a future where humans “multiply [their] effective intelligence a billion fold, by merging with the intelligence [they] have created.”[8]


Kurzweil is a pioneer of the idea that human life can be extended without biological bodies by the “uploading” of consciousness to machines, often referred to as ‘’transhumanism.’’ He believes in the impending obsolescence of biological humanity and its replacement by cyborg machines housing human consciousness supplemented by extra-human intelligence.[9]

Ethical Concerns

In his 2001 publication, ‘’The Law of Accelerating Returns’’, Kurzweil states that the extension of human life through the uploading of human consciousness to machines will create questions of consciousness and identity that “will be confronted as vital, practical, political, and legal issues.”[10] echoing sentiment by information ethicist James Moor that emerging technology creates need for policy discussion to address shifting ethical concerns driven by the increased pace of change.[11]

Kurzweil touches on privacy issues with regard to the possibility ingestible of surveillance nanobots, suggesting further applications of forward-looking policy discussion to address current gaps.[12]

In his 2007 publication, ‘’Nanoethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Nanotechnology‘’, Kurzweil proposes relinquishment, purposeful abandonment of technology, at a granular level as a response to the negative ethical implications of self-replicating nanotechnology while dismissing wholesale relinquishment citing fears that development will proceed underground and out of site of regulators and policy makers.[13]


  1. https://web.archive.org/web/20140102111050/http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/kurzweil.html
  2. https://web.archive.org/web/20140102111050/http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/kurzweil.html
  3. http://www.singularity.com/curriculumvitae.html
  4. http://www.kurzweiltech.com/kms.html
  5. http://www.kurzweiltech.com/kms.html
  6. https://www.google.com/search?tbm=bks&q=Ray+Kurzweil
  7. http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns
  8. http://www.kurzweilai.net/futurism-ray-kurzweil-claims-singularity-will-happen-by-2045
  9. http://thetechnologicalcitizen.com/?p=2197
  10. http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns
  11. Moor, James H. "Why We Need Better Ethics for Emerging Technologies" Ethics and Information Technology (2005) 7:111–119 doi: 10.1007/s10676-006-0008-0
  12. http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns
  13. Kurzweil, Ray. 2013. Progress and Relinguishment. The Transhumanist Reader, ed. Max More and Natasha Vita-More. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=aL2QThQPuxgC&oi=fnd&pg=PA40&dq=Kurzweil+relinquishment&ots=lQiDZjTeSU&sig=VMMWndbF6Wm3ILoVePSL1R8aEy4#v=onepage&q=relinquishment&f=false