Ray Kurzweil: Computers to live within the human body

February 14, 2000

Will computers surpass the human brain? Ray Kurzweil thinks so. Judging by the accuracy of his past predictions, this one will come true, too. Kurzweil is responsible for inventing, among other things, the first voice-recognition software to turn simple words into text. But he is also known for presaging the rise of the Internet and the widespread use of synthesizers to create commercial music. His prediction that the world’s top chess player would be beaten by a computer was only off by one year.

Kurzweil is also the recipient of the National Medal of Technology award. The award recognizes Kurzweil’s work in finding patterns to lead to the first flatbed scanner, and the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind. The medals will be awarded by President Bill Clinton on March 14.

The man has serious credentials. Far from a loopy fortuneteller with Tarot cards and a crystal ball, Kurzweil has built and sold four successful companies during the past 25 years, and won numerous accolades for creating technology to aid the disabled. His revolutionary reading machine for the blind earned him the friendship and admiration of blind singer/songwriter Stevie Wonder.

“He’s one of those true visionaries,” said Katie Hafner, author of the book Where Wizards Stay Up Late. “I think there are a handful of them and he’s one of them.”

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