by Mark A. Ollig
He’s been called “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes magazine.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says Kurzweil is “the best in the world at predicting the future.”
Time Magazine writer Harriet Barovic wrote: “Kurzweil’s eclectic career and propensity for combining science with practical often humanitarian – applications have inspired comparisons with Thomas Edison.”
Ray Kurzweil is a computer scientist, inventor, and futurist.
He has authored five national best-selling books, and received 20 honorary doctorates.
Kurzweil is the recipient of the 1999 National Medal of Technology.
In 2002, he was inducted into the US Patent Office’s National Inventors Hall of Fame.
He has also made some bold future predictions; but first, let’s look at a couple of his accomplishments.
In 1974, Kurzweil invented the first print-to-speech reading machine using omni-font (any font) Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology.
Kurzweil came up with the idea for this device while talking with a blind gentleman on a plane flight.
He said the blind person told him “the only real handicap that he experienced was his inability to read ordinary printed material.”
By 1976, his new Kurzweil Reading Machine was allowing the blind to read by hearing the text words from commonly printed materials, such as books, magazines, newspapers, and other text documents, using a flat-bed scanner and text-to-speech technology.
Kurzweil’s invention was demonstrated by CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite, who used the device to read aloud his “And that’s the way it was, January 13, 1976” television sign-off.
By 1980, Kurzweil’s OCR technology was bought by Xerox, who then began calling it: the Xerox TextBridge.
In 1984, he introduced the Kurzweil K250 musical synthesizer.
This was the first computer-based instrument which synthetically recreated the realistic musical sound of a grand-piano, violins, drums, guitars, and other orchestra instruments.
The K250 could even play what amazingly sounded like the angelic voices of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
An NBC “Today Show” video with Gene Shalit interviewing Ray Kurzweil, while his K250 music synthesizer is being demonstrated, can be seen here: http://tinyurl.com/Kurzw250.
Saturday, Feb. 7, Kurzweil will receive the 2015 Technical Grammy for his lifetime of work in the field of music technology.
Let’s move on now, to some of Ray Kurzweil’s bold, futuristic predictions.
During the 2020s, he predicts tiny nanobots (microscopic robots) will become “smarter” than our current medical technology, and will be used for treating our illnesses.
I agree. Using remote controlled and preprogramed nanobots the size of blood cells for medically treating a person’s internal injuries, or specific medical condition will likely happen.
Kurzweil also predicts machine intelligence will match a human’s by 2029.
Let’s move on to the 2030s, when humans, according to Kurzweil, will be able to upload their consciousness into a computer.
I question whether this will be our actual consciousness, or just a mirror image of it.
It’s quite the bold prediction – would you want to consciously exist inside a computer’s memory chip?
He also predicts during this time, virtual reality will begin to feel “100 percent real.”
This prediction could have us living life through virtual reality; like in one of my favorite movies, “The Matrix.”
In 2045, Kurzweil predicts we will increase our intelligence “a billionfold by linking wirelessly from our [brain’s] neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud.”
Instead of accessing the Internet cloud, humanity may end up becoming immersed inside of it.
Let’s digress back in time for a moment.
The transistor, an electronic component originally developed in AT&T’s Bell Laboratories in 1947, is used in just about every electronic device on (and off) the planet.
In 1965, computer chip-maker Intel’s co-founder, Gordon Moore stated the number of transistors per square on a computing chip which provides processing power, would double roughly every two years.
What became known as “Moore’s Law” has, so far, proved to be accurate.
With the continuing advances in nanoscale engineering, it is believed, by 2020, manufacturers will be producing transistors on computing chips the size of atoms.
Of course, science is always surprising us with its breakthroughs.
According to a Dec. 8, 2014 article in the Electronic Engineering Journal, transistors can be made the size of an electron.
The use of “single-electron transistors” or SETs, may someday be used in the next generation of quantum computing processors.
Future quantum computers will be a game-changer in the computing industry. They will be far more powerful than today’s best supercomputers.
Currently, Kurzweil is director of engineering at Google, where he leads a team in advancing machine intelligence and natural language understanding.
You can watch Ray Kurzweil in a March 20, 2014 TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talk video at: http://tinyurl.com/lvcj7wo.
Ray Kurzweil will turn 67 Thursday, Feb. 12.
A video of a 17-year-old Ray Kurzweil, when he appeared on CBS television’s “I’ve Got a Secret” gameshow from 1965, can be seen at: http://tinyurl.com/m7r6hl2.
Ray Kurzweil continues to track breakthroughs in science and technology via his website: http://www.kurzweilai.net.