Ray Kurzweil (US)

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Inventor, Futurist & Google Engineering Director

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Synopsis

The inventor of the flatbed scanner has been described as ‘the rightful heir to Thomas Edison’. Winner of the National Medal of Technology, he is also responsible for Optical Character Recognition, speech recognition and pioneering developments in music technology. Combining knowledge and experience of technology, society and behaviour, technology’s most credible optimist, looks to a future where human biology will merge with genetics, nanotechnology and robotics to create a new species of unrecognisable high intelligence and durability.

Biography

An inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil has been described as ‘the rightful heir to Thomas Edison’. His extraordinary career as an inventor started at high school, when he appeared on American television, playing a piano composition. He explained that the piece had been composed by a computer – which he had built himself. More than five decades later and he remains on the cutting edge of development as Google’s Director of Engineering.

After the composing software Ray went on to invent the CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition software, the first print-to-speech synthesiser, the first music synthesiser capable of recreating the piano and other instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition system. Ray’s print-to-speech reading machine transformed the lives of thousands of blind people and he recently refined it into a pocket-sized version.

Described as a ‘restless genius’ by the Wall Street Journal, and ‘the ultimate thinking machine’ by Forbes, amongst his many awards Ray has received over a dozen honorary doctorates. He was awarded the National Medal of Technology, Lemelson-MIT Prize (America’s largest prize for invention and innovation), and the Louis Braille Award for service to the blind. He is included in the Computer Industry Hall of Fame and the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame, established by the US Patent Office.

Ray is the author of many books covering the future of technology, the human mind, and creativity including The Singularity is Near and How to Create a Mind - The Secret of Human Thought Revealed. As well as his phenomenal contribution to inventions and technology, Ray also predicted the fall of the Soviet empire, the growth of the internet, developments in artificial intelligence, computers with no moving parts, the demise of paper documents and the popularity of mobile phones. His insights into the future, technology and society have informed governments and businesses, and he is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading thinkers who, unusually, combines complex theories with real-world, practical experience.

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