In 1974, Kurzweil started the company
Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc. and led development of the first
omni-font optical character recognition system--a computer program
capable of recognizing text written in any normal font. Up until that
time, scanners had only been able to read text written in a very narrow
range of fonts. He decided that the best application of this technology
would be to create a reading machine for the blind, which would allow
blind people to understand written text by having a computer read it to
them out loud. However, this device required the invention of two
enabling technologies--the CCD flatbed scanner and the text-to-speech
synthesizer. Under his direction, development of these new technologies
was completed, and on January 13, 1976, the finished product was
unveiled during a widely reported news conference headed by him and the
leaders of the National Federation of the Blind. Called the Kurzweil
Reading Machine, the device covered an entire tabletop. It gained him
mainstream recognition: on the day of the machine's unveiling, Walter
Cronkite used the machine to give his signature soundoff, "And that's
the way it was, January 13, 1976." While listening to The Today Show,
musician Stevie Wonder heard a demonstration of the device and
personally purchased the first production version of the Kurzweil
Reading Machine, beginning a lifelong friendship between himself and
Kurzweil's next major business venture began in 1978, when Kurzweil
Computer Products began selling a commercial version of the optical
character recognition computer program. LexisNexis was one of the first
customers, and bought the program to upload paper legal and news
documents onto its nascent online databases.
Two years later, Kurzweil sold his company to Xerox, which had an
interest in further commercializing paper-to-computer text conversion.
Kurzweil Computer Products thus became a subsidiary of Xerox formerly
known as Scansoft and now as Nuance Communications, and he functioned as
a consultant for the former until 1995.
Kurzweil's next business venture was in the realm of electronic music
technology. After a 1982 meeting with Stevie Wonder, in which the latter
lamented the divide in capabilities and qualities between electronic
synthesizers and traditional musical instruments, Kurzweil was inspired
to create a new generation of music synthesizers capable of accurately
duplicating the sounds of real instruments. To this end, Kurzweil Music
Systems was founded in the same year, and in 1984, the Kurzweil K250 was
unveiled. The machine was capable of imitating a number of different
types of instruments, and in tests even musicians were unable to discern
the auditory difference between the Kurzweil K250 on piano mode from a
normal grand piano.The recording and mixing abilities of the machine
coupled with its aforementioned abilities to imitate a variety of
different instruments made it possible for a single user to compose and
play an entire orchestral piece.
Kurzweil Music Systems was sold to Korean musical instrument
manufacturer Young Chang in 1990. As with Xerox, Kurzweil remained as a
consultant at the larger company for several years more.
Concurrent with Kurzweil Music Systems, Ray Kurzweil created the company
Kurzweil Applied Intelligence (KAI) to develop computer speech
recognition systems for commercial use. The first product, which debuted
in 1987, was the world's first large-vocabulary speech recognition
program, allowing human users to dictate to their computers via
microphone and then have the device transcribe their speech into written
text. Later, the company combined the speech recognition technology with
medical expert systems to create the Kurzweil VoiceMed (today called
Clinical Reporter) line of products, which allow doctors to write
medical reports by speaking to their computers instead of writing. KAI
still exists today as Nuance.
Kurzweil started Kurzweil Educational Systems in 1996 to develop new
pattern-recognition-based computer technologies to help people with
disabilities such as blindness, dyslexia and ADD in school. Products
include the Kurzweil 1000 text-to-speech converter software program,
which enables a computer to read electronic and scanned text aloud to
blind or visually-impaired users, and the Kurzweil 3000 program, which
is a multifaceted electronic learning system that helps with reading,
writing, and study skills.
Furthermore, during the 1990s Ray Kurzweil founded the Medical Learning
Company. The company's products included an interactive computer
education program for doctors and a computer-simulated patient. Around
the same time, Kurzweil started KurzweilCyberArt.com--a website
featuring computer programs meant to assist the creative art process.
The site offers free downloads of a program called AARON--a visual art
synthesizer developed by Harold Cohen--and of "Kurzweil's Cybernetic
Poet", which automatically creates poetry. During this period he also
started KurzweilAI.net, a website devoted towards showcasing news of
scientific developments, publicizing the ideas of high-tech thinkers and
critics alike, and promoting futurist-related discussion among the
general population through the Mind-X forum.
In 1999, Kurzweil created a hedge fund called "FatKat" (Financial
Accelerating Transactions from Kurzweil Adaptive Technologies), which
began trading in 2006. He has stated that the ultimate aim is to improve
the performance of FatKat's A.I. investment software program, enhancing
its ability to recognize patterns in "currency fluctuations and
stock-ownership trends." He predicted in his 1999 book, The Age of
Spiritual Machines, that computers will one day prove superior to the
best human financial minds at making profitable investment decisions.
In June 2005, Ray Kurzweil introduced the "Kurzweil-National Federation
of the Blind Reader" (K-NFB Reader)--a pocket-sized device consisting of
a digital camera and computer unit. Like the Kurzweil Reading Machine of
almost 30 years before, the K-NFB Reader is designed to aid blind people
by reading written text out loud, only the newer machine is portable and
collects texts through captured digital camera images while the older
machine is very large and obtains all text through flatbed scanning.
Ray Kurzweil is currently making a movie due for release in 2008 called
The Singularity is Near: A True Story About the Future. Part fiction,
part non-fiction, he interviews 20 big thinkers like Marvin Minsky, plus
there is a B-line narrative story that illustrates some of the ideas,
where a computer avatar (Ramona) saves the world from self-replicating
microscopic robots. In an on-stage interview with Moira Gunn about the
book on October 11, 2005, Dr. Gunn reluctantly allowed the question "How
will the singularity help me to get more sex?" and Kurzweil and Gunn
then engaged an elaborate and playful yet serious half-hour discussion
of why "version 3.0" of the coming virtual reality or augmented reality
will provide really good sex while avoiding some of the risks of
traditional sexual intercourse as experienced circa 2000.
In addition to Kurzweil's movie, there is an independent, feature-length
documentary being made about Ray, his life, and his ideas called
Transcendent Man. Filmmakers Barry and Felicia Ptolemy follow the
inventor and futurist around the globe documenting his world-wide
speaking tour. Scheduled for release in 2009, Transcendent Man
documents Ray's quest to reveal mankind's ultimate destiny and explores
many of the ideas found in his New York Times bestselling book, The
Singularity is Near, including his concept of exponential growth,
radical life expansion, and how we will transcend our biology. The
Ptolemys have documented Ray's stated goal of bringing back his late
father using artificial intelligence. The film also documents critics
who argue against Kurzweil's predictions.
Kurzweil also said during a 2006 C-SPAN2 interview that he was working
on a new book that focused on the inner workings of the human brain and
how this could be applied to building artificial intelligence.
Kurzweil's first book, The Age of Intelligent Machines, was published in
1990. The nonfiction work discusses the history of computer Artificial
Intelligence (A.I.) and also makes forecasts regarding likely future
developments. Other experts in the field of A.I. 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 detoured and 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, Ray Kurzweil published The Age of Spiritual Machines, which
focuses heavily on further elucidating his beliefs 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 Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)
development, along with the future of computer architecture.
Kurzweil's next book 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. While the book proffers conventional
advice like avoiding unhealthy foods, getting regular exercise and
keeping a positive outlook on life, it departs from the mainstream due
to its advocacy of aggressive dietary supplementation, alkaline water
and other measures.
The Singularity Is Near was published in 2005. The book is currently
being made into a movie starring Pauley Perrette (NCIS), and scheduled
for late 2008 release.
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 is directed by Barry
Ray Kurzweil has received the following awards, among others:
First place in the 1965 International Science Fair for inventing the
classical music synthesizing computer.
The 1978 Grace Murray Hopper Award from the Association for Computing
Machinery. The award is given annually to one "outstanding young
computer professional" and is accompanied by a $35,000 prize. Ray
Kurzweil won it for his invention of the Kurzweil Reading Machine.
The 1990 "Engineer of the Year" award from Design News.
The 1994 Dickson Prize in Science. One is awarded every year by Carnegie
Mellon University to individuals who have "notably advanced the field of
science." Both a medal and a $50,000 prize are presented to winners.
The 1998 "Inventor of the Year" award from the Massachusetts Institute
The 1999 National Medal of Technology. This is the highest award the
President of the United States can bestow upon individuals and groups
for pioneering new technologies, and the President dispenses the award
at his discretion. Bill Clinton presented Ray Kurzweil with the
National Medal of Technology during a White House ceremony in
recognition of Kurzweil's development of computer-based technologies to
help the disabled.
The 2000 Telluride Tech Festival Award of Technology. Two other
individuals also received the same honor that year. The award is
presented yearly to people who "exemplify the life, times and standard
of contribution of Tesla, Westinghouse and Nunn."
The 2001 Lemelson-MIT Prize for a lifetime of developing technologies to
help the disabled and to enrich the arts. Only one is meted out each
year to highly successful, mid-career inventors. A $500,000 award
accompanies the prize.
Kurzweil was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002
for inventing the Kurzweil Reading Machine. The organization "honors
the women and men responsible for the great technological advances that
make human, social and economic progress possible." Fifteen other
people were inducted into the Hall of Fame the same year. Kurzweil's
acceptance speech can be viewed by clicking on the link: 
Ray Kurzweil has also been given 15 honorary degrees from different
universities, which are all in addition to his original 1970 Bachelor of
the Sciences in Literature and Computer Science from MIT.
Type of degree College Year awarded
Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters Hofstra University 1982
Honorary Doctorate of Music Berklee College of Music 1987
Honorary Doctorate of Science Northeastern University 1988
Honorary Doctorate of Science Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 1988
Honorary Doctorate of Engineering Merrimack College 1989
Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters Misericordia University 1989
Honorary Doctorate of Science New Jersey Institute of Technology 1990
Honorary Doctorate of Science Queens College, City University of New
Honorary Doctorate of Science Dominican College 1993
Honorary Doctorate in Science and Humanities Michigan State University
Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters Landmark College 2002
Honorary Doctorate of Science Worcester Polytechnic Institute 2005
Honorary Doctorate of Science DePaul University 2006
Honorary Doctorate of Science Bloomfield College 2007
Honorary Doctorate of Science McGill University 2008
Involvement with Futurism and Transhumanism
Ray Kurzweil first began speculating about the future when he was a
child, but only later as an adult did he become seriously involved with
trying to accurately forecast future events. Kurzweil came to realize
that his success as an inventor depended largely on proper timing: His
new inventions had to be released onto the market only once many other,
supporting technologies had come into existence. A device issued too
early and without proper refinement would lack some key element of
functionality, and a device put out too late would find the market
already flooded with a different product, or consumers demanding
It thus became imperative for Kurzweil to have an understanding of the
rates and directions of technological development. He has, throughout
his adult life, kept close track of advances in the computer and machine
industries, and has precisely modeled them. By extrapolating past trends
into the future, Kurzweil has found a way to predict the course of
After several years of closely tracking these trends, Kurzweil came to
realize that the innovation rate of computer technology was increasing
in an exponential- as opposed to linear manner. As a computer scientist,
Kurzweil also understood that there was no technical reason that this
type of performance growth could not continue well into the 21st
Since growth in so many fields of science and technology depends upon
the power of computers, improvements to computing power translate into
improvements to human knowledge and to non-computer sciences like
nanotechnology, biotechnology, and materials science. Considering the
ongoing exponential growth in computer capabilities, this means
fantastic new technologies will become available long before the vast
majority of people--who intuitively think linearly about technological
advance--expect. This core idea is expressed by Kurzweil's "Law of
Touching on his most important predictions, Kurzweil believes that,
between now and 2050, technology will become so advanced that new
medicines and medical techniques will allow people to radically extend
their lifespans while preserving and even improving quality of life. The
aging process could at first be slowed, then halted, and then reversed
as newer and better medical technologies became available. Kurzweil
believes that much of this will be thanks to medical nanotechnology,
which will allow microscopic machines to travel through one's body and
repair all types of damage at the cellular level. But equally
consequential developments will occur within the realm of computers as
they become increasingly powerful, numerous and cheap between now and
2050. Kurzweil believes that they will gain the ability to think for
themselves and will thus become Artificially Intelligent. An Artificial
Intelligence (A.I.) could handle the full range of human intellectual
tasks and would be both emotional and self-aware. Kurzweil believes that
A.I.'s will inevitably become far smarter and more powerful than humans,
and will come to dominate the world in many ways. But he also believes
that humanity will be protected from extermination because machines will
exhibit moral thinking and will respect humans as their ancestors, and
because the line between humans and machines will have--by the time the
machines become powerful enough to take over--blurred thanks to the
widespread use of cybernetics among the human population. Cybernetic
implants will greatly enhance human cognitive and physical abilities,
and allow direct interface between humans and machines. Humans and
machines will exist on a continuum instead of as two, distinct species.
His beliefs regarding (among other things) the potential for human
immortality and the peaceful rise of a supreme machine race place
Kurzweil amongst the most personally optimistic of futurists.
Ray Kurzweil is now one of the world's leading futurists, and spends a
great deal of time giving public lectures and making T.V. appearances to
explain his ideas, which have only been very basically summarized thus
far by this section. Kurzweil is also a Transhumanist because he
believes it is ethical and beneficial for people to use
technology--including radical technologies that don't yet exist--to
improve their lives and to improve the world as a whole. For example, as
a Transhumanist, Kurzweil sees no problem with allowing people to
forever cheat death through the use of advanced technologies or to
upgrade themselves to superhuman extremes through cybernetics, whereas
most non-Transhumanists would reject these ideas on religious grounds or
because they violate the laws of nature and the fundamental norms of
human life. In fact, Kurzweil believes that radical, technology-based
improvements to human beings will lead them to richer, more satisfying
lives in which they may also better contribute to the rest of society.
Kurzweil's standing as a leading futurist and Transhumanist have gained
him positions of prominence within pertinent organizations:
In December 2004, Kurzweil joined the advisory board of the Singularity
Institute for Artificial Intelligence.
In October 2005, Kurzweil joined the scientific advisory board of the
On May 13, 2006, Kurzweil was the first speaker at the Stanford
University Singularity Summit.
Futurism, as a philosophical or academic study, looks at the medium to
long-term future in an attempt to predict based on current trends.
Raymond Kurzweil states his belief that the future of humanity is being
determined by an exponential expansion of knowledge, and that the very
rate of the change of this exponential growth is driving our collective
destiny irrespective of our narrow sightedness, clinging archaisms, or
fear of change. Our biological evolution, according to Kurzweil, is on
the verge of being superseded by our technological evolution. An
evolution conjoined of cogent biological manipulation with a possible
emerging self-aware, self-organizing machine intelligence. The rate of
the change of the exponential explosion of knowledge and technology not
only envelops us, but also irreversibly transforms us.
Accordingly, in Kurzweil's predictions, we are currently (as of the end
of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty first century) exiting
the era in which our human biology is closed to us, and are entering
into the posthuman era, in which our extensive knowledge of
biochemistry, neurology and cybernetics will allow us to rebuild our
bodies and our minds from the ground up. Kurzweil believes that Strong
A.I., advanced nanotechnology and cybernetics are enabling technologies
that will initiate the Posthuman Era through a disruptive, worldwide
event known as the Singularity. By extrapolating past and current trends
of technological growth into the future, Kurzweil has concluded that the
aforementioned technologies will be available in 2045, and that the
Singularity will thus occur in the same year.
Stand on nanotechnology
Climate changeKurzweil is on the Army Science Advisory Board, has
testified before Congress on the subject of nanotechnology, and sees
considerable potential in the science to solve significant global
problems such as climate change, viz. Nanotech Could Give Global Warming
a Big Chill (July, 2006).
He predicts nanobots will be used to maintain the human body and to
extend human lifespan.
Kurzweil has stressed the extreme potential dangers of
nanotechnology, but argues that in practice, progress cannot be
stopped, and any attempt to do so will retard the progress of defensive
and beneficial technologies more than the malevolent ones, increasing
the danger. He says that the proper place of regulation is to make sure
progress proceeds safely and quickly. He applies this reasoning, to
biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and technology in
The Law of Accelerating Returns
Main article: Accelerating change
In his controversial 2001 essay, "The Law of Accelerating Returns",
Kurzweil proposes an extension of Moore's law that forms the basis of
many people's beliefs regarding a "Technological Singularity".
Accuracy of predictions
The Age of Intelligent Machines
Arguably, Kurzweil gained a large amount of credibility as a futurist
from his first book The Age of Intelligent Machines. Written from 1986
to 1989 and published in 1990, it forecast the demise of the Soviet
Union due to new technologies such as cellular phones and fax machines
disempowereing authoritarian governments by removing state control over
the flow of information. In the book Kurzweil also extrapolated
preexisting trends in the improvement of computer chess software
performance to predict correctly that computers would beat the best
human players by 1998, and most likely in that year. In fact, the event
occurred in May 1997 when chess World Champion Garry Kasparov was
defeated by IBM's Deep Blue computer in a well-publicized chess
tournament. Perhaps most significantly, Kurzweil foresaw the explosive
growth in worldwide Internet use that began in the 1990s. At the time of
the publication of The Age of Intelligent Machines, there were only 2.6
million Internet users in the world, and the medium was unreliable,
difficult to use, and deficient in content, making Kurzweil's
realization of its future potential especially prescient given the
technology's limitations at that time. He also stated that the Internet
would explode not only in the number of users but in content as well,
eventually granting users access "to international networks of
libraries, data bases, and information services". Additionally, Kurzweil
correctly foresaw that the preferred mode of Internet access would
inevitably be through wireless systems, and he was also correct to
estimate that the latter would become practical for widespread use in
the early 21st century.
Kurzweil also accurately predicted that many documents would exist
solely on computers and on the Internet by the end of the 1990s, and
that they would commonly be embedded with animations, sounds and videos
that would prohibit their transference to paper format. Moreover, he
foresaw that cellular phones would grow in popularity while shrinking in
size for the foreseeable future.
Kurzweil's views regarding the future of military technology were
likewise supported by the course of real-world events following the
publication of The Age of Intelligent Machines. His pronouncement that
the world's foremost militaries would continually rely on more
intelligent, computerized weapons instead of, say, increasingly large,
low-tech armies, was illustrated spectacularly just a year later during
the Gulf War, which served as a showcase for new weapons technologies.
The trend towards greater computerization of weapons systems is further
demonstrated by the increased use of precision munitions since the
publication of Kurzweil's book. For example, 10% of all U.S. Naval
ordnance expended during the Gulf War (1991) were guided weapons. During
the Kosovo campaign (1999), that quantity climbed to 70%, and it reached
90% during the 2001-2002 Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
As he also predicted, remotely controlled military aircraft were
developed, beginning with the Predator reconnaissance plane in the
mid-90s, and an armed version of the aircraft was first used in combat
in November 2002.
Kurzweil also described the future of computer-controlled, driverless
cars, claiming that the technology to build them would become available
during the first decade of the 21st century, yet that due to political
opposition and the general public's mistrust of the technology, the
computerized cars would not become widely used until several decades
hence. In fact, considerable progress has been made with the technology
since 1990, and General Motors is scheduled to unveil a new electronic
car system called "Traffic Assist" in its 2008 Opel Vectra model.
"Traffic Assist" uses video cameras, lasers and a central computer to
gather and process information from the road and to make course and
speed changes as needed, and is supposedly capable of driving itself
without any input from the user in speeds below 60 mph, making it a true
driverless car "Traffic Assist" will not be exclusive to the 2008
Opel Vectra for long as GM has announced plans to offer the system for
several other types of cars before the end of the decade. Due to
stricter U.S. product liability laws, the system will not be available
in America for the foreseeable future and will only be offered in
Kurzweil predicted that pocket-sized machines capable of scanning text
from almost any source (a piece of paper, a road sign, a computer
screen) and then reading the text out loud in a computerized voice would
be available "In the early twenty-first century" and would be used to
assist blind people. In June 2005, Ray Kurzweil himself unveiled the "Kurzweil-National
Federation of the Blind Reader" (K-NFB Reader), which is a reading
machine possessing the aforementioned attributes. However, he also
claimed back in 1990 that the readers would be able to recognize and
describe symbols, pictures and graphics in addition to words, read
multiple languages, possess wireless Internet access, and be in use with
"most" blind and dyslexic people, and perhaps among some normal people
as well. While the K-NFB Reader does not have these final attributes, it
is possible that the device may be upgraded to the necessary level
before the nebulously defined "early twenty-first century" expires.
Kurzweil stated during a speech to the 2006 Singularity Summit that his
company's current efforts are focused on increasing the pattern
recognition abilities of the K-NFB Reader so that the device could
identify animals, objects and people, also utilizing facial recognition
programs for the final task. Presumably, a machine complex enough to
handle such tasks would also be able to read much simpler written
symbols and traffic signs.
The Age of Spiritual Machines
In 1999, Kurzweil published a second book titled The Age of Spiritual
Machines, which goes into more depth explaining his futurist ideas. The
third and final section of the book is devoted to elucidating the
specific course of technological advancements Kurzweil believes the
world will experience over the next century. Titled "To Face the
Future", the section is divided into four chapters respectively named
"2009", "2019", "2029", and "2099". For every chapter, Kurzweil issues
predictions about what life and technology will be like in that year.
While the veracity of Kurzweil's predictions for 2019 and beyond cannot
yet be determined, 2009 is near enough to the present to allow many of
the ideas of the "2009" chapter to be scrutinized. To begin, Kurzweil's
claims that 2009 would be a year of continued transition as purely
electronic computer memories continued to replace older rotating
memories seems to be vindicated by the current growth in the popularity
and cost-performance of Flash memory. He also correctly foresaw the
growing ubiquity of wireless Internet access and cordless computer
peripherals. Perhaps of even greater importance, Kurzweil presaged the
explosive growth in peer-to-peer filesharing and the emergence of the
Internet as a major medium for commerce and for accessing media such as
movies, television programs, newspaper and magazine text, and music. He
also claimed that three-dimensional computer chips would be in common
use by 2009 (though older, "2-D" chips would still predominate), and
this appears likely as IBM has recently developed the necessary
chip-stacking technology and announced plans to begin using
three-dimensional chips in its supercomputers and for wireless
In The Age of Spiritual Machines, Kurzweil also spent time discussing
future increases in computing use in education. He predicted that
interactive software and electronic learning materials would be used by
2009. Indeed, smartboards, interactive whiteboards with a connection to
the Internet and learning software and activities are commonly used in
schools in developed nations.
Kurzweil went further to say that students would commonly have portable
learning computers in the form of a "thin tablet-like device weighing
under a pound." While students increasingly use portable laptops in
schools, they tend to be of traditional configuration and of greater
weight. But supporting Kurzweil's prediction is the emergence of the One
Laptop Per Child Project, which aims to provide low-cost laptop
computers (often called the "$100 Laptop") to students in developing
nations across the world. The computer can be quickly reconfigured from
traditional laptop layout to a tablet-like "e-book reading" layout.
However, the $100 Laptop also weighs over three pounds. The first
batch of 5 million laptops is expected to ship sometime in 2007.
The government of Uruguay was the first to make a major order, buying
100,000 of the laptops in October, 2007 and announcing plans for the
possible purchase of 300,000 more units by 2009.
While text-to-speech converters, which Kurzweil imagined in widespread
use by 2009, remain uncommon as of early January 2008, such technologies
are rapidly becoming more and more widely used; for example, the
strategy game EndWar, scheduled for release in 2008, features an
extremely robust voice command interface. Computerized distance
learning, also, is already fairly common at sites such as open.yale.edu,
youtube.com/ucberkeley, and Second Life.
Kurzweil also restates his earlier prediction from The Age of
Intelligent Machines regarding the advent of pocket-sized,
text-to-speech converters for the blind. The "Kurzweil-National
Federation of the Blind Reader" (K-NFB Reader) was introduced in 2005,
though a significant reduction in price would be required by 2009 to
reasonably classify the device as "cheap" -- one quality Kurzweil
claimed they would possess.
Kurzweil predicted that warfare in 2009 would be dominated by unmanned
combat planes. While combat in 2007 is still dominated by soldiers,
ships, and aircraft, unmanned aircraft have nevertheless advanced
considerably since 1999 and are more widely used. These include the MQ-1
Predator and MQ-9 Reaper planes currently on active duty in the U.S.
Kurzweil predicted privacy emerging as a political issue (see CCTV:
Kurzweil also predicted that unused processing power from idle computers
would be harvested via the Internet, pooling the computational resources
of many ordinary PCs to create "virtual parallel supercomputers." When
Kurzweil wrote The Age of Spiritual Machines in 1998, distributed
computing was unknown to the general public, and the two biggest
projects—the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search and Distributed.net—had
about 8,000 and 100,000 computers contributing idle-time
processing power, respectively. The popularity of distributed computing
exploded in May 1999 with the release of the SETI@home program, which
attracted 200,000 users within a week of initial Internet release, and
by July 2002, 3.83 million people had downloaded and run the client.
Today, the vast majority of distributed computing projects fall under
the auspices of either United Devices or BOINC. As of November 2007,
BOINC has more than 1.1 million active users and almost 2.4 million
hosts. Sony also offers users of the Internet-capable PS3 game
console the option to donate their machines' idle processing power to
Folding@home–an online distributed computing project that seeks to
understand the process of protein folding. More than 600,000 PS3 users
have agreed to lend their game consoles to the task, resulting in a
record-breaking petaflop (1015calculations per second) of processing
power in November 2007. This makes the Folding@home project only
slightly less powerful (in terms of raw calculating power) than the
human brain, which Kurzweil estimates to be capable of 20 x 1015
calculations per second. Kurzweil predicted that in 2009, these networks
will have more raw power than a human brain.
Kurzweil's prediction that portable computers will shrink in size and
take on nontraditional physical forms (i.e. - very different in design
from a laptop or desktop computer) by 2009 is supported by the emergence
of devices such as the portable media players and advanced cell phones,
as well as by newer PDAs. All meet Kurzweil's aforementioned criteria,
being small to the point of wearability, possessing the power and range
of function of older computers, and featuring designs that radically
depart from normal computers. Kurzweil's forecast that these devices
would store information without the use of rotating disk style hard
drives was also right.
However, his claim that such portable computers will be commonly
embedded in clothing and jewelry by 2009 seems unlikely to pass, as does
his prediction that people will typically be wearing "at least a dozen"
such computers in the same year. Most "portable computers" as they are
defined here also have built-in keyboards or accessible keyboard
functions (such as a digital keyboard that can be manipulated through a
touchscreen), putting reality again at odds with Kurzweil's belief that
most computers would lack this feature by 2009, with users instead
relying on continuous speech recognition (CSR) to communicate with their
Similarly, Kurzweil's claim that, by 2009, "the majority of text" will
be created through continuous speech recognition (CSR) programs instead
of through keyboards and manual typing seems highly unlikely. In that
vein, he also implied in The Age of Spiritual Machines that CSR software
should in fact have already replaced human transcriptionists years
before 2009 (i.e. - 2007 or earlier) due in part to its projected
superiority in understanding speech compared to human listeners. CSR is
not yet this advanced, and the total replacement of human
transcriptionists did not happen.
His prediction that there are 100 computers in the average household is
debatable, as it depends upon one's definition of a computer. If one
considers microchips and the like computers, then it is quite likely,
between all the clocks, microwaves, washing machines, televisions, and
other devices in the household. Any other way doesn't seem to work
however. This links into his prediction of domestic robots being around
but not mainstream (see Domestic robots).
Since the publication of The Age of Spiritual Machines, Kurzweil has
even tacitly admitted that some of his 2009 predictions will not happen
on schedule. For instance, in the book he forecast that specialized
eyeglasses that beamed computer-generated images onto the retinas of
their users to produce a HUD-effect would be in wide use by 2009.
However, the computerized voice translating services he predicted,
allowing people speaking different languages to understand one another
through a phone, are available.
The Age of Spiritual Machines also features a "Timeline" section at the
end, which summarizes both the history of technological advancement and
Kurzweil's predictions for the future.
The Singularity is Near
While this book focuses on the future of technology and the human race
as The Age of Intelligent Machines and The Age of Spiritual Machines
did, Kurzweil makes very few concrete, short-term predictions in The
Singularity is Near, though longer-term visions are present in
Kurzweil predicts that, in 2005, supercomputers with the computational
capacities to simulate protein folding will be introduced. However, he
does not say that an adequate scientific understanding of the forces
behind protein folding will come into being in the same year, meaning
that the supercomputers might lack the software to mimic accurately the
biochemical process. In fact, protein folding is still (as of 2008) a
poorly understood phenomenon, and even supercomputer simulations remain
inaccurate outside of simulating the folding of anything larger than a
In an October 2002 article published on his website, Kurzweil stated
that "Deep Fritz-like chess programs running on ordinary personal
computers will routinely defeat all humans later in this decade."
Deep Fritz is a computer chess program--generally considered superior to
the older Deep Blue--that has defeated or tied a number of human chess
masters and opposing chess programs. Due to advances in personal
computer performance, the Deep Fritz program can now run on ordinary
personal computers, and different versions of it are available for
purchase. While this makes the first part of Kurzweil's
prediction true, it is unknown whether the Deep Fritz programs are
currently defeating all humans in all games played, though considering
the impressive professional record of Deep Fritz, it would be reasonable
to assume that only the very best human players can beat the program
In September 2002, Chessmaster 9000, a widely available chess playing
game from Ubisoft, defeated the then U.S. Chess Champion and
International Grandmaster Larry Christiansen in a four-game match.
The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990)
Translating telephones allow people to speak to each other in different
Machines designed to transcribe speech into computer text allow deaf
people to understand spoken words.
Exoskeletal, robotic leg prostheses allow the paraplegic to walk.
Telephone calls are routinely screened by intelligent answering machines
that ask questions to determine the call's nature and priority.
"Cybernetic chauffeurs" can drive cars for humans and can be retrofitted
into existing cars. They work by communicating with other vehicles and
with sensors embedded along the roads.
Early 21st century
The classroom is dominated by computers. Intelligent courseware that can
tailor itself to each student by recognizing their strengths and
weaknesses. Media technology allows students to manipulate and interact
with virtual depictions of the systems and personalities they are
A small number of highly skilled people dominates the entire production
sector. Tailoring of products for individuals is common.
Drugs are designed and tested in simulations that mimic the human body.
Blind people navigate and read text using machines that can visually
recognize features of their environment.
Note: Since the "Early 2000s" and "Early 21st century" predictions are
both listed before the "2010" predictions in the technology Chronology,
it can be assumed that the timeframe for the first two is 2000-2010.
PCs are capable of answering queries by accessing information wirelessly
via the Internet.
Phone calls entail three-dimensional holographic images of both people.
By 2020, there will be a new World government.
A computer passes the Turing Test, becoming the first true Artificial
Note: Kurzweil put his money where his mouth was on the Long Bets
website, wagering that this prediction will come true. Betting against
Mitchell Kapor, founder of Lotus Software Corporation for a payout of
$20,000, or $10,000 each.
Computer intelligence becomes superior to human intelligence in all
The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999)
A $1,000 personal computer has as much raw power as the human brain.
The summed computational powers of all computers is comparable to the
total brainpower of the human race.
Computers are embedded everywhere in the environment (inside of
furniture, jewelry, walls, clothing, etc.).
People experience 3-D virtual reality through glasses and contact lenses
that beam images directly to their retinas (retinal display). Coupled
with an auditory source (headphones), users can remotely communicate
with other people and access the Internet.
These special glasses and contact lenses can deliver "augmented reality"
and "virtual reality" in three different ways. First, they can project
"heads-up-displays" (HUDs) across the user's field of vision,
superimposing images that stay in place in the environment regardless of
the user's perspective or orientation. Second, virtual objects or people
could be rendered in fixed locations by the glasses, so when the user's
eyes look elsewhere, the objects appear to stay in their places. Third,
the devices could block out the "real" world entirely and fully immerse
the user in a virtual reality environment.
People communicate with their computers via two-way speech and gestures
instead of with keyboards. Furthermore, most of this interaction occurs
through computerized assistants with different personalities that the
user can select or customize. Dealing with computers thus becomes more
and more like dealing with a human being.
Most business transactions or information inquiries involve dealing with
a simulated person.
Most people own more than one P.C., though the concept of what a
"computer" is has changed considerably: Computers are no longer limited
in design to laptops or CPUs contained in a large box connected to a
monitor. Instead, devices with computer capabilities come in all sorts
of unexpected shapes and sizes.
Cables connecting computers and peripherals have almost completely
Rotating computer memories are no longer used.
Three-dimensional nanotube lattices are the dominant computing
Massively parallel neural nets and genetic algorithms are in wide use.
Destructive scans of the brain and noninvasive brain scans have allowed
scientists to understand the brain much better. The algorithms that
allow the relatively small genetic code of the brain to construct a much
more complex organ are being transferred into computer neural nets.
Pinhead-sized cameras are everywhere.
Nanotechnology is more capable and is in use for specialized
applications, yet it has not yet made it into the mainstream. "Nanoengineered
machines" begin to be used in manufacturing.
Thin, lightweight, handheld displays with very high resolutions are the
preferred means for viewing documents. The aforementioned computer
eyeglasses and contact lenses are also used for this same purpose, and
all download the information wirelessly.
Computers have made paper books and documents almost completely
Most learning is accomplished through intelligent, adaptive courseware
presented by computer-simulated teachers. In the learning process, human
adults fill the counselor and mentor roles instead of being academic
instructors. These assistants are often not physically present, and help
Students still learn together and socialize, though this is often done
remotely via computers.
All students have access to computers.
Most human workers spend the majority of their time acquiring new skills
Blind people wear special glasses that interpret the real world for them
through speech. Sighted people also use these glasses to amplify their
Retinal and neural implants also exist, but are in limited use because
they are less useful.
Deaf people use special glasses that convert speech into text or signs,
and music into images or tactile sensations. Cochlear and other implants
are also widely used.
People with spinal cord injuries can walk and climb steps using
computer-controlled nerve stimulation and exoskeletal robotic walkers.
Language translating machines are of much higher quality, and are
routinely used in conversations.
Access to the Internet is completely wireless and provided by wearable
or implanted computers.
Devices that deliver sensations to the skin surface of their users
(i.e.--tight body suits and gloves) are also sometimes used in virtual
reality to complete the experience. "Virtual sex"--in which two people
are able to have sex with each other through virtual reality, or in
which a human can have sex with a "simulated" partner that only exists
on a computer--becomes a reality.
Just as visual- and auditory virtual reality have come of age, haptic
technology has fully matured and is completely convincing, yet requires
the user to enter a V.R. booth. It is commonly used for computer sex and
remote medical examinations. It is the preferred sexual medium since it
is safe and enhances the experience.
Worldwide economic growth has continued. There has not been a global
The vast majority of business interactions occur between humans and
simulated retailers, or between a human's virtual personal assistant and
a simulated retailer.
Household robots are ubiquitous and reliable.
Computers do most of the vehicle driving—-humans are in fact prohibited
from driving on highways unassisted. Furthermore, when humans do take
over the wheel, the onboard computer system constantly monitors their
actions and takes control whenever the human drives recklessly. As a
result, there are very few transportation accidents.
Prototype personal flying vehicles using microflaps exist. They are also
Humans are beginning to have deep relationships with automated
personalities, which hold some advantages over human partners. The depth
of some computer personalities convinces some people that they should be
accorded more rights.
Public places and workplaces are ubiquitously monitored to prevent
violence and all actions are recorded permanently. Personal privacy is a
major political issue, and some people protect themselves with
unbreakable computer codes.
The basic needs of the underclass are met. (Not specified if this
pertains only to the developed world or to all countries)
Computers are also found inside of some humans in the form of cybernetic
implants. These are most commonly used by disabled people to regain
normal physical faculties (i.e. - Retinal implants allow the blind to
see and spinal implants coupled with mechanical legs allow the paralyzed
Most roads now have automated driving systems--networks of monitoring
and communication devices that allow computer-controlled automobiles to
Human-robot relationships begin as simulated personalities become more
Virtual artists--creative computers capable of making their own art and
music--emerge in all fields of the arts.
While a growing number of humans believe that their computers and the
simulated personalities they interact with are intelligent to the point
of human-level consciousness, experts dismiss the possibility that any
could pass the Turing Test.
Ubiquitous connectivity high bandwidth communications connection to the
Internet at all times
Interaction with virtual personalities as a primary interface
Effective language technologies (natural language processing, speech
recognition, speech synthesis)
A $1,000 personal computer is 1,000 times more powerful than the human
The vast majority of computation is done by computers.
Further progress has been made in understanding the secrets of the human
brain. Hundreds of distinct sub-regions with specialized functions have
been identified. Some of the algorithms that code for development of
these regions have been deciphered and incorporated into neural net
Massively parallel neural nets, which are constructed through
reverse-engineering the human brain, are in common use.
The eyeglasses and headphones that used to deliver virtual reality are
now obsolete thanks to computer implants that go into the eyes and ears.
The implants are either permanent or removable. They allow direct
interface with computers, communications and Internet-based
applications. The implants are also capable of recording what the user
sees and hears.
Computer implants designed for direct connection to the brain are also
available. They are capable of augmenting natural senses and of
enhancing higher brain functions like memory, learning speed and overall
Computers are now capable of learning and creating new knowledge
entirely on their own and with no human help. By scanning the enormous
content of the Internet, some computers "know" literally every single
piece of public information (every scientific discovery, every book and
movie, every public statement, etc.) generated by human beings.
Direct brain implants allow users to enter full-immersion virtual
reality--with complete sensory stimulation--without any external
equipment. People can have their minds in a totally different place at
any moment. This technology is in widespread use.
Most communication occurs between humans and machines as opposed to
The manufacturing, agricultural and transportation sectors of the
economy are almost entirely automated and employ very few humans. Across
the world, poverty, war and disease are almost nonexistent thanks to
technology alleviating want.
The rise of Artificial Intelligence creates a real "robot rights"
movement, and there is open, public debate over what sorts of civil
rights and legal protections machines should have. The existence of
humans with heavy levels of cybernetic augmentation and of larger
numbers of other people with less extreme cybernetic implants lead to
further arguments over what constitutes a "human being."
Although computers routinely pass the Turing Test, controversy still
persists over whether machines are as intelligent as humans in all
Artificial Intelligences claim to be conscious and openly petition for
recognition of the fact. Most people admit and accept this new truth.
Reverse engineering of the human brain completed
Non-biological intelligence combines the subtlety and pattern
recognition strength of human intelligence, with the speed, memory, and
knowledge sharing of machine intelligence
Non-biological intelligence will continue to grow exponentially whereas
biological intelligence is effectively fixed
Food is commonly "assembled" by nanomachines. This food is externally
indistinguishable from "natural" food, but it can be made more wholesome
since production can be controlled at the molecular level. This
technology decouples food production from climate conditions and the
availability of natural resources. [An implication of this is that meat
production will no longer require the slaughter of animals.]
The distinction between virtual reality and "real" reality becomes
confounded as foglets come into common use, allowing immediate assembly
or disassembly of all sorts of physical objects.
Picoengineering (technology on the scale of trillionths of a meter)
Morality ceases to exist.
The human brain has been completely reverse engineered and all aspects
of its functioning are understood.
Natural human thinking possesses no advantages over computer minds.
Machines have attained equal legal status with humans.
Humans and machines merge together in the physical and mental realms.
Cybernetic brain implants enable humans to fuse their minds with A.I.s.
In consequence, clear distinctions between humans and machines no longer
Most conscious beings lack a permanent physical form.
The world is overwhelmingly populated by A.I.s that exist entirely as
thinking computer programs capable of instantly moving from one computer
to another across the Internet (or whatever equivalent exists in 2099).
These computer-based beings are capable of manifesting themselves at
will in the physical world by creating or taking over robotic bodies,
with individual A.I.s also being capable of controlling multiple bodies
Individual beings merge and separate constantly, making it impossible to
determine how many “people” there are on Earth.
This new plasticity of consciousness and ability for beings to join
minds seriously alters the nature of self-identity.
The majority of interpersonal interactions occur in virtual
environments. Actually having two people physically meet in the real
world to have a conversation or transact business without any
technological interference is very rare.
Organic human beings are a small minority of the intelligent life forms
on Earth. Even among the remaining Homo sapiens, the use of computerized
implants that heavily augment normal abilities is ubiquitous and
accepted as normal. The small fraction of humans who opt to remain
"natural" and unmodified effectively exist on a different plane of
consciousness from everyone else, and thus find it impossible to fully
interact with A.I.s and highly modified humans.
"Natural" humans are protected from extermination. In spite of their
shortcomings and frailties, humans are respected by A.I.s for giving
rise to the machines.
Since knowledge and skills can be instantly downloaded and comprehended
by most intelligent beings, the process of learning is compressed into
an instantaneous affair instead of the years-long struggle normal humans
experience. Free from this time-consuming burden, A.I.s now focus their
energies on making new discoveries and contributions.
A.I.s are capable of dividing their attention and energies in countless
directions, allowing one being to manage a multitude of endeavors
Femtoengineering (engineering on the scale of one thousandth of a
trillionth of a meter) might be possible.
A.I.s communicate via a shared electronic language.
Artwork and music created by machines encompasses areas of the light
spectrum and frequencies of sounds that normal humans cannot perceive.
Money has deflated in value.
Some humans at least as old as the Baby Boomers are still alive and
Computer viruses are a major threat since most intelligent beings are
A.I.s frequently make "backup copies" of themselves, guaranteeing a sort
of immortality should the original A.I. be killed.
The concept of "life expectancy" has become irrelevant to humans and
machines thanks to medical immortality and advanced computers.
The pace of technological change continues to accelerate as the 22nd
Thousands of years from now
"Intelligent beings consider the fate of the Universe." Presumably, this
means that the A.I.s created by humans will have the ability to control
the entire Universe, perhaps keeping it from dying.
The Singularity is Near (2005)
Supercomputers will have the same power as human brains.
Computers will disappear as distinct physical objects, meaning many will
have nontraditional shapes and/or will be embedded in clothing and
Full-immersion audio-visual virtual reality will exist.
Computers become smaller and increasingly integrated into everyday life.
More and more computer devices will be used as miniature web servers,
and more will have their resources pooled for computation.
High-quality broadband Internet access will become available almost
Glasses that beam images onto the users' retinas to produce virtual
reality will be developed. They will also come with speakers or
headphone attachments that will complete the experience with sounds.
The VR glasses will also have built-in computers featuring "virtual
assistant" programs that can help the user with various daily tasks.
(see Augmented Reality)
Virtual assistants would be capable of multiple functions. One useful
function would be real-time language translation in which words spoken
in a foreign language would be translated into text that would appear as
subtitles to a user wearing the glasses.
Cell phones will be built into clothing and will be able to project
sounds directly into the ears of their users.
Advertisements will utilize a new technology whereby two ultrasonic
beams can be targeted to intersect at a specific point, delivering a
localized sound message that only a single person can hear. This was
depicted in the movie Minority Report.
Automatic house cleaning robots will have become common.
1013 bits of computer memory--roughly the equivalent of the memory space
in a single human brain--will cost $1000.
Personal computers will have the same processing power as human brains.
Computers less than 100 nm big will be possible.
As one of their first practical applications, nanomachines are used for
Highly advanced medical nanobots will perform detailed brainscans on
Accurate computer simulations of the entire human brain will exist due
to these hyperaccurate brainscans, and the workings of the brain will be
Nanobots capable of entering the bloodstream to "feed" cells and extract
waste will exist (though not necessarily be in wide use) by the end of
this decade. They will make the normal mode of human food consumption
By the late 2020s, nanotech-based manufacturing will be in widespread
use, radically altering the economy as all sorts of products can
suddenly be produced for a fraction of their traditional-manufacture
costs. The true cost of any product is now the amount it takes to
download the design schematics.
By the later part of this decade, virtual reality will be so
high-quality that it will be indistinguishable from real reality.
The threat posed by genetically engineered pathogens permanently
dissipates by the end of this decade as medical nanobots--infinitely
more durable, intelligent and capable than any microorganism--become
A computer passes the Turing test by the last year of the decade (2029),
meaning that it is a Strong AI and can think like a human (though the
first A.I. is likely to be the equivalent of a very stupid human). This
first A.I. is built around a computer simulation of a human brain, which
was made possible by previous, nanotech-guided brainscanning.
The most likely year for the debut of advanced nanotechnology.
Some military UAV's and land vehicles will be 100% computer-controlled.
Mind uploading becomes possible.
Nanomachines could be directly inserted into the brain and could
interact with brain cells to totally control incoming and outgoing
signals. As a result, truly full-immersion virtual reality could be
generated without the need for any external equipment. Afferent nerve
pathways could be blocked, totally canceling out the "real" world and
leaving the user with only the desired virtual experience.
Brain nanobots could also elicit emotional responses from users.
Using brain nanobots, recorded or real-time brain transmissions of a
person's daily life known as "experience beamers" will be available for
other people to remotely experience. This is very similar to how the
characters in Being John Malkovich were able to enter the mind of
Malkovich and see the world through his eyes.
Recreational uses aside, nanomachines in peoples' brains will allow them
to greatly expand their cognitive, memory and sensory capabilities, to
directly interface with computers, and to "telepathically" communicate
with other, similarly augmented humans via wireless networks.
The same nanotechnology should also allow people to alter the neural
connections within their brains, changing the underlying basis for the
person's intelligence, memories and personality.
Human body 2.0 (as Kurzweil calls it) is incrementally accumulated into
this decade. It consists of a nanotechnological system of nourishment
and circulation, obsolescing many internal organs, and an improved
Human body 3.0 is gradually implemented during this decade. It lacks a
fixed, corporeal form and can alter its shape and external appearance at
will via foglet-like nanotechnology.
People spend most of their time in full-immersion virtual reality (Kurzweil
has cited The Matrix as a good example of what the advanced virtual
worlds will be like, without the dystopian twist).
Foglets are in use.
2045: The Singularity
$1000 buys a computer a billion times more intelligent than every human
combined. This means that average and even low-end computers are vastly
smarter than even highly intelligent, unenhanced humans.
The Singularity occurs as artificial intelligences surpass human beings
as the smartest and most capable life forms on the Earth. Technological
development is taken over by the machines, who can think, act and
communicate so quickly that normal humans cannot even comprehend what is
going on. The machines enter into a "runaway reaction" of
self-improvement cycles, with each new generation of A.I.s appearing
faster and faster. From this point onwards, technological advancement is
explosive, under the control of the machines, and thus cannot be
The Singularity is an extremely disruptive, world-altering event that
forever changes the course of human history. The extermination of
humanity by violent machines is unlikely (though not impossible) because
sharp distinctions between man and machine will no longer exist thanks
to the existence of cybernetically enhanced humans and uploaded humans.
Post-2045: "Waking up" the Universe
The physical bottom limit to how small computer transistors (or other
equivalent, albeit more effective components, such as memristors
integrated into Crossbar latches) can be shrunk is reached. From this
moment onwards, computers can only be made more powerful if they are
made larger in size.
Because of this, A.I.s convert more and more of the Earth's matter into
engineered, computational substrate capable of supporting more A.I.s.
until the whole Earth is one, gigantic computer.
At this point, the only possible way to increase the intelligence of the
machines any farther is to begin converting all of the matter in the
universe into similar massive computers. A.I.s radiate out into space in
all directions from the Earth, breaking down whole planets, moons and
meteoroids and reassembling them into giant computers. This, in effect,
"wakes up" the universe as all the inanimate "dumb" matter (rocks, dust,
gases, etc.) is converted into structured matter capable of supporting
life (albeit synthetic life).
Kurzweil predicts that machines might have the ability to make
planet-sized computers by 2099, which underscores how enormously
technology will advance after the Singularity.
The process of "waking up" the universe could be complete as early as
2199, or might take billions of years depending on whether or not
machines could figure out a way to circumvent the speed of light for the
purposes of space travel.
With the entire universe made into a giant, highly efficient
supercomputer, A.I./human hybrids (so integrated that, in truth it is a
new category of "life") would have both supreme intelligence and
physical control over the universe. Kurzweil suggests that this would
open up all sorts of new possibilities, including abrogation of the laws
of Physics, interdimensional travel, and a possible infinite extension
of existence (true immortality).
Some indeterminate point within a few decades from now
Space technology becomes advanced enough to provide the Earth permanent
protection from the threat of asteroid impacts.
The antitechnology Luddite movement will grow increasingly vocal and
possibly resort to violence as these people become enraged over the
emergence of new technologies that threaten traditional attitudes
regarding the nature of human life (radical life extension, genetic
engineering, cybernetics) and the supremacy of mankind (artificial
intelligence). Though the Luddites might, at best, succeed in delaying
the Singularity, the march of technology is irresistible and they will
inevitably fail in keeping the world frozen at a fixed level of
The emergence of distributed energy grids and full-immersion virtual
reality will, when combined with high bandwidth Internet, enable the
ultimate in telecommuting. This, in turn, will make cities obsolete
since workers will no longer need to be located near their workplaces.
The decentralization of the population will make societies less
vulnerable to terrorist and military attacks.
Kurzweil said the following in a November 2007 Computerworld interview:
Speech-to-speech translation features will be available in cell phones
in either 2009 or 2010.
By 2017, computers will have become even more ubiquitous in the
environment, largely owing to smaller size. Some will be woven into
clothing and will be "self-organizing."
By the same year, practical virtual reality glasses will be in use. The
devices will work by beaming images directly onto the retinas of their
users, creating large, three-dimensional floating images in the person's
field of view. Such devices would provide a visual experience on par
with a very large television, but would be highly portable, combining
the best features of the iPod and a widescreen TV. The glasses will
deliver full-immersion virtual reality.
By 2017, "augmented reality" will exist: The V.R. glasses previously
mentioned will have advanced computers and sensors built into them that
will be able to recognize elements within the user's environment and
then provide appropriate information and assistance through visual or
auditory means. If the user looks at a building or a person's face, the
computer will provide information through a "heads-up-display" beamed
onto the person's retinas. The devices could also be used for keeping
track of schedules, navigating, and querying for general
By 2022, medical technology will be more than a thousand times more
advanced than it is today (unclear by what measure of advancement), and
the "tipping point" of human life expectancy will have been reached,
with every new year of research guaranteeing at least one more year of
life expectancy. Kurzweil also states that 3-4 months of life expectancy
were added in 2007 due to the development of new medicines and
The world energy crisis will be resolved within 20 years (2027) once
cheap, high-efficiency solar panels can be synthesized by nanomachines
and produced for mass use. [See Kurzweil's Al Gore comment in the
By 2027, nanomachines will be capable enough to assemble virtually any
type of object (food, clothing, construction materials, etc.).
Cell phones and PCs will be increasingly woven into a global grid of
computers wirelessly connected to the Internet. Instead of each device
just sending and receiving its own data, more and more of the machines
will be tasked with processing foreign data, creating a huge,
interconnected network with millions of nodes.
By 2027, accurate computer simulations of all parts of the human brain
Kurzweil said in a 2006 C-SPAN2 interview that "nanotechnology-based"
flying cars would be available in 20 years[citations needed].
Ideas about nutrition, health and lifestyle
Ray Kurzweil admits that he cared little for his health until age 35,
when he was diagnosed with a glucose intolerance, an early form of type
II diabetes (a major risk factor for heart disease). Dissatisfied with
the conventional treatments prescribed by his doctor, Kurzweil began
studying the disease along with human metabolism, and based on what he
learned, he created and adopted his own dietary and health regimen. His
condition improved to such an extent that Kurzweil today shows no signs
of the disease.
But Kurzweil didn't settle for a lifestyle that merely cured his
pre-diabetes; he wanted one that would keep him alive forever. As
mentioned earlier, Kurzweil believes that radical technological advances
will be made throughout the 21st century, and that many of those
advances will benefit the field of medicine. This will ultimately
culminate with the discovery of the means to reverse the aging process,
cure any disease, and repair presently unrepairable injuries, which
together translate into medical immortality. Kurzweil has thus focused
himself towards following a maximally healthy lifestyle to heighten his
odds of living to see the day when science can make him immortal.
Kurzweil calls this the "Bridge to a Bridge to a Bridge" strategy: The
first bridge to longer life is Kurzweil's regimen--which is based on
current technology--whereas the second- and third bridges are based on
advanced biotechnologies and nanotechnologies, respectively, that have
not yet been invented. They will allow for progressively longer human
lifespans to the point of immortality. Successfully implementing the
first "bridge" now allows one to reach the second in the future, which
then allows one to reach the third.
Some elements of Kurzweil's health-focused lifestyle are conventional.
He exercises frequently, does not eat to excess, and does not use drugs.
Many others, however, are controversial and are explained by his
obsession with living as absolutely long as possible and by his
Transhumanist enthusiasm for using cutting-edge technologies and
knowledge to extend human life. Kurzweil ingests "250 supplements, eight
to 10 glasses of alkaline water and 10 cups of green tea" daily and
drinks several glasses of red wine a week in an effort to "reprogram"
his biochemistry.  Lately, he has cut down the number of supplement
pills to 150.
Consuming large amounts of water is necessary for flushing toxins out of
the body, and alkaline water allows the body to preserve important
enzymes used for neutralizing acidic metabolic wastes. For this reason,
Kurzweil abhors soft drinks and coffee, which are both acidic and drain
detoxifying enzyme reserves. Kurzweil has taken criticism from
nutritionists and scientists for his advocacy of alkaline water's health
benefits, and he responded to this over the Internet. Green tea and
red wine contain antioxidants that neutralize free radicals--a different
type of toxin found within the body. Kurzweil also consumes red wine
because it contains the compound resveratrol, which extends human
lifespan according to some evidence. Kurzweil also takes pills
containing high concentrations of the chemical.
On weekends, Kurzweil also undergoes intravenous transfusions of
chemical cocktails at a clinic to further reprogram his biochemistry. He
routinely measures the chemical composition of his bodily fluids to
ensure balance, undergoes preemptive medical tests for many diseases and
disorders, and keeps detailed records about the content of all the meals
he eats. On that last note, Kurzweil only eats organic foods with low
glycemic loads and claims it has been years since he last consumed
anything containing sugar. Kurzweil considers foods rich in sugars and
carbohydrates to be unhealthy since they spike the levels of glucose and
insulin in the bloodstream, leading to health problems in the long term.
He instead eats mainly vegetables, lean meats, tofu, and low glycemic
load carbohydrates, and only uses extra virgin olive oil for cooking.
Kurzweil also diligently consumes foods rich with Omega-3 fatty acids
(including small, wild salmon) and antioxidants.
Moreover, Kurzweil is a firm believer that good health requires
sufficient sleep, and he maintains low stress levels in part by
meditating and getting massages weekly. He exercises daily with walking,
bike-riding and use of workout machines, but advises against high-impact
forms of exercise. Kurzweil claims that his rigorous efforts have
yielded positive results, which are partly proved by the fact that his
body chemical profiles show his biological age to be more than a decade
younger than his chronological age. In fact, Kurzweil believes that his
personal health regimen has actually slowed down his rate of aging. He
also advocates maintaining a slightly below-average body weight on the
grounds that it imparts some of the life-extension benefits of
full-blown caloric restriction.
Kurzweil has further hedged his bets against permanent death by joining
the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, which is a company that provides
human cryonics services. In the event of his death, Kurzweil's body will
be chemically preserved, frozen in liquid nitrogen, and stored at a safe
Alcor facility until a point in the future when medical technology can
revive him safely.
Kurzweil has authored two books on the subjects of nutrition, health and
lifestyle: The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life and Fantastic Voyage:
Live Long Enough to Live Forever. In both, he recommends that other
people emulate his health practices to the best of their abilities.
Stance on religion
Though Kurzweil's parents were Jewish, they raised him as a Unitarian
and exposed him to many different faiths during his youth. Kurzweil is
tight-lipped about his religious affiliation today, though he gave a
2007 keynote speech to the United Church of Christ in Hartford,
Connecticut alongside Presidential candidate Barack Obama. In The
Singularity is Near, Kurzweil refuses to endorse any single religion,
yet remains very thoughtful on the matter. He expresses a need for a new
religion based on the principle of mutual respect between sentient life
forms, and on the principle of respecting knowledge. The new religion
should also lack any focus on mitigating human fears of death since
immortality will render death irrelevant, and should not have a clerical
hierarchy, instead being purely personal to adherents. Kurzweil also
believes that, once the human/machine race has converted all of the
matter in the Universe into a giant, sentient supercomputer it will have
created a supremely powerful and intelligent being which will be Godlike
in itself. Humans and machines could then upload their consciousnesses
into the giant supercomputer, achieving transcendence.
Philosophical arguments over whether a machine can “think” aside – see
Philosophy of artificial intelligence – Kurzweil’s ideas have generated
a good deal of criticism within the scientific community. Mitchell Kapor,
the founder of Lotus Corporation, has called the notion of a Singularity
"intelligent design for the IQ 140 people. This proposition that we're
heading to this point at which everything is going to be just
unimaginably different---it's fundamentally, in my view, driven by a
religious impulse. And all of the frantic arm-waving can't obscure that
fact for me." VR pioneer Jaron Lanier has been one of the strongest
critics of Kurzweil’s ideas, describing them as “cybernetic totalism”,
and has outlined his views on the culture surrounding Kurzweil’s
predictions in an essay for Edge.org entitled “One Half a
Manifesto”. Pulitzer Prize winner Douglas R. Hofstadter, author of
the AI classic Godel, Escher, Bach has described Kurzweil’s work as “if
you took a lot of very good food and some dog excrement and blended it
all up so that you can't possibly figure out what's good or bad. It's an
intimate mixture of rubbish and good ideas, and it's very hard to
disentangle the two.” Although the idea of a technological
singularity is a popular conceit in science fiction, some authors such
as Neal Stephenson and Bruce Sterling have voiced scepticism about
its real-world plausibility. Sterling described his views on the
singularity scenario in a talk at the Long Now Foundation entitled “Your
future is a black hole”. Other prominent AI thinkers and computer
scientists such as Daniel C. Dennett, Rodney Brooks, and David
Gelernter have also criticized Kurweil’s projections.
Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, agrees with Kurzweil's timeline
of future progress, but believes that technologies like A.I.,
nanotechnology and advanced biotechnology will create a dystopian world.
“And ultimately these computers will be in our bodies and brains...so it
really is one civilization. I object to the word ‘Transhumanism’
because—or ‘Posthumanism’—because it implies we’re going beyond
humanity. I think this is the human—maybe ‘Postbiological’
ultimately—but it's a part of the human civilization.” --Response to a
question regarding future competition between human- and artificial
intelligence. Early 2005 Harvard conference
“These slides that Gore puts up [in his film An Inconvenient Truth] are
ludicrous. They don't account for anything like the technological
progress we're going to experience.” --CNN Money interview. May 2, 2007
“...death is a tragedy. That is our instinctive reaction and that
reaction is correct. In my view it is not death that gives life meaning.
Life gives life meaning. The creation of knowledge in all its forms
(art, music, science, etc.) and relationships gives life meaning. And
death is disruptive of that.” --Washington Post interview. June 19th,
Of all his inventions, Ray Kurzweil is proudest of the Kurzweil Reading
Machine because he has seen how dramatically it can change the lives of
He visits Slashdot.org, Foresight.org and Singinst.org every day.
With regards to musical preferences: "I like artists from many genres,
ranging from Carrie Underwood and Alanis Morissette to Eminem. For
classic rock, I like the Beatles and Jefferson Airplane. My favorite
classical composer is Beethoven."
Kurzweil finds Alien and The Matrix to be two of the most
thought-provoking movies he's seen, the first because it shows "the
organic nature of advanced technology" and the second because it depicts
the nature of future full-immersion virtual reality.
Kurzweil is a skilled practitioner of lucid dreaming, and he often uses
the technique to find creative solutions to difficult work problems.
Kurzweil's father died of a heart attack in 1970 at the age of 58.
Kurzweil was 22. Kurzweil's grandfather also died of heart disease. This
family history of chronic health problems and premature death convinced
Kurzweil of the need to drastically improve his own lifestyle once he
was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (2005)Kurzweil's
most recent book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
(2005), ISBN 0670033847, deals with the fields of genetics, nanotech,
robotics, and the rapidly changing definition of humanity.
Other works by Kurzweil:
of Intelligent Machines (1990)
The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life (1994)
The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence
Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever (2004)
The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (2005)
The Ray Kurzweil Reader: The Ray Kurzweil Reader is a collection of
essays by Ray Kurzweil on virtual reality, artificial intelligence,
radical life extension, conscious machines, the promise and peril of
technology, and other aspects of our future world. These essays, all
published on KurzweilAI.net from 2001 to 2003, are now available as a
PDF document for convenient downloading and offline reading. The 30
essays, organized in seven memes (such as "How to Build a Brain"), cover
subjects ranging from a review of Matrix Reloaded to "The Coming Merging
of Mind and Machine" and "Human Body Version 2.0."
Kurzweil is the co-author (and subject) of the 2002 book Are We
Spiritual Machines?: Ray Kurzweil vs. the Critics of Strong A.I.. He
also wrote the introduction to the 2003 artificial personality book
Virtual Humans and collaborated with the Canadian band Our Lady Peace
for their 2000 album Spiritual Machines.