Two hundred million years ago, our mammal ancestors developed a new brain feature: the neocortex. This stamp-sized piece of tissue (wrapped around a brain the size of a walnut) is the key to what humanity has become. Now, futurist Ray Kurzweil suggests, we should get ready for the next big leap in brain power, as we tap into the computing power in the cloud.
Ray Kurzweil is an engineer who has radically advanced the fields of speech, text and audio technology. He’s revered for his dizzying — yet convincing — writing on the advance of technology, the limits of biology and the future of the human species.
Inventor, entrepreneur, visionary, Ray Kurzweil’s accomplishments read as a startling series of firsts — a litany of technological breakthroughs we’ve come to take for granted. Kurzweil invented the first optical character recognition (OCR) software for transforming the written word into data, the first print-to-speech software for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, and the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition.
Yet his impact as a futurist and philosopher is no less significant. In his best-selling books, which include How to Create a Mind, The Age of Spiritual Machines, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, Kurzweil depicts in detail a portrait of the human condition over the next few decades, as accelerating technologies forever blur the line between human and machine.
In 2009, he unveiled Singularity University, an institution that aims to “assemble, educate and inspire leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies.” He is a Director of Engineering at Google, where he heads up a team developing machine intelligence and natural language comprehension.
“Kurzweil’s eclectic career and propensity for combining science with practical — often humanitarian — applications have inspired comparisons with Thomas Edison.” — Time