Jew of the Week: Ray Kurzweil

“Revolutionary Who Made America”

Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil

Raymond Kurzweil (b. 1948) was born in New York to Austrian-Jewish parents who escaped Europe before the start of World War II. He was fascinated by science-fiction from a young age and by age 5, decided that he wanted to be an inventor. He was already designing and building computers by 12, and developed a theory for the neocortex of the brain by 14. The following year he wrote his first computer program, and a couple years later won the International Science Fair for creating a computer that could compose music. While studying at MIT, he created a program that matches high school students with colleges, and sold it for the equivalent of about $700,000 in today’s value. In 1974, Kurzweil created a scanner that could read most fonts, then used the technology to create a reading machine for the blind. At the behest of Stevie Wonder, Kurzweil then turned to improving music technology, inventing a new generation of synthesizers whose quality was indistinguishable from that of live instruments. Kurzweil went on to develop one of the first speech recognition systems, followed by devices that assist people with learning disabilities, blindness, ADD, and dyslexia. He published his first book in 1990, followed by six more to date, mostly about the future of technology, as well as nutrition and health. Five of the books have been bestsellers. Many of his predictions about the future have already come true. Kurzweil has won a great number of awards, and has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, while being described as one of the “revolutionaries who made America”. He now works full-time for Google, developing machine learning and language processing. When he dies, Kurzweil intends to have his body cryogenically frozen and stored until a future time when technology might resurrect him.

Words of the Week

If you drop gold and books, pick up first the books, and then the gold.
– Sefer Hasidim