Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ray Kurzweil: Futuristic Genius

Deemed as the "restless genius" by The Wall Street Journal and the "ultimate thinking machine" by Forbes Inc., Ray Kurzweil consistently brings forth new innovations and ideas to the world of technology. Kurzweil invented the CCD, the charged-coupled device flatbed scanner, the first OCR, optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine, and more. Furthermore, Kurzweil is an incredibly talented futurist, claiming accuracy in predicting future technologies throughout his life.

My first encounter with Kurzweil was through optical character recognition, or OCR. As a student, I constantly transcribe physical texts onto Word documents so that I can work with them quicker for assignments. I was introduced to OCR through my job at the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities. OCR is a software individuals can use to recognize and scan physical texts into digital files. The original software recognizes most modern script and the updated software recognizes older script as well. OCR is a useful technology for individuals studying digital humanities and is offered to Loyola students through the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities.

Kurzweil's creativity spans much further than simply OCR, however. Along with engineering, Kurzweil is able to use his knowledge to predict future trends of technology. This relates to the creative process of mental imagery. He takes his past memories and knowledge then sits and thinks about potential gaps in current technology. Using these gaps, he creates predictions for future innovations. Some of Kurzweil's notable past predictions include predicting that a world chess champion would lose to a computer, PC's would be able to answer queries through Internet information, exoskeletal libs would allow disabled individuals to walk, and individuals would be able to give verbal commands to their computers. All of these predictions occurred within the timespan he predicted them to. For the next 25 years, Kurzweil is predicting glasses beaming images directly onto the retina, nanobots intelligence to be smarter than medical technology so most diseases will be eradicated, an ability to upload our mind and consciousness onto a computer, and many more.

Kurzweil uses mental imagery to make these predictions as they are all innovative, creative, and brand new. They are all, however, incredibly possible, and in some cases, likely probably for the near future.  Kurzweil's creativity does not go unnoticed. He won the $500,000 MIT-Lemelson Prize, the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton, induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, received 20 honorary doctorates, and various honors from three presidents. He is an engineer, author of seven books, and a renowned futurist. By conditioning himself to constantly think and allow himself to explore creativity, Kurzweil has contributed greatly to invaluable technological advances.


  1. It's actually really interesting to see Kurzweil's predictions come true and how much they will remain so in the future! After doing some research, I found that Kurzweil actually has a "lucid dreaming process" in which he thinks about solving problems in this lucid dreamlike state. I thought it was also interesting to see his creative process and how he makes his predictions from a way to combine irrational thoughts (since we sometimes think irrationally in dreams) and rational limits. He said that if combined in a dreamlike state, he is able to invent new technology, make predictions, and more which really connects to some of the creatives we're studying, like Einstein. Just a side note, I'm personally interested in Kurzweil's belief that cryogenics will eventually be successfully figured out because he plans to freeze himself until that happens.

  2. I think Kurzweil exemplifies creativity with his innovations, because they are based on gaps he finds in technology. His ability to innovate to fill these gaps that he finds is one aspect of his creativity. Kurzweil is also able to use knowledge & memories he has from the past to predict advancements in technology, something which is extremely difficult to do. In the past, Kurzweil has successfully predicted many future innovations. His ability to take ideas that are unjustifiable (referring to innovations that are progressive and don't currently exist) and apply logical thinking to make them realistic are what make him not only successful, but creative as well. It is difficult to bring these two opposites together, but Kurzweil does so in a way that allows him to be a successful futurist in the world of technology.


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