WPI Announces Inventor & Futurist Ray Kurzweil as 2005 Commencement Speaker

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Commencement Information

For more information about the weekend's events, visit the Commencement Web site.

WORCESTER, Mass. -- March 23, 2005 -- Ray Kurzweil, world-renowned inventor, entrepreneur, author, and futurist, will be the commencement speaker at Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) 137th graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 21. Kurzweil will discuss his ideas on the future interplay between mankind and artificial intelligence with WPI's graduates and community in his speech, "When Humans Transcend Biology." After Kurzweil's talk, the university will confer upon him an honorary degree.

Widely regarded as one of the preeminent inventors and innovators of our time, Kurzweil foresees an era when the human body will be enhanced by software and computers, enabling humans to download intelligence and to live long past the current life expectancy.

Kurzweil has laid out his vision in this area through his writing. He has authored five books and hundreds of articles. His first book, The Age of Intelligent Machines, was named Best Computer Science Book of 1990. His best-selling book, The Age of Spiritual Machines, When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, has been published in nine languages and achieved the #1 best selling book on Amazon.com in the categories of "science" and "artificial intelligence." Kurzweil's most recent work, coauthored with Terry Grossman, M.D., is Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever. His next book, The Singularity is Near, When Humans Transcend Biology, is due to be published in September 2005.

Photo by Michael Lutch. Courtesy of Kurzweil Tech. Inc."

"As our graduates begin the next chapter of their lives, Ray Kurzweil is an excellent role model -- providing a firsthand example of an innovative career that has used science, technology and engineering to benefit the world," says Dennis D. Berkey, president of WPI.

Kurzweil launched his thriving career in high school when he appeared on the television show "I've Got a Secret," hosted by Steve Allen. His secret was that he programmed his computer to analyze abstract patterns in musical compositions and then composed original melodies in a similar style. With this project, Kurzweil won first prize in the International Science Fair, and he was named one of the 40 Westinghouse Science Talent Search winners who were able to meet President Lyndon Johnson in a White House ceremony.

Kurzweil subsequently rose to even greater success with the invention of several devices, including the first omni-font optical character recognition (OCR), the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition. He has founded and developed nine businesses in OCR, music synthesis, speech recognition, reading technology, virtual reality, financial investment, cybernetic art, and other areas of artificial intelligence.

As a result of his accomplishments, Kurzweil was named in 2002 to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which was established by the U.S. Patent Office. He has also been the recipient of numerous awards, including the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, the nation's largest award in invention and innovation, and the 1999 National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest honor in technology, from President Bill Clinton in a White House ceremony.

Kurzweil grew up in Queens, N.Y. He received his B.S. in computer science and literature from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.