Ray Kurzweil

Raymond Kurzweil (/ˈkɜːrzwaɪl/ KURZ-wyle; born February 12, 1948) is an American inventor and futurist. He is involved in fields such as optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. He has written books on health, artificial intelligence (AI), transhumanism, the technological singularity, and futurism. Kurzweil is a public advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements, and gives public talks to share his optimistic outlook on life extension technologies and the future of nanotechnology, robotics, and biotechnology.

Kurzweil received the 1999 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the United States' highest honor in technology, from President Clinton in a White House ceremony.[2] He was the recipient of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for 2001[3]. And in 2002 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, established by the U.S. Patent Office. He has received 21 honorary doctorates, and honors from three U.S. presidents. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) included Kurzweil as one of 16 "revolutionaries who made America"[4] along with other inventors of the past two centuries. Inc. magazine ranked him #8 among the "most fascinating" entrepreneurs in the United States and called him "Edison's rightful heir".[5]

Kurzweil has written seven books, five of which have been national bestsellers.[6] The Age of Spiritual Machines has been translated into 9 languages and was the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in science. Kurzweil's book The Singularity Is Near was a New York Times bestseller, and has been the #1 book on Amazon in both science and philosophy. Kurzweil speaks widely to audiences both public and private and regularly delivers keynote speeches at industry conferences like DEMO, SXSW, and TED. He maintains the news website KurzweilAI.net, which has over three million readers annually.[7]

Kurzweil has been employed by Google since 2012, where he is a "director of engineering".

Ray Kurzweil
Raymond Kurzweil Fantastic Voyage
Kurzweil on or prior to July 5, 2005
Raymond Kurzweil

February 12, 1948 (age 71)
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology (B.S.)
OccupationAuthor, entrepreneur, futurist and inventor
EmployerGoogle Inc.
Spouse(s)Sonya Rosenwald Kurzweil (1975–present)[1]

Life, inventions, and business career

Early life

Ray Kurzweil grew up in the New York City borough of Queens. He attended NYC Public Education Kingsbury Elementary School PS188. He was born to secular Jewish parents who had emigrated from Austria just before the onset of World War II. He was exposed via Unitarian Universalism to a diversity of religious faiths during his upbringing.[8][9] His Unitarian church had the philosophy of many paths to the truth – the religious education consisted of studying a single religion for six months before moving on to the next. His father, Fredric was a concert pianist, a noted conductor, and a music educator. His mother, Hannah was a visual artist. He has one sibling, his sister Enid.

Kurzweil decided he wanted to be an inventor at the age of five.[10] As a young boy, Kurzweil had an inventory of parts from various construction toys he'd been given and old electronic gadgets he'd collected from neighbors. In his youth, Kurzweil was an avid reader of science fiction literature. At the age of eight, nine, and ten, he read the entire Tom Swift Jr. series. At the age of seven or eight, he built a robotic puppet theater and robotic game. He was involved with computers by the age of 12 (in 1960), when only a dozen computers existed in all of New York City, and built computing devices and statistical programs for the predecessor of Head Start.[11] At the age of fourteen, Kurzweil wrote a paper detailing his theory of the neocortex.[12] His parents were involved with the arts, and he is quoted in the documentary Transcendent Man[13] as saying that the household always produced discussions about the future and technology.

Kurzweil attended Martin Van Buren High School. During class, he often held onto his class textbooks to seemingly participate, but instead, focused on his own projects which were hidden behind the book. His uncle, an engineer at Bell Labs, taught young Kurzweil the basics of computer science.[14] In 1963, at age 15, he wrote his first computer program.[15] He created pattern-recognition software that analyzed the works of classical composers, and then synthesized its own songs in similar styles. In 1965, he was invited to appear on the CBS television program I've Got a Secret, where he performed a piano piece that was composed by a computer he also had built.[16] Later that year, he won first prize in the International Science Fair for the invention;[17] Kurzweil's submission to Westinghouse Talent Search of his first computer program alongside several other projects resulted in him being one of its national winners, which allowed him to be personally congratulated by President Lyndon B. Johnson during a White House ceremony. These activities collectively impressed upon Kurzweil the belief that nearly any problem could be overcome.[18]


While in high school, Kurzweil had corresponded with Marvin Minsky and was invited to visit him at MIT, which he did. Kurzweil also visited Frank Rosenblatt at Cornell.[19]

He obtained a B.S. in computer science and literature in 1970 at MIT. He went to MIT to study with Marvin Minsky. He took all of the computer programming courses (eight or nine) offered at MIT in the first year and a half.

In 1968, during his sophomore year at MIT, Kurzweil started a company that used a computer program to match high school students with colleges. The program, called the Select College Consulting Program, was designed by him and compared thousands of different criteria about each college with questionnaire answers submitted by each student applicant. Around this time, he sold the company to Harcourt, Brace & World for $100,000 (roughly $670,000 in 2013 dollars) plus royalties.[20]

In 1974, Kurzweil founded 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. Before that time, scanners had only been able to read text written in a few fonts. He decided that the best application of this technology would be to create a reading machine, which would allow blind people to understand written text by having a computer read it to them aloud. However, this device required the invention of two enabling technologies—the CCD flatbed scanner and the text-to-speech synthesizer. Development of these technologies was completed at other institutions such as Bell Labs, and on January 13, 1976, the finished product was unveiled during a 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.

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.

Kurzweil sold his Kurzweil Computer Products to Lernout & Hauspie. Following the legal and bankruptcy problems of the latter, the system became a subsidiary of Xerox later 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. 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 instruments, and in tests musicians were unable to discern the difference between the Kurzweil K250 on piano mode from a normal grand piano.[21] The recording and mixing abilities of the machine, coupled with its abilities to imitate different instruments, made it possible for a single user to compose and play an entire orchestral piece.

Kurzweil Music Systems was sold to South Korean musical instrument manufacturer Young Chang in 1990. As with Xerox, Kurzweil remained as a consultant for several years. Hyundai acquired Young Chang in 2006 and in January 2007 appointed Raymond Kurzweil as Chief Strategy Officer of Kurzweil Music Systems.[22]

Later life

Concurrent with Kurzweil Music Systems, 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 an early speech recognition program.

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 attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 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.

Raymond Kurzweil, Stanford 2006 (square crop)
Raymond Kurzweil at the Singularity Summit at Stanford University in 2006

During the 1990s, Kurzweil founded the Medical Learning Company.[23] 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 to assist the creative art process. The site used to offer 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."[24] 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, 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 aloud. The newer machine is portable and scans text through digital camera images, while the older machine is large and scans text through flatbed scanning.

In December 2012, Kurzweil was hired by Google in a full-time position to "work on new projects involving machine learning and language processing".[25] He was personally hired by Google co-founder Larry Page.[26] Larry Page and Kurzweil agreed on a one-sentence job description: "to bring natural language understanding to Google".[27]

He received a Technical Grammy on February 8, 2015, recognizing his diverse technical and creative accomplishments. For purposes of the Grammy, perhaps most notable was the aforementioned Kurzweil K250.[28]

Kurzweil has joined the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a cryonics company. In the event of his declared death, Kurzweil plans to be perfused with cryoprotectants, vitrified in liquid nitrogen, and stored at an Alcor facility in the hope that future medical technology will be able to repair his tissues and revive him.[29]

Personal life

Kurzweil is agnostic about the existence of a soul.[30] On the possibility of divine intelligence, Kurzweil has said, "Does God exist? I would say, 'Not yet.'"[31]

Kurzweil married Sonya Rosenwald Kurzweil in 1975 and has two children.[32] Sonya Kurzweil is a psychologist in private practice in Newton, Massachusetts, working with women, children, parents and families. She holds faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School and William James College for Graduate Education in Psychology. Her research interests and publications are in the area of psychotherapy practice. Kurzweil also serves as an active Overseer at Boston Children's Museum.[33]

He has a son, Ethan Kurzweil, who is a venture capitalist,[34] and a daughter, Amy Kurzweil,[35] who is a writer and cartoonist. Kurzweil is a cousin of writer Allen Kurzweil.

Creative approach

Kurzweil said "I realize that most inventions fail not because the R&D department can’t get them to work, but because the timing is wrong‍—‌not all of the enabling factors are at play where they are needed. Inventing is a lot like surfing: you have to anticipate and catch the wave at just the right moment."[36][37]

For the past several decades, Kurzweil's most effective and common approach to doing creative work has been conducted during his lucid dreamlike state which immediately precedes his awakening state. He claims to have constructed inventions, solved difficult problems, such as algorithmic, business strategy, organizational, and interpersonal problems, and written speeches in this state.[19]


Kurzweil's first book, The Age of Intelligent Machines, was published in 1990. The nonfiction work discusses the history of computer artificial intelligence (AI) and forecasts future developments. Other experts in the field of AI 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.[38]

In 1993, Kurzweil published a book on nutrition 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 1999, Kurzweil published The Age of Spiritual Machines, which further elucidates his theories regarding the future of technology, which themselves stem from his analysis of long-term trends in biological and technological evolution. Much emphasis is on the likely course of AI development, along with the future of computer architecture.

Kurzweil's next book, published in 2004, returned to human health and nutrition. Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever was co-authored by Terry Grossman, a medical doctor and specialist in alternative medicine.

The Singularity Is Near, published in 2005, was made into a movie starring Pauley Perrette from NCIS. 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 film Kurzweil's life and ideas for the documentary film Transcendent Man,[13] which was directed by Barry Ptolemy.

Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever,[39] a follow-up to Fantastic Voyage, was released on April 28, 2009.

Kurzweil's book, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, was released on Nov. 13, 2012.[40] In it Kurzweil describes his Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind, the theory that the neocortex is a hierarchical system of pattern recognizers, and argues that emulating this architecture in machines could lead to an artificial superintelligence.[41]

Kurzweil's latest book and first fiction novel, Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, follows a young girl who uses her intelligence and the help of her friends to tackle real-world problems. The book comes with companion materials, A Chronicle of Ideas, and How You Can Be a Danielle that provide real-world context. The book is set to release in January 2019.[42]

Kurzweil contributed one chapter to the 2018 book Architects of Intelligence: The Truth About AI from the People Building it by the American futurist Martin Ford.[43]


Kurzweil wrote and co-produced a movie directed by Anthony Waller, called The Singularity Is Near: A True Story About the Future, in 2010 based, in part, on his 2005 book The Singularity Is Near. 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 addition to his movie, an independent, feature-length documentary was made about Kurzweil, his life, and his ideas, called Transcendent Man.[13] Filmmakers Barry Ptolemy and Felicia Ptolemy followed Kurzweil, documenting his global speaking-tour. Premiered in 2009 at the Tribeca Film Festival, Transcendent Man documents Kurzweil'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 exponential growth, radical life expansion, and how we will transcend our biology. The Ptolemys documented Kurzweil's stated goal of bringing back his late father using AI. The film also features critics who argue against Kurzweil's predictions.

In 2010, an independent documentary film called Plug & Pray premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival, in which Kurzweil and one of his major critics, the late Joseph Weizenbaum, argue about the benefits of eternal life.

The feature-length documentary film The Singularity by independent filmmaker Doug Wolens (released at the end of 2012), showcasing Kurzweil, has been acclaimed as "a large-scale achievement in its documentation of futurist and counter-futurist ideas” and “the best documentary on the Singularity to date."[44]

Kurzweil frequently comments on the application of cell-size nanotechnology to the workings of the human brain and how this could be applied to building AI. While being interviewed for a February 2009 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Kurzweil expressed a desire to construct a genetic copy of his late father, Fredric Kurzweil, from DNA within his grave site. This feat would be achieved by exhumation and extraction of DNA, constructing a clone of Fredric and retrieving memories and recollections—from Ray's mind—of his father. Kurzweil kept all of his father's records, notes, and pictures in order to maintain as much of his father as he could. Ray is known for taking over 200 pills a day, meant to reprogram his biochemistry. This, according to Ray, is only a precursor to the devices at the nano scale that will eventually replace a blood-cell, self updating of specific pathogens to improve the immune system.


The Law of Accelerating Returns

In his 1999 book The Age of Spiritual Machines, Kurzweil proposed "The Law of Accelerating Returns", according to which the rate of change in a wide variety of evolutionary systems (including the growth of technologies) tends to increase exponentially.[45] He gave further focus to this issue in a 2001 essay entitled "The Law of Accelerating Returns", which proposed an extension of Moore's law to a wide variety of technologies, and used this to argue in favor of Vernor Vinge's concept of a technological singularity.[46] Kurzweil suggests that this exponential technological growth is counter-intuitive to the way our brains perceive the world—since our brains were biologically inherited from humans living in a world that was linear and local—and, as a consequence, he claims it has encouraged great skepticism in his future projections.

Stance on the future of genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics

Kurzweil was working with the Army Science Board in 2006 to develop a rapid response system to deal with the possible abuse of biotechnology. He suggested that the same technologies that are empowering us to reprogram biology away from cancer and heart disease could be used by a bioterrorist to reprogram a biological virus to be more deadly, communicable, and stealthy. However, he suggests that we have the scientific tools to successfully defend against these attacks, similar to the way we defend against computer software viruses. He has testified before Congress on the subject of nanotechnology, advocating that nanotechnology has the potential to solve serious global problems such as poverty, disease, and climate change. "Nanotech Could Give Global Warming a Big Chill".[47]

In media appearances, Kurzweil has stressed the extreme potential dangers of nanotechnology[16] but argues that in practice, progress cannot be stopped because that would require a totalitarian system, and any attempt to do so would drive dangerous technologies underground and deprive responsible scientists of the tools needed for defense. He suggests that the proper place of regulation is to ensure that technological progress proceeds safely and quickly, but does not deprive the world of profound benefits. He stated, "To avoid dangers such as unrestrained nanobot replication, we need relinquishment at the right level and to place our highest priority on the continuing advance of defensive technologies, staying ahead of destructive technologies. An overall strategy should include a streamlined regulatory process, a global program of monitoring for unknown or evolving biological pathogens, temporary moratoriums, raising public awareness, international cooperation, software reconnaissance, and fostering values of liberty, tolerance, and respect for knowledge and diversity."[48]

Health and aging

Kurzweil admits that he cared little for his health until age 35, when he was found to suffer from a glucose intolerance, an early form of type II diabetes (a major risk factor for heart disease). Kurzweil then found a doctor (Terry Grossman, M.D.) who shares his somewhat unconventional beliefs to develop an extreme regimen involving hundreds of pills, chemical intravenous treatments, red wine, and various other methods to attempt to live longer. Kurzweil was ingesting "250 supplements, eight to 10 glasses of alkaline water and 10 cups of green tea" every day and drinking several glasses of red wine a week in an effort to "reprogram" his biochemistry.[49] By 2008, he had reduced the number of supplement pills to 150.[30]. By 2015 Kurzweil further reduced his daily pill regimen down to 100 pills.[50]

Kurzweil has made a number of bold claims for his health regimen. In his book The Singularity Is Near, he claimed that he brought his cholesterol level down from the high 200s to 130, raised his HDL (high-density lipoprotein) from below 30 to 55, and lowered his homocysteine from an unhealthy 11 to a much safer 6.2. He also claimed that his C-reactive protein "and all of my other indexes (for heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions) are at ideal levels." He further claimed that his health regimen, including dramatically reducing his fat intake, successfully "reversed" his type 2 diabetes. (The Singularity Is Near, p. 211)

He has written three books on the subjects of nutrition, health, and immortality: The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever and Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever. In all, he recommends that other people emulate his health practices to the best of their abilities. Kurzweil and his current "anti-aging" doctor, Terry Grossman, now have two websites promoting their first and second book.

Kurzweil asserts that in the future, everyone will live forever.[51] In a 2013 interview, he said that in 15 years, medical technology could add more than a year to one's remaining life expectancy for each year that passes, and we could then "outrun our own deaths". Among other things, he has supported the SENS Research Foundation's approach to finding a way to repair aging damage, and has encouraged the general public to hasten their research by donating.[27][52]

Kurzweil's view of the human neocortex

According to Kurzweil, technologists will be creating synthetic neocortexes based on the operating principles of the human neocortex with the primary purpose of extending our own neocortexes. He claims to believe that the neocortex of an adult human consists of approximately 300 million pattern recognizers. He draws on the commonly accepted belief that the primary anatomical difference between humans and other primates that allowed for superior intellectual abilities was the evolution of a larger neocortex. He claims that the six-layered neocortex deals with increasing abstraction from one layer to the next. He says that at the low levels, the neocortex may seem cold and mechanical because it can only make simple decisions, but at the higher levels of the hierarchy, the neocortex is likely to be dealing with concepts like being funny, being sexy, expressing a loving sentiment, creating a poem or understanding a poem, etc. He claims to believe that these higher levels of the human neocortex were the enabling factors to permit the human development of language, technology, art, and science. He stated, "If the quantitative improvement from primates to humans with the big forehead was the enabling factor to allow for language, technology, art, and science, what kind of qualitative leap can we make with another quantitative increase? Why not go from 300 million pattern recognizers to a billion?”

Encouraging futurism and transhumanism

Kurzweil's standing as a futurist and transhumanist has led to his involvement in several singularity-themed organizations. In December 2004, Kurzweil joined the advisory board of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute.[53] In October 2005, Kurzweil joined the scientific advisory board of the Lifeboat Foundation.[54] On May 13, 2006, Kurzweil was the first speaker at the Singularity Summit at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.[55] In May 2013, Kurzweil was the keynote speaker at the 2013 proceeding of the Research, Innovation, Start-up and Employment (RISE) international conference in Seoul, Korea Republic.

In February 2009, Kurzweil, in collaboration with Google and the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, announced the creation of the Singularity University training center for corporate executives and government officials. The University's self-described mission is to "assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies and apply, focus and guide these tools to address humanity's grand challenges". Using Vernor Vinge's Singularity concept as a foundation, the university offered its first nine-week graduate program to 40 students in June, 2009.


Past predictions

Kurzweil's first book, The Age of Intelligent Machines, presented his ideas about the future. It was written from 1986 to 1989 and published in 1990. Building on Ithiel de Sola Pool's "Technologies of Freedom" (1983), Kurzweil claims to have forecast the dissolution of the Soviet Union due to new technologies such as cellular phones and fax machines disempowering authoritarian governments by removing state control over the flow of information.[56] In the book, Kurzweil also extrapolated preexisting trends in the improvement of computer chess software performance to predict that computers would beat the best human players "by the year 2000".[57] In May 1997, chess World Champion Garry Kasparov was defeated by IBM's Deep Blue computer in a well-publicized chess match.[58]

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,[59] and the medium was unreliable, difficult to use, and deficient in content. 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 claims to have correctly foreseen 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.

In October 2010, Kurzweil released his report, "How My Predictions Are Faring" in PDF format,[60] which analyzes the predictions he made in his book The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990), The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999) and The Singularity is Near (2005). Of the 147 total predictions, Kurzweil claims that 115 were "entirely correct", 12 were "essentially correct", and 17 were "partially correct", and only 3 were "wrong". Adding together the "entirely" and "essentially" correct, Kurzweil's claimed accuracy rate comes to 86%.

Daniel Lyons, writing in Newsweek magazine, criticized Kurzweil for some of his predictions that turned out to be wrong, such as the economy continuing to boom from the 1998 dot-com through 2009, a US company having a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion, a supercomputer achieving 20 petaflops, speech recognition being in widespread use and cars that would drive themselves using sensors installed in highways; all by 2009.[61] To the charge that a 20 petaflop supercomputer was not produced in the time he predicted, Kurzweil responded that he considers Google a giant supercomputer, and that it is indeed capable of 20 petaflops.[61]

Kurzweil's predictions for 2009 were mostly inaccurate, claims Forbes magazine. For example, Kurzweil predicted, "The majority of text is created using continuous speech recognition." This is not the case.[62]

Future predictions

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 part of the book is devoted to predictions over the coming century, from 2009 through 2099. In The Singularity Is Near he makes fewer concrete short-term predictions, but includes many longer-term visions.

He states that with radical life extension will come radical life enhancement. He says he is confident that within 10 years we will have the option to spend some of our time in 3D virtual environments that appear just as real as real reality, but these will not yet be made possible via direct interaction with our nervous system. "If you look at video games and how we went from pong to the virtual reality we have available today, it is highly likely that immortality in essence will be possible." He believes that 20 to 25 years from now, we will have millions of blood-cell sized devices, known as nanobots, inside our bodies fighting against diseases, improving our memory, and cognitive abilities. Kurzweil says that a machine will pass the Turing test by 2029, and that around 2045, "the pace of change will be so astonishingly quick that we won't be able to keep up, unless we enhance our own intelligence by merging with the intelligent machines we are creating". Kurzweil states that humans will be a hybrid of biological and non-biological intelligence that becomes increasingly dominated by its non-biological component. He stresses that "AI is not an intelligent invasion from Mars. These are brain extenders that we have created to expand our own mental reach. They are part of our civilization. They are part of who we are. So over the next few decades our human-machine civilization will become increasingly dominated by its non-biological component. In Transcendent Man[13] Kurzweil states "We humans are going to start linking with each other and become a metaconnection we will all be connected and all be omnipresent, plugged into this global network that is connected to billions of people, and filled with data." [63] Kurzweil states in a press conference that we are the only species that goes beyond our limitations- "we didn't stay in the caves, we didn't stay on the planet, and we're not going to stay with the limitations of our biology". In his singularity based documentary he is quoted saying "I think people are fooling themselves when they say they have accepted death".

In 2008, Kurzweil said in an expert panel in the National Academy of Engineering that solar power will scale up to produce all the energy needs of Earth's people in 20 years. According to Kurzweil, we only need to capture 1 part in 10,000 of the energy from the Sun that hits Earth's surface to meet all of humanity's energy needs.[64]



Kurzweil was referred to as "the ultimate thinking machine" by Forbes[65] and as a "restless genius"[66] by The Wall Street Journal. PBS included Kurzweil as one of 16 "revolutionaries who made America"[4] along with other inventors of the past two centuries. Inc. magazine ranked him #8 among the "most fascinating" entrepreneurs in the United States and called him "Edison's rightful heir".[5]


Although the idea of a technological singularity is a popular concept in science fiction, some authors such as Neal Stephenson[67] and Bruce Sterling have voiced skepticism about its real-world plausibility. Sterling expressed his views on the singularity scenario in a talk at the Long Now Foundation entitled The Singularity: Your Future as a Black Hole.[68][69] Other prominent AI thinkers and computer scientists such as Daniel Dennett,[70] Rodney Brooks,[71] David Gelernter[72] and Paul Allen[73] also criticized Kurzweil's projections.

In the cover article of the December 2010 issue of IEEE Spectrum, John Rennie criticizes Kurzweil for several predictions that failed to become manifest by the originally predicted date. "Therein lie the frustrations of Kurzweil's brand of tech punditry. On close examination, his clearest and most successful predictions often lack originality or profundity. And most of his predictions come with so many loopholes that they border on the unfalsifiable."[74]

Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, agrees with Kurzweil's timeline of future progress, but thinks that technologies such as AI, nanotechnology and advanced biotechnology will create a dystopian world.[75] Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development Corporation, has called the notion of a technological 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."[24]

Some critics have argued more strongly against Kurzweil and his ideas. Cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter has said of Kurzweil's and Hans Moravec's books: "It's an intimate mixture of rubbish and good ideas, and it's very hard to disentangle the two, because these are smart people; they're not stupid."[76] Biologist P. Z. Myers has criticized Kurzweil's predictions as being based on "New Age spiritualism" rather than science and says that Kurzweil does not understand basic biology.[77][78] VR pioneer Jaron Lanier has even described Kurzweil's ideas as "cybernetic totalism" and has outlined his views on the culture surrounding Kurzweil's predictions in an essay for Edge.org entitled One Half of a Manifesto.[44][79]

British philosopher John Gray argues that contemporary science is what magic was for ancient civilizations. It gives a sense of hope for those who are willing to do almost anything in order to achieve eternal life. He quotes Kurzweil's Singularity as another example of a trend which has almost always been present in the history of mankind.[80]

The Brain Makers, a history of artificial intelligence written in 1994 by HP Newquist, noted that "Born with the same gift for self-promotion that was a character trait of people like P.T. Barnum and Ed Feigenbaum, Kurzweil had no problems talking up his technical prowess . . . Ray Kurzweil was not noted for his understatement." [81]

In a 2015 paper, William D. Nordhaus of Yale University, takes an economic look at the impacts of an impending technological singularity. He comments: "There is remarkably little writing on Singularity in the modern macroeconomic literature." [82] Nordhaus supposes that the Singularity could arise from either the demand or supply side of a market economy, but for information technology to proceed at the kind of pace Kurzweil suggests, there would have to be significant productivity trade-offs. Namely, in order to devote more resources to producing super computers we must decrease our production of non-information technology goods. Using a variety of econometric methods, Nordhaus runs six supply side tests and one demand side test to track the macroeconomic viability of such steep rises in information technology output. Of the seven tests only two indicated that a Singularity was economically possible and both of those two predicted, at minimum, 100 years before it would occur.

Awards and honors

  • First place in the 1965 International Science Fair[17] 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.[83] Kurzweil won it for his invention of the Kurzweil Reading Machine.[84]
  • In 1986, Kurzweil was named Honorary Chairman for Innovation of the White House Conference on Small Business by President Reagan.
  • In 1987, Kurzweil received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music.[85]
  • In 1988, Kurzweil was named Inventor of the Year by MIT and the Boston Museum of Science.[86]
  • In 1990, Kurzweil was voted Engineer of the Year by the over one million readers of Design News Magazine and received their third annual Technology Achievement Award.[86][87]
  • 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.[88]
  • The 1998 "Inventor of the Year" award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[89]
  • The 1999 National Medal of Technology.[90] 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.[91] Bill Clinton presented 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.[92] 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.[93] Only one is awarded each year – it is given to highly successful, mid-career inventors. A $500,000 award accompanies the prize.[94]
  • Kurzweil was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002 for inventing the Kurzweil Reading Machine.[95] The organization "honors the women and men responsible for the great technological advances that make human, social and economic progress possible."[96] Fifteen other people were inducted into the Hall of Fame the same year.[97]
  • The Arthur C. Clarke Lifetime Achievement Award on April 20, 2009 for lifetime achievement as an inventor and futurist in computer-based technologies.[98]
  • In 2011, Kurzweil was named a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council.[99]
  • In 2013, Kurzweil was honored as a Silicon Valley Visionary Award winner on June 26 by SVForum.[100]
  • In 2014, Kurzweil was honored with the American Visionary Art Museum's Grand Visionary Award on January 30.[101][102][103]
  • Kurzweil has received 20 honorary doctorates in science, engineering, music and humane letters from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Hofstra University and other leading colleges and universities, as well as honors from three U.S. presidents – Clinton, Reagan and Johnson.[7][104]
  • Kurzweil has received seven national and international film awards including the CINE Golden Eagle Award and the Gold Medal for Science Education from the International Film and TV Festival of New York.[86]

See also


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External links

Artificial brain

An artificial brain (or artificial mind) is software and hardware with cognitive abilities similar to those of the animal or human brain.Research investigating "artificial brains" and brain emulation plays three important roles in science:

An ongoing attempt by neuroscientists to understand how the human brain works, known as cognitive neuroscience.

A thought experiment in the philosophy of artificial intelligence, demonstrating that it is possible, at least in theory, to create a machine that has all the capabilities of a human being.

A long term project to create machines exhibiting behavior comparable to those of animals with complex central nervous system such as mammals and most particularly humans. The ultimate goal of creating a machine exhibiting human-like behavior or intelligence is sometimes called strong AI.An example of the first objective is the project reported by Aston University in Birmingham, England where researchers are using biological cells to create "neurospheres" (small clusters of neurons) in order to develop new treatments for diseases including Alzheimer's, motor neurone and Parkinson's disease.

The second objective is a reply to arguments such as John Searle's Chinese room argument, Hubert Dreyfus' critique of AI or Roger Penrose's argument in The Emperor's New Mind. These critics argued that there are aspects of human consciousness or expertise that can not be simulated by machines. One reply to their arguments is that the biological processes inside the brain can be simulated to any degree of accuracy. This reply was made as early as 1950, by Alan Turing in his classic paper "Computing Machinery and Intelligence".The third objective is generally called artificial general intelligence by researchers. However, Ray Kurzweil prefers the term "strong AI". In his book The Singularity is Near, he focuses on whole brain emulation using conventional computing machines as an approach to implementing artificial brains, and claims (on grounds of computer power continuing an exponential growth trend) that this could be done by 2025. Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain project (which is attempting brain emulation), made a similar claim (2020) at the Oxford TED conference in 2009.

Barry Ptolemy

Robert Barry Ptolemy (born 1969) is an American film director, producer and writer. Ptolemy directed Transcendent Man (2009) a documentary film about futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil.

Beta Love

Beta Love is the third studio album of the Syracuse-based indie rock band Ra Ra Riot. It is the first album since the departure of founding member/cellist, Alexandra Lawn, who left the band in 2012. Band members have stated that the album is directly influenced by sci-fi author William Gibson and inventor-futurist Ray Kurzweil.


Blio is a free-to-download e-reader software platform created by Ray Kurzweil that was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January 2010. The Blio e-reader preserves typography and supports color illustrations, features that make it particularly effective for certain categories of books not well supported by E Ink, such as cookbooks and children's books. Blio also comes with text-to-speech integration, with support for both a computerized voice and synchronization with professionally recorded audiobooks.Blio iPhone app supports Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) mode which lets you read up to 1000 words per minute with each word presented individually. The reader controls the rate of presentation with a screen thumb dial.

Blio is available for download on Microsoft Windows, Google Android devices with a version optimized for Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet computers, and Apple iOS devices.

Blio also has a bookstore, backed by Baker & Taylor. It offers thousands of full color books from hundreds of publishers, with reviews and ratings from Goodreads. Library borrowers may download Baker & Taylor ebooks and audiobooks borrowed from public libraries' Axis 360 platform via the Blio app.

Exotic baryon

Exotic baryons are a type of hadron (bound states of quarks and gluons) with half-integer spin, but have a quark content different to the three quarks (qqq) present in conventional baryons. An example would be pentaquarks, consisting of four quarks and one antiquark (qqqqq̅).

So far, the only observed exotic baryons are the pentaquarks P+c(4380) and P+c(4450), discovered in 2015 by the LHCb collaboration.Several types of exotic baryons that require physics beyond the Standard Model have been conjectured in order to explain specific experimental anomalies. There is no independent experimental evidence for any of these particles. One example is supersymmetric R-baryons, which are bound states of 3 quarks and a gluino. The lightest R-baryon is denoted as S0 and consists of an up quark, a down quark, a strange quark and a gluino. This particle is expected to be long lived or stable and has been invoked to explain ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. Stable exotic baryons are also candidates for strongly interacting dark matter.

It has been speculated by futurologist Ray Kurzweil that by the end of the 21st century it might be possible by using femtotechnology to create new chemical elements composed of exotic baryons that would eventually constitute a new periodic table of elements in which the elements would have completely different properties than the regular chemical elements.

How to Create a Mind

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed is a non-fiction book about brains, both human and artificial, by the inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil. First published in hardcover on November 13, 2012 by Viking Press it became a New York Times Best Seller. It has received attention from The Washington Post, The New York Times and The New Yorker.

Kurzweil describes a series of thought experiments which suggest to him that the brain contains a hierarchy of pattern recognizers. Based on this he introduces his Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind (PRTM). He says the neocortex contains 300 million very general pattern recognition circuits and argues that they are responsible for most aspects of human thought. He also suggests that the brain is a "recursive probabilistic fractal" whose line of code is represented within the 30-100 million bytes of compressed code in the genome.

Kurzweil then explains that a computer version of this design could be used to create an artificial intelligence more capable than the human brain. It would employ techniques such as hidden Markov models and genetic algorithms, strategies Kurzweil used successfully in his years as a commercial developer of speech recognition software. Artificial brains will require massive computational power, so Kurzweil reviews his law of accelerating returns which explains how the compounding effects of exponential growth will deliver the necessary hardware in only a few decades.

Critics felt the subtitle of the book, The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, overpromises. Some protested that pattern recognition does not explain the "depth and nuance" of mind including elements like emotion and imagination. Others felt Kurzweil's ideas might be right, but they are not original, pointing to existing work as far back as the 1980s. Yet critics admire Kurzweil's "impressive track record" and say that his writing is "refreshingly clear", containing "lucid discussions" of computing history.


Kurzweil is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Allen Kurzweil (born 1960), American writer

Arthur Kurzweil (born 1951), American genealogist, scholar of Judaism and writer

Baruch Kurzweil (1907–1972), Israeli literary critic

Edith Kurzweil (born 1925), American writer and editor

Jaroslav Kurzweil (born 1926), Czech mathematician

Max Kurzweil (1867–1916), Austrian painter and printmaker

Ray Kurzweil (born 1948), American inventor, author and futurist

Kurzweil Music Systems, company founded by Ray Kurzweil that produces electronic musical instruments

Kurzweil Educational Systems, company founded by Ray Kurzweil that produces reading and writing software

Kurzweil K250

The Kurzweil K250 a.k.a. "Kurzweil 250", "K250" or "K-250", manufactured by Kurzweil Music Systems was the first electronic musical instrument which produced sound derived from sampled sounds burned onto integrated circuits known as read-only memory (ROM), without the requirement for any type of disk drive. Acoustic sounds from brass, percussion, string and woodwind instruments as well as sounds created using waveforms from oscillators were utilized. Primarily designed for the professional musician, it was conceived and invented by Raymond Kurzweil, original founder of Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc., Kurzweil Music Systems and Kurzweil Educational Systems with consultation from Stevie Wonder; Lyle Mays, an American jazz pianist; Alan R. Pearlman, founder of ARP Instruments Inc.; and Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesizer.

Longevity escape velocity

Longevity escape velocity (sometimes referred to as Actuarial escape velocity) is a term used in the life extension movement. It is a hypothetical situation in which life expectancy is being extended longer than the time that is passing. For example, in a given year in which longevity escape velocity would be maintained, technological advances would increase life expectancy more than the year that just went by.

Life expectancy increases slightly every year as treatment strategies and technologies improve. At present, more than one year of research is required for each additional year of expected life. Longevity escape velocity occurs when this ratio reverses, so that life expectancy increases faster than one year per one year of research, as long as that rate of advance is sustainable.The concept was first publicly proposed by David Gobel, co-founder of the Methuselah Foundation (MF). The idea has been championed by biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey (the other co-founder of the MF),

and futurist Ray Kurzweil, who named one of his books, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, after the concept. These two claim that by putting further pressure on science and medicine to focus research on increasing limits of aging, rather than continuing along at its current pace, more lives will be saved in the future, even if the benefit is not immediately apparent.

Predictions made by Ray Kurzweil

American author, inventor and futurist Raymond Kurzweil has become well known for his predictions about artificial intelligence and the human species, mainly concerning the Technological Singularity. He predicts that Artificial Intelligence would outsmart the human brain in computational capabilities by mid-21st century. His first book, The Age of Intelligent Machines, published in 1990, put forth his theories on the results of the increasing use of technology and predicted the explosive growth in the internet, among other predictions. Later works, 1999's The Age of Spiritual Machines and 2005's The Singularity is Near outlined other theories including the rise of clouds of nano-robots (nanobots) called foglets and the development of Human Body 2.0 and 3.0, whereby nanotechnology is incorporated into many internal organs.

Singularity Summit

The Singularity Summit is the annual conference of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute. It was started in 2006 at Stanford University by Ray Kurzweil, Eliezer Yudkowsky, and Peter Thiel, and the subsequent summits in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 have been held in San Francisco, San Jose, New York City, San Francisco, and New York, respectively. Some speakers have included Sebastian Thrun, Rodney Brooks, Barney Pell, Marshall Brain, Justin Rattner, Peter Diamandis, Stephen Wolfram, Gregory Benford, Robin Hanson, Anders Sandberg, Juergen Schmidhuber, Aubrey de Grey, Max Tegmark, and Michael Shermer.

There have also been spinoff conferences in Melbourne, Australia in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Previous speakers include David Chalmers, Lawrence Krauss, Gregory Benford, Ben Goertzel, Steve Omohundro, Hugo de Garis, Marcus Hutter, Mark Pesce, Stelarc and Randal A. Koene.

Singularity University

Singularity University (abbreviated SU) is a Silicon Valley B-Corp (Benefit) corporation that offers educational programs and a business incubator. According to its website, it focuses on scientific progress and "exponential" technologies. It was founded in 2008 by Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil at the NASA Research Park in California, United States.

Subject matter expert Turing test

A subject matter expert Turing test is a variation of the Turing test where a computer system attempts to replicate an expert in a given field such as chemistry or marketing. It is also known as a Feigenbaum test and was proposed by Edward Feigenbaum in a 2003 paper.The concept is also described by Ray Kurzweil in his 2005 book The Singularity is Near. Kurzweil argues that machines who pass this test are an inevitable consequence of Moore's Law.

The Age of Intelligent Machines

The Age of Intelligent Machines is a non-fiction book about artificial intelligence by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil. This was his first book and the Association of American Publishers named it the Most Outstanding Computer Science Book of 1990. It was reviewed in The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor. The format is a combination of monograph and anthology with contributed essays by artificial intelligence experts such as Daniel Dennett, Douglas Hofstadter, and Marvin Minsky.Kurzweil surveys the philosophical, mathematical and technological roots of artificial intelligence, starting with the assumption that a sufficiently advanced computer program could exhibit human-level intelligence. Kurzweil argues the creation of humans through evolution suggests that humans should be able to build something more intelligent than themselves. He believes pattern recognition, as demonstrated by vision, and knowledge representation, as seen in language, are two key components of intelligence. Kurzweil details how quickly computers are advancing in each domain.

Driven by the exponential improvements in computer power, Kurzweil believes artificial intelligence will be possible and then commonplace. He explains how it will impact all areas of people's lives, including work, education, medicine, and warfare. As computers acquire human level faculties Kurzweil says people will be challenged to figure out what it really means to be human.

The Age of Spiritual Machines

The Age of Spiritual Machines is a non-fiction book by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil about artificial intelligence and the future course of humanity. First published in hardcover on January 1, 1999 by Viking, it has received attention from The New York Times, The New York Review of Books and The Atlantic. In the book Kurzweil outlines his vision for how technology will progress during the 21st century.

Kurzweil believes evolution provides evidence that humans will one day create machines more intelligent than they are. He presents his law of accelerating returns to explain why "key events" happen more frequently as time marches on. It also explains why the computational capacity of computers is increasing exponentially. Kurzweil writes that this increase is one ingredient in the creation of artificial intelligence; the others are automatic knowledge acquisition and algorithms like recursion, neural networks, and genetic algorithms.

Kurzweil predicts machines with human-level intelligence will be available from affordable computing devices within a couple of decades, revolutionizing most aspects of life. He says nanotechnology will augment our bodies and cure cancer even as humans connect to computers via direct neural interfaces or live full-time in virtual reality. Kurzweil predicts the machines "will appear to have their own free will" and even "spiritual experiences". He says humans will essentially live forever as humanity and its machinery become one and the same. He predicts that intelligence will expand outward from earth until it grows powerful enough to influence the fate of the universe.

Reviewers appreciated Kurzweil's track record with predictions, his ability to extrapolate technology trends, and his clear explanations. However, there was disagreement on whether computers will one day be conscious. Philosophers John Searle and Colin McGinn insist that computation alone cannot possibly create a conscious machine. Searle deploys a variant of his well-known Chinese room argument, this time tailored to computers playing chess, a topic Kurzweil covers. Searle writes that computers can only manipulate symbols which are meaningless to them, an assertion which if true subverts much of the vision of the book.

The Singularity Is Near

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology is a 2005 non-fiction book about artificial intelligence and the future of humanity by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil.

The book builds on the ideas introduced in Kurzweil's previous books, The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990) and The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999). This time, however, Kurzweil embraces the term the Singularity, which was popularized by Vernor Vinge in his 1993 essay "The Coming Technological Singularity" more than a decade earlier.Kurzweil describes his law of accelerating returns which predicts an exponential increase in technologies like computers, genetics, nanotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence. Once the Singularity has been reached, Kurzweil says that machine intelligence will be infinitely more powerful than all human intelligence combined. Afterwards he predicts intelligence will radiate outward from the planet until it saturates the universe. The Singularity is also the point at which machines intelligence and humans would merge.


Transcend may refer to:

Transcend (album) (2004), an album by Canadian singer-songwriter Carole Pope

Transcend Information, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer

Transcend Music, a British record label

Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever (2009), a book by Ray Kurzweil

Transcendent Man

Transcendent Man is a 2009 documentary film by American filmmaker Barry Ptolemy about inventor, futurist and author Ray Kurzweil and his predictions about the future of technology in his 2005 book, The Singularity is Near. In the film, Ptolemy follows Kurzweil around his world as he discusses his thoughts on the technological singularity, a proposed advancement that will occur sometime in the 21st century when progress in artificial intelligence, genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics will result in the creation of a human-machine civilization.

William Morris Endeavor distributed the film partnership with Ptolemaic Productions and Therapy Studios, using an original model involving a nationwide screening tour of the film (featuring Q&A sessions with Ptolemy and Kurzweil), as well as separate digital and DVD releases. The film was also released on iTunes and On-Demand on March 1, 2011, and on DVD on May 24, 2011.The film debuted for the first public screening at the Time-Life Building in New York City on February 3, 2011. The same week, Time ran the Singularity cover story by Lev Grossman, with coverage about Kurzweil's ideas and the concepts, citing Transcendent Man. Kurzweil toured the film, appearing on Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, Bloomberg News, and Charlie Rose. Additionally, Kurzweil went on to discuss the film on The Colbert Report, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and Real Time with Bill Maher.


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