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First day at work: Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil signs on with Google as director of engineering

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 17, 2012 07:03 AM

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Google announced late Friday that it had hired Ray Kurzweil, a legendary inventor, entrepreneur, and futurist who has long been based in Massachusetts, as a director of engineering. In a post on the technology news site he runs, KurzweilAI, Kurzweil said he'd be working to help the search giant solve "some of the hardest problems in computer science so we can turn the next decade’s ‘unrealistic’ visions into reality.” Kurzweil started his first company in 1968 while a sophomore at MIT, and later went on to invent breakthrough technologies in optical scanning, text-to-speech, and music synthesizers.

Kurzweil officially starts at Google today. I asked him over the weekend whether he would be working at Google's Cambridge office or its California headquarters; he said he'll be a full-time employee at the Googleplex in Silicon Valley. Kurzweil wrote:

The focus of the position is on new technology development, however I will be continuing my role as a thought leader through lectures, speaking with the press, and such initiatives as my recent book. That, by the way, has done very well -- #5 on the New York Times bestseller list, came out at #1 among all books on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list, went into its seventh printing within four weeks of publication.

A good portion of my Massachusetts-based activity is on these communication activities. Another project – K-NFB Reading Technology – has some important developments and those will be announced in the next month or so.

I'm guessing that Kurzweil won't have to introduce himself to too many of his new co-workers at Google...

(I profiled Kurzweil for the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine in 2004. And last year, my fellow Globe columnist Alex Beam wrote a piece about two recent Kurzweil-related movies released in 2010 and 2011.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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