"AI, artificial intelligence, machines doing tasks that used to require human intelligence, is deeply integrated into our infrastructure," he said in an interview with C-SPAN in 2006. "Intelligent algorithms fly and land airplanes, guide weapons systems, make billions of dollars of financial decisions," among many other examples.
Kurzweil said he believes that machines will achieve the full range of human intelligence by 2030, but "it won't be an alien invasion of intelligent machines that compete with us. I mean it really is amplifying our own civilization. And we are going to literally enhance our own intellectual capabilities by merging with this technology."
His own work in the field grew out of a desire to use machine learning to solve real world problems.
"What is exciting for an inventor is not just an abstract theory, but that leap from formulas on a blackboard to actually changing people's lives," Kurzweil said in the 2006 C-SPAN interview.
The "Kurzweil Reading Machine," which was announced to the public on Jan. 13, 1976, had that ability.
After the first prototype was developed in 1975, Kurzweil approached the National Federation for the Blind about the possibility of working together.
"They provided seven blind engineers who collaborated with me to create a product that was optimal for use by blind users," Kurzweil told CNBC in an email.
The machine made use of a number of technologies that were new, many of which Kurzweil himself developed. For instance, computers had previously been quite bad at reading text. Software at the time Kurzweil was building his Reading Machine could only read text in certain types of fonts — not nearly as many as appear in books.