Inventor, author and entrepreneur Ray Kurzweil received an honorary doctor of science degree at Clarkson University’s 116th Commencement on Sunday.

Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil

The degree was awarded for his “exceptional career achievements in the fields of optical character recognition, speech recognition technology, music synthesis and other areas of artificial intelligence, and for his lifelong commitment to developing innovative technology that serves humanity.”

Kurzweil addressed the Class of 2009, saying, “The power of technology to change the world in every field is growing at an exponential rate. So think about what the world will be like three or four years from now, and plan your projects for that that future world, because the pace of change is growing faster and faster, and your power to change the world and to overcome the world’s challenges is growing commensurately.”

Kurzweil has been described as “the restless genius” by the Wall Street Journal, and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes. Inc. magazine ranked him #8 among entrepreneurs in the United States, calling him the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison,” and PBS included Kurzweil as one of 16 “revolutionaries who made America,” along with other inventors of the past two centuries.

As one of the leading inventors of our time, Kurzweil was the principal developer of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, 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. Kurzweil’s Web site, Kurzweil, has more than one million readers.

Among Kurzweil’s many honors, he is the recipient of the $500,000 MIT-Lemelson Prize, the world’s largest for innovation. In 1999, he received the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest honor in technology, from President Clinton in a White House ceremony. And in 2002, he was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame, established by the US Patent Office.

He has received 16 honorary doctorates and honors from three U.S. presidents.

Kurzweil has written five books, four of which have been national best sellers. The Age of Spiritual Machines has been translated into nine languages and was the #1 best selling book on in science. Kurzweil’s latest book, The Singularity is Near, was a New York Times best seller, and has been the #1 book on Amazon in both science and philosophy.