Our list of technology developers includes not only the scientists who were able to act on their technology vision by promulgating standards and revolutionary tools but also a group of vendors who were able to build markets and deliver the tools to the masses. So we have Ray Kurzweil, a futurist and inventor who, with single-minded focus, created various artificial intelligence technologies, including speech recognition software used by doctors to dictate medical reports into a computer. Showing his range of vision, Kurzweil is currently at work on a book about reversing the aging process. Kurzweil maintains that progress is ever accelerating and by using mathematical models that factor in the exponential technology growth rate, he says that the next 20 years will yield as much progress as did the entire 20th century.
Also in this category is Berners-Lee, whose passion for the free exchange of information has been focused on the creation of Web standards, including HTML and XML. Today he continues to work diligently to keep technology specifications open and free in a business climate, he says, in which companies are building “nuclear stockpiles of patents.”
We also have honorees whose determination and marketing genius led to the adoption of several technologies we take for granted today. Tom Siebel of CRM giant Siebel Systems, is the epitome of this.
Given the competitive ambitions of some of our honorees, it’s not surprising that several sit uneasily side by side on our list. Hasso Plattner, who cofounded SAP after his IBM employers wouldn’t support his idea for financial software that did calculations in real-time, is antagonistic toward Larry Ellison, the master marketer behind Oracle. And, of course, there are the legendary rivalries between Ellison and Gates, and Gates and Scott McNealy.