Ray Kurzweil, one of the most wide-eyed futurists around, is going to work at Google.
Kurzweil is one of the foremost authors responsible for the popularity of the notion of technological singularity, the idea that artificial intelligence will someday (soon) reach a crescendo of self-improvement, kicking off an endlessly growing planetary intelligence and allowing us to transcend our limited humanity.
He’s written multiple books about artificial intelligence, the singularity and transhumanism. He’s also intensely interested in human life extension and has written extensively about health and biology. On top of all that, he’s an inventor of musical instruments, and he’s worked on optical character recognition, text-to-speech and speech recognition technology.
It’s in those last few areas that Kurzweil will be of most immediate use to Google. The KurzweilAI press release says he’s joining Google to “work on new projects involving machine learning and language processing.”
Google has plenty of Kurzweilian technology in play already, with voice and text search that understands natural language and optical character and image recognition that allows search of text, images, and even video. Imagine how cool Google search will be when Project Glass glasses are a live, real-world search interface.
But the next step of all those technologies is best described as artificial intelligence, the real Holy Grail for Kurzweil. If any company is going to bring about a singularity by computing endlessly on all the world’s information, it’s going to be Google.
What an amazing, slightly terrifying combination.
“I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Google to work on some of the hardest problems in computer science so we can turn the next decade’s ‘unrealistic’ visions into reality,” Kurzweil says.
Kurzweil’s title will be Director of Engineering. He starts on Monday, December 17.
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