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Ray Kurzweil Plans to Create a Mind at Google—and Have It Serve You

The technologist speaks about an ambitious plan to build a powerful artificial intelligence.
January 18, 2013

Famed AI researcher and incorrigible singularity forecaster Ray Kurzweil recently shed some more light on what his new job at Google will entail. It seems that he does, indeed, plan to build a prodigious artificial intelligence, which he hopes will understand the world to a much more sophisticated degree than anything built before–or at least that will act as if it does.

Hal from 2001: A Space Odyessy.

Kurzweil’s AI will be designed to analyze the vast quantities of information Google collects and to then serve as a super-intelligent personal assistant. He suggests it could eavesdrop on your every phone conversation and email exchange and then provide interesting and important information before you ever knew you wanted it. It sounds like a scary-smart version of Google Now (see “Google’s Answer to Siri Thinks Ahead”).

Kurzweil says this of his project at Google, in a video posted by The Singularity Hub:

“There’s no more important project than understanding Intelligence and recreating it. I do envision a fundamental approach based on everything we understand about how the human brain [works]. And there are some things we don’t yet understand so I plan to go off and explore some of my own ideas about how certain things work.”

Kurzweil makes it sound like the effort will be based on the theory of the put forward in his new book, How to Create a Mind. In this work, based largely on observations about current trends in AI research, and his own work on speech and character recognition, Kurzweil suggests a fairly simple mechanism by which information is captured and accessed hierarchically throughout the neo-cortex, and posits that this phenomenon can explain the miracle of human conscious experience.

Kurzweil’s claims are certainly bold, and some have criticized them as hopelessly naïve. Indeed, it’s easy to dismiss any predictions he makes because of the outlandish ones he’s made in the past. But Kurzweil is nothing if not a brilliant inventor, and he indicates that at Google he’ll be rolling his sleeves up and doing real engineering. It’ll be fascinating to see how far this remarkable project takes both the inventor and the company.

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