Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Tom Simonite

A View from Tom Simonite

What Google Sees in New Hire, Futurist Ray Kurzweil

Kurzweil is best known for predictions of immortality but has also created speech recognition technology

  • December 15, 2012

Ray Kurzweil, notable for developing some early speech and text recognition software, and more recently for his views about the singularity and defeating aging, has joined Google. Kurzweil’s press release says he’ll be working on “new projects involving machine learning and language processing.” Google has recently made major improvements to its speech recognition using new techniques based on models inspired by biological neurons (see “Google Puts its Virtual Brain Technology to Work”), an approach Kurzweil has written about. A Google spokesperson just sent me this statement from the company’s director of research Peter Norvig, a well-known computer scientist in the field of artificial intelligence:

“Ray’s contributions to science and technology, through research in character and speech recognition and machine learning, have led to technological achievements that have had an enormous impact on society – such as the Kurzweil Reading Machine, used by Stevie Wonder and others to have print read aloud. We appreciate his ambitious, long-term thinking, and we think his approach to problem-solving will be incredibly valuable to projects we’re working on at Google.”

Kurzweil’s recent work as a “futurist”  and his ideas about how soon artificial intelligences will match that of humans (the Turing test will fall in 2029, he says) and how human lifespan will be dramatically extended (by 2050, thanks to nanotechnology) are more controversial. Some artificial intelligence researchers disagree with Kurzweil’s predictions (including Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, see “The Singularity Isn’t Near” and Kurzweil’s response “Don’t Underestimate the Singularity”), and his recent book on the basis of human intelligence has drawn criticism from some academics.

However, Kurzweil’s achievements in improving the ability of computers to understand speech and text are widely accepted. It’s too soon for Kurzweil or Google to say much about what he’ll do at the company, but it’s a reminder that the company wants to put computers that understand humans at the heart of its products, from smartphone assistant Google Now (see “Google’s Answer to Siri Thinks Ahead”), to its online ads.

Keep up with the latest in intelligent machines at EmTech Digital.

The Countdown has begun.
March 25-26, 2019
San Francisco, CA

Register now
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Print + All Access Digital.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

    The MIT Technology Review App

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.