Ray Kurzweil Teams Up With Google to Tackle Artificial Intelligence

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Ray Kurzweil. Photo Credit.

Think we’ll have artifical intelligence by 2029? Ray Kurzweil does. He is simultaneously idolized and infamous for saying so. And now he will put his ideas to the test. On Friday, Kurzweil announced he’s accepted a position with technology giant Google as Director of Engineering. Like all things exponential, the new relationship is on the fast track—he starts Monday.

Singularity Hub reached out to Kurzweil to learn what he and Google aim to accomplish. He told us, "We hope to combine my fifty years of experience in thinking about thinking with Google scale resources (in everything—engineering, computing, communications, data, users) to create truly useful AI that will make all of us smarter."

It’s not surprising Google is interested in Kurzweil’s services. A few years back, Google cofounder Larry Page told Esquire, “We have some people at Google who are trying to build artificial intelligence, and to do it at a large scale…I don’t think it’s that far off.” In his latest book, How to Create a Mind, Kurzweil says humans can reverse engineer the brain to create artificial intelligence—and similarly says we’ll do it much sooner than anyone thinks. A good match, no?

Kurzweil specializes in machine learning and language processing and will focus on new projects at Google involving both. Some of those skills may help further hone Google’s learning search algorithm, language translation application, and speech recognition software.

But Google has plenty of talent already well versed in those technologies and the firm is known to invest in more ambitious undertakings. The special projects team, Google X, is working on self-driving cars, augmented-reality glasses, and a slew of projects outside the public’s purview. Kurzweil says he will work on AI, and one imagines that may include an attempt to reverse engineer the brain.

It's a bold objective but not unprecedented. We’ve often written here at Singularity Hub about other similar undertakings. These include Blue Brain Project, IBM SyNAPSE, and Spaun. Fascinating projects, worthy of attention one and all. But imagine what's possible with Google’s formidable resources—dollars and talent—behind one of AI’s best known and most vocal advocates. Might such a collaboration bump the quest for artificial intelligence up a few years? It can’t hurt.

Jason Dorrier

Jason is managing editor of Singularity Hub. He cut his teeth doing research and writing about finance and economics before moving on to science, technology, and the future. He is curious about pretty much everything, and sad he'll only ever know a tiny fraction of it all.

Discussion — 7 Responses

  • Vic Stevensøn December 16, 2012 on 12:37 pm

    Good work getting him Google!! amazing get it here! faster the better! Ray is an amazing visionary and futurist. I’m looking forward to the future hes predicts also.

  • rtryon December 16, 2012 on 1:22 pm

    The inventor of the bar code, Robert Woodland’s experience will be as much a challenge as any for Ray Kurzweil to program into AI. Inspiration requires motivation or just plain chance to result in a practical solution. AI, like real intelligence has to combine both methodology and inspiration together with an array of knowledge to get a result – even to the point of being refined by a Battelle Memorial Institute’s scientists and engineers into a practical result.

    The U. of Illinois Beckman Institute may be able to mount a diverse team that finds ways to emulate the kind of inspired thinking that hit inventors at odd times, places and in often indirect ways. Sorting out almost infinite combinations to out-think or just monitor or match what the Creator of the Universe designed for countless eons before watching since the Big Bang with occasional major points of re-direction; and also did what was needed to make the human mind become the only one seemingly able to create complex questions and then study and solve, to find the right answers, and execute what converts them in to practical realities.

    Good luck!

  • anthrobotic December 16, 2012 on 5:34 pm

    Another nice acquisition. One wonders, is Google doing more to benefit humanity than pretty much any governmental organization out there? “Google: Bettering Humanity for Fun and Profit?” – http://goo.gl/vtrQ2

    -Reno at Anthrobotic.com

  • Stephen Wolstenholme December 17, 2012 on 7:06 am

    I was on an artificial intelligence prediction panel about 30 years ago. Our conclusions were that the convergence of the technologies to produce brain level intelligence machines would be available on 13th August 2048. I always remember the exact date of the convergence lines because it’s my 100th birthday.

    Steve Wolstenholme

  • Frank Whittemore December 17, 2012 on 8:27 am

    Yet another Singularity movie…

    The Singularity: a documentary by Doug Wolens –


    featuring Ray Kurzweil and others…

  • Rendall December 19, 2012 on 9:12 am

    Ppl, in all honesty, Kurzweil was always running is own R&D startups, 4-5 at least, for much of his adult life. Thus, he was always in control of his own projects, without higher ups giving direction, aside from perhaps the financiers for the earlier firms.

    Now, he’s becoming a full-time employee for the first time in his life. Is this going to work out? Will he be butting heads with the likes of Brin/Paige and Co, if they don’t immediately appreciate his development arc? Realize, Google is in the business to sell ad space & conduct R&D, with the intent of pushing out platforms like Android.

    I believe that this project should be a joint venture between Kurzweil Technologies, the Singularity Institute, and Google. And in the process, Google gets licensing rights to any of the commercialize-able output, without necessarily directing the R&D. This alternative setup would be a win-win for everyone.

  • Chris Doyle December 27, 2012 on 4:19 pm

    /slow clap