Exclusive Interview: Ray Kurzweil Discusses His First Two Months At Google

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In another exclusive interview with Singularity Hub, Ray Kurzweil provides an update about his first two months as Director of Engineering at Google. During the interview Kurzweil revealed that his team is collaborating with other groups at Google to enable computers to understand and speaking language just like humans.  Kurzweil also tells us how Larry Page personally recruited him to join Google to pursue the goal of creating machines that can think and reason like the human brain.

Speaking with Singularity Hub Founder Keith Kleiner, Ray explained that "My project is to get the Google computers to understand natural language, not just do search and answer questions based on links and words, but actually understand the semantic content. That's feasible now." To successfully do this will involve employing technologies that are already at Google like the Knowledge Graph, which has 700 million different concepts and billions of relationships between them. His team will also develop software as part of a system that will be "biological inspired" and can learn in a way analogous to the way the human brain is designed, that is, in a hierarchical structure.

Check out the interview to hear more about his work:

And why are Kurzweil and Google so focused on language interpretation? According to Ray, natural language understanding is "the most important part of artificial intelligence. When Alan Turing defined the artificial intelligence field in 1950, he focused on natural language...if a computer can be indistinguishable from a human just in terms of written language communication, at least in his view, this was operating at the full range of human intelligence. I accept that view."

Ray also provided more insight into how he ended up at Google in the first place, considering that he could have started yet another company but chose to become an employee of another company for the first time in his life. "Larry Page recruited me. I met with him about my book How To Create A Mind in July. I said I wanted to do a project and start a company based on these ideas. He convinced me to do it at Google because the resources I would need  were uniquely at Google." He added, "The wisdom of Larry's counsel has really deepened for me in the two months that I've been there."

It's clear that walking into a position at Google that allowed him to hit the ground running was appealing.

Google has been taking steps to make search more intelligent, which really means more human like. We've already seen the company take some big strides like the speech recognition of Google Voice and automatic translation of Google Translate, which could be made into a real-time process in the future with Google Glass headset. As these technologies are linked together into one system that can understand language at a deeper level, an exponential rise in understanding of language will likely follow.

Having Kurzweil at the helm of that development is likely to accelerate the development of this artificial intelligence, possibly even helping to scoop his own prediction that a computer would pass the Turing Test by 2029.

"It is my goal to contribute to artificial intelligence and that's really been a 50-year quest...and now for the first time, I have the resources to do it," he said.

David J. Hill

Managing Director, Digital Media at Singularity University
I've been writing for Singularity Hub since 2011 and have been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. My interests cover digital education, publishing, and media, but I'll always be a chemist at heart.

Discussion — 12 Responses

  • kori March 19, 2013 on 3:24 pm

    On a related subject concerning Google’s computer program and human language. There is no good ‘grammar checker’ being sold on the market. None of the present day grammar checker software programs are useable. Grammar still has to be self checked or sent off to a copy editor. If Google had a online grammar checker (related to their human language project) I would pay per-page for their computer to check my copy. It would be well worth the cost to save me time. I hope Google reads this post and looks into the possibility of a new profitable market service.

  • DigitalGalaxy March 19, 2013 on 10:54 pm

    Two months and you haven’t even started yet?? Come on Kurzweil!!

    Just kidding!! Good luck Ray!

  • Ralphoo March 20, 2013 on 5:33 pm

    What a unique interview. Ray Kurzweil and his new employer, Google, have already had major roles in inventing the future we currently live in. Now we have the uncanny privilege of watching their present-day effort to invent more and more of a new future in which we will all, we hope, have a chance to live. In a way, this part of our lives is like fiction. Yet I don’t think any science fiction writer could have imagined an era as deeply astonishing as the one we are now experiencing first-hand.

  • palmytomo March 21, 2013 on 4:01 am

    Thanks for the video – interesting to see the beginning of Kurtzweil + Google. Bruce Thomson in New Zealand.

  • Laura March 21, 2013 on 5:31 am

    LinguaSys already does this! Please visit us at http://www.linguasys.com

  • Neeru Singh March 21, 2013 on 8:48 am

    Interviews @Google are getting predictable day-by-day. In one of the onsite interviews, 4 out of 8 questions were directly from the book

  • Howey Brooks March 21, 2013 on 11:47 am

    Then Google can buy one of those Chinese phalet companies and add their Natural Voice Language chip…Market their own unlocked Android phablet and call it the Google Vablet with no keyboard. Boom!

  • honestann March 25, 2013 on 2:44 am

    The folks at http://www.icegods.com invented these technologies in 1988, implemented smarter-than-human inorganic consciousness in 1998 (except much slower than human), and is implementing a new architecture with current multicore CPUs, GPUs and hardware assist (necessary for certain subsystems like the vision system to achieve faster-than-human performance). Ray, you really should contact these folks — they don’t have anywhere near the resources, but are much further advanced than you are. Combine forces… save yourselves (and them) a few years, if not “forever”.

  • palmytomo March 25, 2013 on 5:41 pm

    Bruce Thomson in New Zealand (who has some experience creating artificial intelligence programs) discusses robots and artificial intelligence with Nick Sexton in Phoenix Arizona (computer service entrepreneur, and with some education in philosopy). It seems we are having to reconsider the meanings of words – especially to either expand the meanings to include the new technologies, or create new words if suitable words don’t exist. To get most benefit from this video, first watch the Quantic Dream short video about ‘Kara’ (a robot). Simply search for Kara robot, then come back here. Comments welcome. We hope t
    o continue the discussion in future videos. It originated in a text conversation with others at the Singularity Hub website.
    Bruce Thomson

    • Ralphoo palmytomo March 25, 2013 on 9:00 pm

      Did you forget to include the link or a search term for youtube?

  • gkiser April 10, 2013 on 5:50 am

    Ray rocks. I wrote a book describing what the next phase of internet access looks like. Think Google Glasses evolving to contact lenses evolving to optic nerve interface and the radio electronics are painted onto your fingernail. Or tattoo ink or whatever, not even relevant after a dozen Moore’s Law cycles. Now I’m reading about google glass and know the things I described are inevitable.


  • Gianna Giavelli May 17, 2013 on 12:16 am

    Kurzweil is a dope and his book is 1980s tech so this will be a big disaster. He did great thinks with a k250 and his knowledge of circuits but dishing up hinton and GP in a simplistic format simply DOES NOT QUALIFY him to work on this at all. Sorry Ray.