In an exclusive with Singularity Hub, Ray Kurzweil gave one of his first interviews since the December announcement that he joined Google full time as Director of Engineering. Speaking with Singularity Hub Founder Keith Kleiner, Ray discusses his new role, how his research interests connect with his latest book How To Create A Mind (which Keith recently interviewed Ray about here), and how technology will advance to produce a “cybernetic friend”
“The project we plan to do is focused on natural language understanding,” said Kurzweil. “We want to give computers the ability to understand the language that they’re reading.”
Check out the interview to hear more:
Regarding the specific kind of artificial intelligence that a Kurzweil-led project will aim to do, he said, “It will know at a semantically deep level what you’re interested in, not just the topic…[but] the specific questions and concerns you have.” He added, “I envision some years from now that the majority of search queries will be answered without you actually asking. It’ll just know this is something that you’re going to want to see.” While it may be take some years to develop this technology, Kurzweil added that he personally thinks it will be embedded into what Google offers currently, rather than as a stand-alone product necessarily.
Now if you’ve been following Singularity Hub’s coverage of personal assistants like Siri, Evi, and the latest, Maluuba, as well as Google Voice Search, then you know that natural language recognition is one of the highest priorities for tech companies today. That’s exciting because it means that holding sophisticated conversations with computers — in much the same way that Dave Bowman does with HAL 9000 in the movie 2001 — is going to become a reality very soon.
As Kurzweil points out, the hurdle currently is that language is hierarchical, and the human brain processes language in a hierarchical way, depending on what stimuli it receives during key stages of development. Computers like IBM’s Watson are just now being programmed to process human information in a related way. Inevitably, the sophistication of this software will grow — slowly, at first, but in all likelihood become exponential, as with many other technological trends that Kurzweil himself has identified.
Though the video is only 10 minutes, it’s great to hear Ray download some more tidbits about what he’ll be doing once he enters Google’s doors. Odds are that when he reemerges, the ability of our computers to understand us is going to take a quantum leap.