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

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
David J. Hill
David started writing for Singularity Hub in 2011 and served as editor-in-chief of the site from 2014 to 2017 and SU vice president of faculty, content, and curriculum from 2017 to 2019. His interests cover digital education, publishing, and media, but he'll always be a chemist at heart.
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