Why does Google, the world’s biggest Web advertising company disguised as a search engine, care about these future-leaning technologies?
Because Page and co-founder Sergey Brin realize that the only way to create a lasting company is to lay meaningful bets on markets that don’t yet exist. They learned from watching Microsoft play defense and fade from future relevance.
Famed Ray Kurzweil, now Google’s Director of Engineering, thinks machines will think for themselves by 2040.
Ray Kurzweil is, undoubtedly, one of the most accomplished men of our time. The relentless inventor — whose credits include the flatbed scanner, optical character resolution and speech-to-text- systems — is also a bestselling author, a successful entrepreneur, and an artificial intelligence (AI) pioneer.
Google is trying to bring about technological singularity — creating a true artificial intelligence smart enough to improve its own source code. When that occurs, machines can progress to far-future, science fiction levels of intelligence within our lifetimes. (Kurzweil predicts this technological leap will happen by 2040.)
That might sound a little outside the remit of a Web search company, but to hear Kurzweil tell it, it’s really not. A massive amount of data on every conceivable topic, like Google has built up in its Internet index, is a “necessary, but not sufficient” step in building such an AI, he said.
The next piece is to create a system that can actually understand that data, which are often cluttered and always less organized than machine code, so that an artificial intelligence can begin to learn.
That’s something Kurzweil’s group is already working on, and if you have an Android phone, then you already have the beginnings of it in your pocket — the Google Now voice recognition system already incorporates some of the rudimentary tools that might later make true AI a possibility.
Kurzweil doesn’t see AI appearing in a vacuum, however. Rather, he thinks it will be connected directly to everyone’s brains. Neural interface technology, now in its infancy, will soon allow humans to connect their minds directly to the machine, augmenting their own natural intelligence in ways that seem like the providence of science fiction.
The example he gave: You’re at a party and someone says something to you and you try to come up with a witty comeback.
- Now, you’re not likely to be able to do it unless you’re particularly quick-witted — maybe only thinking of something to say hours later, to your great regret.
- In the future, Kurzweil said, you’ll be able to query your connected artificial intelligence with a thought, and it will distill the perfect retort for you from the totality of linguistic info online in seconds.
- Thus he envisions an AI that isn’t so much a robot, but more a much, much smarter version of yourself.
The example he gave here is mitochondria, a component of every living cell that metabolizes energy and is critical to life.
- Mitochondria started out as a kind of bacteria that were captured and consumed by living cells many, many eons ago, Kurzweil said.
- Consequently, they have their own genome separate from the rest of the body, stored in separate DNA from the cell’s nucleus.
- Mitochondrial DNA is more prone to errors as the cell replicates itself, which can lead to a host of health problems.
- Kurzweil said that nature actually addressed this by moving much of the mitochondrial genetic code into the nucleus where it could be stored in less error-prone DNA.
- But because of the way natural selection works, this process stopped before it moved some bits of the code which only come into use later in life, after a person would have normally reproduced.
- Kurzweil thinks humans can finish this process and solve some of the deleterious effects of aging.
So, according to Kurzweil, in the future humans will be unfathomably more smart and also functionally immortal. But he doesn’t think that humanity will change all that much, and he rejects the term “transhumanism,” which is currently in vogue to describe technologies like he is reportedly working on.
“I’ve never liked the label transhumanism, because it implies that we’re replacing humanity” “I don’t think that’s true. What we’re doing is augmenting human capability.”
Artificial intelligence is a key component for Google’s translation and speech technologies.
- The company launched the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab initiative last year in partnership with NASA to “build better models of the world to make more accurate predictions,” according to Forbes.
- Google hired futurist Ray Kurzweil as director of engineering in late 2012 to apply AI and augmented reality — the concept of enhancing a real-world environment with computer-based sensory inputs like sound, video and graphics — to the company’s flagship search engine.
Social networking giant Facebook is stepping up efforts in the artificial-intelligence
- With the expansion of research labs and the addition of a New York University professor cherry-picked to head the venture.
- Yann LeCun will lead the company’s long-term goal to develop major advances in the field and study machine learning, data science and artificial intelligence in a research partnership with NYU, while expanding Facebook labs dedicated to artificial intelligence in Menlo Park, London and New York City