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Ray Kurzweil joins Google to work on machine learning, language processing

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Famed tech innovator and futurist Ray Kurzweil has announced that he will join Google (s goog) “to work on new projects involving machine learning and language processing.” Kurzweil will become director of engineering at Google beginning Monday, Dec. 17.

Kurzweil is known for his strong support of the Singularity, an idea that technology could enable humans to live for hundreds of years, and a theory that has received support from some of Silicon Valley’s best and brightest, including Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

On his website Friday, Kurzweil wrote about his decision to join the team at Google:

“I’ve been interested in technology, and machine learning in particular, for a long time: when I was 14, I designed software that wrote original music, and later went on to invent the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, among other inventions. I’ve always worked to create practical systems that will make a difference in people’s lives, which is what excites me as an inventor.

“In 1999, I said that in about a decade we would see technologies such as self-driving cars and mobile phones that could answer your questions, and people criticized these predictions as unrealistic. Fast forward a decade — Google has demonstrated self-driving cars, and people are indeed asking questions of their Android phones. It’s easy to shrug our collective shoulders as if these technologies have always been around, but we’re really on a remarkable trajectory of quickening innovation, and Google is at the forefront of much of this development.

“I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Google to work on some of the hardest problems in computer science so we can turn the next decade’s ‘unrealistic’ visions into reality.”

Google confirmed that Kurzweil is joining the company, and put out a statement attributed to Peter Norvig, director of research at Google:
“Ray’s contributions to science and technology, through research in character and speech recognition and machine learning, have led to technological achievements that have had an enormous impact on society — such as the Kurzweil Reading Machine, used by Stevie Wonder and others to have print read aloud. We appreciate his ambitious, long-term thinking, and we think his approach to problem-solving will be incredibly valuable to projects we’re working on at Google.”

6 Responses to “Ray Kurzweil joins Google to work on machine learning, language processing”

  1. Kurzweil is a brilliant human and his technological contributions to society, as an inventor, are clearly and advancement of humanity. I wonder however (as Eddie noted), if Ray started to run out of money? Why else would he get himself placed onto Google’s payroll? Wouldn’t it be more advantageous to do a joint venture or have Google Ventures make an investment in something (like Ray’s Singularity University, his eBooks business, or FatKat)?

  2. Reblogged this on Somebody by 23 and commented:
    Is this the year we start preparing for the arrival of Cylons?

    For years singularity has been bandied about and discussed seriously by tech innovators and futurists alike. Beginning December 17, Ray Kurzweil is working with Google. While with Google, Kurzweil will focus on mechanical learning and language processing projects as its new director of engineering.

    Perhaps We are All Cylons as Ilana Rein imagined:

  3. Om – apparently the hedge fund Ray started and Vinod became involved with (which generated some PR in 2007 [1]) must have not worked out too well. Oopsie daisies, did FatKat (Financial Accelerating Transactions from Kurzweil Adaptive Technologies) blow up in the 2008 financial crisis? Think about it. If FatKat was successful, Ray would have enough funding, not to mention his cult-like charisma, to hire talent to put more dents in the universe (akin to Steve Jobs getting talent to follow him at Apple then to NeXT and then t Apple again).

    Oh and by the way, don’t forget that other gurus passed through the Google revolving door like James Gosling and his short tenure.


  4. Kurzweil would probably respond to my comment by saying that his forecasts have a good track record and that’s true, but it doesn’t establish that he’s right about the future, especially 50 years from now. He emphasizes that everything is accelerating and I agree, but that very fact gives his predictions a shaky foundation.

  5. Ray Kurzweil is impressive when he talks about technology. But he writes as though technology operates in a vacuum and he appears to ignore major considerations like social factors, political actions, climate change, energy availability questions, and other forces operating in the world that most scientists have no awareness of, but are at least as powerful as technology.

    Then again Kurzweil is going to work for a technology company, so I guess that’s an appropriate move.