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

ray kurzweil futurist the singularity

Famed tech innovator and futurist Ray Kurzweil has announced that he will join Google “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.”
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