Ray Kurzweil: On Google and the singularity

August 27, 2015

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about | Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, outlines a future for the world. He is an adviser at Google’s ambitious Calico venture, which aims to find a cure for aging.

Ray Kurzweil’s job description at Google sounds simple in its brevity: to bring natural language understanding to Google.

But the inventor and futurist was brought onto the Google team to further Kurzweil’s lifelong project, the singularity, the point at which computers achieve consciousness and a seamless merger occurs between humanity and machine.

Ray Kurzweil: On Google and the singularity
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On Google:

My project is ultimately to base search on really understanding what the language means. When you write an article you’re not creating an interesting collection of words. You have something to say and Google is devoted to intelligently organising and processing the world’s information. The message in your article is information, and the computers are not picking up on that. So we would like to actually have the computers read. We want them to read everything on the web and every page of every book, then be able to engage an intelligent dialogue with the user to be able to answer their questions.

Computers are on the threshold of reading and understanding the semantic content of a language, but not quite at human levels. But since they can read a million times more material than humans they can make up for that with quantity. So IBM’s Watson is a pretty weak reader on each page, but it read the 37 million pages of Wikipedia. And basically what I’m doing at Google is to try to go beyond what Watson could do. To do it at Google scale.Which is to say to have the computer read tens of billions of pages.

Watson doesn’t understand the implications of what it’s reading. It’s doing a sort of pattern matching. It doesn’t understand that if John sold his red Volvo to Mary that involves a transaction or possession and ownership being transferred. It doesn’t understand that kind of information and so we are going to actually encode that, really try to teach it to understand the meaning of what these documents are saying.

On living forever:

My health regime is a wake-up call to my baby-boomer peers. Most of whom are accepting the normal cycle of life and accepting they are getting to the end of their productive years. That’s not my view. Now that health and medicine is in information technology it is going to expand exponentially. We will see very dramatic changes ahead. According to my model it’s only 10-15 years away from where we’ll be adding more than a year every year to life expectancy because of progress. It’s kind of a tipping point in longevity.

Our immediate reaction to hearing someone has died is that it’s not a good thing. We’re sad. We consider it a tragedy. So for thousands of years, we did the next best thing which is to rationalize. Oh that tragic thing? That’s really a good thing. One of the major goals of religion is to come up with some story that says death is really a good thing. It’s not. It’s a tragedy.

And people think we’re talking about a 95 year old living for hundreds of years. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking radical life extension, radical life enhancement. We are talking about making ourselves millions of times more intelligent and being able to have virtual reality environments which are as fantastic as our imagination.