Mind versus machine: computers that think like us

August 21, 2013

IBM has long experimented with cognitive computing, having first created Watson and now neural-synaptic chips. But rivals like Google are getting into the game, as well, hiring inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil last year as a director of engineering.

Kurzweil, who invented the flatbed scanner and commercial text-to-speech synthesizer, is known as one of technology’s foremost proponents of artificial intelligence. He believes machines can, and will, one day develop consciousness, according to Wired. At Google, his role is to help develop better natural language recognition for its search engine — not just to find and log keywords, but to learn and understand language like we do.

Even tech leaders are divided on the overarching project of endowing machines with a kind of consciousness. In 2008, Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, for example, expressed skepticism and fear of a dystopian world where machines have a “mind” of their own, according to Wired. And yet, computer scientists like Kurzweil and IBM’s team press on.

Kurzweil believes computers will, at least, achieve natural language understanding, so they better understand us — and he’s willing to state a date for that milestone. […]