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Ray Kurzweil Talks Google's Big Plans For Artificial Intelligence 254

Nerval's Lobster writes "Ray Kurzweil, the technologist who's spent his career advocating the Singularity, discussed his current work as a director of engineering at Google with The Guardian. Google has big plans in the artificial-intelligence arena. It recently acquired DeepMind, self-billed 'cutting edge artificial intelligence company' for $400 million; that's in addition to snatching up all sorts of startups and research scientists devoted to everything from robotics to machine learning. Thanks to the massive datasets generated by the world's largest online search engine (and the infrastructure allowing that engine to run), those scientists could have enough information and computing power at their disposal to create networked devices capable of human-like thought. Kurzweil, having studied artificial intelligence for decades, is at the forefront of this in-house effort. In his interview with The Guardian, he couldn't resist throwing some jabs at other nascent artificial intelligence systems on the market, most notably IBM's Watson: 'IBM's Watson is a pretty weak reader on each page, but it read the 200m 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.' That sounds very practical, but at a certain point Kurzweil's predictions veer into what most people would consider science fiction. He believes, for example, that a significant portion of people alive today could end up living forever, thanks to the ministrations of ultra-intelligent computers and beyond-cutting-edge medical technology."
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Ray Kurzweil Talks Google's Big Plans For Artificial Intelligence

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  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @03:07PM (#46325881) Journal

    "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." - Pablo Picasso.
    The same goes for ultra-intelligent computers. The hard questions - dealing with creativity, intuition or infirmities will remain the domain of organics for the foreseeable future.

    One area of recent development is with extremely large datasets (2006, Google's MapReduce) still can only provide results for stuff that we have data on. The data will only take you so far. The true question is hoe effectively is it used. While progress will be made, it'll be a long time before we can sit back and let the computer make all the decisions, especially of those pertaining to our future. And when they finally do that, life will be incredibly boring.

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @03:09PM (#46325895)

    Oh, the subject is interesting. It is just that Ray Kurzweil has no idea what AI can and cannot do and has ignored the relevant research for decades.

  • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @03:12PM (#46325935)

    How else did that crazy windbag manage to sucker Google into hiring him?

    You'd think that frauds and kooks would get found out pretty fast over there, but obviously not.

  • by WrongMonkey ( 1027334 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @03:31PM (#46326161)
    Why would life be boring? If computers could make the big decisions, it would free up mental effort the same way mechanical machines freed up physical labor. People on one end of the spectrum could spend their time on leisure and recreation. People on the higher end of the spectrum could pursue intellectual and creative efforts.
  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @03:46PM (#46326307) Homepage Journal

    Basically it's "Uncle Ray is afraid of death. He's also agnostic/atheist. So he doesn't really draw any comfort from religious mythology surrounding death. So all this stuff he's imagining is basically him creating his own stories to stave off his fear of death."

  • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @04:34PM (#46326841) Homepage Journal

    It is just that Ray Kurzweil has no idea what AI can and cannot do and has ignored the relevant research for decades.

    Few things. "The relevant research", as you put it, has not produced AI or even the shadow of AI. So it may well be that Kurzweil's "ignoring it" (as you put it... I doubt he actually is doing that, more likely he's simply not taking it as a limit) for a reason. There are many instances of traditional AI research falling off the rails, some obvious, like Minsky's incorrect assessment of the limits of neural networks, and some not so obvious, like Chalmer's (unsupported, hand-waving) presumption that consciousness is something apart from mundane aggregate brain operations (thought.) Lastly, Kurzweil has a record of significant accomplishments across multiple disciplines that consensus regards as genius level events. You, I'm not so sure of. So I hope you'll pardon me if I appreciate that he's approaching the problem from any angle, while not worrying too much about what your opinion is of his efforts at this point.

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard