Ray Kurzweil, AI pioneer and futurist, is now at Google as a head of engineering
Ray Kurzweil, renowned pioneer in artificial intelligence (AI), and controversial believer in the “singularity” when superhuman AI will emerge, has gone to Google as a director of technology, working on machine learning.
Kurzweil will be also working on language processing, a long-term interest of the 64-year old inventor, who has worked on pattern recognition, and created synthesizers and text-to-speech systems in a long career, where his belief in non-human intelligence has provoked criticism and controversy. Google has not yet given much detail on his role at the search giant.
Ray Kurzweil – apocalyptic visonary
“I’m excited to share that I’ll be joining Google as director of engineering this Monday, December 17,” read Kurzweil’s announcement. “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.”
Google didn’t give any more detail on actual projects: “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,” said Peter Norvig, director of research at Google. “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.”
Ray Kurzweil developed the first optical character recognition software which worked with any font in 1974, and the Kurzweil Reading Machine for blind people in 1976 – before the arrival of mass-market computers. His text-to-speech business was sold to Lernout and Hauspie, and is now owned by Nuance.
His next field was music, creating very popular synthesisers from 1984. He then worked on speech recognition – a much harder task than text-to-speech.
In recent years, he has been better known for his futurism, writing several books and films predicting the exponential acceleration of computers will lead to a “singularity” and the creation of AI which is smarter than humans, with a subsequent shift in the role of human beings referred to as “transhumanism”.
He follows a controversial health regime and, predicting that people can live forever, has booked in to have his body cryogenically frozen at the point of death for subsequent resurrection.
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