The singularity is nearer, Google appoints Ray Kurzweil as Director of Engineering

The singularity is nearer, Google appoints Ray Kurzweil as Director of Engineering

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News & Events - Engineering News

December 18, 2012

Staff working at Google who think that the new Director of Engineering looks slightly familiar may not be too far off the mark, after the internet search giant announced the hiring of Ray Kurzweil for the position.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the acclaimed futurist and author of "The Singularity is Near," has been brought in to the company to work on a number of engineering research projects related to machine learning and language processing. Kurzweil, who is known for his theories about the future of interaction between humans and technology, was due to take up his new position on December 17, following the official announcement by Google at the end of last week.

"I've been interested in technology, and machine learning in particular, for a long time," wrote Kurzweil on his personal blog following the announcement.  "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."

The Singularity
Kurzweil's theories revolve around what he calls the Singularity, a point in time when technology is so advanced that it can out-think and outsmart its human creators. The 64-year-old author of several books that deal with the futurist subject matter is likely to be involved in a number of projects that currently fall under the remit of the Google X Lab, a top-secret facility that is allegedly working on more than 100 different pieces of engineering research related to future tech.

His appointment by Google builds on engineering resources already in place, after the founding of an academic program in his name that is based in Silicon Valley. The Kurzweil Singularity University was established in 2007 and is partly funded by the company, with the goal of educating students about nanotechnology and robotics.

Unrealistic predictions
"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," said Kurzweil. "Fast forward a decade - Google has demonstrated self-driving cars, and people are indeed asking questions of their Android phones. 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."

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