Renowned author, inventor, and futurist Ray Kurzweil, has announced that he’s joining Google to work on new projects that revolve around machine learning and language processing. He starts work at the search engine as its new Director of Engineering starting December 17.
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Generally recognized as an advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements because of his work on life extension technologies, efforts to forecast future advances in technology, and interest in the concept of the technological singularity, he’s also known for being a pioneer in the field of human-computer interfacing. If you’ve ever used a flatbed scanner, the Kurzweil reading machine, the Kurzweil 1000 OCR software, or the Kurzweil 250 Music Synthesizer, then you can thank him for that.
In a statement posted on his website, he mentions that he’s been interested in technology, and machine learning in particular, for a long time. In 1999, he made the following prediction: “I said that in about a decade we would see technologies such as self-driving cars and mobile phones that could answer your questions…” Of course he received criticism about these predictions, as he typically has in the past. But when you look at what he said almost 14 years ago, he wasn’t that far off — Google has self-driving cars and now we have Siri for the Apple iPhone.
If you’re not familiar with what a futurist does, it’s defined as being a scientist whose speciality is “to attempt to systematically predict the future, whether that of human society in particular or of life on earth in general.”
Earlier this year, Best Buy featured Kurzweil in an ad that ran during the Super Bowl that featured many of the mobile tech pioneers, including Phillipe Khan (inventor of the camera phone), the founders of Shazam, Jim McKelvey (co-founder of Square), Instagram’s Kevin Systrom, and many others.
Prior to that, he took the stage at the annual TED conference and spoke about how in 2020, scientists will have found a way to reverse-engineer the human brain and nanobots will be operating your consciousness. Doesn’t sound that bit of stretch now that his prediction is only 7 years away, huh?
Working at Google will most undoubtedly result in some fascinating new technologies, even more than what the company already has. It will be interesting to see what he does with co-founder Sergey Brin’s Google Glass device and if Kurzweil’s involvement will help bring about new updates for Google Now, Android’s Siri competitor.
Photo credit: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images