New Google Engineering Director, Kurzweil to Turn Visions to Reality

Credit: Photo by Michael Lutch. Courtesy of Kurzweil Technologies, Inc.

Futurist, artificial intelligence pioneer, and author Ray Kurzweil announced Friday that he will start a new job on Monday, Dec. 17, as Director of Engineering for Google. The inventor says he will assist the company with tough computer science problems to turn “unrealistic” visions into reality.

Google’s self-driving car, which Kurzweil described in a conversation with David Kirkpatrick at the recent Techonomy 12 conference, is one just example of a far-out technology that Kurzweil foresaw more than a decade ago.

Technology Review reports that Google Director of Research and AI expert Peter Norvig said company leaders “appreciate [Kurzweil’s] ambitious, long-term thinking, and we think his approach to problem-solving will be incredibly valuable to projects we’re working on at Google.”

In his own press release posted on the Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence website, Kurzweil stated:

“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.

“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. Fast forward a decade — Google has demonstrated self-driving cars, and people are indeed asking questions of their Android phones. It’s easy to shrug our collective shoulders as if these technologies have always been around, but we’re really on a remarkable trajectory of quickening innovation, and Google is at the forefront of much of this development.

“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.”

A commenter on the post wondered, “Now that, apparently, one of the most successful companies on earth openly deems Ray’s visions feasible, I’m curious if we will hear the word ‘crackpot’ spoken so often.”

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