Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ray Kurzweil and the Brains Behind the Google Brain (Big Think)

Ah, Ray Kurzweil . . . he's so brilliant in some respects and so misguided in others. Kurzweil has predicted, and indeed made a bet with Mitchell Kapor (of $20,000), that we will develop a conscious computer (one that can pass the Turing test) by 2029. Pardon me while I laugh hysterically for a few minutes. Ahem . . . you can read both men's arguments at the link above.

There are other reasons I find Kurweil laughable, but they are not relevant to this post.

What is relevant is that he has teamed up with the brain-trust at Google to try to create an intelligent machine, which gives him better odds than if he was on his own.

Ray Kurzweil and the Brains Behind the Google Brain

by Big Think Editors
December 8, 2013
Time was when Google engineers spent all their days counting links and ranking pages. The company's famous algorithm made it the leading search engine in the world. Admittedly, it was far from perfect. That is why current efforts are aimed at developing ways for computers to read and understand natural language.

Enter Ray Kurzweil, an inventor and expert in artificial intelligence. Kurzweil's goal is ostensibly to help the company improve the accuracy of its search results, but that is certainly not all. Kurzweil, after all, is one of the world's leading advocates of "hard AI," or the development of consciousness in an artificial being. Kurzweil believes this will come about in 2029, to be specific.

So in addition to Google's development of autonomous cars and its aggressive play in robotic delivery systems, the company is also looking to build an artificial brain, aka "The Google Brain." As Steven Levy notes on Wired, this is a fact that "some may consider thrilling and others deeply unsettling. Or both."

Kurzweil is collaborating with Jeff Dean to find the brain's algorithm, and Kurzweil says the reason he is at Google is to take full advantage of the company's deep learning resources.

In the video below, Kurzweil outlines three tangible benefits that he expects to come out of this project. Beyond building more intelligent machines, if we are able to reverse-engineer the brain, we will be able to do a better job at fixing it. We will also gain more insight into ourselves, he says. After all, "our identity, our consciousness, the concept of free will is closely associated with the brain."

Watch the video here:

Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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Deep Learning

by Big Think Editors
The Big Idea for Sunday, December 08, 2013

A smart machine, if given enough data, can teach teach itself to recognize patterns and mimic the way that the human brain behaves.

In today's lesson, Ray Kurzweil provides insights into the work he is doing at Google. His ostensible goal is to help the company develop a better search engine that can process natural language. But the potential benefits of discovering the brain's algorithm go much further than that. The more we understand about the brain, Kurzweil says, the better we are able to fix it. Moreover, the brain is at the center of our understanding of human identity, and our notions of consciousness and free will.


1 Ray Kurzweil and the Brains Behind the Google Brain
Big Think Editors Big Think TV

2 Reverse-Engineering the Brain
Dr. Joy Hirsch

3 The Ghost in the Machine: Unraveling the Mystery of Consciousness
Megan Erickson Think Tank

4 The Most Amazing Race: Reverse-Engineering the Brain
Daniel Honan Think Tank

by Big Think Editors

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