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Ray Kurzweil to become Google's top engineer

Singularity Beta here we come

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Futurist, artificial intelligence expert and inventor Ray Kurzweil will join Google as a director of engineering.

Kurzweil's profile is such that it was he – and not his new employer – who announced the new gig, and on his own web site to boot.

Google is so far silent on the reasons for Kurzweil's appointment, but the new hire's own account of his new job says he will “work on new projects involving machine learning and language processing”.

Kurzweil also says he feels Google is his kind of place to work, and not just for the free food.

“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.” Google, Kurzweil goes on to say, “is at the forefront” of a “remarkable trajectory of quickening innovation” and he is therefore “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.”

Just what Kurzweil's arrival at Google will mean for its products is, at this stage, unknowable. It seems sensible, however, to predict three things.

One is an awful lot of speculation about Google wanting to accelerate the advent of The Singularity, the Kurzweil-aligned (but Vernor Vinge derived) idea that machines will eventually make us post-human. The Register therefore awaits the Beta of Google TransHumanism eagerly.

Another is comparisons to Ray Ozzie, the Lotus guru who filled Bill Gates' shoes – with mixed results – at Microsoft before bailing out. We therefore expect lots of speculation about whether it is possible for even the smartest outsiders to bust into tech giants' cultures and make meaningful contributions.

Lastly Kurzweil's pre-emption of his employer, in terms of announcing his new gig, will probably be declared to represent The New Something To Do With Employment Practices, and lead to dozens of copycat blog posts (I've just been appointed chief experiential evange-sales functionary of Startup X) heading our way far too soon. ®

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