Google's director of engineering and futurist in chief claims the search giant is on its way to developing search engines that understand and interpret human logic and feelings.
In an interview with Wired, Ray Kurzweil, whose mission at Google is "to develop natural language understanding," explains that the company is making strides towards understanding complex natural language and with it the ability to move well beyond recognizing keywords and onto understanding the emotional and intelligent content of web pages and of users' search requests.
"Search has moved beyond just finding keywords, but it still doesn't read all these billions of web pages and book pages for semantic content. If you write a blog post, you've got something to say, you're not just creating words and synonyms. We'd like the computers to actually pick up on that semantic meaning. If that happens, and I believe that it's feasible, people could ask more complex questions," he says.
In the interview, he also reveals that he has a target for achieving that vision by 2029. "I've had a consistent date of 2029 for that vision. And that doesn't just mean logical intelligence. It means emotional intelligence, being funny, getting the joke, being sexy, being loving, understanding human emotion. That's actually the most complex thing we do. That is what separates computers and humans today. I believe that gap will close by 2029."
Achieving this level of complex, natural language understanding is essentially a form of artificial intelligence and Kurzweil points to the fact that gaining a greater understanding of how the human brain functions -- how it creates and classifies thoughts -- is helping to drive progress as computer learning and thinking can be programmed to copy the human mind's methods. "Using these biologically inspired models, plus all of the research that's been done over the decades in artificial intelligence, combined with exponentially expanding hardware, we will achieve human levels within two decades," he says.
Winner of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, (America's highest technology honour) and a pioneer in optical character recognition, text to speech and speech recognition, Kurzweil is recognized as one of the world's leading futurists. He joined Google in 2012.