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Google's Kurzweil on teaching human language to computers

The noted inventor and futurist tells Singularity Hub that one of the challenges to language processing is teaching computers to process information in a hierarchical fashion, as mammals do.

Ray Kurzweil

Famed inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil joined Google last month to work on "some of the hardest problems in computer science," specifically machine learning and language processing.

"The project we plan to do is focused on natural language understanding," Kurzweil told Singularity Hub in an interview (see video below). "We want to give computers the ability to understand the language that they're reading."

As Google's director of engineering, Kurzweil's said the challenge isn't just one of the hardest but also the most important.

"It's ambitious, in fact there's no more important project than understanding intelligence and re-creating it," he said.

Kurzweil explains that one of the chief challenges he and his team at Google face is that language is hierarchical and only mammals have the ability to understand hierarchical ideas. Kurzweil notes that computers such as IBM's Watson are now being programmed to process human information in a similar fashion.

Kurzweil predicts that fruits of his research will eventually be applied "Google scale" -- to the Web giant's vast data resources.

"I envision some years from now that the majority of search queries will be answered without you actually asking," Kurzweil said. "It'll just know this is something that you're going to want to see."