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We have “smart” phones, watches, homes, cars, and even toothbrushes, and they’re getting smarter by the second. What will artificial intelligence revolutionize next? Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, bets it’ll be the search engine.

Kurzweil, who’s lauded by Bill Gates as a predictor of the technological future, reports that he’s working with Google to create a computer system that will understand human language. Right now, Google’s search function is expert at recognizing words and their combinations. However, the search engine can’t analyze the meaning of those words or comprehend the information they convey. This means a Google search can only go so far in answering questions. For example, if your query isn’t phrased properly, the engine won’t turn up the results you want.

In order to improve the quality of searches, Kurzweil wants to infuse Google with human understanding. He wants Google to read every article the web has to offer and catalog not just the keywords but the content of the article.  When a search is performed, he then wants Google to engage in conversation with the searcher to answer their question more fully than ever before. He intends for Google to not only know but use every thought you’ve ever poured into your computer, from emails to social media to search boxes. 

Kurzweil predicts that if this comes to fruition, Google will eventually know you so well that it will be able to answer your questions before you’ve even asked them. According to him, the future of artificial intelligence is in computers knowing their human users, maybe better than the humans know themselves.

Other leading scholars in the field of artificial intelligence posit that the best way to build this sort of technology is by combining and applying several different technologies. For example, Manoj Saxena (the mastermind behind IBM’s computer Watson, the first computer system claiming to understand human language) believes that a wide array of skills and intelligences must be blended to create any successful artificial intelligence program. 

Between Kurzweil’s goals and Saxena’s theories, it seems to me that the future of this technology is actually in blending it with humanity. It’s artificial intelligence meets actual intelligence. We don’t want to obliterate human abilities; we want to give them to robots and computers and other gadgets. Perhaps we wonder if the technology be able to do more with our abilities?

And we don’t profess that any one human ability will do the trick. 

What do you think? Is artificial intelligence heading in the right direction? Where do you think technologies like these will go next? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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