Ray Kurzweil Joins Google In Full-Time Engineering Director Role; Will Focus On Machine Learning, Language Processing

Famed inventor, entrepreneur, author, and futurist Ray Kurzweil announced this afternoon that he has been hired by search engine giant Google as a director of engineering focused on machine learning and language processing. He starts this upcoming Monday, according to a report issued on his website.

It’s unclear whether he’ll be working at Google full-time or on a consulting basis, and whether he’ll be working from the Mountain View, California headquarters or his longtime base in Massachusetts. We’ve reached out for more details and will update this with word we receive. Update: In an email to TechCrunch, Ray Kurzweil provided some more information on his new gig, writing:

“It is a full time position in Mountain View. The focus of the position is on new technology development, however I will be continuing my role as a thought leader through lectures, speaking with the press, and such initiatives as my recent book.”

It’s certainly very interesting news, but it does not come as a huge shock. Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are known to be keenly interested in the theory of an upcoming “technological singularity,” a time when human beings and artificially intelligent machines will sync up to push innovation forward at an unprecedentedly fast rate. Kurzweil is one of the most prominent individuals associated with the singularity movement.

Here is the report as published on his website:

“Ray Kurzweil confirmed today that he will be joining Google to work on new projects involving machine learning and language processing.

“I’m excited to share that I’ll be joining Google as Director of Engineering this Monday, December 17,” said Kurzweil.

“I’ve been interested in technology, and machine learning in particular, for a long time: when I was 14, I designed software that wrote original music, and later went on to invent the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, among other inventions. I’ve always worked to create practical systems that will make a difference in people’s lives, which is what excites me as an inventor.

“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. It’s easy to shrug our collective shoulders as if these technologies have always been around, but we’re really on a remarkable trajectory of quickening innovation, and Google is at the forefront of much of this development.

“I’m 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.””

I had the chance to interview Kurzweil in Austin, Texas earlier this year during the South By Southwest Interactive conference (Andrew Keen also spoke to him via Skype for a recent post on TechCrunch TV.) Here is the footage from the SXSW sit-down — it was a wide-ranging interview that touched on many topics, so we split it into two videos. In the first, he talks about entrepreneurship and startups; in the second, we get a bit into his thoughts on wellness, biotechnology, healthcare, and why “you are what you think.”

Please read the disclosure about Google in my author bio.