Ray Kurzweil, an author, futurist and inventor, now works for Google.
Inventor of the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, Kurzweil has been hired by Google as Director of Engineering. Google is interested in advancing the science behind the concept of artificial intelligence, something Kurzweil has written about extensively.
How to Create a Mind
"How to Create a Mind" is the title of Kurzweil's latest book, and he writes people will be able to build artificial intelligence sooner than anybody even realizes. Google has the kind of resources that will help turn Kurzweil's ideas into reality, and of course more money for the search giant.
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." -Kurzweil on his blog
Google is famous for hiring the best and brightest, especially from US Ivy League schools. Kurzweil not only has a classic pedigree (he went to MIT), he is a visionary. He's written two books on machine learning and as noted above, been pretty on the mark regarding technological predictions.
He even gave a recent keynote at the DEMO 2012 conference where talked about some of his artificial intelligence predictions.
Google's Big Thinking Lurches Forward
Google's famous 20% free time program where workers get to spend work time doing things that deeply interest them is the same kind of idea that brought Kurzweil into the fold. The man is simply curious about the world, and his work has always been about how technology can be used to improve people's lives.
By tapping into our collective knowledge, that the Internet is looking more and more like, things like AI can become reality. First, however, Kurzweil will put his knowledge of language processing and machine learning to use on consumer goods like the sci fi-y project Google Glass.
But Kurzweil is just the latest researcher/inventor to benefit from Google's largesse. David Dalrymple, is a PhD student at Harvard, and his research is also being funded in part by Google's Larry Page.
Dalrymple is attempting to build a completely artificial representation of the nervous system of a worm. It's called the OpenWorm project, and the simulation of the worm's neurons and muscle cells is a building block toward simulating the human brain.