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Google Acquires Artificial Intelligence Start-Up DeepMind

Written By: Raluca Druta
Published On: January 29 2014

It is now well known that Google has set out to build a “‘cybernetic friend,’ who knows users better than they know themselves," as Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, puts it. This means that Google intends to create an artificial brain capable of becoming intimate with users.

So, Google recently took the decision to spend half a billion dollars to buy the Artificial Intelligence Start-up DeepMind. According to the DeepMind Web site, "DeepMind is a cutting edge artificial intelligence company"  . . .  "Our first commercial applications are in simulations, e-commerce and games." No further details are provided.

Google claims that artificial intelligence (AI) can match our online actions with those of our friends, as well as millions of strangers who resemble us, to intuitively guide us through our online habits. Similar technologies have been utilized by others such as Amazon, for example.

The key difference is that Google's cybernetic friend is being designed to know us better than we know ourselves—a claim that is frightening at best. But, as the technology develops, people’s perception of Google’s products may evolve. Perhaps some of us will treat it as a ‘Super-Ego’—as defined by Freudian classical psychoanalytical theory; someone that we seek approval from and do not want to disappoint. Others may extend their human capabilities with it and grow into cyborgs.

Where will we draw the line between what we want our cybernetic friend to know but we don’t want our human friends to know? Ray Kurzweil believes that a person can decide what they tell their friends but Google will know much more: “things you read, what you write, in your emails or blog posts, and so on, even your conversations, what you hear, what you say.”

We may have a hard time understanding and digesting this type of technology and its applications on our daily lives. An interesting alternative to the very abstract concept of AI could be Amazon’s idea of artificial intelligence with help from humans—which Google also employs to validate the quality of its search engine by hiring armies of raters.

If enterprise software will continue to draw inspiration from consumer Internet—as is the case today, then the capabilities of the Google cybernetic friend will be commonplace in the corporate world. For example, companies will most likely use it as an “advisor” for their employees, who can resort to its knowledge whenever in doubt. I also think that the Google cybernetic friend may potentially play a role in software selection processes by, for example, delineating between up-to-date enterprise software solutions and legacy systems.

 
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