Google DeepMind Deal Hastens Computers That Think Like People
By Steve Rosenbush
Google Inc.’s latest acquisition—an artificial intelligence company called DeepMind—points toward a not-so-distant future when computers learn and reason the way people do. Of course, this is an evolutionary process, and there’s no neat definition of how human minds work, either. But the direction is clear–computers are increasingly able to learn from experience, to figure context into their decision making, and more.
As computer science develops, businesses will be compelled to figure out how to make good use of machine learning and artificial intelligence, creating the need for new approaches to organizing and structuring work. CIO Journal is raising these questions now. The theme of this year’s WSJ CIO Network Conference in San Diego is the Dawn of the Digital Mind. CIO Journal will tackle the subject Monday, Feb. 3 in a discussion with Google engineering director, author and entrepreneur Ray Kurzweil.
The early stages of this revolution are already underway, as digital assistants such as Apple Inc.’s Siri suggest. The Spike Jonze movie “Her,” about a man who falls in love with an operating system, doesn’t appear to be straining the limits of credulity, either.
In developing the “digital mind,” DeepMind is taking video game technology to the next level, where intelligent computers not only serve to create game scenarios that people play–they play the games, too.
Will the computers of that not-so-distant future achieve consciousness, or have emotions? “I don’t know. Go ask them,” says Jerry Kaplan, who teaches a course on the history and philosophy of AI at Stanford Univeristy. “We’re creating a new life form.”
Google beat Facebook Inc. for the deal for DeepMInd, according to Amir Efrati of The Information. That in and of itself is a sign of how strategic AI is to the future of business.
In the post-Snowden leak world, the idea of ever-more powerful AI is bound to make people nervous, a point not lost on Google. “DeepMind’s technology aims to make computers think like humans and has been used in demonstrations of computers playing video games,” says Mr. Efrati. “Like many other innovations, the technology could be used to controversial ends.” Google will create a special ethics board to govern the use of the technology, he says.
As speculative as the technology may sound, the implications for business are very real. DeepMind was founded by gaming prodigy and neuroscientist Demis Hassabis, considered by some the greatest gamer in history. That skill has been channeled into creating technology with highly commercial applications. DeepMind “has been developing a variety of approaches to AI, and applying them to various potential products including a recommendation system for e-commerce,” Liz Gannes at Re/code reports. That’s an area of impact that includes pretty much everything.