Judgment Day: Google’s DeepMind



The age of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Spike Jonze’s “Her” may not be as far away as we thought after tech and web giant Google Inc.’s recent $500 million purchase of DeepMind Technologies, a London-based artificial-intelligence startup company and Google’s largest European technology investment to date.

DeepMind, which was founded by neuroscientist and Oxford graduate Demis Hassabis, along with Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman, has already demoed technology in the form of video games, and the result was a computer that played the games very similarly to how a human would play them. With this small advancement made public, the AI startup and Google are seeking to make computers much more intelligent.

According to the people at DeepMind, the AI company claims to combine “the best techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms” which will, at first, consist of simulation programs, e-commerce, and games.

Simulation programs should see vast improvements with new technology from Google and DeepMind; we can expect to see headgear worn during such programs, such as a flight simulation that determines or predicts the choices a person makes under certain sets of circumstances.

For e-commerce, Google will improve its ability to predict what consumers will purchase or what ads they will click on, and AI in the gaming world could improve the user experience tenfold in terms of improving people’s skill levels.

So what is the basis for all of this change? Well, humans are becoming increasingly busy: we multi-task; we have multiple devices in our pockets, we work long hours, we have at least five Internet tabs open at work, and on and on we go. Google has been working on building software and technology that will anticipate the needs of a user–think a butler or chauffeur–but in order for technology to better help us organize our lives and predict our needs, there must first be technology that thinks more like us.

Google has already made big purchases in the name of creating and improving AI technology, including Nest Labs (purchased for a cool $3.2 billion), which debuted its smart thermostat last June; Meka, who makes humanoid robots; and Industrial Perception, responsible for machines that package goods.

So although it isn’t quite known yet just what Google will use DeepMind for, it has been predicted that the startup will somehow link each aspect of the company’s recent technology purchases. During the first few years under Google’s ownership, it will most likely be used to help improve Google’s voice and text searches both on it’s mobile devices and standard computers.

Demis Hassabis, co-founder of Google’s newly acquired DeepMind AI company

Yes, tech giants all across the internet are now scrambling to grab their chunk of the AI world.

Facebook also looked into the purchasing of DeepMind, but was outbid by Google, and instead hired professor Yann LeCunn from New York University as its head of their own AI lab. Yahoo Inc. recently bought LookFlow, a photo analysis startup company. IBM’s supercomputer, Watson, has already been working on deep learning—a phrase coined to explain very human-like AI machines that are not biologically made but act as if they are, but should there be limitations to such technology?

Are we moving too quickly towards our civilization’s singularity? How far is too far when it comes to how much think-power we are giving these “lifeless” things?

This is where Google’s ethics board will come into play. Investors and consumers alike could easily become skeptical about a product if the advancement in technology isn’t often given a reality check—no one wants a SkyNet machine running around creating Judgment Day—so the board will ensure that DeepMind’s artificial intelligence technology isn’t abused.

Skeptics of advanced AI technology, such as what Google has in-store, are increasingly citing science fiction writer Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics which appeared in his Robot series of young-adult fiction novels. However, with Google’s DeepMind purchase and other AI technology startups on the rise, these three laws could actually serve as a starting basis for Google’s new ethics board.

This futuristic technology is here to stay and should no longer just be considered a sci-fi fantasy sitting safely inside our television screens in “Minority Report” or “Blade Runner”.

If managed, advertised and invested correctly, Google’s new AI technology investments will pay off–not just for the company, but for the consumer–with the next step being convincing the world that it is safe, user-friendly and reliable. It certainly could be nice to have something else sort through all of our emails in the mornings.

Audrey Strasenburgh

Audrey Strasenburgh

Associate Editor at The Chiefly
Born and raised in Rochester, NY, a graduate of St. Lawrence University with a passion for the sport of rowing. A current rowing coach, avid hiker and skier with the lifetime goal of sampling every beer ever made.
Audrey Strasenburgh
Audrey Strasenburgh
Audrey Strasenburgh
Audrey Strasenburgh

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