What has made for quite extraordinary news recently is Googles sudden obsession with robotics, military tech and artificial intelligence. When Google bought Boston Dynamics last year, the company responsible for those creepy military robots which would look at home in a sci-fi movie, it made news headlines. People wondered what Google was up to. Just what exactly is their agenda? Are google set to become the world biggest arms supplier (think Stark Industries)? Or is there some other Agenda?
The rise of google as one of the worlds largest and most significant corporations has been staggering. Only when I was at school in mist of the new millennium, Google was just some widely unknown search engine. Goggle? Boogle? how do you spell it again?
If one thing is for sure its that Google are up to something. Perhaps they are merely adapting to emerging trends in technology and consumer habits. But the more concerning possibility is that the skippers at Google have been watching far too many Marvel movies. Something tells me Google are in the most of becoming on the of the worlds major suppliers of military hardware and technology.
In what the Guardian calls “an unprecedented shopping spree” they point out how Google has bought almost “every machine-learning and robotics company it can find”. The list includes the surprising acquisition of ‘Nest Lab’ the manufacturer of smart homes sensors, and the London based artificial intelligence (IA) startup ‘Deep Mind’. In addition to these key players, Google has also acquired many more robotics and AI companies and continues to hire top computer scientists, researchers and technologists (The Guardian).
One possible beneficiary of Googles acquisition of so many robotics and manufacturing companies is the US economy. Quoting a report from The Wall Street Journal, The Verge highlights how Google and Foxconn have been conspiring to develop new robotic manufacturing technologies which would benefit the economy by means of attracting companies back to the US with the “promise of higher productivity and lower labor costs”.
Although Its no secret that the US economy has been in decline, I find moral responsibility an unlikely reason for Googles recent behaviour. Generally speaking companies are interested in profits and expansion above all else. Of course I wouldn’t completely rule out President Obama’s push to grow investment in manufacturing and technology in the US as having something to do with it. Think financial reward.
What is concerning is the type of companies Google has been buying. For example look at Boston Dynamic. They are responsible for some of the creepiest robots you will ever see. ‘Big Dog’ for example has had a lot of exposure in the media because of its freaky mule type design. The machine is capable of carrying heavy loads over even the most difficult terrain and the Youtube video of ‘Big Dog’ regaining its balance on ice is frankly horrifying.
Big Dog is being developed for the US military with funding from the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It is also no secret that the majority of funding for the major projects comes from the US military. Yes these projects may be non offensive military accessories and experiments but it does pain a rather concerning picture regarding Googles now close working relationship with the military.
On the other hand perhaps we theres no need to be concerned. Maybe this is just a natural development for the big G.
In 2012 Google brought on board the inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil as director of Engineering. A well know futurologist, Kurzweil successfully predicted a computer world beat a world chess player by 1998, and also predicted that the Web would explode at a time when it was in its very early stages (The Mail Online). Kurzweil is also well known for creating the concept of ‘singularity’, the idea that robots and humans will basically become the same thing. He has also controversially predicted that by 2029 robots will become more intelligent than humans. This is known as the ‘Turin Test moment’. It thus seems quite fitting that Google have employed him with a mandate to research and develop Artificial Intelligence.
Kurzweil clearly is the right man for the job when it comes to Google’s aspirations. His vision and passion for future technologies will likely be paramount in Google’s aim to become the leading entity in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence.
So Google really is a force to be reckoned with and has the potential to be very significant. I think a lot of questions are going to be asked regarding the companies aspirations and it will be very interesting to see what happens next. I for one am actually excited to see this vision coming from a company which has always been at the pinnacle of innovation. Google’s intentions are probably peaceful with their sole purpose being to further research into intelligent machinery. Wether or not machines become more intelligent than humans by 2029 I don’t know. Im sure however that if (when?) it does happen, Google will be responsible. Either directly or indirectly.
Sources: The Verge, The Guardian, The Mail Online.