Robots will be smarter than humans within 15 years, Google’s new chief on artificial intelligence has claimed.
Ray Kurzweil, considered by many to be the world’s leading expert on AI, says by 2029 computers will be more intelligent than mankind and will be able to learn from experience, crack jokes, tell stories and even flirt.
He has been hired by the internet giant with the task of producing a search engine that responds to natural language and, in the end, knows us better than we know ourselves.
The 66-year-old believes the Turing test – the moment at which a computer will exhibit intelligent behaviour equal to or indistinguishable from that of a human – will be passed in 2029.
He said: “In 1999 we had a conference of AI experts and we took a poll by hand about when you think the Turing test would be passed. The consensus was hundreds of years. And a pretty good contingent thought that it would never be done.
“And today, I’m pretty much at the median of what AI experts think and the public is kind of with them.
“Because the public has seen things like Siri [the iPhone’s voice-recognition technology] where you talk to a computer, they’ve seen the Google self-driving cars.
“My views are not radical any more. I’ve actually stayed consistent. It’s the rest of the world that’s changing its view.”
Kurzweil’s previous predictions included giving a computer eight years to beat a world chess champion (it took seven), driverless cars which Google has almost perfected, and ‘Iron Man’ style body armour for injured soldiers, as currently being trialled by the US military.
Kurzweil, who takes 150 pills a day and is injected with vitamins and diet supplement every week, pushes his theory of “the singularity” – the moment in the future when man and machine will intertwine.
In echoes of 1980s hit movie The Terminator, when robots rise to wipe out mankind, Kurzweil predicts once ‘the singularity’ has been reached, machine intelligence will be a billion times more powerful than all human brain power combined.