Google is on a shopping spree, buying startup after startup to push its business into the future. But these companies don’t run web services or sell ads or build smartphone software or dabble in other things that Google is best known for. The web’s most powerful company is filling its shopping cart with artificial intelligence algorithms, robots, and smart gadgets for the home. It’s on a mission to build an enormous digital brain that operates as much like the human mind as possible — and, in many ways, even better.
Yesterday, Google confirmed that it has purchased a stealthy artificial intelligence startup called DeepMind. According to reports, the company paid somewhere in the mid-hundreds of millions of dollars for the British outfit. Though Google didn’t discuss the price tag, that enormous figure is in line with the rest of its recent activity.
The DeepMind acquisition closely follows Google’s $3.2 billion purchase of smart thermostat and smoke alarm maker Nest, a slew of cutting-edge robotics companies, and another AI startup known as DNNresearch.
Google is looking to spread smart computer hardware into so many parts of our everyday lives — from our homes and our cars to our bodies — but perhaps more importantly, it’s developing a new type of artificial intelligence that can help operate these devices, as well as its many existing web and smartphone services.
Though Google is out in front of this AI arms race, others are moving in the same direction. Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft are doubling down on artificial intelligence too, and are snapping up fresh AI talent. According to The Information, Mark Zuckerberg and company were also trying to acquire DeepMind.
. . . . . . .
For many of us, Google already functions as an important part of what WIRED columnist Clive Thompson has called our outboard brain. The more Google “knows,” the less we have to remember. We just Google it. Now imagine that same kind of intelligence Google applies to the web set loose on your personal existence, not just online but out in the real world.
If its artificial intelligence dreams come true, Google might end up knowing you better than you know yourself. As we export more and more of our intelligence to Google, the question might become: What are our own brains for?
Phi Beta Iota: We consider Google a very large very elegant scam. It has been operating on shareholder fantasy cash since its inception. There is no question but that it is brilliant at computational mathematics, building algorithms, and creating very large databases within which it adds micro-tolls and other forms of corruption including programmable search engines that show the stupid what someone else has paid for them to see. Dr. Russell Ackoff would say that Google is the last gasp of the industrial era engineering brain — devoid of ethics and humanity, and therefore devoid of the magnificant possibilities that would emerge from empowering the five billion poor at their level of need (i.e. they don’t need no stinkin’ toaster controls). Google is what comes after NSA. Not cool at all.