Ray Kurzweil book signing at Global Directions - picture J-P De Clerck
Ray Kurzweil book signing at Global Directions – picture J-P De Clerck

Ray Kurzweil, Google’s Director of Engineering, offers a glimpse into the near future of data, artificial intelligence and information.

On top of being a remarkable and prolific inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil is also Google’s Director of Engineering. At the Global Directions conference in Washington, Kurzweil offered a peek into the present evolutions and near future of technology and information. It clearly indicated where we are heading, in many cases faster than managers (will) realize.

Those evolutions have a lot to do with the 3rd platform and the accelerators built upon it, such as big data, the IoT (Internet of Things), AI, augmented reality, intelligent information management, next generation collaboration and so much more. While some of these topics may have been talked about since years and others may have a somewhat futuristic ring to them, they are very real. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are already present in applications for years. Recommendation engines and search engines use AI. And there are more and more artificial intelligence business applications.

Are you – really – ready for exponential growth?

In a video interview with Michael Hickins, Editor of the CIO Journal and Senior Editor of the Wall Street Journal, who also moderated a round table at the event, Ray Kurzweil summed up some advances in technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), etc. and he summarized the essence and business impact of those technologies as they exponentially grow (while most organizations plan for the future in a linear way).

Ray Kurzweil in the Global Directions panel with Michael Hickins - picture J-P De Clerck
Ray Kurzweil in the Global Directions panel with Michael Hickins – picture J-P De Clerck

This exponential growth is essential for the future of your business. As once emerging technologies in areas such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of things and natural speech, to name just three, reach the point where they move further/faster in the exponential curves of growth (linked with price/performance and capacity), speed of innovation/evolution becomes even more essential. Many of the so-called ‘interruptive’ technologies in this state of exponential growth are impacting your business ecosystem faster than most of us probably realize.

Linda Tucci from TechTarget, who was also at the event, captured the essence well in the opening paragraph of her article looking more in-depth at Kurzweil’s keynote and quoting him with these few words: “change is not constant“. And, indeed, it isn’t: linear versus exponential.

In the interview with Michael (see below), Ray Kurzweil explains how Google is using AI today and in the future, emphasizing the importance of meaning in how it organizes information. Indeed, meaning as in the intent of people searching for information. Or Google Glass as a first look – ‘a generation 1 product’ Kurzweil says – into the possibilities of augmented reality. Kurzweil describes his work at Google as making computers understanding meaning – adding “whatever meaning means” – of the more or less 10 billion web documents and pages.

Intelligent information management beyond human intelligence

As many other organizations, Google is planning much more. And it’s not just about all the high-visibility things that companies such as Google are doing and will soon change the ways we use and get information. AI and other technologies are being used in many areas where intelligence is constantly added to information. And organizations such as IBM – with Watson as mentioned by Kurzweil in the video below – are also deep into self-learning systems and new ways of dealing with and even predicting ‘information’ as will become clear in our interview with IBM’s Neil Isford.

The future of information and content is increasingly defined by machines and software in a human context beyond our limited capabilities and one thing is sure: even if we will face more ethical dilemmas, the need to be contextually relevant and take a leading place in an intelligent information approach, combining smart data and smart people, while taking into account exponentially growing evolutions, is one of the inevitable challenges for every organization.

It came back in virtually each single keynote at the event. Gathering, managing and offering the right information the right way etc. is getting a new meaning and it’s about more than human intelligence. As CIOs say themselves, the shift in information technology is moving towards the “i” of information, innovation and intelligence but the “t” certainly remains a game-changing driver.

More in the interview video on YouTube.