Google Wants to Tap Your Brain

While the quest for the ultimate in marketing automation technology continues, I'm still struggling to get my email spam filter to work properly. But Ray Kurzweil, Google's director of engineering, says that more intelligent systems are coming faster than we think.

By 2030, computers will be able to handle natural human language and experience emotions, Kurzweil said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal this weekend. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. By 2045, we will attain "full singularity," he continued, which means that humans will be completely integrated with technology — with direct links to the cerebral neocortex.

Smarter ... or Not?

Here at, we've closely tracked Google's obsession with Artificial Intelligence (AI). Kurzweil is one of the leaders behind the Internet giant's search for AI.

That means you should be scared.

Google's mission is to build an intelligent marketing machine that understands everything about you -- and eventually plugs directly into your brain. After all, part of Kurzweil's vision is that eventually nanobots could be placed in the human brain, acting as integration agents for technology. 

More bad news, just days after scientists revealed watching too much porn may be bad for your brain. 

Kurzweil's comments got me thinking about the future of marketing, and what kind of world we'll be in when Google knows exactly what you're thinking when you wake up in the morning. 

Will Google Own Your Thoughts?


The quest for AI at Google brings up very important privacy questions.  Does Google own the rights to your thoughts? 

Some governments, including the European Union (EU), already have issues with Google's expanding powers, and there's a growing movement to provide more consumer protection. Google is in the midst of a legal battle with the EU, which recently issued a "right to be forgotten" ruling which would give consumers the right to erase themselves from Google database.  

Google pursuing the "singularity" could pose even more privacy and ethical concerns. Given that Google already knows most things about you, what happens when Google is plugged directly into your brain?

Feeling thirsty for a beer? Google will know it as soon as you are, and maybe Budweiser will be able to send suggestive messages straight to your neocortex.

Yes, I'm a bit more cynical than Kurzweil. But it's right to be suspicious of the world's most powerful corporation controlling artificial intelligence technology.

It may also not unfold exactly like Kurzweil expects. As one of his long-time followers, I can tell you that his proclamations are typically over optimistic. In his classic tome on artificial intelligence, The Age of Spiritual Machines, published in 1999, we were told the singularity was coming in 2020. Now it's 2045. So those predictions appear to have been pushed out by a couple of decades.

Singularity: Take Your Time

I'm not in any hurry for the singularity. With the assault of mobile devices, electronic surveillance, drones and Internet data, it's clear the machine already knows a lot about us -- even though this data is largely used with crude effect. Anybody trying to program his email database integration with Marketo knows that we're still a long way from true marketing automation. 

Google has already hinted at a world that meshes Internet of Things (IoT) with being able to market better at you. Examples have been dropped with last year's acquisition of Nest, the home thermostat company, and its work with automated cars. According to a 2013 SEC filing, Google expressed the desire to plaster advertisements wherever it could in your home, including on your family refrigerator. (Reminder: Buy Sergey's Organic Milk!)

This filing caused a bit of a controversy and later Nest founder Tony Fadell had to backtrack for Google a bit, saying that the company did not have plans to put ads on thermostats.

But we'd be naive to think that Google is not going there. And while Kurzweil's vision is compelling and interesting, you need to remember that Google is a large, commercial, for-profit operation, and its business model is marketing. If Google can find a way to better integrate its clients' marketing messages with your brain, it will. 

So beware the singularity. The day may come when the Coca-Cola Co. — and every other company — can communicate directly with your hypothalamus. 

Image of Ray Kurzweil by Bill Wadman.