Google’s Diane Greene says the singularity won’t arrive in her sentient lifetime


Three out of four Google robots disagreed.

Google’s head of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, is known for espousing what’s known as the “technological singularity”: The idea that artificial intelligence will become so smart that it will take on a form that humans cannot foresee nor comprehend. It’s essentially the end of humanity as we know it.

Thankfully, at least one top Google exec doesn’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.

“There’s a lot that machine learning can’t do that humans can do very, very well,” Diane Greene, head of Google’s cloud division, said in an interview at the Code Enterprise conference Tuesday in San Francisco.

“Nobody expected some of the advances we are seeing as quickly as we’re seeing them,” she added. “I don’t expect to see the Singularity in my sentient lifetime.”

For more context, the singularity hypothesis suggests humans will have to merge with machines and that machines will be able to upgrade themselves. With the rapid advances in machine learning (e.g., Apple’s Siri, Google Now, Amazon’s Alexa, self-driving car tech, etc.), the postulation is gaining steam among tech experts.

Whether or not the singularity is near, Google isn’t going to stop growing anytime soon, and lot of that growth is happening in the cloud. In late September it piled all its enterprise tools into a single bucket, Google Cloud, headed up by Diane Greene, who also sits on Google’s board.

It’s not just Drive and Docs under the Cloud umbrella — Google is also throwing Android phones and Chromebook laptops under its Cloud brand, too.

According to Greene, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services enterprise software only serve 5 percent of the IT market, which means Google sees enterprise software as a rather untapped market. And when it comes to sharable, cloud-based documents and storage, Google Docs and Drive don’t really have a competitor.

Greene said Google Cloud is competing against Amazon and Microsoft, but for different reasons. “I think with Amazon, people have been using them longer and so they have more familiarity,” said Greene. But with Microsoft, Google is competing with “their footprint and presence with every enterprise. They’re formidable competitors.”

Earlier Tuesday, Google announced it had hired two prominent women as part of Greene’s organization, leading its machine learning and artificial intelligence efforts: Stanford researcher Fei-Fei Lee and Jia Li, who was previously head of research at Snapchat parent Snap.

One of its first new machine learning products from Google’s team is a “Jobs API,” designed to help companies looking to hire hundreds of workers at a time. Google says Career Builder, Dice and FedEx all plan to use the new service.

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