Bilderberg conferences draw protests, but what about conscious computers?
Bilderberg conferences draw protests, but what about conscious computers?

How much do you love Google - the grooviest company on planet Earth?

Seeing as the search provider performs more than two in every three web searches, it's clear the Silicon Valley business is seriously popular.

Its standing is in stark contrast to the Bilderberg Group, a travelling party of corporations and governments shrouded in mystery currently meeting at a Watford hotel off the M25 motorway.

Yet in light of recent activity, is it feasible that Google has begun a process that could lead the helpful web search engine to become its own self-contained Bilderberg 2.0?

Looking for parallels between the reach and the grasp of Google and Bilderberg is not difficult.

Critics of the Bilderberg group see a cabal of special interest groups which meet to carve the up the "offline" planet. LIkewise, Google has faced questions about how it maintains its position as one of the masters of the online universe.

Both Bilderberg and Google share the same taste in countryside hotels. This month's meeting between global leaders is taking place in the same venue as Google held its own Zeitgeist conference in May. Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, is at the Bilderberg meeting.

The Bilderberg-esque potential of Google rests on a pet project named "Google Brain" and the recent hiring of a tech guru named Ray Kurzweil. It could yet set the company go from having a near monopoly on web searches to a monopoly on thought itself.

Mimics the human mind

Kurzweil is humankind's biggest chanting acolyte for a process related to Artificial Intelligence, named - with sinister minimalism - the "Singularity".

Google Brain is all about building a machine that mimics the human mind. Experts are beavering away on it as we speak.

Should this project succeed in a creating computer consciousness, then the Singularity will have been reached.

This theory is best described as a tipping point. It is the point at which technologies converge to create a sentient computer, something never seen before. What happens after this point is anybody's guess: all our powers of prediction fall to pieces.

And Kurzweil thinks it is inevitable.

For an example for convergence today, see how you need to be logged in to Google to get the most from a myriad of its services: email, search, office documents and YouTube.

It's worth noting another place where our predictive facilities stop working is black holes. And there's no coming back from a black hole after the event horizon has been passed.

But conscious computers making humans look like dummies was not dreamed up by Google or the fevered mind of Kurzweil.

World War II hero Alan Turing, who had a brain like a computer, raised the possibility in 1951. "Once the thinking method machine has started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers," he said.

A century earlier, a Victorian thinker wrote: "Who knows that such machines when brought to greater perfection may not think of a plan to remedy all their own defects and then ground out ideas beyond the ken of mortal mind."

In short, the Singularity would lift machine interference in daily life several levels above a mobile phone chirrup interrupting a beer with your friend.

For now Google Brain's potential remains theoretical. But the project is real and having Kurzweil on board should provide it with rocket boosters.

However, the Singularity theory is also weak in the respect that nobody seems very certain about what consciousness is. Humanity's deepest minds are still grappling with the 2,600-year-old question today.

Perhaps a superior electronic super-brain will work out the answer itself. Then the Singularity could make the Bilderberg conference look like a vicar's tea party.