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Google's Artificial Intelligence Project - Is Google Building a Brain?

Updated on September 3, 2014
Google is at the forefront of developing artificial intelligence
Google is at the forefront of developing artificial intelligence

Google has taken some extremely bold steps to ensure its place as the company of the future. Google has positioned itself to be the leader in developing artificial intelligence. Hiring futurist and artificial intelligence expert Ray Kurzweil as director of Engineering, buying the D-Wave Two Quantum Computer, the purchase of the artificial Intelligence company Deep Mind, and their recent announcement that they will be developing their own quantum computing chips shows that Google is more interested in being a force that determines the future of the internet, computers, and even humanity's relationship to computers rather than merely concentrating on the next popular app. Google is doing no less than building a brain.

Ray Kurzweil - Google's Director of Engineering
Ray Kurzweil - Google's Director of Engineering | Source

Ray Kurzweil as Director of Engineering

The hiring of Ray Kurzweil as the director of Engineering was a huge step towards Google's vision of the future. Kurzweil has authored seven books, five of which are New York Times bestsellers, including his latest two “The Singularity is Near” and “How to Create a Mind”. But he is not just a futurist and philosopher – he is also the inventor of

  • the first CCD flatbed scanner

  • the first omni-font optical character recognition

  • the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind

  • the first text-to-speech synthesizer

  • the first music synthesizer which could recreate the grand piano and other orchestral instruments

  • the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition system

It's easy to see how Kurzweil was drawn to Google's offer to make him Director of Engineering, since his main interest is in artificial intelligence, and especially in making a machine that can perform what he calls “deep learning”, or “hierarchical learning” . During a recent Forbes interview, Kurweil stated that no one but Google could provide him with the engineering and computing resources required to fulfill his life's dream – to create a true artificial intelligence. When asked if he intends to create a mind in silicon and software as talked about in his book “How to Create a Mind”, Kurzweil responded that in order to create a mind, you need to construct a hierarchy of knowledge that is developed through learning, and that he has ideas of how to build that hierarchy from the data that a simulated neocortex would be exposed to. He stated that “The first part of this would involve developing hierarchical methods specifically aimed at understanding natural language, extracting semantic meaning … actually developing a way to represent and model the semantic content of documents to do a better job of search and answering questions.” This, of course, fits into Google's immediate interests of improving their search engine, but the implications go way beyond that. It may be that Kurzweil and Google will actually develop the first true artificial intelligence.

Why? Because Kurzweil will have the powerful D-Wave Two Quantum computer at his disposal. Google and NASA have purchased the D-Wave Two Quantum Computer, and launched The Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab in NASA's Ames Research Center in California.

What is a Quantum Computer?

A quantum computer operates on the strange rules of quantum physics. Information is stored on atoms, ions, photons or electrons. Instead of having binary states of 1's and 0's, qubits can be a 1, 0 or both - a state called superposition. When you combine qubits (a state known as entanglement) the number of values you can process expands exponentially with the number of qubits you entangle. This makes it possible for Quantum computers to run through huge numbers of calculations. In fact, a quantum computer with 300 qubits would be capable of running more calculations in an instant than there are atoms in the universe.

D-Wave - the first quantum computer company
D-Wave - the first quantum computer company | Source

The D-Wave Two Quantum Computer

The Canadian based company D-Wave is the first commercial quantum computer company, and sold its first 128-qubit quantum computer system to Lockheed Martin in 2011. Lockheed recently upgraded that computer to the 512-qubit D-Wave Two for around $15 million, so perhaps that's what Google and NASA paid. The D-Wave Two is not considered a true quantum computer by many purists because it doesn't operate on “gate theory” but rather on quantum annealing (adiabatic quantum computing), which operates on energy states. Complex problems are framed in terms of optimal outcomes, and the answer is determined by the variables which use the least amount of energy. It's extremely fast in complex optimization problems such as “The Traveling Salesman” problem (given a list of cities and the distances between each pair of cities. what is the shortest possible route that visits each city exactly once and returns to the origin city? ) In tests last September, an independent researcher found that for these types of problems the quantum computer was 3,600 times faster than traditional supercomputers. According to a D-Wave official, the machine performed even better in Google’s tests, which involved 500 variables with different constraints. “The tougher, more complex ones had better performance,” said Colin P. Wiliams, D-Wave’s director of business development. “For most problems, it was 11,000 times faster, but in the more difficult 50 percent, it was 33,000 times faster. In the top 25 percent, it was 50,000 times faster.” These computers are ideal for the problems that Google and Kurzweil are investigating.

Two More Bold Steps - The Purchase of Deep Mind, and Building Their Own Chips

Google purchased the artificial intelligence company "Deep Mind" back in January, 2014. The acquisition will help them greatly in developing better searches, video recognition, security and social applications, but it also sets them on the path to developing real artificial intelligence.

In addition to sharing the D-Wave quantum computer with NASA, Google has recently announced that it will be designing and building its own quantum computer chips. They will be absorbing UC Santa Barbara's quantum computing group. This acquisition places Google as one ot the largest commercial companies developing quantum computer chips, with IBM being the first

Google Explains Quantum Computing

Kurzweil's View of the Future

Kurzweil has predicted that artificial intelligence will equal human intelligence by 2029. He also believes that an event called “The Singularity” will happen in 2045. The Singularity is the point at which artificial superintelligence emerges that is beyond mankind's understanding, thus making it impossible to predict or control the outcome of such intelligence. Kurzweil believes that rather than allowing technology and science to veer out of control, man will merge with machines and use technology and science to enhance themselves, becoming something more than human, or transhuman. Perhaps his new position at Google will allow him to be the one to actually make these predictions a reality, and the prophecy will be self-fulfilling.

Kurzweil Speaks of Achieving Immortality by 2045

I've Seen the Future

Sometimes momentous events happen without anyone paying attention. The earth doesn't quake, alarms don't go off, there is no notice that the world as you know it is about to change. That's how I feel as I conclude this article. I've seen the future, and its name is Google.

What Do You Think?

Will the development of true artificial intelligence be good for humanity?

See results

© 2013 Margaret Perrottet

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    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 4 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Hello mperrottet! Great article. Filled with very innovative information of tomorrow that really is today, yet may be closer to yesterday. I lean toward the next presented with your summary view. May be Google as the first presenting the benefits of those features offered in a commercial enterprise. I do hope those benefits will offer the little ones today more opportunities easily tomorrow.

      Adding to with the rate of data capture, the rate of data offered, data grows exponentially today, mixed with the source of data, the resource of data, and the present day birth rate vs. mortality rate the means for providing data may remain mechanical rather than digital, especially with skill sets and such.

      Or, it will be easier to watch a video rather than make a video either by mechanical or digital means. I ponder opportunity, economics, social strata, infrastructure, and the conflict not of nature vs. nurture, yet more so that of perception vs. perspective.

      Thank you, mperrottet. for presenting this very enlightening information with a very well written article offering opportunity of pondering tomorrow with today as today, while realizing yesterday is still remembered to compare and contrast.

      Next, I seek to follow you, so off I go to discover of your portfolio . . .

      tim

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It is all far beyond me my friend. I'm just a writer. Google really does not affect me as it does some writers who are trying for that passive income we have all heard about. Interesting article and fascinating information....thanks for the research that went into this.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      tsmog - I'm glad you found this informative, and thanks so much for taking the time to comment - much appreciated!

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      billybuc - I really think that Google's advances in the area of artificial intelligence will affect us all sooner or later, and in a large way. Thanks so much for reading and commenting - it's always good to see you stop by.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      You painstakingly did your research and presented this topic superbly, mperrottet. While the applications of artificial intelligence are potentially helpful to mankind, the fact that there are also grave concerns weighs heavily on my mind. Thank you, nevertheless, for doing a wonderful job on this hub. Aloha!

      Joe

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      hawaiianodysseus - I agree with you that there are grave concerns surrounding artificial intelligence, and think that perhaps the general public needs to direct more attention and thought concerning this subject. I'm hoping that this article will do a small part in making that happen. Thanks so much for reading and commenting - I really appreciate it.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      An excellent article and I think you've explained what is a complex subject very well - especially for a dummy like me who doesn't understand 'quantum' anything.

      There is obviously a great deal of good that will come out of these computers and hopefully humanity will benefit and they'll be used for positive things here on the the planet. But it's also very scary and open up to abuse as well - it has all the makings of a classic sci-fi/horror movie? The question is, if it was to be made into a movie who would be the bad guys - Google?

      However, even although, this artificial intelligence is supposed to be set to overtake the human mind, it doesn't have and never will have that essential essence or spark that differentiates a rock from animals - in other words it has no soul! And for me that's curiously a comfort but it's also the really scary bit!

      Excellent hub + voted up and shared.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Seeker7 - There's been lots of speculation for years on whether or not Google is turning into the Skynet of Terminator fame. Who would be the bad guy? Perhaps all of us for not paying attention, and making sure that science doesn't run away from us, causing more harm than good. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this, your thoughtful comments, and for voting and sharing this - it's greatly appreciated!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Artificial intelligence overtaking human intelligence and immortality will probably spell doom for mankind.

      Interesting and well researched.

    • Aleshia Clarke profile image

      Aleshia Clarke 4 years ago from Port Orange, Florida

      Fascinating hypothesis! Hopefully we are able to stay one step ahead of AI, simply by keeping committed to our humanity.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      rajan- You may be right, it may be the downfall of mankind. It certainly is a scenario that deserves lots of thought, since it may not be that many years before machines are more intelligent than man. If Kurzweiler's right, it's not really that far off at all. Lots to think about. Thanks so much for reading and commenting - always glad to see you stop by.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Aleshia - I agree that we really do need to stay ahead of science. I love what it can do for us, but I fear sometimes that it may run out of control. Thanks for reading and commenting-much appreciated.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      So, Hal is about to emerge and we are all going to become Borg. Well, those deemed worthy of continuing to exist anyway . . . great reporting! I love that you are on the cutting edge with these advances.

      Voted up, awesome, and interesting, and will share and pin!

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Au fait - I'm hoping that before true AI becomes reality, that regulations and ethics are laid out to prevent the worst case scenarios, but that's probably wishful thinking on my part. Thanks so much for voting, sharing and pinning - I really appreciate it.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      I don't know why everyone is referring to someone named Al. 2001: A Space Odyssey, a classic film series written by Arthur C. Clarke -- the computer on board was named Hal.

      Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HAL_9000

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      You're right - Hal, not Al is the artificial intelligence in 2001. I was referring to artificial intelligence (abbreviation ai (AI) ) which for some reason looks just like Al (AL) in the HubPages editor. Maybe just to confuse everyone on HubPages, they will in fact name the first AI (artificial intelligence) Al :).

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Science fiction is becoming reality right before our eyes. Amazing stuff! If you had put an "I'm not sure" in your poll that is what I would have clicked. UUI votes and pinning to my board called Do You Know This? Great article!

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Peggy - you're right - I should have put "I'm not sure" in the poll, because I think that's how many of us would vote. Thanks so much for voting and for the pin!

    • Kasman profile image

      Kas 4 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      I remember watching an interview with this man and Glenn Beck awhile back. I was amazed at what he was saying but then the obvious question came up. "Does this not frighten you? This kind of technology in the wrong hands?"

      Looking at how our government has been acting as of late....it actually makes me question the checks and balances in place for something like this. I think that you should only trust this kind of technology with people who have the integrity of George Washington or Jesus! It's too much power for just any one grouping of people that you're not sure you can trust. Man, what a thought provoking article. I'm voting this up and sharing big time!

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Kasman - There really needs to be some kind of ethics committee set up that controls the use of this technology. It is frightening to think of the uses if put in the wrong hands. Thanks so much for reading and sharing - I really appreciate it.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      To really stretch the human mind, there was a time when Dick Tracy (a cartoon detective) wore a bracelet that allowed him to communicate with the rest of the police department. There was a time when Flash Gordon (another cartoon character) took a spaceship into space and landed on Planet Mongo...this was 1934!

      Kurzweil says, "that exponential advances will allow us to intervene in the aging process." Hmmm, where are we going?

      Great piece mperrottet. While all of us may not understand all of what you wrote, it certainly gives us pause to think and pay attention.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and shared.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      tillsontitan - thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment on this. This is a subject that is important to me, because I feel that although we can't stop progress, we need to keep a careful eye on it.

    • bizarrett81 profile image

      bizarrett81 3 years ago from Maine

      Google... well, it's not the ominous name I imagined the ones producing super artificial intelligence would have. But this simultaneously frightens me and excites me. I remember reading an article on "The Singularity" a few years ago and just being...well, scared. I fear that AI of the future won't care about humans, so I guess I can only hope that we do merge with machines, for I fear anything less will lead to our demise...But again that raises all sorts of ethical and other questions... is it right to do that? what will immortality mean to us as humans and what we value? how would our earth sustain billions who never age? And what about us being part machine? Wouldn't that leave us even more susceptible to other problems, like a CME just shutting us all down? A lot to think about.. sometimes I look at my two year old and try to envision his future and I just... can't. I really can't, but I imagine that is what our grandparents thought about our futures... Fantastic piece voted up and sharing.

    • janesix profile image

      janesix 3 years ago

      This is too creepy for words. Great article though:)

    • Zubair Ahmed profile image

      Zubair Ahmed 3 years ago

      A very interesting hub. Thank you for sharing amazing how computer technology has advanced, I still remember my first ATARI65, every time I wanted to play a game on it, it would take me 30mins or more to load all the different cassettes that contained the data and as I got ready just about to start it would display an error for me to repeat the process.

      These supercomputers are excellent having used one for my work in the past. Can't wait to see what google produce.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      bizarrett81 - I feel much like you. It's exciting to think of all of the good that can come from these advances, but it's so important to harness this technology and try to provide a set of ethics around it. Thanks so much for reading, voting and sharing.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      janesix - Sorry if I creeped you out :) Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment - I really appreciate it.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Aubair Ahmed - I remember the old computers very well. One of the first computers I had was a TRS80, and my kids had an Atari. The quantum computer that Google is using is amazing, and that will be put to shame by the quantum computers that will be showing up in the future. Thanks so much for stopping by, and glad you found this interesting.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I am fascinated by the immense strides in science even when I don't understand all of the specifics. (My late ex-husband, an engineer, once told me I would never have a great logical mind because abstract thinking interfered too much. I'm sure he was right, as he was about everything else. Haha.) But one doesn't have to be a scientist or even be able to grasp every aspect of scientific discoveries to recognize when they are phenomenol.

      As for ethics, since there appear to be none of those irritating restraints in the business world (which is more likely to cause us harm through toxins in the air, water and food supply, etc.), or guiding those politicians who continue to wage unwinnable wars that wipe out millions of military and civilians, why should we expect ethical behavior from the world of science? Actually, I believe scientists hold themselves to a higher standard, including an ethical one, than most corporate leaders or politicians. Perhaps that's naivete, but from what I've read in scientific publications, it's my opinion.

      Besides, I can't conceive of Google being destructive rather than constructive.

      Voted Up+++ and shared

      Jaye

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Jane - I think that you're right about scientists holding themselves to a higher standard. The problem that I see is that it is often large corporations driven by profits that are driving many of the scientific discoveries. Concerning Google (or any other corporation for that matter) I don't think that they would deliberately cause any harm. I just think that the progression towards transhumanism (merging man with machines/computers) is one that needs to be kept an eye on, and that the unintended consequences could be bad for humanity. To tell you the truth, I love technology and what it can do for humanity. However, the rate at which things are progressing could cause things to veer out of control. Thanks so much for reading and for leaving such a thoughtful comment - I really appreciate it.

    • LKMore01 profile image

      LKMore01 3 years ago

      This is such a thought provoking subject, mperrottet. You have presented the information without partiality. It makes us all stop and question why, what or who is sponsoring and influencing our technology. Do some corporations really have humanity's best interest in mind?

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      LKMoreo1 - I'm glad to hear that my article causes questions concerning technology. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!

    • electronician profile image

      Dean Walsh 3 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Exciting stuff, if its ever going to happen I think its almost certainly Google that's going to do it.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      electronician - Sure looks like Google is getting an edge on the whole thing with the moves they made lately. True Artificial Intelligence is such a fascinating thing that will certainly cause changes in our world, perhaps in unpredictable ways.

    • samowhamo profile image

      samowhamo 3 years ago

      I think AI might be interesting but I don't like Kurzweil's vision of it as I have said before his idea of it in his book (The Singularity Is Near) scares me not just because of what it might do to humans but what it might do to nature, animals and plant life because I am a nature lover thankfully there are organizations that protect those things. What are your views on these issues.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      samowhamo - I am a nature lover as well, and although I love many of the things that technology offers, I think that we need to carefully watch that it doesn't run away from us. Thanks for reading and commenting - I really appreciate it.

    • samowhamo profile image

      samowhamo 3 years ago

      Well if AI is achieved and if it can be taught human values, ethics, emotions and feelings (as some people believe) maybe it can be taught to value and respect nature, animals and plants.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      samowhamo - You're right, and I'm sure that they will attempt to incorporate human values into any AI that's developed. As far as emotions and feelings, that part may be very difficult to achieve.

    • samowhamo profile image

      samowhamo 3 years ago

      Have you ever hear of Kurzweil's theory called The Law Of Accelerating Returns and if so what are your views on it.

    • samowhamo profile image

      samowhamo 3 years ago

      I apologize I didn't notice that you wrote about The Law Of Accelerating Returns in you other article. I again apologize for that I sometime miss things when I am reading articles.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      samowhamo - I think that Kurzweil is correct in believing that technology is progressing exponentially, and that we will see amazing things in the next 50 years. One of the things that I think will hasten the progress in technology is the quantum computer. Although the D-Wave computer isn't a purely classical quantum computer, as I mentioned in the article, it's a good start, and much progress is being made on 'classical' quantum computers. I believe that Kurzweil will make great advances in the field of AI with the use of the D-Wave quantum computer.

    • samowhamo profile image

      samowhamo 3 years ago

      Well in spite of what Kurzweil thinks humans do not need singularity to advance and progress there are other ways to do that.

    • vvrocks profile image

      Vysakh v 3 years ago from India

      Great article. Thanks for sharing..

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      vvrocks - thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      It's difficult to wrap the mind around the type of artificial intelligence these people want to create. Will they be able to help improve human intelligence too? Do we really want equality here? Interesting!

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      MsDora - Your questions are all good ones that we all need to think about. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

    • Randy Horizon profile image

      Randy Hirneisen 2 years ago from Philadelphia

      Amazing article! Very well written, loved reading it. Google is certainly positioning itself at the top of artificial intelligence and the future. Ray Kurzweil is very bright and very interesting. Mankind becoming immortal and transhuman is very strange indeed. Not sure what to think about that?

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      I think that artificial intelligence will be great for us in the short run.

      But I think every human being will have chips implanted in them and be robotized way before the machines start asking why we exist and what good are we.

      Google "chips implanted in humans 2015" and you will see that we are on our way to getting tagged just as pets are.

      Sooner or later someone will ask mothers if they want their children to be safe and they will state that the only way to make your child safe and sane and happy is to chip him. And that will be the beginning of the end for human freedom.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 2 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      poetryman6969 - I think you may be absolutely right - I can see chips being put into all of us eventually, and that could lead to a very dangerous path. There's lots to think about with these issues and the ethics surrounding them.

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