One of TED2014’s most anticipated moments came on Wednesday, when top conversationalist Charlie Rose sat down with Google co-founder Larry Page for a discussion about the company’s present and future, it’s goal to bring the internet to more people, and the ever-increasing issue of security and privacy.
Rose started the discussion off by asking Page where he thinks Google is, and where it’s going. Google’s mission from its infancy, Page pointed out, was to organize all of the world’s information. Now, he notes, he’s not so sure if they’re still doing that. Yet it’s worth recognizing that the internet, search and mass-dissemination of information is still a relatively brand new thing. Even 15 years in, Page stated, this is not all done. He also was quick to note that computing is still “kind of a mess”, and the company has to also focus on simply making sure that devices work. Things are still very “clunky”.
At the recent 2014 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg talked about Internet.org’s mission to bring the internet to the segment of the world that remains offline. Page made it be known that this is a mission for Google as well, and the company is acting on it. With two-thirds of the world still without internet access, Google thought of innovative, cost-effective ways to deliver connectivity to far-reaching areas of the world. So was born Google’s Project Loon, utilizing high-altitude balloons to deliver connectivity to places that have yet to come online.
Internet security and privacy remains one of the industry’s important conversations, and with Edward Snowden delivering remarks at both SXSW and TED, it was certainly expected that Page address his concerns. What’s most disappointing about the NSA scandal, Page opined, was that the government wasn’t forthcoming about its security operations. He believes that a functional democracy isn’t possible if the government doesn’t include it’s population in the conversation. Secrecy, in this case, was a massive disservice.
But Page also believes that it’s important we don’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. We need to recognize that there is a lot of ultimate good that can come from mass collection of information; as Page wondered aloud, what if all medical records were available, anonymously, to doctors? Surely, some tremendous good can come out of sharing mass information, as long as it’s shared in the right ways. Transparency is paramount to that.
In closing, Page touched briefly on other ways that Google is looking to better the world, everything from rethinking our transportation system to how we craft and construct our cities. And he had a few messages for corporations, as well. Page insisted that corporations can, indeed, be agents of change, as long as they’re run well. The best to way to ensuring that is not missing out on the future.