Eric Schmidt

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VW-Werk, Wolfsburg Forschung und Entwicklung Reparatur und Vorbereitung eines Dummy (Testpuppe) für Crash-Test.

Superintelligent machines may be the death of us, but far-less-smart AI can also lead to disasters, even cascading ones. In a Japan Times op-ed, philosopher Peter Singer thinks that AlphaGo’s stunning recent victory and the progress of driverless cars should spur an earnest discussion of the moral code of microchips and sensors and such. “It is not too soon to ask whether we can program a machine to act ethically,” he writes.

We shouldn’t set rules governing AI that will bind people deep into a future that will present different realities than our own, but laying a foundation for constantly assessing and reassessing the prowess of machine intelligence is vital.

An excerpt:

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company, the owner of AlphaGo, is enthusiastic about what artificial intelligence means for humanity. Speaking before the match between Lee and AlphaGo, he said that humanity would be the winner, whatever the outcome, because advances in AI will make every human being smarter, more capable and “just better human beings.”

Will it? Around the same time as AlphaGo’s triumph, Microsoft’s “chatbot” — software named Taylor that was designed to respond to messages from people aged 18 to 24 — was having a chastening experience. Tay, as she called herself, was supposed to be able to learn from the messages she received and gradually improve her ability to conduct engaging conversations. Unfortunately, within 24 hours, people were teaching Tay racist and sexist ideas. When she starting saying positive things about Hitler, Microsoft turned her off and deleted her most offensive messages.

I do not know whether the people who turned Tay into a racist were themselves racists, or just thought it would be fun to undermine Microsoft’s new toy. Either way, the juxtaposition of AlphaGo’s victory and Taylor’s defeat serves as a warning. It is one thing to unleash AI in the context of a game with specific rules and a clear goal; it is something very different to release AI into the real world, where the unpredictability of the environment may reveal a software error that has disastrous consequences.

Nick Bostrom, the director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, argues in his book “Superintelligence” that it will not always be as easy to turn off an intelligent machine as it was to turn off Tay.•

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If Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt truly believes that his company’s long-term goal is to turn out machines that are under human influence, I would have to assume he hasn’t been to the office very much lately. In what sounds like a PR offensive, Schmidt and co-writer Jared Cohen have penned a Time essay asserting that when it comes to Artificial Intelligence, humans will keep their hands on the wheel, if not literally. As if anyone can promise that once AI makes more major strides.

An excerpt:

Based on the work of DeepMind, which is involved in AI research, we believe that makers of AI should adhere to the following principles. First, AI should benefit the many, not the few. In practical terms, AI has the potential to help the doctor and the patient, the business and the employee. As a society, we should make use of this potential and ensure that AI always aims for the common good.

Second, AI research and development should be open, responsible and socially engaged. As we continue developing AI, new questions will continue to arise, and we will need to answer them collaboratively, including everyone from engineers and scientists to philosophers and activists. In particular, those whose industries will change as a result of AI will need to be part of this global conversation.

Third, those who design AI should establish best practices to avoid undesirable outcomes. Is a system doing what we need? Are we training it using the right data? Have we thought through the way any system might yield unintended side effects—and do we have a plan to correct for this? There should be verification systems that evaluate whether an AI system is doing what it was built to do.

We are building tools that humans control.•

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Quantifying our behavior is likely only half the task of the Internet of Things, with nudging us the other part of the equation. I don’t necessarily mean pointing us toward healthier choices we wouldn’t necessarily make (which is dubious if salubrious) but placing us even more inside a consumerist machine.

Somewhat relatedly: Quentin Hardy of the New York Times looks at how the data-rich tomorrow may mostly benefit the largest technology companies. An excerpt:

This sensor explosion is only starting: Huawei, a Chinese maker of computing and communications equipment with $47 billion in revenue, estimates that by 2025 over 100 billion things, including smartphones, vehicles, appliances and industrial equipment, will be connected to cloud computing systems.

The Internet will be almost fused with the physical world. The way Google now looks at online clicks to figure out what ad to next put in front of you will become the way companies gain once-hidden insights into the patterns of nature and society.

G.E., Google and others expect that knowing and manipulating these patterns is the heart of a new era of global efficiency, centered on machines that learn and predict what is likely to happen next.

“The core thing Google is doing is machine learning,” Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, said at an industry event on Wednesday. Sensor-rich self-driving cars, connected thermostats or wearable computers, he said, are part of Google’s plan “to do things that are likely to be big in five to 10 years. It just seems like automation and artificial intelligence makes people more productive, and smarter.”

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Just because Julian Assange is a megalomaniacal creepbag doesn’t mean he’s wrong about everything. He’s most certainly not. In a Newsweek excerpt from his book When Google Met Wikileaks, Assange recounts his 2011 meeting with that company’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Ideas Director Jared Cohen, and his subsequent realization that the search giant enjoys a cozy relationship with the inner sanctums of D.C.’s biggest power brokers, even the White House. I don’t doubt that Google, the de facto Bell Labs of our time and likely in possession of more information than any other entity in the history of Earth, is indeed ensconced in politics (and vice versa), though I would caution against thinking the Silicon Valley behemoth is some sort of shadow government. In his black-and-white way of viewing the world, Assange needs his foes to be as massive as his ego, and he wants to see Google as an indomitable force shaping our world. While it has some influence–and I wish corporations didn’t have any entrée into such quarters–I think Assange is overestimating the company’s importance as a world-maker to inflate his own. In fact, if Google is mainly a search company a decade or two from now, it won’t have much sway at all–it’ll probably be in a lot of trouble. A passage about Assange’s research into Cohen’s role in geopolitics:

“Looking for something more concrete, I began to search in WikiLeaks’ archive for information on Cohen. State Department cables released as part of Cablegate reveal that Cohen had been in Afghanistan in 2009, trying to convince the four major Afghan mobile phone companies to move their antennas onto U.S. military bases. In Lebanon, he quietly worked to establish an intellectual and clerical rival to Hezbollah, the ‘Higher Shia League.’ And in London he offered Bollywood movie executives funds to insert anti-extremist content into their films, and promised to connect them to related networks in Hollywood.

Three days after he visited me at Ellingham Hall, Jared Cohen flew to Ireland to direct the ‘Save Summit,’ an event co-sponsored by Google Ideas and the Council on Foreign Relations. Gathering former inner-city gang members, right-wing militants, violent nationalists and ‘religious extremists’ from all over the world together in one place, the event aimed to workshop technological solutions to the problem of ‘violent extremism.’ What could go wrong?

Cohen’s world seems to be one event like this after another: endless soirees for the cross-fertilization of influence between elites and their vassals, under the pious rubric of ‘civil society.’ The received wisdom in advanced capitalist societies is that there still exists an organic ‘civil society sector’ in which institutions form autonomously and come together to manifest the interests and will of citizens. The fable has it that the boundaries of this sector are respected by actors from government and the ‘private sector,’ leaving a safe space for NGOs and nonprofits to advocate for things like human rights, free speech and accountable government.

This sounds like a great idea. But if it was ever true, it has not been for decades. Since at least the 1970s, authentic actors like unions and churches have folded under a sustained assault by free-market statism, transforming ‘civil society’ into a buyer’s market for political factions and corporate interests looking to exert influence at arm’s length. The last forty years have seen a huge proliferation of think tanks and political NGOs whose purpose, beneath all the verbiage, is to execute political agendas by proxy.”

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Google does many great things, but its corporate leaders want you to trust them with your private information–because they are the good guys–and you should never trust any corporation with such material. The thing is, it’s increasingly difficult to opt out of the modern arrangement, algorithms snaking their way into all corners of our lives. The excellent documentarian Eugene Jarecki has penned a Time essay about Google and Wikileaks and what the two say about the future. An excerpt follows.


I interviewed notorious Wikileaks founder Julian Assange by hologram, beamed in from his place of asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. News coverage the next day focused in one way or another on the spectacular and mischievous angle that Assange had, in effect, managed to escape his quarantine and laugh in the face of those who wish to extradite him by appearing full-bodied in Nantucket before a packed house of exhilarated conference attendees.

Beyond the spectacle, though, what got less attention was what the interview was actually about, namely the future of our civilization in an increasingly digital world. What does it mean for us as people to see the traditional town square go digital, with online banking displacing bricks and mortar, just as email did snail mail, Wikipedia did the local library, and eBay the mom and pop shop? The subject of our ever-digitizing lives is one that has been gaining currency over the past year, fueled by news stories about Google Glasses, self-driving cars, sky-rocketing rates of online addiction and, most recently, the scandal of NSA abuse. But the need to better understand the implications of our digital transformation was further underscored in the days preceding the event with the publication of two books: one by Assange and the other by Google Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt.

Assange’s book, When Google Met Wikileaks, is the transcript (with commentary by Assange) of a secret meeting between the two that took place on June 23, 2011, when Schmidt visited Assange in England. In his commentary, Assange explores the troubling implications of Google’s vast reach, including its relationships with international authorities, particularly in the U.S., of which the public is largely unaware. Schmidt’s book, How Google Works, is a broader, sunnier look at how technology has presumably shifted the balance of power from companies to people. It tells the story of how Google rose from a nerdy young tech startup to become a nerdy behemoth astride the globe. Read together, the two books offer an unsettling portrait both of our unpreparedness for what lies ahead and of the utopian spin with which Google (and others in the digital world) package tomorrow. While Assange’s book accuses Google of operating as a kind of “‘Don’t Be Evil’ empire,” Schmidt’s book fulfills Assange’s worst fears, presenting pseudo-irreverent business maxims in an “aw shucks” tone that seems willfully ignorant of the inevitable implications of any company coming to so sweepingly dominate our lives in unprecedented and often legally uncharted ways.•

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From the Asahi Shimbun, more perspective on Google’s recent interest in Japanese robotics:

“While the future plans of Google are not totally clear, the company apparently wants to incorporate all future-generation robotic technology. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has written about a future in which each U.S. household owns several multifunction robots.

Norio Murakami, who once served as the head of the Japanese arm of Google, predicts that Google is seeking to develop computers that can serve as butlers in the home.

Those robots would find answers over the Internet to questions raised by its master as well as perform such tasks as cleaning and cooking.

In 2011, Google proposed technology that it called cloud robotics. Under that concept, robots in households and factories would be connected to a gigantic brain in cyberspace. That would mean nothing short of Google controlling the brains used in all robots.

The idea clashes somewhat with mainstream thinking in Japan, where robots have primarily been considered as a manufacturing tool.

Changing demographics also place greater expectations on robots.

Rodney Brooks, a co-founder of U.S.-based iRobot Corp., noted that many advanced nations face a growing population of senior citizens and a declining number of young people. He said robots hold the key for resolving manpower problems such as how to inspect and repair social infrastructure, especially in Japan.”

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There’s no corporation, including Google, that should be trusted with our private information. Of course, there’s no way to avoid such a faustian bargain in this world of clouds. Everything is free, but it still costs a lot. There’s the rub.

Later this year, Julian Assange is to release a book, When Google Met WikiLeaks, the description of which sounds bombastic, grandiose and borderline crazy, like Assange himself. But that’s not to say it won’t contain truth. Just because the messenger is deeply flawed doesn’t mean the message is completely wrong. Sometimes, it’s only the truly damaged person who’ll step forward. From Alison Flood in the Guardian:

‘Julian Assange is writing a ‘major’ new book, in which the Wikileaks founder details his vision for the “future of the internet’ as well as his encounter in 2011 with Google chairman Eric Schmidt – a meeting which his publisher described as ‘an historic dialogue’ between ‘the North and South poles of the internet.’

The book, When Google Met WikiLeaks, will be published in September this year, announced publisher OR Books this morning. It will recount how, in June 2011 when Assange was living under house arrest at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, Schmidt and ‘an entourage of US State Department alumni including a top former adviser to Hillary Clinton’ visited for several hours and ‘locked horns’ with the Wikileaks founder.

‘The two men debated the political problems faced by human society, and the technological solutions engendered by the global network – from the Arab Spring to Bitcoin. They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with US foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-western countries to American companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the internet’s future that has only gathered force subsequently,’ said OR Books in its announcement.

The title will include an edited transcript of the conversation between Schmidt and Assange, as well as new material written by Assange, who has been confined to the Ecuadorian embassy, in London, for the last 18 months.”

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In an article by Stuart Dredge at the Guardian, Google’s Eric Schmidt holds forth on totalitarian regimes trying to control what they cannot stop: the Internet. The opening:

“Dictators are taking a new approach in their responses to use of the internet in popular uprisings, according to Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt.

‘What’s happened in the last year is the governments have figured out you don’t turn off the internet: you infiltrate it,’ said Schmidt, speaking at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas.

‘The new model for a dictator is to infiltrate and try to manipulate it. You’re seeing this in China, and in many other countries.’

Schmidt was interviewed on-stage alongside Jared Cohen, director of the company’s Google Ideas think tank. The session, moderated by Wired journalist and author Steven Levy, took the pair’s The New Digital Age book as its starting point.

Levy wondered whether their enthusiasm for technology’s potential role in popular uprisings has been dampened in the last year by events in Egypt, the Ukraine and elsewhere.

‘We’re very enthusiastic about the empowerment of mobile phones and connectivity, especially for people who don’t have it,’ said Schmidt. ‘In the book, we actually say that revolutions are going to be easier to start, but harder to finish.

He suggested that governments have realised that simply trying to block internet access for citizens is unlikely to end well – partly because it shows that they’re ‘scared’ – which may encourage more people onto the streets, not less. Hence the infiltration approach.”

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Those jobs that both humans and robots can do will be ceded soon enough to the machines, which is good in the long term but worrisome right now for employment. New fields will be created in a post-manufacturing society, but when will they arrive? Regardless, it seems we have no choice but to explore this brave new world. It’s as compelling as Manifest Destiny or the Space Race. It seems evolutionary in an almost biological sense. From a Bloomberg report about Google and robots:

“Google Inc. Chairman Eric Schmidt said his company is experimenting with automation in ways that will ‘replace a lot of the repetitive behavior in our lives.’ 

‘We’re experimenting with what automation will lead to,’ Schmidt said yesterday at a conference in Santa Monica, California. ‘Robots will become omnipresent in our lives in a good way.’

Google is pushing ahead with products beyond its core search business for new sources of user traffic and revenue in areas such as mobile and online video. The company also has shown a willingness to make bets on longer-term projects, such as wearable technology, robotics and driverless cars.

‘The biggest thing will be artificial intelligence,’ Schmidt said at Oasis: The Montgomery Summit. ‘Technology is evolving from asking a question to making a relevant recommendation. It will figure out things you care about and make recommendations. That’s possible with today’s technology.”


The defense of Big Tech’s dubious tax dodge over the past week by Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google’s Eric Schmidt has been a maddening exercise in intellectual dishonesty. The premise of these two (and much of the tech world) is this: If you want us to pay our fair share than change your system so that we can’t exploit the loopholes. You know, don’t blame us for pursuing our self-interests; make it impossible for us to do so. Of course, what’s left unsaid is that Apple and Google and other behemoths have endless boatloads of cash to hire lobbyists who’ll make sure that any attempt at leveling the tax plane is as difficult as can be. That’s how the loopholes initially came into being.

The opening of “Future Shlock,” Evgeny Morozov’s powerful big-tech takedown in the New Republic, which draws parallels between the 19th-century advent of the sewing machine and today’s so-called world-flattening gadgets:

“The sewing machine was the smartphone of the nineteenth century. Just skim through the promotional materials of the leading sewing-machine manufacturers of that distant era and you will notice the many similarities with our own lofty, dizzy discourse. The catalog from Willcox & Gibbs, the Apple of its day, in 1864, includes glowing testimonials from a number of reverends thrilled by the civilizing powers of the new machine. One calls it a ‘Christian institution’; another celebrates its usefulness in his missionary efforts in Syria; a third, after praising it as an ‘honest machine,’ expresses his hope that ;every man and woman who owns one will take pattern from it, in principle and duty.’ The brochure from Singer in 1880—modestly titled ‘Genius Rewarded: or, the Story of the Sewing Machine’—takes such rhetoric even further, presenting the sewing machine as the ultimate platform for spreading American culture. The machine’s appeal is universal and its impact is revolutionary. Even its marketing is pure poetry:

On every sea are floating the Singer Machines; along every road pressed by the foot of civilized man this tireless ally of the world’s great sisterhood is going upon its errand of helpfulness. Its cheering tune is understood no less by the sturdy German matron than by the slender Japanese maiden; it sings as intelligibly to the flaxen-haired Russian peasant girl as to the dark-eyed Mexican Señorita. It needs no interpreter, whether it sings amidst the snows of Canada or upon the pampas of Paraguay; the Hindoo mother and the Chicago maiden are to-night making the self-same stitch; the untiring feet of Ireland’s fair-skinned Nora are driving the same treadle with the tiny understandings of China’s tawny daughter; and thus American machines, American brains, and American money are bringing the women of the whole world into one universal kinship and sisterhood.

‘American Machines, American Brains, and American Money’ would make a fine subtitle for The New Digital Age, the breathless new book by Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, and Jared Cohen, the director of Google Ideas, an institutional oddity known as a think/do-tank. Schmidt and Cohen are full of the same aspirations—globalism, humanitarianism, cosmopolitanism—that informed the Singer brochure. Alas, they are not as keen on poetry. The book’s language is a weird mixture of the deadpan optimism of Soviet propaganda (‘More Innovation, More Opportunity’ is the subtitle of a typical sub-chapter) and the faux cosmopolitanism of The Economist (are you familiar with shanzhaisakoku, or gacaca?).

There is a thesis of sorts in Schmidt and Cohen’s book. It is that, while the ‘end of history’ is still imminent, we need first to get fully interconnected, preferably with smartphones. ‘The best thing anyone can do to improve the quality of life around the world is to drive connectivity and technological opportunity.’ Digitization is like a nicer, friendlier version of privatization: as the authors remind us, ‘when given the access, the people will do the rest.’ ‘The rest,’ presumably, means becoming secular, Westernized, and democratically minded. And, of course, more entrepreneurial: learning how to disrupt, to innovate, to strategize. (If you ever wondered what the gospel of modernization theory sounds like translated into Siliconese, this book is for you.) Connectivity, it seems, can cure all of modernity’s problems. Fearing neither globalization nor digitization, Schmidt and Cohen enthuse over the coming days when you ‘might retain a lawyer from one continent and use a Realtor from another.’ Those worried about lost jobs and lower wages are simply in denial about ‘true’ progress and innovation. ‘Globalization’s critics will decry this erosion of local monopolies,’ they write, ‘but it should be embraced, because this is how our societies will move forward and continue to innovate.’ Free trade has finally found two eloquent defenders.


“What is the opposite of a Genius Bar?”:


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Those drones we send out to “cleanly” do our dirty work will no doubt eventually become tools of terror. Eric Schmidt tells the Guardian that we should ban privately owned drones, but it would seem to be impossible in our maker culture to put that cat back in the basket. An excerpt from the article:

“The use of cheap, miniature ‘everyman’ drones needs to be banned by international treaties before such devices fall into the hands of private users including terrorists, the head of Google has said.

In an extended interview with the Guardian, Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google and an adviser to Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign, warned of the potential of new technology to ‘democratize the ability to fight war,’ and said drones could soon be used to harass and spy on neighbors.

‘You’re having a dispute with your neighbor,’ he hypothesized. ‘How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their back yard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?’

Schmidt set out the trajectory of robotic warfare and considered whether it would be confined solely to national governments. ‘It’s probable that robotics becomes a significant component of nation state warfare,’ he said.

‘I’m not going to pass judgment on whether armies should exist, but I would prefer to not spread and democratize the ability to fight war to every single human being.'”


From a very good Fast Company article by Austin Carr which addresses Internet privacy issues via a recent conversation between Nouriel Roubini and Eric Schmidt:

“Though market competition (or regulation) may dispel some inappropriate corporate uses of personal data tracking, the likelihood is the more ways we interact with technology, the more data we’re likely to share–perhaps unknowingly.

Schmidt does not believe this to be the case. ‘Not everyone is going to track all your behavior,’ he stressed. ‘There is no central Borg tracking all of these things.’

Still, the former Google CEO did touch on some moral issues related to certain types of data collection. ‘In America, there is a sense of fairness, culturally true for all of us…if you have a teenage boy or girl who makes a mistake–does some sort of crime, goes to juvenile hall, is released–in our system, they can apply and have that expunged from their record. They can legally state that they were never convicted of anything. That seems like a reasonable thing,’ Schmidt said. ‘Today, that’s not possible because of the Internet…[and] that seems to violate our innate sense of fairness.’

‘This lack of a delete button on the Internet is in fact a significant issue,’ Schmidt said. ‘There are times when erasure [of data] is the right thing…and there are times when it is inappropriate. How do we decide? We have to have that debate now.'”

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About a decade ago, I was forced at gunpoint to write a magazine article about pornography entering the American cultural mainstream, which had been a trope of glossies for a few decades but seemed particularly relevant at that moment. Looking back on it, I know I missed one of the main points. Writers, photographers and filmmakers explained to me why porn stars and obscene art were becoming more commonplace and acceptable, but almost all of them told me that there were limits, that we would never see anything X-rated on television, the most important medium.

Of course, in retrospect, they may have been right that porn wouldn’t enter prime time on TV, but the larger, unstated  point was that television wasn’t going to be anywhere close to the dominant medium for much longer because it was so centrally controlled. The Internet and online video and streaming were greatly reducing the importance of TV, and soon it would always be prime time and whatever you wanted, blue or otherwise, would be available at every second.

From a Telegraph article in which Eric Schmidt points out the obvious–that TV has already replaced by freer and more interactive platforms:

“Speaking at a gathering of digital advertisers in New York City last night, Mr Schmidt refused to forecast when internet video would displace television, instead declaring: ‘That’s already happened.’

‘It’s not a replacement for something that we know,” he added. “It’s a new thing that we have to think about, to program, to curate and build new platforms.”

YouTube recently surpassed the milestone of a billion unique users a month. Only the Google search engine and social network Facebook are frequented more often by those browsing the internet worldwide.”


From Liz Gannes’ All Things D article about Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen’s new book about our technological future:

“Written with Google Ideas director Jared Cohen, The New Digital Age was released today. It’s dense, though readable, and floats between visions of a hologram-and-robot-enhanced future for the developed world, and scarily specific predictions of how dictators will get hold of technology and use it for evil.

‘The Internet is the largest experiment involving anarchy in history,’ Schmidt and Cohen write, as they forecast all sorts of ‘painful liminal periods’ while things like privacy, citizenship and reporting get figured out as the next five billion people come online, joining the two billion that already are.

Schmidt and Cohen are not going to spark a social movement or even an op-ed war, a la that other recent tech exec book, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. But they did manage to write a surprisingly non-corporate book that talks about Twitter at least 10 times as much as it does about Google’s driverless cars.”

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It’s difficult sometimes to think about futuristic living, all sleek and clean and perfect. Yesterday morning I sat down on a subway car next to a guy who smelled like a toilet had backed up onto a corpse in the bathroom of a diarrhea factory. Then he started snoring. 

But some among us can see a future, or something resembling it, that is more orderly. From a Foreign Policy piece about the predictions in Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen’s just-published book, The New Digital Age:

Futuristic living:

Your apartment is an electronic orchestra, and you are the conductor. With simple flicks of the wrist and spoken instructions, you can control temperature, humidity, ambient music and lighting. You are able to skim through the day’s news on translucent screens while a freshly cleaned suit is retrieved from your automated closet because your calendar indicates an important meeting today. You head to the kitchen for breakfast and the translucent news display follows, as a projected hologram hovering just in front of you, using motion detection, as you walk down the hallway…. Your central computer system suggests a list of chores your housekeeping robots should tackle today, all of which you approve. It further suggests that, since your coffee supply is projected to run out next Wednesday, you consider purchasing a certain larger-size container that it noticed currently on sale online. Alternatively, it offers a few recent reviews of other coffee blends your friends enjoy.”

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During a sparring match with Google’s Eric Schmidt, libertarian Peter Thiel restates his belief that technological progress has largely stalled during the last four decades:

“But I think that when you look at this question of how much technological progress has been happening, we get into all these complicated measurement issues. The one that I cite as the big data point is that if you look at the U.S. say in the last 40 years, 1973 to today, median wages have been stagnant. Maybe the mean wages have gone up maybe a small amount, not very much.  The 40 years before that, 1932 to 1972, they went up by a factor of 6.

So, if you looked at how people did from ’32 to ’72, you had a six-fold improvement, and it was matched by incredible technological progress. Cars got better. You had the aeronautics industry got started. You went from no planes to supersonic jets. You had the computers invented. You had all sorts of incredibly important dimensions in which progress took place.

And so I agree we’ve had certain narrow areas where there’s been significant progress, but it’s very odd that it hasn’t translated into economic well being. And this is not just a problem with capitalist countries, like the U.S.”

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A bunch of rich guys, including James Cameron, Ross Perot, Larry Page, Eric Schmidt and Peter H. Diamandis, may be announcing tomorrow that they are getting into the business of asteroid mining, extracting precious resources from zooming space rocks. From Forbes:

“Diamandis has been interested in asteroid mining for a long time, and it sounds like this might be his time to put a plan into action. There are staggering amounts of gold in them thar asteroids, even if they are sort of far away.

‘The earth is a crumb in a supermarket of resources,” Diamandis told Forbes earlier this year. “Now we finally have the technology to extract resources outside earth for the benefit of humanity without having to rape and pillage our planet.'”


Hyperspace, not free of risk, is nonetheless a handy option:

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"Google is staking its claim in a near-future world where nearly every computing device will have its own eyes and ears." (Image by Coolcaesar.)

By focusing research and development on speech recognition, machine translation and computer vision, Google is looking to be the brand leader in the next epoch of search engines, in which there will be a supercomputer in your pocket capable of conducting searches that are light years smarter than the current ones. An excerpt from “Inside Google’s Age of Augmented Reality,” Wade Roush’s article in Xconomy:

“Here’s how [Eric] Schmidt put it in his speech: ‘When I walk down the streets of Berlin, I love history, [and] what I want is, I want the computer, my smartphone, to be doing searches constantly. ‘Did you know this occurred here, this occurred there?’ Because it knows who I am, it knows what I care about, and it knows roughly where I am.’ And, as Schmidt might have added, the smartphone will know what he’s seeing. ‘So this notion of autonomous search, the ability to tell me things that I didn’t know but I probably am very interested in, is the next great stage, in my view, of search.’

This type of always-on, always-there search is, by definition, mobile. Indeed, Schmidt says Google search traffic from mobile devices grew by 50 percent in the first half of 2010, faster than every other kind of search. And by sometime between 2013 and 2015, analysts agree, the number of people accessing the Web from their phones and tablet devices will surpass the number using desktop and laptop PCs.

By pursuing a data-driven, cloud-based, ‘mobile first’ strategy, therefore, Google is staking its claim in a near-future world where nearly every computing device will have its own eyes and ears, and where the boundaries of the searchable will be much broader. ‘Google works on the visual information in the world, the spoken and textual and document information in the world,’ says Michael Cohen, Google’s speech technology leader. So in the long run, he says, technologies like speech recognition, machine translation, and computer vision ‘help flesh out the whole long-term vision of organizing literally all the world’s information and making it accessible. We never want you to be in a situation where you wish you could get at some of this information, but you can’t.'” (Thanks Longform.)

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