Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Future, according to Eric Schmidt

Apparently Google's Eric Schmidt has a book coming out, to be called "The New Digital Age."  Lots of interesting stuff.  First a couple Google searches so you can choose your own source.

Here are some of the articles that caught my eye, with select quotes from each.

From the Wall Street Journal blog:
"The Future According To Google’s Eric Schmidt: 7 Points" by Tom Gara
Tech companies: “Thick skin will be a necessity for technology companies in the coming years of the digital age, because they will find themselves beset by public concerns over privacy, security and user protections…They’ll also have to hire more lawyers. Litigation will always outpace genuine legal reform, as any of the technology giants fighting perpetual legal battles over intellectual property, patents, privacy and other issues would attest”
Search engines: “Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

From The Guardian:
"Google's Eric Schmidt: drone wars, virtual kidnaps and privacy for kids" by Charles Arthur
Google's chairman has sketched out a future world in which cyberterrorists are targeted by government drone strikes, online identities are taken hostage and held for ransom, and parents explain online privacy to their children long before the subject of sex. 
"We could see virtual kidnappings – ransoming your ID for real money," Schmidt said. "Rather than keeping captives in the jungle, groups like Farc [in Colombia] may prefer a virtual hostage. That's how important our online ID is."
The importance of online identities would also mean that parents would have to educate their children much earlier about the importance of making choices over what digital footprints they created than about sex. "I'm absolutely convinced that parents will have to have the 'online privacy' talk with their children before 'the sex talk'," he said. "It might be when they're eight years old, you'll be saying 'don't put that onlline! It'll come back to bite you!' and then have to explain why."

And parents themselves would have to consider the implications even of the name they chose for a child. "If you give your child a unique name, that name will have a high ranking in search results [because it's unusual]. Or you can give them a non-unique name with a low ranking. What kind of parent are you in each case?"

He suggested that "our online identity will become such a powerful element. Laws to protect anonymity – we may even see rise in black market where we can buy pre-made or real identities, with all their shopping and background all completely 'real' – verifiable online, that is. That's the effect of there being no delete button [on the internet] – people will find fake IDs attractive."

Both drug smugglers trying to evade police and political activists looking to hide from repressive regimes would find those useful, he said: "you'll be able to buy an identity with fake friends and a history of purchases. I'm not encouraging this – some are saying it's going to happen."
In each [Chad, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia], he said, the need to be connected, first through a mobile phone and then to the internet, became apparent. "In Chad, only 1% of the population have electricity, and there's a civil war. I wondered what a connected Chad would look like. Somalia, meanwhile, is the classic 'failed state' – but you look at it: there aren't any banks, but there is mobile banking. The telecoms companies are the only ones that are legal and profitable."
He said that the arrival of the internet was always beneficial: "There's no country where the situation has worsened with the arrival of the internet. Citizens can use their mobile phones to raise the cost of corruption. And even in China, the regime can be shamed – when there was a train crash recently the government tried to hush it up, but people began posting pictures on [the Twitter-like chat service] Weibo, and the story got out.

"The strike by journalists at Southern Weekly, over censorship – the fact that they could do that and then go back without trouble shows that the government, even that autocracy, is sensitive to the fact that it can be shamed online."

He admitted that one of his biggest worries is not about children using digital devices for entertainment – "do they have an off button? They all do" – than about the lack of "deep reading" of long books. "I worry a lot that nobody's doing that, that nobody's getting what comes from the deep reading of a book."

Also from the Guardian:
"Google's Eric Schmidt calls China 'most sophisticated hacker' in new book" by Dominic Rushe
"The disparity between American and Chinese firms and their tactics will put both the government and the companies of the United States at a distinct disadvantage," Schmidt writes, because "the United States will not take the same path of digital corporate espionage, as its laws are much stricter (and better enforced) and because illicit competition violates the American sense of fair play. This is a difference in values as much as a legal one."

Google has clashed repeatedly with the Chinese authorities. Beijing reacted furiously to the company's claims that Chinese authorities were hacking Gmail accounts; last year Google's service was blocked as the Communist Party appointed its first new leader in a decade.

Smith and co-author Jared Cohen call China "the world's most active and enthusiastic filterer of information" as well as "the most sophisticated and prolific" hacker of foreign companies.

But the technology China uses so effectively may well come back to haunt it, the authors believe. "This mix of active citizens armed with technological devices and tight government control is exceptionally volatile," they write, suggesting that that such a situation could lead to "widespread instability". China, they predict, will see "some kind of revolution in the coming decades."

From Search Engine Journal:
"Eric Schmidt Confirms Identity Verification Impacts Google Rankings" by Michelle Stinson Ross
“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”