Tag: Eric Schmidt

Tech elite sent to Trump Tower

Tuesday, 13 December, 2016 0 Comments

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will be there, as will Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz and technology investor Peter Thiel. Making up the list is Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, CEO and chairman of Google parent Alphabet, respectively. We’re talking about the meeting between President-elect Donald Trump and tech-industry executives today in New York.

Apart from Thiel, the Silicon Valley elite backed Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, so sackcloth, ashes and humble pie will be handed out to them by liveried footmen as they trudge up the steps of Trump Tower.

Like most journalists, Kara Swisher of Recode is a certified Trump hater, and the headline on her piece ticks all the bias boxes: “As Trumplethinskin lets down his hair for tech, shame on Silicon Valley for climbing the Tower in silence.” Here’s how she imagines the thoughts of the Valley elites upon being summoned to Manhattan:

“Fuckfuckfuck — now I have to become a reality show star in a new episode of ‘The Apprentice: Nerd Edition,’ bowing and scraping to that luddite Trump, who will probably simultaneously berate us in person and bully us on Twitter later with a lot of poop emoticons. Even worse, I have to act like Thiel is a genius, which he kind of is for backing a man who called serious and sophisticated hacking incursions by sovereign nations ‘the cyber’ and said ‘somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds’ — did he mean the bed or the hacker? I have no idea still — could have pulled it off.”

As regards tech, Trump has come down hard on issues considered vital to the industry’s interests, including trade and immigration. The Trump administration will possibly restrict the number of workers who enter the US with an H-1B visa — a type used by many tech employees. Incidentally, that’s the visa Donald Trump’s wife Melania received in 1996 to legally work in the US.

Etymology note: The expression “sent to the Tower” traditionally meant being imprisoned or punished in the Tower of London.


The debatable promise of The New Digital Age

Monday, 10 June, 2013 0 Comments

Spent part of the weekend reading part of The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen. The book exudes positivity and Richard Waters noted in the Financial Times that “it lays out a mainly optimistic case for why the world’s tyrants should tremble in the face of universal internet access.”

The New Digital Age In their Introduction, the two authors sing the praises of “digital empowerment”, the result of which is that “authoritarian governments will find their newly connection populations more difficult to control, repress and influence, while democratic states will be forced to include many more voices (individuals, organizations and companies) in their affairs.” Then, comes this sentence: “To be sure, governments will always find ways to use new levels of connectivity to their advantage, but because of the way current network technology is structured, it truly favors the citizen, in ways we will explore later.”

Is “the citizen” here Jared Cohen or Edward Snowdon? The revelations about the PRISM project would appear to suggest the transition to a total surveillance society is underway and while Schmidt and Cohen don’t dismiss such dangers, they come across as somewhat naïve when they write: “In fact, technology will empower people to police the police in a plethora of creative ways never before possible, including through real-time monitoring systems allowing citizens to publicly rate every police officer in their home-town. Commerce, education, health care and the justice system will all become more efficient, transparent and inclusive as major institutions opt in to the digital age.”

More “efficient”, no doubt. But more “transparent”? One has doubts. That, by the way, is from the first chapter, “The Future of Identity, Citizenship and Reporting”, which asserts: “Governments, too, will find it more difficult to maneuver as their citizens become more connected.” Really? The NSA data-mining PRISM project is, in fact, a partnership with at least nine big US internet companies, among them Google, Skype, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple. Governments, it turns out, regardless of what Schmidt and Cohen say publicly, are very agile in The New Digital Age.

In a future where everyone is connected, Juvenal will be more relevant than ever: “Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (“But who will watch the watchers?”) he asked.


Google bails out France

Wednesday, 6 February, 2013 0 Comments

There they were, François Hollande, the president of France, and Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, doing what the leaders of middle-ranking powers do so well: holding a joint press conference, shaking hands while posing for the camera signing important-looking documents. And what was it all about? In short, a €60 million bailout. Cheap […]

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Google ideas

Monday, 4 February, 2013 1 Comment

It’s time to get familiar with the name Jared Cohen. The 31-year old former US State Department hot shot founded and runs Google Ideas, the search engine’s think tank, and he’s co-written what may well be the most important book of 2013, The New Digital Age. The other name on the cover is that of Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt.

The New Digital Age will be strong on the dangers represented by the “illicit networks” run by Chinese and Russian cyber authoritarians. Quote:

“The increasing ubiquity of connection technologies will both empower those driving illicit networks as well as the citizens seeking to curb them. These networks have been around for centuries, but one thing has changed — the vast majority of people now have a mobile device, empowering citizens with the potential to disrupt the secrecy, discretion, and fear that allow illicit networks to persist. As illicit networks grow in scope and complexity, society’s strategy to reduce their negative impact must draw on the tremendous power of technology.”

Yes, Google is a hard-headed business, and it is determined to dominate the search industry, but the company is far more idealistic than its rivals and Schmidt and Cohen are to be applauded for their determination to defend the cause of democracy from its enemies. More about this on Wednesday here.