We are usually lenient toward the peccadilloes and strange propensities of our technological demigods. They provide us with indispensable widgets, apps, and search engines; we let them let their fly freak flags fly. That's why Steve Jobs is allowed to engage in late-night flame wars with Valleywag. And why nobody looks sideways at PayPal creator Elon Musk when he talks about colonizing Mars. Okay, so maybe their eccentricities are protected less by an unspoken pact with consumers and more by soundproof fortresses and endless wealth. But however you explain it, among this elite club of titans, Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been running a steady campaign recently to make the strangest public statements.
We first noticed it in early August, when he suggested the Internet give up on anonymity and have governments access a verified "name service for people." Then there was the we see you when you're sleeping, we know when you're awake meme. Now, the Journal is reporting that Schmidt hoped to gain access to Facebook users' contact lists in order for Google to grow its own social network. "The best thing that would happen is for Facebook to open up its data," Schmidt said at the Google Zeitgeist conference. "Failing that, there are other ways to get that information."
You could chalk it up to stress. Schmidt has certainly faced his fair share recently. But there's a certain unrepentant giddiness to Schmidt's public persona recently that makes us think this is less the cracked-out rambling of a CEO under fire, and more Schmidt being Schmidt.
Not realizing people are still into "privacy":
"We know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are."
"We can suggest what you should do next, what you care about. Imagine: We know where you are, we know what you like."
"I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time."
"When I walk down the streets of Berlin, I like history. What I want is for my computer — my smartphone — to be doing searches constantly. Did you know? Did you know? 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."
"The only way to manage this is true transparency and no anonymity. In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a (verified) name service for people. Governments will demand it."
"If I look at enough of your messaging and your location, and use Artificial Intelligence," Schmidt said, "we can predict where you are going to go."
Why you should change your name (he subsequently claimed this was clearly a joke, you guys):
"He predicted, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends' social media sites. 'I mean we really have to think about these things as a society,' he adds. 'I'm not even talking about the really terrible stuff, terrorism and access to evil things,' he says."
Making the future sound amazing, but far-fetched:
"As you go from the search box [to the next phase of Google], you really want to go from syntax to semantics, from what you typed to what you meant. And that's basically the role of [Artificial Intelligence]. I think we will be the world leader in that for a long time."
"The idea of 'information at your fingertips.' Schmidt gave the example of a tourist using a smartphone to find his way to a particular historic building via the phone's navigation software, and then using the phone's camera and object recognition software to relay information about that particular building to the tourist. 'You can know literally everything,' said Schmidt. 'It's fantastic. And this is only going to become more pervasive.'"
"A near-term future in which you don’t forget anything, because the computer remembers. You’re never lost."
Getting kind of aggro:
"'I actually think most people don't want Google to answer their questions,' he elaborates. 'They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.'"
"Show us 14 photos of yourself and we can identify who you are. You think you don't have 14 photos of yourself on the internet? You've got Facebook photos! People will find it's very useful to have devices that remember what you want to do, because you forgot."
"People aren't ready for the technology revolution that's going to happen to them."