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The Oracles of Google


In some places, there was no Internet at all. “In Kyrgyzstan, the Internet wasn’t working in the hotel,” says Cohen. “But Eric had a wonderfully geeky moment and fixed the entire system. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen him violate his eight-hour-sleep rule.”

The trip changed Schmidt in other ways, too. “Before, I think I was more techno-determinist,” he says. “People in my position, all you think about is technology. You don’t think about how humans will interact with it.”

Back in the States, Schmidt and Cohen have had no shortage of examples of how technology can be used for good and evil, often in the same instance. You could argue, for instance, that the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombings seem to have been radicalized by the Internet, and vigilantes used it to start a virtual witch hunt, so, technology equals bad. But security cameras and other digital technology helped lead to the swift capture of the bombers. So technology also equals good. The 3-D printer? Really cool technology. The guy who published a manual for how to make an untraceable gun on it? “An idiot,” pronounces Schmidt. “Somebody here or somewhere else is going to download this gun and use it to kill people. A lot of people could badly and evilly misuse that information.”

Since they can see the future, they must know: Which side wins, good or evil? “You’ll notice in our book, we don’t go so far as to make recommendations,” says Cohen with millennial caution. “Our goal is to make observations about both the good and the bad, because that’s what the world looks like, with or without technology.”

“Jared, that was not a strong enough answer,” Schmidt says. “The good wins!” he shouts. “In the battle for good and evil, the good wins. I think both of us agree that the number of people who are good is so overwhelmingly larger than the number of people who are bad. Ninety-nine-point-nine-nine of all people are good, well-meaning; it’s just .01 percent. I’m clear that the good wins.”

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