Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen at the Council on Foreign Relations


>>HAASS: Why don’t we get started? Everybody
could take their seat; it would be as much in your interest as ours. Well, good evening
and welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations, I’m Richard Haas and I’m fortunate enough
to be presiding tonight, mostly even more fortunate to be the president of the Council
on Foreign Relations. For those of you who are new to the council, and that might be
a few people tonight, we are an independent, non-partisan membership organization. We’re
also a think tank and we’re also a publisher. And our mission is to do what we can to increase
the understanding of the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and
the American people. Let me just make a few administrator points before we get underway.
Tonight’s meeting is a part of our CEO speaker series, you just got promoted that’s great,
and sponsored by the council’s corporate program and the corporate program explores the business
impact of global issues through meetings like this one, through conference call, through
publications and a whole lot more. And our website, cfr.org, provides a wealth of information
about the corporate program and about how to become one, a corporate member if you are
so inclined. We have people listening in tonight via teleconference. So those of you who have
cell phones, please, and other mobile devices, please turn them off. The theme of the tonight’s
meeting is about disruptive technology. We want to talk about it rather than experience
it. Oh, thank you for laughing, it’s just so rare. I can’t tell you how rare it is.
Okay. We’ve also though, got people hooked into this meeting from around the country,
national and corporate members. And I’ll be taking, I hope you forgive me for this, I’ll
be taking their questions via an iPad.>>SCHMIDT: It’s okay.
>>HAASS: It’s okay. It’s good, I got this…>>SCHMIDT: We have a new product coming.
>>HAASS: Just checking. Just–didn’t want you to storm off the stage already. By the
way, for those of you who are active in social media, both the Council on Foreign Relations
and Foreign Affairs have Facebook pages. They both have Twitter feeds. And I understand
that tonight’s meeting will be–will be rebroadcast on CFR’s and Google’s YouTube channels. We
are hip. So what we’re going to do here tonight is I am going to talk with these two gentlemen
for a few minutes and then we’re going to open it up to you, our members, for questions.
And finally, this meeting, gentlemen, is on the record and that means anything you say
can and will be used against you. And since these gentlemen are from Google, what will
have–what will be said here tonight will be not, you know, will be there for posterity.
Eric Schmidt, I believe you all know, who’s chairman and CEO of Google. And here is Jared
Cohen who you may now not know, but if you’ve known already, you should and you will. He
has the coolest title in the world, which is director of Google Ideas. But more important
he’s an adjunct senior fellow here at the Council on Foreign Relations. We’d like to
think that’s an even cooler title. Their bios are in the packets so I won’t–I won’t go
through it, but they have co-authored an article. This, by the way for both of you, is known
as a hard copy, something you probably haven’t seen in years, you–you’d open it it’s like
this, it’s very cool–it’s very cool, of the magazine.
>>SCHMIDT: This is of course why you have your iPad, is you don’t need to read that
anymore.>>HAASS: Exactly. That’s true. This is Jim
Hoag’s final issue, more than 100 issues Jim has edited in 18 years. And in many ways,
I can’t say he saved the best for last because he edited so many extraordinary issues and
articles like Sam Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations, but it really is an extraordinary, meaty,
not in a Japanese sense, but meaty in a general sense, a smart issue and one of the smartest
pieces is the one by these two gentlemen. I’ll assume that most of you haven’t read
it yet. But I also assume that most who’ll read it will read it. So what I thought I’d
just begin with is by asking Eric and Jared just to sort of give us the cliff notes. Essentially,
what are the couple of takeaways and I thought I’d begin with Eric on sort of what is–when
we–when we talk about the disruptive technologies and the rest, what are we–what are we talking
about? And then I might–and I’ll turn to Jared who’s until recently worked the mile
on the policy planning stuff at the State Department to talk a little bit about what
they see is the foreign policy consequences of it all and then we’ll take it from there.
So, Mr. Schmidt?>>SCHMIDT: Well, first place, thank you.
And thank you for having us both here at this event and thank you all for your time. I am
extraordinarily excited about the scale of the mobile revolution. And I think most people
don’t appreciate how fast this mobile phenomena is going to occur especially outside of the
developed world. To give you some of the numbers, they are between four and five billion mobile
phones of one kind or another, and they are approaching a billion what are called smart
phones which are capable of some–some reasonable amount of Internet browsing. With phones like
this which is a Google product with Samsung, are today a product cost is in the three,
four hundred dollar kind of price points because of Moore’s Law in volume improvements and
so forth, it’s reasonable to expect over the next few years for the price points of these
pieces of hardware to get to the point where they can become the primary way in which people
use telephony and mobile services in the Third World. Now you sit there and you go, “Wow.”
So all of a sudden people who only recently have television, have almost no information,
don’t have access to libraries and books, all of a sudden they get access to all the
world’s information in every known language and they can communicate not just in terms
of learning and education, they can follow their favorite stars–will then run a test
and discover if everyone else is just as obsessed with Britney Spears as Americans are, that
sort of thing; and probably the answer will be, yes. The important point is that the underlying
capability of these devices is riding on this incredibly high velocity declining cost curve
which benefits everybody. And we’re talking about another billion people joining the conversation
at this level in the next two to three years. It’s a very, very large number. The implications
of this are just beginning to be understood. And what we try to do is to articulate a little
bit on this, I’ll get Jared to talk about that in a sec. But remember that these are
devices that have more power than supercomputers a few years ago, in the hands of people who’ve
never had anything like it before. So they can talk to each other, obviously, but they
can also run new applications which will allow them to have private communications, organized
thought, organize new ways of doing things, play games, change the world. So it is the
implication of the software platform on top of this extraordinary expansion of very powerful
computers connected to a back-end which is even more powerful that I think sets the stage
of what’s going to happen to foreign policy, to governments, and to society as a whole.
Jared?>>COHEN: More on that, I’d like to echo Eric
in thanking Richard and the council and all of you for giving us a chance to discuss what
is really a certainly a hot topic these days and which is certainly a topic that that’s
not going away. You know, to continue Eric’s narrative on this, one of the things that,
you know, we tried to do is take a look at the world through the lens of connectivity.
So if you know, connections are, you know, growing exponentially, you know, to the point
where, you know, those that aren’t connected today will be some of our most connected users
tomorrow, then how we understand where the sudden influx of technology in the, you know,
different societies around the world will have the–the greatest impact is best understood
if we think about the breakdown of connectivity. So rather than look at the world in terms
of developed and developing, east and west, north and south, we try to break it down in
terms of, you know, uber-connected economic–economic powerhouses, hyper-connected, you know, societies
like Estonia and Sweden and so forth. And then with the more traditional developing
world we try to break it down in terms of partially connected societies and connecting
societies. I mean, North Korea is sort of its own category of disconnected and so for
the purposes of the article we didn’t state the obvious, we also want to stick to the
word limit. But as we think about, you know, connecting societies and partially connected
societies, you know, both Eric and I believe that’s were the sudden influx of technology
is going to have, you know, probably the most unpredictable impact. And we deliberately
say earlier in the article that the 21st century will be all about surprises. And in particular,
when we think about connecting societies or partially connected societies that are either
inclined towards openness or incline towards closed, more–being more closed societies,
we view it as, you know, countries that have weak central governments, dire socio-economic
conditions, youth bulges, large diasporic communities living in some of these uber-connected
societies and civil societies that are prone to dissent and protest and have a history
and tradition of that, as being the societies that are really the places to watch. And when
we say, “where technology will have the most disruptive impact,” that can be either be
for good or for ill. It can mean that terrorists will get their hands on these technologies
and a fragile state will become a failed state. Or it means that, you know, rural farmers
can use these technologies to fundamentally transform how we think about rural access
to urban markets. And so the outcomes will be diverse but these are the places where
we think you have to watch.>>HAASS: In the article you actually write
about Gutenburg and his technological breakthrough of the printing press and tonight, Eric, you
already referenced television so one of the questions I had rereading the–the piece today
is, is there anything specially unique about the technologies you’re running at? Is it
something the latest in a long historical series or is there something qualitatively
different about the kind of stuff we’re talking about here tonight?
>>SCHMIDT: I–I would agree that it’s qualitative–qualitatively different in one fundamental aspect, it’s
empowering of individuals in a way that technology has never done before. All previous technology
revolutions have involved some form of infrastructures, some form of common–common way in which provision
or some kind of command and control system. Because of the nature of mobile computing
and because of Moore’s Law and improvements in CPUs and so forth and so on, you can give
people every known tool that used to be centralized as individuals. Everyone’s a publisher, everyone’s
a writer, everyone’s a communicator, everyone’s a photographer, everyone’s an editor, everyone’s
a blogger. All of a sudden, we have an explosion of what everyone wants to do. One of the consequences
of that is it becomes much more unpredictable what people actually want to do. One interesting
statistic at Google is that 15% of the queries we see everyday are unique, that we’ve never
seen them before. The world is much more diverse, much more random if you will, than we think.
>>HAASS: Well, let’s come to this question of–you used the phrase, disruption, and you
just talked about the other–the technology can it be used for good or ill. Al-Qaeda and
a lot of these groups use the Internet as a principal recruiting and training tool.
The same medium can be used for wonderful things, to save lives, you know, medicine,
you can do–people can read X-rays half a world apart or whatever. So, the technology’s
neutral. That said, it’s unlikely that it’s 50-50 in its neutrality. Is there a bias in
the technology? Is it all things being equal? What likely is it more good than bad? Is it–does
it tend to empower individuals as opposed to the collective or the state? What’s–what’s
the bias in the technology? What do we know?>>COHEN: I definitely don’t think it’s 50-50.
And I also think it’s important to note, you know, that the debate is not, you know, is
technology good or bad? Because the technology’s already out there, that–that’s sort of, you
know, that’s already beginning to play itself out there. The real debate we have to have
is how do we leverage it to optimize for a more positive outcome? So, to get to your
question, Richard, you know, I almost prefer the kind of, you know, think more offensively
in the sense that these technologies are out there. They’re there to stay. They’re becoming
increasingly complex and interactive. And the ways in which people use them in repressive
societies are surprising oftentimes to the engineers who developed them, right? Because
engineers developed these technologies from the perspectives of having lived in free and
open and democratic societies, largely for, you know, emerging markets that are also free
and open societies. And, you know, it’s very unpredictable what happens when you throw
these technologies into societies where people actually read the instructions manual. And
that might sound strange but, you know, by show of hands, how many of you in the audience
have ever read the instructions manual to your cell phone, BlackBerry, Android, iPhone?
Probably not a lot and why would you, because you don’t need to understand the hundred percent
of functions that your handset actually allows you to use because you have freedom of speech
and freedom of assembly. But go to a place like Iran and you need to know every single
aspect of that tool and what it can actually do, because it’s your, you know, it’s your
bridge to civil liberties that you wouldn’t otherwise have. And that can work both ways,
right? And so, likewise, a hostile regime can view technology as a way to infiltrate
populations in ways that they couldn’t before, or a hostile regime can look at technology
as a way to track down activists. Because one of the challenges that users have is–because
these technologies are so new in a lot of these societies, you know, they’re taking
risk without even necessarily knowing what those risks are. So, whether you’re a government,
whether you’re a company, whether you’re a civil society organization, whether you’re
an academic writing about this, the tools themselves are inevitable. But anybody who’s
seeking to optimize for a more positive outcome, needs to work and think strategically about
how we educate populations to use these tools responsibly so that the 50-50, you know, balance
that Richard alluded to is more of a 90-10.>>HAASS: Doesn’t–you mentioned Iran, and
I would think that is both exciting and sobering simultaneously. We saw what happened to–about
16 months ago or so, the Green Movement after the fraudulent elections. But then, the guys
with the sticks came out and crushed a lot of people’s skulls and the government learned
how to fight back. What does Iran teach us then? What have we–what have we learned about
the technology? Because simultaneously it was in the hands of the protesters, it was–and
the regime essentially countered. What a–what surprised you about it? What have we learned
from that?>>COHEN: Well, I think there’s–there’s a
lot of lessons learned from Iran. You know, people often point to, you know, they contrast
Iran in June of 2009 with Moldova in April of 2009. In Moldova, similar phenomenon except
the communist government, you know, was pressured into calling for reelections and then lost
the reelections. And obviously in Iran, the protesters didn’t achieve the outcome that
they had actually anticipated. But I would argue that what happened in Iran is not a
net-negative. You know, in sort of talking to activists all throughout–all throughout
the world, they actually took a lot of best practices away from Iran. You know, there
was a feeling in a lot of societies that if people can, you know, use technology as a
way to get information to the rest of the world and throw it into a global megaphone
of connection technologies then it allows even the most repressed societies to engage
a global population. And so, it wasn’t successful in Iran in terms of achieving its immediate
objectives but it was successful in terms of inspiring activists in other parts of the
world to think about the power of what technology can do to identifying an entirely a new set
of challenges that they need to solve for as they’re advocating for basic freedoms and
civil liberties. And at the end of the day, I don’t think we know exactly what the end
of the story is going to be in Iran. I mean, the very notion of that many people went to
the streets and technology was a way that they were able to connect what was happening
on the ground to people outside Iran is remarkable. Remove cell phones, remove the 60% of their
country that has cell phones from the equation in Iran and tell me if any of you saw–any
of you would have seen the video of Neda Soltan being murdered on the streets of Tehran? That
video was not just the most impactful viral video of all time, but that video, you know,
in, you know, a matter of hours, reached the desks of some of the most powerful and least
accessible people on the planet, Presidents and Prime Ministers. And not only that, had
a magnifying glass over them, making sure that they washed it and force them to actually
respond and thus–because it changed the rhetoric, to actually changed the policies of a number
of governments around the world.>>HAASS: Eric, I’m quickly going to get out
of my depth. But one of the things that governments do is to the extent technology requires nodal
points where you have centralization that obviously gives a chance for governments to
intervene there. Are there ways you can consciously design technology, or when you manufacture
it to increase the degree of dispersion to make it more difficult for government? Can
you consciously design, if you will, a generation of stuff that all things being equal makes
authoritarian–gives the authoritarian governments heartburn?
>>SCHMIDT: You absolutely can. It’s illustrative in the example that was that–that Jared cited.
The government was sufficiently worried about communications–connections technologies that
they actually, for various periods of time, shut down the cell phone network, shut down
SMS-ing and so forth. So they understood the power of peer-to-peer communication. China
of course understands this very well, with respect to what is known as the great Chinese
firewall, which blocks access to information that they deem illegal and we think is political
speech. And Google is heavily involved in dealing with that and alternately moved out
of that censorship because we were unhappy with it. So, the technical answer is that
there are inter-cushion points among the way the Internet works where governments can interpose
themselves. So far, the only regime that’s done this dynamically and actively is China.
There are many Asian and Arab countries that would like to have the Chinese model to apply
but it’s expensive to implement the Chinese model. So one of our theories, I think, is
that this yearning for political expression, for freedom, for communication, is it’s a
race against the governments who voted to repress it. And I think we would probably
both say that ultimately the people will win over the governments. This is–the yearning
is so strong. Technologically, there are extremely bad examples that you could use. For example,
you could build tools that had built-in what is called Triple DES encryption, which allows
you to have peer-to-peer communication which enables the dissidents but it also enables
the terrorists to talk. And so, looking at it sort of as sort of starkly as I can, it
seems to me that society is faced a choice, right? Around how much liberalism, the police
role and so forth and so on, and those are essentially political issues, and the technology
just makes them to the forum. The difference now is that the users have a lot more power.
>>HAASS: But doesn’t Google also have a choice in the sense or other–I don’t mean to single
you out necessarily, but you–the same technology which can strengthen the hands of the protestor
against the authoritarian could also in the hands of a terrorist arguably make it harder
for NSA or someone on–who we want to track them to be able to track them. Is this a debate
you ever have? With what’s kind of the responsible thing to do?
>>SCHMIDT: We do. We had this debate a lot. And indeed, there are governments that are
now trying to figure how to regulate this question because there is a concern that what
is known as key, essential key revocation.>>HAASS: Yeah.
>>SCHMIDT: Where you have keys that can unlock these things and so forth. For–recently for
example, there’s a big fight between the BlackBerry maker which is RIM and the India government
fundamentally over a question of an encryption key that is the corporate key. So this is
beginning to become an issue and I think that the debate is not over on how the world will
solve this.>>HAASS: Do you also think about the implications
of all these for not just for the Irans or the Chinas of the world where you’ve got people
power, if you will, against an authoritarian-like regime, but for American democracy? What the
implications are and do you ever asked yourself what is it that might be healthy or unhealthy
in terms of the future trajectory of this society, if you will, a fairly mature democracy?
>>SCHMIDT: Well, the fact that there’s more speech does not necessarily mean that there’s
better speech. And there’s a lot of evidence that the combination of all these technologies
allows narrow casting, finding your friends, not listening to everything else. One of the
positions I’ve taken is that technologies that do exist today can be used to bring up
new information. So if we give you a news feed we should also give you a feed of things
that you should also know. And maybe you won’t read them but at least we can select and try
to sort of broaden you. And we can do these things with algorithms now. But I think it’s
not obvious. It’s not obvious that the explosion in communication is fundamentally producing
a better democracy. It’s certainly producing a louder one, right? And that’s where we are
today.>>HAASS: What about better economies? You
hear all these things about mobile devices being able to essentially become banking systems.
The idea that this has become a sort of decentralized capitalism, what’s the…
>>SCHMIDT: I think that’s a leap. It’s a fun leap but it’s probably a little too aggressive.
In the Third World, the phones are being used as banking systems because the bank systems
are not reliable. People can and look-ask if things get so long and so forth and so
on. There are new technologies generally known as NFC, Near Field Communication chips, which
will be available on phones over the next year which will allow essentially a replacement
of your wallet as in a secure way by your phone. That enables a whole generation of
new electronic services and payment systems and so forth and people are very excited about
that. And that technology will eventually go into the rest of the world as well. But
they all–all of these technologies fundamentally involve dealing with existing institutions.
The real power for the mobile phone is the fact that people live in a local context,
especially where they have no communications whatsoever, and all of a sudden they’re going
from living in a local world, local prices, local village, and so forth then all of sudden
they are in a global market or at least they can talk about the prices at the neighbor
next door. There are many, many stories in the mobile world about how people used to
have no information and now using their phone or SMS-ing or what have you, they’re able
to get more accurate pricing and so they withheld their product or they negotiated better or
so forth and so on. So more information clearly makes the economics more efficient if you
will, which ultimately leads to better returns.>>HAASS: I only have a couple more questions
and I’ll it open up. You know, the theme is disruption if you will. You know, I spent
a lot of my life thinking about international relations and there’s always a tension between
forces of order and forces of disorder. So, disruption makes some–me–someone like me
a little bit nervous. There’s potentially good disruption but there’s also potentially
bad disruption. And so one other question is, how do you use this to create actual–to
create order? Are there ways in which this can–comes to mind? For example, linking communities
and all that, in ways that are–they maybe disruptive on one level but they’re also crating
new connections on another level.>>SCHMIDT: You may have [INDISTINCT]. I have–one
way to think about this, which I don’t think my industry has really reasoned through is
let’s get the defaults right. The example I would offer is that when you travel in a–in
a poor country, you have typically what are called 2.5G networks, so called edge networks.
And these occurred because the original GSM spec mandated them. They just happened. It
wasn’t that there was a lot of demand for data networks they just happened. This is
why when you roam in those countries your Blackberry, your mobile phone, you can text,
it all works at all. Somebody just randomly made that decision, probably some engineer
and, “boom,” all of a sudden we have that connectivity. So I think it’s important in
our industry to say, given that most countries, and I’m excluding China here, will just implement
the technology that we build. What are the implications to the societal order, right?
This is where I think we can be both attacked from the standpoint of American hegemony but
also having a positivist view or a particular bias. Because we clearly, we at least at Google,
have a strong view that more information is better. So that’s our bias. And you can imagine
lot of other companies agreeing with that. And as a whole, that American export, that
American value, it will–becomes one of the most important things we do as citizens.
>>COHEN: And I would add one more thing to that too. If you look at just the vast array
of global challenges, economic, political, security, social, you know, you have a lot
of people working on these challenges and a lot of resources being thrown at them but
really not necessarily a huge dent actually being made in addressing any of them. And
when I look at technology, technology is part of every problem and it’s part of every solution,
right? It makes things more complicated that we’re challenged within the international
system but it’s also inadvertently helping address them or could certainly be used to
help address them. But I think part of the problem that exist is you have, you know,
different sets of expertise, and methodologies, and resources, and capabilities broken down
into different silos that are—that cut across various sectors of society. So, the biggest
gap that we noticed is expertise on the tools and expertise on the substantive nature of
these challenges. And, you know, I think if we’re to really be serious about making sure
we’re solving for the right problems and making sure we really understand these challenges
then it really is much more of a SWAT team model in terms of how we think about them
and how we act on them. And it means that there’s a relevance that exist between technology
stakeholders and government stakeholders. I know, Richard doesn’t like the word, stakeholders,
but I’m going–I’m going to use it here. And a good example of this that, you know, I think
is useful for understanding is if you’re a woman in Eastern Congo and you’re at daily
risk of sexual and gender-based violence, or you’re an activist in a country at daily
risk of torture and arrest, you’re more likely to turn to your cell phone or your handset
as a tool to help you address your human rights needs than you are to charter for the Geneva
Convention, right? I think, we would all agree that’s very obvious. But if that’s so obvious
then why are the cell phone manufacturers, the apps developers, the people with deep
understanding of technology, the most removed from the human rights community that’s actually
thinking about and acting on this challenge? It’s not because they–they don’t want to
work with each other it’s because there’s literally no vehicle to convene and connect
them.>>SCHMIDT: And again, this gets back to one
of the sort of insights that we would claim is in our paper, is that in countries which
have vibrant civil societies, relatively weak governments, right, the diaspora of other
people–lots of–and money coming in and one or another–the outcome is currently unpredictable.
That’s our point.>>HAASS: Right.
>>SCHMIDT: So it’s probably in our interest as a society to figure out how to make that
outcome be more positive, right? By anticipating how the products would be used, getting them
a little bit designed with more of the bias that Jared is implying, maybe more of a human
rights bias or at least a civil liberty’s bias. And that’s a conversation that’s not
occurring today.>>HAASS: Well, it seems to me there’s two,
then, potential conversations. One is the conversation between you and the place you
used to work and I used to work, which is the U.S. government. And the other is a conversation
between the U.S. government and other governments, which is whenever new technologies come along,
say, in the military area, you immediately start thinking of various regimes to regulate
them or structure the interaction. Indeed, cyber is exactly at the point today where
nuclear was maybe 50 years ago, where people are beginning to think, “What sort of rules
do we setup? What sort of arrangements do we put into place?” Do we need to think that
way about this? Do we simply want to have a world where this kind of happens or do we
actually want to have the United States go out and try to negotiate certain do’s and
don’ts in this space?>>COHEN: Well, I think part of the challenge
and, you know, Eric and I get at this in our article is, you know, when you look at what
we call the interconnected state or cyberspace, or the world’s largest ungoverned space, really
whatever you want to call it, you have a fundamental problem which is the space isn’t some sort
separate realm but rather an extension of the traditional realms that we all know and
understand; except for one key problem is, you know, there’s nobody to convene around
the table as the space becomes larger and more transnational. I mean, there’s no laws
that–you know, it’s difficult to enact laws, you know, that can easily be enforced because
who do they apply to and who has jurisdiction over what, and so it becomes increasing–look,
it’s hard enough to come up with international law and implement international law when you
actually do have states to bring around the table in a forum, the U.N., to actually, you
know, bring them together when you don’t have any of that, it’s just that much more complicated.
And so the question is, you know, in terms of, you know, how we look at this moving forward
is, you know, who are the actual players in this space? And it’s really everybody. And
so it becomes an issue of what can we do to affect norms and affect behaviors so that
individuals are behaving responsibly and positively in a space that really no state or government
can fully control?>>SCHMIDT: So my question, I don’t know the
answer to this, is do you get to the right outcome by engaging the U.S. government in
a strong and positive way or do you have the U.S. government simply provide some generalized
air cover and try to do it bilaterally within companies, within partnerships, within NGOs?
And that’s a question to be debated. I worry that if the U.S. government takes a very strong
prescriptive position that, in fact, it will enflame the other side and they’ll start to
pay attention. It may actually would be better off to try to sort of infiltrate, if you will
for a lack of a better word, with powerful connective technology which represents the
values that we’re espousing. This is the basically, “invade-with-fax-machines” argument. It’s
much cheaper to invade a country with fax machines than with guns. And trust me, the
fax machines will be used and they will help topple that regime.
>>HAAS: Conceivably, what guns have been known to triumph. The problem is–it sounds
very similar to years ago when people argued certain economic arguments, and at times it
just gets trumped. Every once in a while, military might trumps.
>>SCHMIDT: No one is arguing here that the tanks win eventually. Of course, they win
eventually. The question is at some point, even dictatorships operate with some level
of support from the people. If you can figure out a way to get the average person to recognize
that they’re being ill-served by this dastardly government that they have, it will accelerate
a change that would have occurred anyway. A classic example, if you looked at East Germany
and West Germany, is the West Germans put the television towers right along the border
because they figured over sum number of viewers watching all that West German television would
have an impact, right? And indeed, that was certainly a component of what ultimately was
a pretty amazing event.>>HAAS: For sure. I could continue but I
will show uncharacteristic self-restraint. If you want to ask a question, raise your
hand, wait for a microphone, say who you are, and please limit yourself to one succinct
question. I’ll do my best to recognize as many people as I can. Yes, ma’am? Let’s wait
for the microphone back and we’ll quickly get you one.
>>MACKINNON: Hi, Rebecca MacKinnon with the New America Foundation. In your article, and
you were just alluding to this, that the Internet and new technologies have really challenged
the Westphalian state–system of nations states and this rise of stakeholders and so on. One
thing that’s very interesting with Google and a number of other companies is that you
have your own global constituency, that your users are sort of a constituency. I–and I’m
wondering whether you’re thinking about how to engage that constituency, both to help
with problems about how to get your engineers to think about how to better serve some of
those constituencies by maybe having some kind of deliberative process with them, and
also how you might leverage those constituencies vis-à-vis governments that might be doing
things that you observe are not in the interests, do not seem to be what those constituencies
actually want.>>SCHMIDT: It’s always best for us to operate
from the standpoint of the citizens in the country rather than Google against the government.
We’ve tried that, it doesn’t work. So we’re much better off if it becomes obvious to the
Google users in a country that they’re being ill-served by some policy; a classic example
being censorship, blocking of YouTube and so forth and so on. So we work hard to make
sure of that because ultimately they do listen to that. Most of the governments that we deal
with fundamentally want to modernize their countries. And they understand that they need
to interact with this connective technology that we talk about. So they understand they
have to do it. They want to do it on their terms, however.
>>HAAS: This question I just thought because you raised it. Do you actually think it’s
possible for governments to absorb technology in apolitical way, or do you think that basically
you’re inevitably a bit of a Trojan horse? That they can’t just skim off the part of
technology that helps economic growth and the rest that like it or not they let win,
and to some extent, you’re going to set in motion stuff that’s going to ultimately weaken
their hold?>>COHEN: I don’t–I don’t know that it’s
a Trojan–I wouldn’t say it’s a Trojan horse analogy because ultimately what we’re doing
is putting tools in the hands of people to be empowered to affect the outcomes that are
more fitting for what their actual desires are. And that’s less sort of, you know, a
sneak attack and more giving people the tools to actually, you know, transform the nature
of a social contract between them and their government. Now, depending on the society
that can be more effective in some places than in other places. In more repressive societies,
you can give them all the tools that you want and, you know, it might chip away at this
but it doesn’t transform the society instantly. In a very open society, it, you know–you
know, it certainly challenges a democratic system to get creative with how they preserve
that system while at the same time absorbing these new tools. But going back to our article,
it’s those connecting nations and those partially-connected nations where technology is still sufficiently
new and sufficiently disruptive that you, all of a sudden, give people the tools to
be able to do things that they weren’t able to do before hold the government to account
in ways they couldn’t before, connect to information with each other and resources in ways that
they couldn’t before, you know, and I think that all of a sudden, you get a much clearer
picture on what, you know, that country’s particular constituency actually thinks and
wants in terms of the future of their society.>>SCHMIDT: So let me–again, following the
Trojan horse question, let me suggest that it is the nature of the technologies we’re
talking about that they empower the citizens. In this scenario where the citizens, as a
result of their empowerment, become even more unified in their rabid argument of their political
view, their national view, which is counter to the U.S. interest, it’s clearly not a very
good Trojan horse strategy, but it’s clearly an empowering strategy.
>>HAASS: We got lots of things–in the back I see. Yes, sir.
>>O’CONNOR: Thank you. It’s Rory O’Connor from Globalvision in the Media Channel. I
want to know how you respond to assertions by people like Malcolm Gladwell, for example,
that the politically disruptive effects of social media have been greatly exaggerated
at the least.>>COHEN: Well, as we said before, I don’t
think anybody would dispute the fact–and we just start with the facts, I don’t think
anybody would dispute the fact that there’s a heck of a lot of technology out there and,
you know, it’s spreading exponentially and faster than we could have ever imagined. And
in terms of Gladwell’s article, I assume, you know, most people in this room read it,
but those who didn’t, he compared…>>HAASS: He wasn’t in Foreign Affairs so
people here didn’t read it.>>COHEN: He basically made the arguments
that–he made the argument that the civil rights movement happened without the technologies
of today and that we exaggerate the role of technology in cases like Moldova and Iran.
So a couple of things that I’ll say about this, I know Eric has a lot to say about this
as well. One, you know, the article ignores the fact that the civil rights movement used
the new technologies of the day, you know, television and, you know, various other forms
of technology. And it was those new technologies of the day that made it so, you know, a group
of individuals who are being hosed or attacked with dogs where images that a state legislator
in, you know, a state in New England or a state in the Northwest or a state somewhere
else in the country had to actually be held to account for given the laws that exists
in the country. And then nobody is saying that, you know, technology is, you know–you
know, the reason why there’s a revolution in this country or a movement, you know. All
of this is a tool. So again, it’s a tool that empowers people for good or ill. But certainly,
it’s hard to imagine a movement in the 21st century that doesn’t, in some way, shape or
form leverage these technologies, because every single, you know, movement in the past
for the most part has leveraged whatever the new technologies are for the day because to
be honest with you, it’s just straight up common sense. You know, if you’re trying to–if
you’re orchestrating a movement you’re clearly trying to solve for some kind of problem.
And if you’re solving for any kind of problem you certainly would be foolish to not use
as many tools that you have at your disposal. And so, you know, if there’s a movement in
the past that hasn’t used the new technologies of the day then it’s probably not a very sophisticated
movement.>>SCHMIDT: But Jared, you didn’t really quite
make the other half of his argument which I happen to agree with, which is that–this
is a surprise? We have this conversation. They basically…
>>COHEN: I have to look surprised. It’s…>>SCHMIDT: Ah, Jared. The–one of the arguments
that he makes which I think is correct is that many of these movements became because
of small numbers of people who worked very, very closely together, a very tight bond–a
very tight bonds. And he makes the argument in the article that the current technology
is essentially enabling what he calls weak bonds. It’s a roughly correct argument. The
problem with his argument is that the next generation of mobile technology is all about
tight bonds, all right? So in fact, we’ll get caught up in this, we really are.
>>HAASS: I’m sorry. Just for the ignorant, what is a tight bond?
>>SCHMIDT: What–he basically says that the way you plot a revolution is you have three
people who sit there and they talk at the kitchen table all the time. It’s not fundamentally
done by a broad mass. It’s done by people who are willing to risk their lives. And I
would argue that the mobile technology that is today available and in particular, coming,
with the kind of technologies that are available, will in fact empower people to do exactly
that.>>HAASS: Andrew.
>>ROSEN: Hi, Andrew Rosen. I’m a digital media entrepreneur. I wanted actually to come
back to your point about the vibrant society and the weak government, because the interesting
point, if you frame it in a Larry Lessig code versus code problem.
>>SCHMIDT: Sure.>>ROSEN: And what’s interesting is symbolically,
you both actually represent that. You have the government–you represent legal code,
the government code, government regulation, and you represent programming code. And in
your vibrant society–in your vibrant society and weak government, you essentially have
a code versus code dilemma.>>SCHMIDT: Exactly.
>>ROSEN: And the problem there is, you know, you’re not really talking about your code,
programming code being disruptive. In fact, if you’re empowering these local communities
against a weak government you’re talking about transformative. And so the thing that I didn’t
understand in your piece is why you weren’t willing to go to the lengths of transformative
despite this example that you’ve given.>>SCHMIDT: Well, the question is, specifically
for Google, we have to be careful not–there are lines we don’t want to cross. We don’t
want to be seen as threatening the supremacy of governments, for example, which is a bad
deal, right? It’s not a good outcome. So let me make–let me make an observation about
software. In the case of a strong government, if I’m a software programmer, I write the
code, the strong government purchases the product which has my code in there, downloads
it or whatever, they have the capability of modifying it, rejecting it, or whatever. In
weak governments, they fundamentally don’t. They’re stuck with what I did, alright? So
I, in some sense, have more leverage over those governments just because of the nature
about it. This is your code versus your code argument. In this case, the Larry Lessig arguments
are correct. So in a weak government’s case, I would argue that the software community
has a responsibility to understand how our technology is going to be used by governments
that don’t have the choice of rejecting it, right? They’re stuck with our values, our
bugs and, you know, our policies, and so forth and so on in our limitations.
>>HAASS: And with weak governments–I mean, it’s one thing to try to weaken an authoritarian
government consciously or unconsciously, but I would think if one of the principle strategic
challenges into today’s world is not strong states but weak states…
>>SCHMIDT: Uh-hmm.>>HAASS: …because when they–when they
collapse or fail, all sorts of negative consequences follow, don’t you exacerbate that problem?
>>COHEN: Can I? I’ll draw on one failed state. I mean, if we look at Somalia, I mean I think
Somalia is actually a really interesting place to play this out as, you know, one of the
fastest Internet growths in all of Africa. It has one of the largest and fastest growing
cell phone markets in all of Africa. And you sort of ask yourself why. Well, one, that
central government, you know, isn’t strong enough to regulate anything or let alone nationalize
anything. And then two, it’s really dangerous to actually get around in Somalia. So much
like Iraq, you know, it’s worth paying whatever money you have to have a cell phone because
nothing else really seems to work in the country. And so you get this scenario in a place like
Somalia where the telecom companies are both private entities as well as success stories
for institution-building. You know, so you–in the absence of a vibrant civil society in
terms of NGOs and, you know, foundations and grassroots organizations in a failed state
like Somalia, you have the telecom companies all sort of, you know, have to–a full dozen
of them doing women’s empowerment initiatives, doing development initiatives, doing financial
inclusion initiatives, doing health initiatives. You know, they sort of end up filling a gap
that’s left by both the government as well as the fact that the society is not fit for
more traditional organizations to set up shop on the ground. And so it actually, you know,
yes, it’s being used by al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda to, you know, coordinate and so forth,
and that’s just an unfortunate outcome but one that’s really, you know, difficult to
avoid, but the net positive in a place like Somalia in terms of what cell phones are actually
able to do is really spectacular. And one other thing that I’ll add on this is if you
want to figure out how to actually do any kind of, you know, traditional institution-building
in a country that’s basically been a failed state since the Cold War, you know, it might
actually make sense to look at the one success story for actually building something that’s
organized and transcends tribal and clan dynamics and actually functions. You know, it’s just
sort of an interesting way to look at institution-building to draw on something that we typically haven’t
looked at as an institution.>>HAASS: Yes, sir. Is that Orville–I can’t
see you.>>SCHELL: Orville Schell from the Asia Society.
Eric, I’m intrigued by your optimism that interconnectivity will challenge–will triumph
the–in China ultimately. It seems to me today they’ve done a pretty good job in keeping
up with it. Indeed you yourself hit something of a wall there. So I wondered if you could
maybe just sketch out a little bit of the scenario for your optimism.
>>SCHMIDT: I also really believe in the power of human, you know, yearnings and people want
a better place for themselves and their families. My experience is, people pretty much want
the same everywhere regardless where they are, and that’s true in China as well you
know, you’ve studied in China for a very long time. The government has a very, very extensive
program to try to make sure that the Internet does not get out of control. In addition to
the Great Firewall, which is a series of routers that block content–and it’s illegal by the
way to discuss the nature of what they do or how they do it so I’ll just summarize by
saying there’s a big thing which sits there and make sure that inappropriate content,
from their perspective, doesn’t make it into the country. They also have very large organizations.
The estimates are 30,000-50,000 numbers, no one is quite sure, of people who actively
censor blogging and so forth. And the censorship laws in China are such that self-censorship
is required. In other words, you can be guilty because you didn’t properly self-censor, and
the police apply that. So the question is, at what point will there be so many Chinese
people online that such mechanisms break down in terms of censorship and so forth? Because
they don’t–they obviously don’t scale, that there’s just–there’s some limit to that.
Now the current number of mobile phones subscribers in China, there’s at least 550 million mobile
phones in use by China Mobile which is the largest to the four operators, and the others
are a smaller number. So if you think about the scale, they’ve got a billion phones, if
you will, that are trying to express themselves, it’d be very difficult in my view to completely
keep up with that.>>HAASS: Sure.
>>GRAVES: Christopher Graves with the Ogilvy Public Relations. Could you paint a picture
for us about the longer term impact to social media? Because while I take your point, Jared,
that there’s always been some technology, this technology is clearly different in terms
of allowing instant self-aligning tribes. But those tribes often–the contradiction
is as broad as we get globally we tend to get narrower with homophily. So don’t we get
shriller and more polarized as we get broader?>>SCHMIDT: So that’s one possibility. Another
possibility is that technology will come along that will create great meeting places for
communication, people will all of a sudden come back. It’s very difficult to know how
the intersection of future technology and the future use of this will affect our society.
I think what we know is people love to talk, they like to listen, they like to talk a lot,
and they have a lot to say. And I will also observe speaking as a person who studies the
Internet a lot, people have a lot of free time, right? So I think all of that is working
to make these things happen. The way to express this as a negative is to imagine a situation
where you get these very, very tight walls of communication which are very difficult
for anyone to penetrate where people can do things which should not be done, right, illegal
activities or whatever. And we need to have an appropriate balance between the government
sort of watching that and the privacy. And in our view, the best way to solve it is through
a public democracy, through a democratic process where we will discuss the rights to the police,
the rights of the civil citizens; what is appropriate speech, what is not appropriate
speech.>>HAASS: Yes, ma’am?
>>SAMUELS: Barbara Samuels from the Global Clearinghouse on Development Finance. I wanted
to push a little bit more on how we could be creative in using technology to increase
the productivity of good government. We talked in the Third World about mobile phones and
all of that, but one of the things we’ve been trying to do in the development side is help
investment promotion agencies with investor aftercare business-enabling environments just
like a private sector company would be. Getting more transparency, performance reports, making
sure that existing investors can openly report on issues and then have a ticket system to
try and push on that. If you think that there’s a real opportunity here, if we ran our private
sector companies like governments we’d be in trouble, right? So if you look at the kinds
of productivity and outreach a company like yours has, how would you really think about
how to be–use technology more effectively in governments both in the developing world
and here and how would we move forward on that? Thank you.
>>COHEN: I’d say a quick response to that and then Eric, I’m sure you have a lot to
say about this as well. And I think it goes back to the silo-busting point that I was
making before, that people that understand issues of governance and transparency and
accountability and all the issues that surround how we support democracy at the grassroots
level, that’s not what engineers are trained to do. There are some engineers that understand
that because they read about it and have a passion for it but that’s not, you know, sort
how they earn their paychecks that, you know, you can’t sort of necessarily broken down
to a code. And so, you know, if you look at all the organizations that are out there,
there’s no shortage of individuals and entities and networks that are working on governance
issues in different parts of the world. But, you know, I think there are oftentimes using
very rusty tools, right, still working with pamphlets, still doing very traditional training.
And so I think, you know, there’s two things that have to happen. One, the organizations
that have the expertise on this subject need to find a way to engage those that have expertise
on the tools. And then two, people who have the expertise on the tools need to understand
that they actually have a critically relevant set of expertise that needs to be leveraged
so that we can actually combine the best of both and come up with an innovative solution.
>>SCHMIDT: It’s probably the case that the connective technologies that we’re talking
about forced transparency on governments in the following way. I can’t imagine running
any kind of society without transparency anyway because otherwise people tend to do self-dealing
and other things which we all know are bad. But now because the individuals are empowered
they can detect it so you’re fundamentally forced into a more transparent model whether
you like it or not. Whether it’s the picture that somebody takes on a mobile phone of some
evil thing done by a government official or the cooking of the books that goes on at the
local or regional level, or the incessant, you know, corruption and fraud and, “Where
did the money go?” These are all systems and things they can now be tracked extremely accurately
with this new technology and I’d argue that’s a very good thing.
>>HAASS: Ambassador Skol.>>SKOL: Mike Skol of Skol & Serna. This room
is filled with experts, most of us who really are experts. And yet your technology, the
global technology, empowers billions of people to be experts and add to the sum of knowledge
on the Internet globally. My sense is that there is a lessening of reliable sources for
most people as a result of this process. So a lot of bull that now enters the world of
encyclopedia that many, many people believe in and act upon, how do you react, are you
trying to deal with this at all?>>SCHMIDT: The problem you’re describing
is fundamentally occurring already in the newspaper area, for example, where the loss
of investigative journalism is a real tragedy for America. And it’s true in other countries
as well, just because the economic model and some of that has been caused by the Internet
and other things as well. So it seems to me that the most important thing to do is to
develop a set of brands, because that’s how people react, that are in fact trusted. I
would actually argue that CFR is attempting to be a brand of at least, you know, judgment
and so forth, you introduced yourself…>>COHEN: Succeeding is the word.
>>SCHMIDT: Succeeding, thank you. And you know, CFR, you describe yourself as nonpartisan,
committed, and so forth and so on, that’s an example. And so maybe there will be a set
of new institutions that will connote that quality of thinking and so forth, that in
the cacophony of information which is sort of overwhelming you’ll have to gone through
it. One of the dangers of information is it’s very easy to create disinformation. And there’s
a lot of evidence that people are now trying to use the various tools and techniques which
are today not perfect to manipulate outcomes. Somebody will say, “Well, I had so many hits.”
Then we’ll say, “Well, how do you know that those were the real hits? Maybe that was a
computer that was just fooling you,” right? So there are all sorts of techniques like
that. And I think we’re in early stage of that kind of reliable brand, reliable quality
in this new medium.>>HAASS: Yes, sir?
>>GREEN: Hi, Lane Green from the Economist Magazine. I just learned the other day that
if you search for the same string of text from a couple of different computers on Google
you’ll get slightly different results, some things will move up a bit, some things will
move down a bit. You alluded to this earlier when you talked about the idea of a bubble
where people will only get what they’re looking for. And I understand that those results are
slightly modified by the cookies that are already on someone’s computer or the things
they’ve already searched for.>>SCHMIDT: It’s actually by your–it’s not
about the cookies, it’s by your search history.>>GREEN: Okay, so people are looking for
X then they’re going to find a lot more like X. What are you doing to make sure that this
isn’t a slippery soap to make sure that people are getting even more what they’re looking
for in a bad way?>>SCHMIDT: What, we’re very, very sensitive
to this issue and it turns out there are technologies in computer science known as collaborative
filtering which allow us to surface things which are, let’s call it, serendipity. But
one of the great things about the Economist or the New York Times or the Boston Globe
or whatever is you see the story you want and then you see the story right next to it
which is interesting, and you’ll learn something. And there are computer technologies which
allow us to do that now for this online information sources as well. I think virtually all of
the reliable information services including Google’s will ultimately have a combination
of this more targeted information plus things which, through serendipity, we can suggest
that are interesting, challenging and different.>>HAASS: Sure.
>>MIKE: Mike from Diligence. Would you address the issue of crime on an anecdotal basis,
what has changed with the new paradigm that you’re discussing? What is new in the world
of crime and fraud?>>SCHMIDT: Are you an expert in this area,
Jared?>>COHEN: I can talk…
>>SCHMIDT: Talking about fraud?>>COHEN: I can talk about it. You hope it’s
not so much the electronic money laundering though.
>>SCHMIDT: You know, the–there–I think that it’s a long and complicated answer. Virtually,
it’s always–it’s a shame that the Internet has criminals on it. And those of us that
were involved with it, it never occurred to us that criminals would actually show up on
the Internet. It was all going to be nice people who wouldn’t violate anything. I’m
obviously being facetious. So, there’s a lot of evidence that, for example, email and cell
phones are being used, you know, for crimes as people know, but you also have much greater
ability to detect this. So the effect on the police, as the police all now have, you know,
hi-tech task force as the FBI and so forth and so on. And there’s always a balance between
the two, and we’re always trying to find that right balance, I think, as a society. But
so far, it hasn’t fundamentally changed anything. There’s a lot of concern as Richard said about
cyber-security that somebody could attack something over the Internet. I’m pleased to
say that the key networks that actually carry important things in the military and things
like that are completely segregated from the Internet that you know. So the attacks would
be much more of a “denial of service,” you know, shut down certain aspects of business
and so forth, and hopefully those are mitigated by industrial action. Jared?
>>COHEN: Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, because, you know, I don’t come from the technology
world, I come from the foreign policy world. My natural inclination is actually to think
about an entirely different set of crimes. Where I might–when you say crime, I immediately
think of Mexico drug cartels, you know, in a sort of more traditional crime for those
of us working in the foreign policy space. And Mexico is an interesting example to zero
in on. I mean one of the big challenges in Mexico is nobody wants to report the crimes
because they fear, you know, action being taken against them. Nobody wants to provide
tips, the police don’t want to act on the crimes that they do get and the media in Mexico
doesn’t want to cover it. All for the same reasons that there is fear. Now I don’t know
exactly what the answer is, but I know that, again, we have a different set of tools today
than if we were thinking about this, you know, challenge 15 years ago.
>>SCHMIDT: You know, I mean, as an example, your mobile phone records where you are because
in the United States your mobile phone provides what are called E911 services. So there is
in fact a record of where you are
and it’s regulated.>>HAASS: I see a hand over there. I can’t
your see your body. There we go.>>FEMALE: Yeah, hi. Thanks. I’m [INDISTINCT].
Eric, you know so much more than we know about 10 years, 20 years from now about our lives,
and you know so much about our lives now so I know what scares me. But I want to know
what scares you because of what you know.>>COHEN: I actually want to know that, too.
>>SCHMIDT: Okay. Thank you. So, if you’re an optimist, if you’re an optimist as I as
both Jared and I are, and I really do believe that this technology, all of the things that
we’re talking about here, are going to make the world a much, much better place. And I
can give reams and reams of examples. The rate of scientific discoveries, the collaboration,
new medicines, the essential human goodness of people coming out in story after story,
the ability to do automatic translation between languages that people who would fight can
now talk. All of these things are positive. What I worry about is the empowerment of the
rogue, evil person over a 20-year period. What we’ve seen with terrorism is that you
can get a truly evil person who can use the tools of the trade of the time and do disproportionate
damage to their station. And unfortunately, the technology being neutral, doesn’t find
a way from that person. We can’t write the code that says, “If you are Osama bin Laden,
we can’t–you know, we turn off your cell phone,” right? And indeed, I suspect people
don’t think he’s using one now. The important point is we have not yet quite figured out
how to deal with the person whose intent is evil and where empowerment of information
just allows them to do more evil things. Transparency is part of it. And the fact that we know what
people are doing and everybody just sort of looks at each other and so forth, there’s
safety in numbers, all those things are all positive. But ultimately, you want to think
about the Unabomber case. You’ve got a brilliant mad person sitting in a–in a log cabin. Today,
what tools would the Unabomber use? Ten years from now what tools would the Unabomber use?
And this isn’t–this is evil, and we need to be aware of it and worry about it.
>>HAASS: But isn’t–but isn’t your argument though that it’s inherent in the trajectory
of the technology. If you have–if the bias is in favor of empowerment of individual…
>>SCHMIDT: Yeah.>>HAASS: …it seems to me then that the
actual purposes to which the technology is going to put is going to vary according to
human nature. And that’s one of the few things probably beyond the reach of even Google,
that human nature is going to continue to be varied, and you’re going to have wonderful
people and you’re going to have awful people and the technology will ultimately play out
in constructive and destructive ways simultaneously. It seems to be that it’s inherent in the beast.
>>SCHMIDT: Again, my personal view is easy to understand. I think first place, the world
is getting very small because of the communications technologies. It’s very important that governments
and legitimate societies get to know each other. So, China’s rise and integration into
the world economic and political and systems and so forth, they have as much as interest
in safety and security, and the future of the Earth as anybody else, right? So that’s
a positive, I would argue. And we can debate the specific tactics if we don’t like the
particular rules but fundamentally it’s better to have them integrated would be my argument.
So you make all that argument, the nation state level, at the institutional level, at
the trade level and so forth, you still don’t answer the question of the rogue crazy person
operating in secrecy. And that–we have to think as a society how we’re going to detect
that person, how we’re going to prevent them from doing evil, right, in a way that protects
civil liberties but also protects our own safety. And it’s not an easy answer. In the
case of the Unabomber by the way, he was ultimately turned in by a family member, right?
>>COHEN: You know, there’s another example of this too which I think is important to
know. And actually a point to make about this is that, you know, the small number of bad
actors relative to those that are actually using technology either neutrally or as a
force for good, are just much louder, right? It’s the same thing–it’s the same problem
with terrorism, right? There’s 1.8 billion Muslims on the planet and a small number of
terrorists who also happen to be Muslim happen to be very loud and they, you know, that it
leads to misperceptions about their religion at large. And so one of the unfortunate things
we have is you hear more about, or at least, you know, from the government’s standpoint,
when you’re sitting, you know, in Foggy Bottom, you hear more about the negative uses of technology
because it’s what excites people. The same way when you look at the Middle East, you
hear more about, you know, the terrorist attacks and all the catastrophe. But to Eric’s point,
an example that’s worth noting, and I remember I was in Guatemala and I met a family Guatemala
City that had actually been extorted from an MS13 gang member that was in a prison in
Los Angeles, who used his cell phone in the prison to literally extort a family in Central
America. On a trip to Afghanistan, I was in Polecharkhi prison, and I met a Taliban, you
know, a quasi-Taliban inmate who had allegedly orchestrated attacks on three government industries.
And in February of 2009 as a joke after interviewing him I asked him if I could have his phone
number, and he pulled out what looked like an iPhone, you know.
>>SCHMIDT: Jared, how did he have an iPhone?>>COHEN: Well so, I asked this question,
and there is obviously. And they have, you know, the prisons are not very well-guarded.
And what’s interesting, I was told that cell phones being smuggled into the prisons had
been a problem and the prison guards had told me that they solved it because, you know,
everybody around the prison knew that the cell phones had been used to organize and
connect to people outside of prison walls to pull off this triple and simultaneous suicide
attack. And so I asked the question at the embassy if it was in fact true and it turns
out that, you know, there’s just this constant flow of people that they let in and out of
these prisons. Whether or not, you know, the walls are sort of more metaphorical than they
are actual walls. And it’s even more the case in Central America where the prisons are basically,
you know, like these ungoverned spaces where the guards themselves won’t even go into some
of these–some of these cell blocks and prisoners sort of go out and work during the day and
go out into society and go back into the prison at night and it becomes this, you know, revolving
door that is monitored by the prisoners themselves. And whether that’s in Central America or Afghanistan,
it’s just the product of a society whose government doesn’t have a capacity to actually, you know,
fully keep inmates that are in the prison, you know, from going back and forth throughout
society either physically or through digital connectivity.
>>HAASS: There’s a piece in the article I think used the expression, “cats and mice”
and there’s a lot of the things we’re talking about here sort of these competitions are
almost races.>>SCHMIDT: Well, it’s always a race between,
you know, the lock picker and the lock maker. We have very, very strong technology that
can prevent a lot of this that has secondary effects. It’s hard to use, or it can cover-up
people’s tracks, or it’s hard for the police to inspect; and these are all judgment questions
that government needs to sort out.>>HAASS: That’s the perfect place to suggest
that everybody here, if you’ve read it already, re-read it; if you haven’t read it, read it,
“The Digital Disruption” in the November-December issue of Foreign Affairs. I want to thank
Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen for contributing to peace and for being here tonight.
>>SCHMIDT: Thank you.>>HAASS: Good.
>>SCHMIDT: Thank you, Jared.

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32 thoughts on “Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen at the Council on Foreign Relations

  1. @aidruler only partners can put ads at the beginning, and even then they can choose not too. Google use this channel for advertising so they're not gonna use ads *during* their ads.

  2. @corylulu The default dislikes are probably because it is CFR, which is conspiracy NWO stuff category group.

    Thankfully Haas stopped doing "uhhh" after his 5 minute intro and when he no longer needed his reading glasses. Was an interesting talk.

  3. The transcript of the video is on the CFR site if you Google "The Digital Disruption – Council on Foreign Relations", as well as articles on same topic.

    For those who want to know what was said, but don't have time to listen. Can skim the transcript or read articles. Reading is faster than listening.

  4. It should NOT be called "Google Ideas", too general, easily misconstrued as an invitation to the public to submit ideas like the 10^100 Project was. This "Google Ideas" (sic) is a politicalish think tank to observe and better steer technology vs existing socio-economic forces etc. China has "Innovation Works" (Kai-Fu Lee) to foster innovation/startups for their people. Where is our version of that in the U.S.? This is not that. Call it Google Dynamics or-or instead.

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