In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Google CEO Larry Page reaffirmed his belief that increased investment in technology and entrepreneurship are key to solving many of the problems currently facing humanity. Page also warned world leaders, and Europe in particular, that preserving increasingly obsolete occupations will not only throttle human progress, but also impede many of the solutions that are possible through technological innovation.
“The idea that everyone should slavishly work so they do something inefficiently so they keep their job – that just doesn’t make any sense to me. That can’t be the right answer.”
Page is well known for his unbridled enthusiasm and optimism for technology. Even within the context of a growing backlash against Google’s search engine practices, which many point out are monopolistic and infringe on user data privacy, Page makes several sweeping assertions about how the displacement of workers due to automation, robotics and artificial intelligence will in fact benefit humankind.
“Even if there’s going to be a disruption on people’s jobs, in the short term that’s likely to be made up by the decreasing cost of things we need, which I think is really important and not being talked about.” Page goes on to state that running a business will be much more efficient and much less costly than they are today, a combination of economics and efficiency that should enable more people to create and run their own businesses.
Despite all his optimism, Page is aware of the challenges that lie ahead. Specifically, Page wants governments to increase their funding of research and development, rather than just having private investors do all the heavy lifting. Together, Page believes key innovations in areas such as medicine and meeting the world’s energy needs can be expedited.
Still, Page remains forward thinking, and instead of waiting around for governments to change their policies toward development and research, he is taking advantage of the financial success of his company, and has been investing much of that surplus in various side-projects and business units that operate semi-autonomously. Knowing that innovation depends on a combination of fearless experimentation and cash flow, Page is personally seeing to it that these free-standing businesses have the guarantee of “long-term, patient capital.”
Although Page may be a bit too idealistic, let’s just hope most of what he envisions will truly benefit humankind, and that our future robot overlords will work to our benefit, and not the other way around.
Here are just four things Page believes Google will conquer:
1. Same-day delivery shopping
2. Curing death
3. Conversational, artificially intelligent search
4. Universal internet access
(This article was co-written with Tech Gen Mag editor Kristian Markus)
(Featured image illustration by Andrew Rae; Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis)