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Google’s Eric Schmidt On Collective Intelligence: “In God We Trust…But All Others Bring Data”

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Eric Schmidt fullThere are few people in the world with a resume like Eric Schmidt. Just finishing his decade long run as Google's CEO, Schmidt is also a former Apple board member, former Stanford Business School Professor, and a pretty kickass programmer back in the day. In his time this billionaire has advised world leaders and shaped global perception of the internet. Now, Schmidt is leveraging his expertise in online search and communication to discuss one of the most important emergent technological developments of the 21st Century: Collective Intelligence. Formed as huge numbers of people share incredibly enormous amounts of data freely over the net, Collective Intelligence is seen popularly in Wikipedia, Linux, and Yahoo Answers. This past fall at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Schmidt presented his thoughts on how the focus on hardware and software will fade in importance to harnessing the globally generated network of knowledge and data. See all of Schmidt's talk, "The Future of the Global Mind", followed by an entertaining Q&A session in the video below.

Introduced by MIT's Thomas Malone, one of the leading researchers in the field of Collective Intelligence, Schmidt explores a wide range of topics. By the time the presentation really gets going around 11 minutes in, he declares the global network of knowledge to be “as important, if not more important, as the development of electricity.” He also gives the audience a new motto: “in God we trust, but all others bring data”. Of course Schmidt brings Google into the conversation, pointing out how the search engine giant researches 200,000 experiments in their field each year, incorporates 500 new developments, and faces an ever changing web – 16% of searches each day are new. Google's also becoming more open, revealing some of their recent changes in approach last fall. On a more personal note, Schmidt's data-centric approach to global problem solving shapes not only his take on politics (leaders should follow facts, not opinions), but also his take on the future of humanity. Around 22:00 he delves into the merger of the physical and virtual worlds. Yet for all the change Schmidt foresees, and he predicts quite a bit, he clearly views the global sharing of information as a powerful tool for freedom against oppression: “the last gasp of an autocrat is to turn off the internet.”

Questions, starting around 33:30, discuss digital rights managements, renewable energy, global warming data, exponential growth in intelligence (41:20), pending government regulation, how to maintain physical intuition in a virtual reality dominated Earth, and the ways in which we can use data to motivate behavior.

[image credit: Guillaume Paumier / Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-3.0]
[screen capture and video credit: MIT TechTV]

Discussion — 2 Responses

  • visualign February 6, 2012 on 2:32 pm

    Great talk by Eric Schmidt. Some sound bites:

    “Technology is not about hardware and software anymore. It’s really about the mining and use of this enormous data…”

    “I see the world getting divided into things that computers are good at and things humans are good at. Computers: Infinite memory, needle-in-haystack problems, … Humans: Intuition, getting ourselves in trouble, falling in love…”

    On countries attempts to censor the Internet: “If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, don’t break the mirror but fix your own issues instead.” “If you don’t like people’s behavior online, then regulate their behavior… (instead of blocking its expression online)”

    I agree that data should drive decisions and leaders should follows facts, not opinions. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts. Many societal problems, however, are too complex to be exhaustively reduced to a set of data. There are also fundamental limits to understanding and predictability in nonlinear dynamic systems (think of the weather forecast beyond a week or so). It’s not (only) a problem of insufficient data. It’s a problem of essential irreducibility of chaotic systems. In short, there will always be surprises. Consider the vexing phenomenon of economic inequality (which I have written about in various posts on my Data Visualization Blog While one can measure it more accurately, it’s not as clear what’s causing it or which policies increase or decrease it. Perhaps a field of study worthy of Collective Intelligence?

  • Prasad N R May 2, 2015 on 7:12 am

    Hey, this is my request. Please do not post ‘stories’ without proofs. The articles mentioned in some of the previous comments do mention some police cases. But, they seriously lack credibility. If such comments are to be posted, please take care to see that there are credible newspapers or any source to back up (we cannot check up police cases online (if that is the purpose, then, what is the purpose of ruining this consecrated site?)).

    I only found one person’s comment ‘copied and pasted’ everywhere when checked up on Google. I deliberately tried Bing as well only to find the same. A technical term to describe such comments are ‘spams’. If they are not to be spams, they must have credible proofs. Afterall, people do not have time to scour through that ‘data’ which appears just like a story. Even the motive of murder is not clearly understood in the comments.

    (My question intuitively is- why will people get into Stanford, be such amazing people transforming the world only to kill some person and cover it up? They can eventually make that person work in their company if the need be. These people have money to transform the world)

    I don’t know if the intentions are about gaining reputation through shock-intensity and I don’t have to know about them as long as people are restricted from cyber-stalking.