Mr Schmidt just ‘putting it out there’

The blogosphere has been buzzing with some controversial statements by Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, at the Techonomy conference:

“There was 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003,” Schmidt said, “but that much information is now created every 2 days, and the pace is increasing…People aren’t ready for the technology revolution that’s going to happen to them.”‘

“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.”

“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…But society isn’t ready for questions that will be raised as result of user-generated content.”

And

“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.”

Mr Schmidt is saying that the explosion in user generated and social media content will necessitate the demand for more tranparency, accountability and validation of user data, which in turn means less privacy and control for any ‘connected’ individual in the digital era.

Sounds like ‘big brother’ and society will clash, but according to him there’s also an upside:

“In our lifetimes,” Schmidt says, “we’ll go from a small number of people having access to information, to 5 billion people having all the world’s knowledge in their native language.” That is truly incredible.

When you see something like that from the CEO of the world’s largest internet company, it really dawns on you that with every passing day, we move from reality to science fiction.

The main proposition that computers and artificial intelligence will begin to play a huge part in our lives doesn’t sound too far off anymore. As we start to consign more and more of our personal information to the digital realm, we need to also realise that the fundamental basics of anything ‘digital’ is an electronic circuit; which at its very essence, is there to provide connectivity.

Schmidt’s foretelling of what the future might look like may be completely foreign to society’s notion of privacy today… but is it really that unfathomable that such a future might be true?

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