BARCELONA, Spain-The outgoing CEO of technology behemoth Google, Eric Schmidt, broke from the traditional tech-heavy Mobile World Congress keynotes so often reliant upon sales figures and growth metrics to paint the portrait of a future society where technology becomes subservient to humanity and our shared level of connectivity has the potential to solve the greatest problems facing our collective civilization.
“The goal of everything we’re doing is so that I can spend more time exploring new places, and have a more fulfilled life as I define it,” Schmidt said, referring to all in attendance. “I would offer a happiness theorem, that computers are here to make us happier because computers take care of the stuff that gets in our way.”
Schmidt didn’t wax poetic the entire evening, of course, touting the success of Google’s open-source Android operating platform and positioning the company as a leader in the mobile technology world. He noted Google’s efforts to build advanced search architectures and the company’s investment in building large data centers to provide users with a faster, more fluid Web experience.
As the speech continued, Schmidt moved from the demands a rapidly growing mobile Web culture cultivates to address the more personal benefits advanced search technology can bring to people around the world. “It’s interesting to think of your phone first as a communications device, then a data platform and now a serendipity platform, giving you the ability to find new things and meet new people you wouldn’t meet otherwise,” he said.
Schmidt asked the audience to imagine a world where your mobile device monitors your blood pressure, where cloud computing gives users access to applications across multiple devices instantaneously and where an economy is driven by a velocity of commerce never before imagined. “We believe speed matters, that your time matters,” he said. “The Internet is replacing economics of scarcity with an economy of ubiquity.”
In acknowledging some people might be hesitant to lead such a connected life, where, as he put it, you’re never lonely, never lost and never alone, Schmidt admitted the concept is at once terrifying and exhilarating. “You can reach a billion people in a month, which has never before been possible in history,” he said. “We don’t talk to each other enough; now we can do it.”
Schmidt spoke of the enormous challenges society faces, be they global warming, terrorism or the more personal, though no less worrying experience of getting lost in an unfamiliar city. “When was the last time you had a good being lost experience?” he asked. “You have to turn off your computer in order to get lost, and you’ll never turn off your computer, so you’ll never again be lost.”
In the end, Schmidt tied all of these themes together through an expressed hope of improved communication between cultures and individuals. “This is a future for the masses, not the elites. Because of your work spreading mobile devices, 2 billion people will enter our conversation in the next three to four years,” he said. “They are coming, and they are coming with human values, human concerns and human problems. It’s possible, and it will change their lives so much more than it has changed any of ours. That is what I’m most proud of.”