Eric Schmidt's Sunny World
Schmidt, executive chairman of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), took the stage at Mobile World Congress 2012 Tuesday night, Barcelona time, speaking at the show for the third year running. I watched over coffee at home for the second year running.
Schmidt used his keynote this time to play futurist, as he sometimes did during his days at Sun Microsystems. (See G-Man Speaks.)
His message was that it's important to get emerging countries connected -- just connected, in any way. Human creativity will do the rest.
"If you get the access right, the citizens, which are very creative, will get the rest done," he said during a long question-and-answer session after his talk.
That, I agree with. And the results will be positive -- he used literacy improvements and the Arab Spring as examples. What I wonder about, though, is the developed world, as more of our lives move online.
Since the '90s, I have believed that people will use the Internet to wall themselves off from other points of view. That's the benefit, and the danger, of being able to pick your community, and it fosters a very "us vs. them" mindset that I think is becoming more pervasive in the United States.
Just look at politics, at the childish Congressional battles where it's become more important to disagree with the other side than to actually get anything done. They're mirroring the attitudes of their constituents.
That's what you can expect from a world where you never have to truly cope with different points of view, where you're never forced to coexist constructively with people who aren't in your tribe. Despite all the great things the Internet can enable, I think a lot of people will use it as a tool to restrict their own knowledge rather than expand it. It's a place to hide.
Hopefully, it won't be a majority who do this. And it's no reason to stop using the Internet. I'm just saying Schmidt's optimism has its blind spots. It will take some wariness to ensure that technology always equates to forward progress.
— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading