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Former Google CEO shares vision in tech treatise

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 21, 2013 at 3:23 pm •  Published: April 21, 2013

If this book is right, there is no turning back from the revolution that is making Internet access as vital as oxygen and mobile devices as important as our lungs.

As much disruption as there already has been since Google's inception in 1998, Schmidt and Cohen contend that the most jarring changes are still to come as reductions in the cost of technology bring online another 5 billion people, mostly in less developed countries. At the same time, the combination of more powerful microprocessors, much-faster Internet connections and entrepreneurial ingenuity will turn the stuff of science fiction into reality.

Schmidt and Cohen are convinced that holograms will enable people to make virtual getaways to exotic beaches whenever they feel need. Nasal implants will alert us to the first signs of a cold. Virtual assistants — the kind Google is developing with Google Now and Apple with Siri — will become constant companions that influence when we shop and what we buy. Those assistants will generally steer us in directions drawn from an analyses of our personal preferences vacuumed off the Internet and stored in vast databases.

These aren't far-out concepts to the tech cognoscenti, or even younger generations who can barely remember what it was like to surf the Web on a dial-up modem, let alone use a typewriter.

The ideas will be more unnerving to older generations still trying to figure out all the things that their smartphone can do.

Schmidt, who will turn 58 on Saturday, can remember the days before there were personal computers. But he has been studying tech trends for decades, long before he became Google's CEO in 2001 and became a mentor and confidant to company co-founders Page and Brin. That collaboration established him as one of the world's best-known executives and minted him as a multibillionaire. Before joining Google, he was chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems and CEO of software maker Novell Inc.

Many of the book's themes expand upon topics that Schmidt regularly mused about in speeches and interviews that he gave as Google's CEO. Some of his past remarks, particularly about the loss of privacy, rankled critics who believe Google had become too aggressive in trying to learn more about people's individual interests so it could sell more ads, its chief source of revenue.

Schmidt also won plenty of admirers in powerful places, including President Barack Obama, who called upon Schmidt's advice during his 2008 campaign. Political pundits once considered Schmidt to be a leading candidate to join Obama's cabinet, though Schmidt has said he never had any interest in a government job.

Schmidt relinquished the CEO job to Page two years ago, freeing him to devote more time traveling to meet government leaders around the world.

Cohen, 31, is regarded as a rising star in tech circles, though he isn't as well-known as his co-author. Time magazine just named Cohen as one of the world's 100 most influential people in its annual list. Cohen worked on State Department policy planning and counter-terrorism in both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Schmidt and Cohen emerged from their research convinced that most governments don't fully understand the implications of ubiquitous Internet access and mobile computing. They expect repressive regimes to do everything in their power control the flow of information and to abuse databases to spy on citizens. They also foresee smaller countries waging computer-based attacks on countries they would never target with troops and weapons.

Even as they address the dark sides of technology, Schmidt and Cohen hypothesize that the world ultimately will be better off as more people spend more time connected to each other on the Internet. Societies will be more democratic, governments will become less corrupt as their transgressions are exposed and people will become smarter and better informed.

"Never before in history have so many people, from so many places, had so much power at their fingertips," Schmidt and Cohen assert.


"The New Digital Age" is being published by Alfred A. Knopf with a suggested retail price of $26.95.