TED 2014: Google co-founder Page says NSA spying threatens democracy

Google co-founder Larry Page made clear his stance against the US government's mass surveillance programmes and gave everyone an idea of what to expect from the Internet giant in the field of robotics in the near future. Interviewed during a Ted talk at Ted 2014 by US TV personality Charlie Rose, Page went over a number of issues that have been raised in the past year, and also spoke of the need to make more data easily accessible to everyone.

 

When asked about Edward Snowden and his revelations about US surveillance, he said "It is disappointing that the government secretly did this stuff and didn't tell us about it." Snowden himself made an appearance on Ted, following his longer chat during the SXSW closing keynote.  "It is not possible to have a democracy if we have to protect our users from the government. The government has done itself a tremendous disservice and we need to have a debate about it," he was quoted as saying by the BBC.

 

As far as criticism against Google's own search practices are concerned, Page said that authorities could be "throwing out the baby with the bathwater" over plans to tighten privacy. Page was specifically talking about the major changes Google has to make to search in the EU. "We are not thinking about the tremendous good that can come with sharing information with the right people in the right ways."

 

Speaking about the acquisition of machine learning firm DeepMind, Page said. "I was looking at search and trying to understand how to make computers less clunky and also thinking about how speech recognition is not very good. We are still at the very early stages with search. Computers don't know where you are and what you are doing."

 

Page said what attracted Google to DeepMind was the fact that they were working on making computers smarter. "It was really exciting, we have not been able to do this before. Imagine if that intelligence is thrown at your schedule," he added.  In what could be some exciting news for YouTube fans, Page said Google is currently working on "using YouTube to 'teach' computers." "It has learnt what cats are," he was quoted as saying.

 

Talking about Project Loon,  Page said, "I found that 30 years ago someone had put up a balloon and it had gone round the world multiple times," he said. Similarly, Google hopes to  "build a world-wide mesh of balloons to cover the whole planet."

 

He also spoke about the driverless cars and how they could make roads around the world safer for drivers. It started when I was at college in Michigan. I was waiting for the bus and it was cold and snowing," he said before adding that 20 million people get injured each year in car accidents, which could be greatly reduced with automated driving.

 

And in what was a surprising revelation, Page said that Google was guilty of wasting time when working on Android, which was a side-project in the company for a long time.  "That was stupid, it was the future," he said.

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