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Larry Page: Deconstructing the sadness

Jason Snell | May 17, 2013
Jason Snell analyzes Google CEO Larry Page's speech at Wednesday's Google I/O keynote.

For a couple of hours during Wednesday's Google I/O keynote, I was surprised that Larry Page had opened up about his voice problems the day before, because there had been no sign of Google's CEO on stage. But then he appeared, and held court at Moscone West for 45 minutes. (You can read a complete transcript of Page's remarks.)

First he delivered a rambling speech, then he (surprisingly) answered some audience questions. It was a lengthy final act of what had already been a long, somewhat scattered presentation--but it provided some interesting insights into the thoughts of the man at the helm of one of the world's most important companies.

Page is, fundamentally, a person who's incredibly optimistic about technology's ability to change the world. But that optimism is tempered with a frustration about today's technology industry. More than once he used the word "sad" to describe his feelings (yes, the inevitable Twitter parody account followed). He also complained about negative media coverage of Google while also throwing a few elbows of his own.

Technological optimism
Unlike some other tech CEOs we could mention, Page isn't someone who came into the tech industry as a marketer looking for money. He's a technology enthusiast at heart, and it still shows. "I think everyone today is excited about technology," he said. "I look at the rate of adoption of [technology]... And it's incredible."

The opportunities we have are tremendous. We haven't seen this rate of change in computing for a long time. Probably not since the birth of the personal computer. But when I think about it, I think we're all here because we share a deep sense of optimism about the potential of technology to improve people's lives, and the world, as part of that.

And I'm amazed every day I come to work, the list of things that needs to be done is longer than the day before. And the opportunity of those things is bigger than it was before. And because of that we, as Google, and as an industry--all of you--really only have one percent of what is possible. Probably even less than that.

Page kept coming back to the idea that the tech industry is only using one percent of its potential--a cousin, perhaps, to the myth about human brain capacity. He referred to it when he talked about being frustrated by government regulations making it hard for Google to disrupt the health-care industry and when talking about how companies should take more risks with out-of-category ideas like Google's self-driving cars.


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