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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.

The purpose of technology, which Page also revisited repeatedly, is to help people stop performing unnecessary tasks and use more of their time to do things they enjoy.

I think back to a very long time ago. All of humanity was basically farming or hunting all the time. And if you lived at that time, you probably hoped that you could feed your family.... We don't worry about that. And the reason for that is technology. We've improved how we grow food and so on, and the technology has allowed people to focus on other things if they choose. And that's what technology lets us do, is free up ourselves to do more different things.

And I'm sure that people in the future will think we're just as crazy as we think everyone in the past was in having to do things like farming or hunting all the time.... And imagine how self-driving cars will change our lives, and the landscape. More green space, fewer parking lots, greater mobility, fewer accidents, more freedom, fewer hours wasted behind the wheel of a car. And the average American probably spends almost 50 minutes commuting. Imagine if you got most of that time back to use for other things.

Enough with the negativity!
So what's causing us to use only one percent of our technological-innovation brains, preventing our undersea bullet-train future from arriving? Turns out it's negativity, especially from the media, that makes Larry sad.

And despite the faster change we have in the industry, we're still moving slow relative to the opportunities that we have. And some of that, I think, has to do with the negativity. You know, every story I read about Google, it's kind of us versus some other company, or some stupid thing. And I just don't find that very interesting. We should be building great things that don't exist. Right? Being negative is not how we make progress. And most important things are not zero-sum. There's a lot of opportunity out there. And we can use technology to make really new and really important things to make people's lives better.

Is the tech media snarky? You betcha. Does it often write stories that have little to no basis in reality or rational thought? All signs point to yes.

But the irony is rich, given that Page made that statement during the very same presentation in which Google announced Google Play Music All Access, a music subscription service that probably doesn't count as "building great things that don't exist." Sure, for strategic reasons it makes sense for Google to build its own version of Rhapsody, Rdio, Spotify, and the rest. But All Access hardly qualifies as something new. It's possible that it's the best music subscription service yet invented, but chances are that if it succeeds, it'll be doing so because it's integrated by Google into Google's offerings, not because it's the best on its own.


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