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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.

That was in respnse to a question about software development, but he also took the long view in a question about how phone hardware will evolve in the future:

It's very hard... to make a smart phone for a dollar. That's obviously almost impossible to do. But I think if you took a 50-year time frame or something like that, if you took a longer view, you'd probably start to make the investments you needed to. And along the way, you'd probably figure out how to make money. So I just kind of encourage non-incremental thinking and a real, deep understanding of whatever you're doing. That's what I try to do.

Page also raised the 50-year time frame in an entirely different view, speaking with some frustration about how slow our society's laws change.

You know, if you look different kinds of laws we make, and things like that, they're very old. I mean, the laws when we went public were 50 years old. Law can't be right if it's 50 years old. Like, it's before the Internet. That's pretty major change in how you might go public. So, I think we need to--maybe some of you, maybe the million people watching you all love technology--maybe more of us need to go into other areas and help those areas improve and understand technology. I think that that's not happened at the rate at it needs to happen.

In other words, another reason Google's working at one percent of its capacity is that our legal and legislative systems (and the people in charge of them) are too slow to change and adapt to new technology. This would appear to cause him sadness, too.

Google Island, west of Burning Man
One of the odder themes of Page's talk concerned his desire to build a sort of Burning Man-style society where people could test out new ways of living with technology. He came back to it more than once during the session.

We haven't built mechanisms to allow experimentation. There's many, many exciting and important things you could do that you just can't do 'cause they're illegal or they're not allowed by regulation. And that makes sense, we don't want our world to change too fast. But maybe we should set aside some small part of the world, you know, like going to Burning Man, for example... That's an environment where people try out different things, but not everybody has to go. And I think that's a great thing, too.

I think as technologists we should have some safe places where we can try out some new things and figure out: What is the effect on society? What's the effect on people? Without having to deploy it into the normal world. And people who like those kinds of things can go there and experience that. And we don't have mechanisms for that. So those are the kind of things I would think about.


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