Google’s influence in the world is no doubt huge. So being able to listen to one of its leaders in person was a must. This was reflected in the very long queues waiting to hear what former CEO and now Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt had to say.

To me, Schmidt appeared to be very intelligent and sharp. He was able to answer any tough audience question, as if returning very challenging tennis shots. Of course you have to be to run Google! But I also realized that people like him that sit at the top of a massive company, have the privilege to vision what the world should and will be like.  He spent much of his presentation, talking about what the future of interne t will mean for our world.

Power to the people

Schmidt reminded the audience that despite the proliferation of smartphones in our lives, it is only the privileged 1 billion who have smartphone’s. The rest of society, or the underserved in developing, poor and isolated places like India, China, South America and Africa have not yet experienced internet.  But Schmidt believes that as the cost of smartphones rapidly decreases according to Moore’s law, these formerly unreached people groups, will be able to get one. Armed with access to information, these people will be able to “change the world.” Said Schmidt. The most recent example of this was the Arab Spring where Egyptians used social media like Facebook and Twitter to organize rallies to overthrow the dictatorship of Mubarak.

Such access will create “seismic shifts in the long-term.” Said Schmidt.  The growing middle class will have greater access to affordable apps that can be leveraged to build scalable businesses, producing more start-ups and entrepreneurs quicker than ever before.  “10% will create and 90% will buy” said Schmidt. Such opportunities will elevate society’s standard of living.

In Schmidt’s view, mobile internet creates a network of minds and emotions. He used the example of the Japan earthquake last year, where people shared and reached out to victims with powerful messages of hope and ultimately “unites us in sentiment and action.” Another more upbeat example was the capability for someone in Angola Africa to make beautiful music but utilize someone in America to do viral marketing for them. “Technology will be a leveller, poor will become rich and people with nothing will have something.” Says Schmidt.

Things will just work

In the future, with the power of tiny sensors that connect anything and everything to the internet, things will just work better. This has been termed the ‘Internet of things.’ Google is already working on self driving cars and has proved it can work, after testing cars that have driven over 200k miles all by itself without any accidents.

Schmidt painted a bright future where technology will become so seamless that it will “be like nothing but always there.” One example he gave was that if you really want to go to a concert, but you can’t, you can send out tiny robots that will go and ‘experience’ the concert for you with full sensory ability of sight, sound and touch. A lady in the audience argued that this would actually diminish people’s experience by swapping reality with virtuality. But Schmidt said, “I’m not forcing you to send robots, you have a choice.”

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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