Technology

“The internet will disappear”: Four takeouts from Google chief Eric Schmidt’s Davos speech

Eloise Keating /

Smart home products such as Nest will make the internet seamless

The internet will soon be so pervasive that it will “disappear” into the background of our everyday lives, according to Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt.

Speaking on a panel with other tech leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, on Thursday, Schmidt painted a picture of an interconnected world, full of internet-enabled devices. 

“There will be so many sensors, so many devices, that you won’t even sense it, it will be all around you,” Schmidt said.

“It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room and … you are interacting with all the things going on in that room.”

“A highly personalised, highly interactive and very interesting world emerges.”

Schmidt was participating in a panel called The Future of the Digital Economy, speaking alongside Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and Vodafone Group UK chief executive Vittorio Colao.

Here are four other takeaways from the executive chairman of Google:

 

1. Broadband is the answer

 

As a public policy initiative, Schmidt said broadband can improve everything, including good governance, education and human rights.

“Almost all of the problems we debate can be solved by more broadband connectivity,” he said.

 

2. Technology isn’t destroying jobs

 

Schmidt argued ardently against the proposition that technology destroys jobs, as did fellow panellist Sheryl Sandberg.

Schmidt said this debate “has been around for hundreds of years” but he has seen statistics that show every new tech job creates between five and seven other jobs in other parts of the economy.

“If there were a single digital market in Europe, 400 million new and important new jobs would be created in Europe,” he said.

“It’s the same that happened to the people who lost their farming jobs when the tractor came … but ultimately a globalised solution means more equality for everyone.”

 

3. The digital economy won’t just benefit the “elite”

 

Schmidt said it won’t just be those in positions of power who benefit from the future digital economy.

“That somehow no one is going to have a job in the world, and it’s just going to be the Davos elite who is going to have a good time and everyone else is going to be rioting, or some other stereotype like that, is completely false,” he said.

“The correct answer is that everyone gets smarter because of this technology because it is free or very inexpensive. And the empowerment of people is the secret to technological progress.”

“Over and over again, it’s been a transition from the elites,” Schmidt said.

“Remember the elites were the only people who could read. Now everyone can read. The elites were the only ones who could get educated, now everyone can get an education.”

 

4. Technology aids democracy

 

Schmidt told the audience he believes technology ultimately aids democracy by forcing governments to become more transparent as their citizens access more information.

“It is no longer possible for a country to step out of basic assumptions in banking, communications, morals and the way people communicate,” he said.

“You cannot isolate yourself any more. It simply doesn’t work.”

 

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Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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