Sat, Jan 24, 2015 - Page 15 News List

Internet will ‘disappear,’ Google chairman tells Davos

AFP, DAVOS, Switzerland

Google Inc chairman Eric Schmidt predicted on Thursday that the Internet would soon be so pervasive in every facet of our lives that it would effectively “disappear” into the background.

Speaking to the business and political elite at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Schmidt said: “There will be so many sensors, so many devices, that you won’t even sense it, it will be all around you.”

“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,” he said.

“A highly personalized, highly interactive and very interesting world emerges,” Schimdt said.

On the sort of high-level panel only found among the ski slopes of Davos, a panel bringing together the heads of Google, Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp and Vodafone Group PLC sought to allay fears that the rapid pace of technological advance was killing jobs.

“Everyone’s worried about jobs,” Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said.

With so many changes in the technology world, “the transformation is happening faster than ever before,” she said. “But tech creates jobs not only in the tech space, but outside.”

Quoting statistics, Schmidt said that every tech job created between five and seven jobs in a different area of the economy.

“If there were a single digital market in Europe, 400 million new and important new jobs would be created in Europe,” which is suffering from stubbornly high levels of unemployment, he said.

The debate about whether technology is destroying jobs “has been around for hundreds of years,” he said. What is different is the speed of change.

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

With one of the main topics at this year’s World Economic Forum being how to share out the fruits of global growth, the tech barons stressed that the greater connectivity offered by their companies ultimately helps reduce inequalities.

“Are the spoils of tech being evenly spread? That is an issue that we have to tackle head on,” Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella said.

“I’m optimistic, there’s no question. If you are in the tech business, you have to be optimistic. Ultimately to me, it’s about human capital. Tech empowers humans to do great things,” he said.

Sandberg said the Internet in its early forms was “all about anonymity,” but now everyone was sharing everything and everyone was visible.

“Now everyone has a voice... now everyone can post, everyone can share and that gives a voice to people who have historically not had it,” she said.

Schmidt, who recently came back from North Korea, said he believed that technology forced despotic governments to open up as their citizens acquired more knowledge about the outside world.

“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.”

Nevertheless, Sandberg told the assembled elites that even the current pace of change was only the tip of the iceberg.

“Today, only 40 percent of people have Internet access,” she said, “If we can do all this with 40 percent, imagine what we can do with 50, 60, 70 percent.”

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