SEARCH IS STILL NOT A DONE THING
According to Larry, computing is still very clunky. Computers still don’t know where you are, what you know, and what you’re doing. Search is very much a deep thing, and we are still in the early stages of it. According to him, Search is still not a done thing for Google. He considers voice as something very important in the journey to make computers understand us. Hence the recent acquisition by Google of the company DeepMind, which is into machine learning.
A video was played on stage, about a Kenyan villager finding solutions to everyday problems like a remedy for the diseased potatoes in his farm, and then helping his friends as well, using the search power of Google. The villager, Zack Matere from Soy, Kenya, is also a philosopher of sorts and had this gem to offer:
“The follow-up to information is knowledge
Once people have knowledge, they can find solutions without being helped out.
Information is powerful, but it's how we use it that will define us.”
HOW BALLOONS SOLVED THE ACCESS PROBLEM
Two-thirds of the world still doesn’t have access to reliable internet. And that’s a worry for Google, which cannot fulfill its stated mission to organize the world’s knowledge without everyone able to perform at least basic search on their computers.
When Google worked on a cost-efficient solution for this, one problem they encountered was providing cheap access points from up in the sky. The realization dawned that while it takes a lot of time to launch satellites, balloons can be launched very quickly. So it’s fairly easy to use balloons and create a worldwide mesh to provide internet coverage, Google decision-makers concluded, says Larry.
Maintaining the altitude of the balloons was a problem. But then Google being what it is, engineers there did some weather simulations which were never done before and found out that “if you control the altitude of the balloons which you can do by pumping air into them,
you can roughly control where they are”.
So now, Google is giving this project scale — launching balloons all over the world with the necessary equipment onboard, so that they serve the function of satellites and create a worldwide grid to solve the internet access problem.
The whole thought process behind this project stemmed from Larry’s research finding that someone had sent up a balloon 30-40 years ago which went around the earth multiple times. That set him thinking as to why balloons could not be used to create a global mesh, and Google is now on that journey.
THE ECONOMIC CONCEPT OF ADDITIONALITY
When Charlie Rose asked Larry to give him a sense of the philosophy of his mind, the Google co-founder was more than willing to share his thoughts.
Apparently, he is an adherent of the Economic philosophy of Additionality. What it means is that it's by doing things that you learn. The more you do things, the bigger is your impact.
By doing things that people think may not be possible, you can accomplish much, says Larry. The more you learn about technology, the more you learn what's possible. So Additionality means you make things happen by doing things.
CORPORATIONS CAN BE AGENTS OF CHANGE
A related theme to which Larry is committed is that corporations can be agents of change. The theme came into focus because Charlie Rose highlighted his contribution to Elon Musk to make the Mars journey possible. It was the unusualness of a charitable grant to a corporation which Rose highlighted.
According to Larry, most people think that companies are basically evil. But in technology we need revolutionary change, not incremental change. Commercialization in a way that makes revolutionary change possible, is very important, he said. Perhaps he may be hinting that commercialization of revolutionary change can only be done by corporations.
In Larry's view, invention is not enough. Tesla invented electric power, but he struggled to get it out to people. He was beaten by other people. Innovation and invention focus plus commercialization in a way that makes it possible is Larry’s mantra.
So there is nobility in what corporations are doing. He asks people to think why the company that you are working is worthy not just of your time, but your money as well. According to Larry, we don't have a concept of making philanthropic contributions to corporations. So his contribution to Musk’s mars venture should be seen as an attempt to inspire other people.
GOOGLE’S WORK ON TRANSPORTATION
Google’s research on driverless cars also came up during the interview. It seems this too was fueled by Larry’s long-term obsession with transportation systems, which started when he was at college in Michigan. Eighteen years ago, he first heard about people working on driverless cars. Now Google’s driverless cars are almost ready for commercial launch, having clocked 100,000 miles of fully-automated travel. Larry says 20 million people are injured in vehicle mishaps every year around the world. It’s also the leading cause of the deaths of people under 35. Let’s hope the driverless cars powered by Google’s software can make a drastic improvement to this appalling record.
The interview was also not without its intimate moments, when Larry referred to his illness repeatedly, first as a joke when he said he is in the elite company of people like Bill Gates and Edward Snowden who are incapable of delivering a TED Talk, and hence had to be interviewed. The reference to the condition again came up when he talked about Google’s ongoing work with regard to medical research, inspired no doubt, by his situation. As is well known, Larry Page's right and left vocal chords are paralyzed, which makes speaking difficult for him, and has affected his voice quality. The Business Insider website recently revealed the condition to be called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.