Schmidt: Tech has great power, great responsibility
28th Feb 2012 | 18:32
Don't give up freedom
Google's Eric Schmidt made technology's social responsibilities the subject of his keynote speech at MWC 2012.
He spoke passionately and for a long time about the power that the internet gives to those who previously had no power, and warned of the dangers of giving it up.
"The web is more than a network of machines," he said. "It's a network of minds that's evolved into a global consciousness.
"We need to act now to avoid the rise of the new digital caste system. We're not all born into families with robots and laptops."
"There will still be elites," he went on. "But technology is a leveller – the weak will be strong and those with nothing will have something. With information comes power, and with power comes choice, and smarter citizens will demand a better deal from the global elites.
"Technology is power by its very nature, and by ensuring access we can create a global community of equals."
We were going to make a joke about '90s hippies The Levellers, but it actually sounds as though Google may want to partner with them on this.
Schmidt went on to warn that governments of the world don't want us to have all this excellent technological power – and not just those involved in the Arab Spring or in famously restrictive countries such as North Korea or China:
"Governments will try to control the network. Forty countries regulate up from four. Twenty countries block Google services. Even in the US we see efforts. But these will fail."
"This is why I do what I do, and I suspect this is why many of you do what you do."
"The openness of the internet is one of the greatest achievements of our lifetime," Schmidt added. "Do not give that up - you would regret it."