Wednesday, October 11, 2006

scary thoughts

In an interview with the Financial Times, Eric Schmidt, the chairman and chief executive of the most popular internet search engine, said his speech to the conference of the UK’s Conservative Party on Tuesday was part of a global mission to educate political leaders.“Many of the politicians don’t actually understand the phenomenon of the internet very well. It’s partly because of their age… often what they learn about the internet they learn from their staffs and their children,“ Mr Schmidt said. The current “TV generation” of political leaders had learned to “switch on” and perform in front of the cameras and most were now aware of the internet’s importance, he said. But he argued they had yet to grasp the technology’s implications, not least in terms of the power it hands to voters, posing the question: “If television created this generation of politicians, what will the internet do to the next generation of politicians?

“The internet has filled a role of funding for politicians… but it has not yet affected elections. It clearly will,” he forecast. This electoral impact would manifest itself relatively quickly in Britain, where, he said, the internet was “exploding”. He added: “Given the take-up rate of broadband and the number of people online – it will happen here.” He forecast that, within five years, “truth predictor” software would “hold politicians to account”. Voters would be able to check the probability that apparently factual statements by politicians were actually correct, using programmes that automatically compared claims with historic data, he said.

Politicians “don’t in general understand the implications” of the internet, Mr Schmidt argued. “One of my messages to them is to think about having every one of your voters online all the time, then inputting ‘is this true or false?’ We [at Google] are not in charge of truth but we might be able to give a probability.”


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