Charlie Rose and Larry Page

Google's Larry Page: Computing is still 'kind of a mess'

Giving a TED talk in Vancouver, the Google founder says the company still has a long way to go.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 25 Mar 2014

In a rare public interview, Google founder and CEO Larry Page said that despite being in the search business for 15 years, Google is still in the early stages of ‘really understanding the world’s information.’

‘Computing’s kind of a mess. Your computer doesn’t know where you are, what you know, what you’re doing,’ Page said. ‘We’re trying to make devices work, to understand your context and what you might need. Having computing understand you — we haven’t done that yet. It’s still very clunky.’

Interviewed on the Ted stage in Vancouver by US television host Charlie Rose, Page explained that was the reason why Google bought UK firm DeepMind, an artificial intelligence start-up.

He said the two firms are developing a computer program which is able to teach itself what a cat is by analysing YouTube videos.

‘The same program can play all these games [like Battlezone, Pong, Demon Attack] with superhuman performance. Imagine if this kind of intelligence were thrown at your schedule, your information needs. That’s what I’m excited about.’

In a broad interview, Page spoke of his commitment to Project Loon, which uses balloons to create internet access points for the two-thirds of people globally without access. He also said the world is ‘very close’ to the driverless car, and that Google has already driven well over 100,000 miles.

On the topic of privacy, he said that consumers need to accept that a new era of open data is inevitable. But he said that companies should provide people with choices and to clearly show them what data’s being collected.

‘When I lost my voice I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone’s medical conditions were available anonymously to medical doctors? You could see what doctors accessed it and why, and learn more about conditions you have.’

Page suffers from vocal cord paralysis which makes him hoarse and constricts his breathing.
‘I was scared to share this voice stuff, but Sergey [Brin] persuaded me, and it’s been really positive. I got all this information, I got a survey done, got medical conditions from people with similar issues. We’re not thinking about the tremendous good that could come from sharing the right information with the right people in the right ways.’

Under Page, Google has been moving into the hardware business by introducing wearable technology such as Google Glass.

‘Most people think corporations are basically evil. They get a bad rap. And that’s somewhat correct, if companies are doing the same incremental things they did 20 years ago. But that’s not really what we need. Especially in tech, we need revolutionary change, not incremental change,’ he said.

Dear computers: these are some cats

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