Larry Page thinks we are, as a population, too negative. Especially the tech community.
It’s a topic that he tackled a few times during his surprise Q&A after this morning’s Google I/O keynote, and it actually ended up being one of my favorite bits from the entire three hour presentation.
The solution? Amongst other things, Larry wishes the world had some sort of permanent Burning Man-esque place for crazy builders to just be crazy. A place with less societal pressure, and without antiquated laws makin’ things sticky.
Early on in his post-keynote speech, Page dug into the tech community for focusing too much on Company A vs. Company B:
“… We’re at maybe 1% of what is possible. Despite the faster change, we’re still moving slow relative to the opportunities we have. I think a lot of that is because of the negativity… Every story I read is Google vs someone else. That’s boring. We should be focusing on building the things that don’t exist.”
It’s something I’ve touched on before, and have been meaning to go back to for a while now. Even when something is quite clearly labeled as an experiment from day one — as with Google Glass — we collectively rush to lampoon it.
“No one in the entire world would want this!”, shouts one site. “It’s the next Segway!” shouts a dozens others. “But at least they’re trying something crazy,” shouts pretty much no one.
Is Google Glass a bit strange? Absolutely! It’s weird as hell. But it’s also a rare example of a company using their mountain of spare funds to try something crazy. It’s Sergey Brin gettin’ his Tony Stark on. It’s something we should absolutely be encouraging. It doesn’t have to win or lose. Few companies have the resources and talent to build crazy, real-world crap just to see what happens. Even fewer of those are willing to.
In response to a question on how we could change the tide, and make the world a more positive place for people to build weird new things:
Yeah that’s a really good question. I think people are naturally concerned about change. We’re changing quickly, but some of our institutions, like some laws, aren’t changing with that. The laws [about technology] cant be right if it’s 50 years old — that’s before the Internet. Maybe more of us need to go into other areas to help them improve and understand technology.
We don’t want our world to change too fast. But maybe we could set apart a piece of the world .. I like going to Burning Man, for example. An environment where people can try new things. I think as technologists we should have some safe places where we can try out new things and figure out the effect on society. What’s the effect on people, without having to deploy it to the whole world.
(If you think about it, this is exactly what Google is doing with Glass, constrained to limitations of not actually having a dedicated physical space to do it in)
Is it a bit Island Of Doctor Moreau? Sure, though it’d probably involve more rockets and robots than it would Leopard-Men and Beast Folk. But I’d buy a house there — or at the very least, I’d book myself an annual trip.