On March 5th, Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen spoke at the Atheneum about their book “The New Digital Age: Transforming Nations, Businesses and our Lives”. The two speakers discussed their understanding of the opportunities and challenges brought by the digital age that’s slowly transforming our lives. The talk was conducted mainly in a Q&A form between students and the speakers. President Hiram Chodosh moderated the discussion.
Schmidt and Cohen co-authored the book which became a New York Times Bestseller in its first week of publication and was reviewed as “much more prescient and provocative than it is silly.” Overall, the book is about predictions — the authors’ predictions about the impact the new digital age will have on our lives based on their current observations. As Schmidt mentioned in the talk, the ability to predict the future trend in the world is a necessary skill for people to understand society and succeed in it.
What attracts people the most to the authors (that is, apart from their impressive resumes), is the bizarre combination of the innovative yet geeky nature of Google and the convoluted political world. This combination, however, is exactly the point of Schmidt and Cohen’s talk; the combination will bring perpetual changes to our world.
Schmidt started off the talk by mentioning two factors that he considered important to succeed: the abilities to make predictions and understand connectivity. While the former is constantly important at all times, the significance of connectivity has only started to show in the last century, when the Internet began to link people from different backgrounds together. Cohen discussed the chances, empowerment of individuals, and challenges, the leak of privacy that accompanies the new digital age of this transition. Cohen stressed, the digital age also requires a strong sense of responsibility that would help regulate the society.
The two speakers discussed extensively the interaction of technology and the political environment. They mentioned how the easier access to information can constitute a fundamental shock to political stability in authoritative countries like China, as well as in more democratic countries like America, as demonstrated by Edward Snowden’s case.
The discussion ended with Schmidt and Cohen introducing their experience to CMC students. While Schmidt majored in computer science and Cohen in political science, both offered a sincere tip of advice: eagerly explore one’s interest and find a field to devote passion in.
Eric Schmidt is the executive chairman of Google, which he joined in 2001. From 2001 to 2011, he served as Google’s chief executive officer, overseeing the company’s technical and business strategy alongside founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
Jared Cohen is the founder and director of Google Ideas. He served as a member of the secretary of state’s Policy Planning Staff and as a close adviser to both Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, and is now and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2013, Time magazine named him to its list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World”.