Eric Schmidt in Athens

It’s rare to see a 58-year-old speaking with the kind of hubristic, starry-eyed optimism and hope only possible in the liberal and global world of technology, embracing radical change and progress.

Eric Schmidt isn’t your typical 58-year-old though. The Executive Chairman of Google visited Athens yesterday and gave a talk1 about how technology along with business can be used as economic stimuli in order to generate growth and prosperity. I was glad to hear him saying big business and governments do not create new jobs. Amen to that. It’s the small, new business that create jobs. Statism, a big public sector, not embracing private enterprise and globalization cannot act as stimuli for growth and will only keep an economy, and by extent a nation, constrained within the boundaries of its own, far away isolated from the rest of world. In the meantime, the rest of the world advances with an accelerating rate whether it tries to tackle small problems or daft moonshots — as technology, global growth, and trade do as well.

One’s competing with the world now. There’s no ‘keeping up with Joneses anymore.’ Location is uninteresting and moreover not important. It’s keeping up with everybody — from Jakarta to Quebec. Thus, removing roadblocks and regulations that make starting up a company harder than it should be in the first place which also protect certain industries would be deemed as necessary and wise. Whatever bureaucratic relics of the past that make it hard to start a business have to be eliminated.

Our goal should be to create infrastructure and legal frameworks that make it easy for people to start something up, fail, repeat. For example, there are certain cases in Germany that make it illegal for a company to fail and if it does, the owner is prosecuted and faces jail-time. By all accounts that’s absurd in 2013. Failure should not be punished. Instead it should be used as a pool of valuable knowledge for the next time one will try. Best practices, do’s and don’ts. Along with frameworks for starting up, it’s also important to create and establish frameworks that make it easy for people to move around the world and create. The more you regulate a system the harder it will be for it to operate optimally. Now, scale it up to global-level data: 7.13 billion people. Also don’t forget to plan for the future: 1.14% YoY population growth.

With Google Glass not even launched yet the amount of luddite debate about how technology dehumanizes us will grow by a factor of 3 soon.2 There’s always this generation gap and the experience of each succeeding generation is so different from that of the previous one that there will always be people to whom it seems that any connection of the key values of the present have been lost. In Schmidt’s youth, as he said, it was rock and roll that was rendered as such. Nowadays in lieu of rock and roll it’s the Internet and almost everything digital. But contemporary research shows that, in fact, communication between us is growing a lot more thanks to the Internet. And for kids that growing up now (and I think that’s true also for kids that were born in the ’90s — especially for kids born in the early ’90s like me3 who are the first digital natives) it feels natural, more suitable, appropriate and valuable. Even the telephone was rendered as a human-communication killer only to prove the opposite.

Greece, though, has unfortunately a remarkable skill of sometimes ignoring that we’re actually living 2013, humans have walked on the moon, computers instead of paper files could be used in its IRS, smartphones can browse the Internet and that email actually works. All the aforementioned things still sound borderline bonkers and preposterous for many people — from education unions, parents who want their kids to be directly appointed in a random, dull job the public sector, politicians and party leaders across the political spectrum, and generally each one who hasn’t understood what living in 2013 means.

They will not listen to Schmidt’s talk and ideas but real doers have.

  1. In a bona fide California Ideology fashion — a bizarre fusion of the cultural bohemianism of San Francisco with the hi-tech industries of Silicon Valley which combined elements of radical individualism, libertarianism, and liberal economics mixed based on their shared interest in anti-statism, the counterculture of the 1960s, and techno-utopianism. You can watch the talk here. (Thanks @AnnaMagni for the link.) 
  2. Be prepared; I warned you. 
  3. 1993 represent

posted: October 11, 2013
under: Economics

Comments are closed.