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Google's Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen envision a 'New Digital Age'

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt speaks during a news conference to launch its new tablet PC, Nexus 7, in Seoul.
Google chief executive Eric Schmidt speaks during a news conference to launch its new tablet PC, Nexus 7, in Seoul.
Google chief executive Eric Schmidt speaks during a news conference to launch its new tablet PC, Nexus 7, in Seoul.
Cover of "The New Digital Age" By Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen.

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It's almost an understatement to say digital technology pervades our existence. We can't run our businesses — or our family lives — without it, and it's hard for us to imagine how we managed to survive without email, texting, smart phones, and Google.

Digital technology is there to answer our questions, guide us to our destinations, and help us find the very best price on the absolutely most energy-efficient handheld vacuum cleaner. But what are some possible challenges we face as our lives become increasingly dependent on it? And how can the U.S. maintain its spot at the top when it comes to innovation and development?

Google executives and authors Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen join the show to talk about these issues and more, as well as  their new book, "The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business."   

Interview Highlights:


On digital media's permanence:
Eric Schmidt: "Another five billion people are going to join the conversation because of the prevalence of mobile phones. They're going to be talking, this brings education, entertainment, medicine to everyone. Along the way there are some issues, and one of the issues that comes along is information once published on the web is typically not deletable or at least only partially deletable. Everyone will have it, everyone will record things. That by the way is very important. Let's say that you're a woman in an impoverished country and you're treated very poorly by the men around you. That phone is a safety mechanism. Let's say you're investigating corruption, that phone is a detector. So there are many positives to this, but some of these negatives as well."

Jared Cohen: "Whether its a concert, a revolution, or a birthday gathering, the image of an individual holding up a phone to take a picture or take video will be the image that transcends culture, transcends socioeconomic divides and transcends national divides."

Schmidt on the biggest problem facing American innovation:
"We have a skills gap problem in America, which is largely the failure of our education system. I would argue that the H-1B rule in America is the single stupidest policy ever invented by the US government. To take you through its reasoning, here at a brilliant university, a top graduate at UCLA or UC Berkeley, foreign born, has a Ph.D, we kick them out of the country, they go to their own country, they found a company to steal our jobs and to take profits away from America. if they stayed in America, they'd found a company in Los Angeles or the Bay Area, and the rest is history. There is broad support for fixing this H-1B cap, it will cause more economic growth than you can possibly imagine."

Schmidt on the relationship between the entertainment industry and Silicon Valley:
"We had a big fight over SOPA/PIPA a year ago, which is essentially an intellectual property argument, and ultimately the Bay Area-centric tech industry won that, but it's important that we respect the concerns that the Southern California industries had and address their concerns over time."

On the importance of human curiosity:
Eric Schmidt
: "Human curiosity and human wonder are core to the human experience, and I would say even stronger that to some degree there's a race going forward between automation and curiosity. Automation is the replacement of people by machines doing manufacturing tasks, that kind of stuff, but curiosity is something that humans do that computers will be a long long time doing. We need to amp up our wonder, our curiosity, our education systems, our critical thinking, because that is how human progress will be made and that's how growth with occur."

Jared Cohen: "We argue in 'The New Digital Age' that humans and computers will split duties in the future according to what they're both good at. Emotion, curiosity, sensitivity, these are things that cannot be replicated. If you got rid of the 'I Wonder" feeling in the world then dating would not be as fun. Because humans are always going to be curious what the person across the table from them is thinking."