Last night at the Council on Foreign Relations, CFR president Richard N. Haass sat down with Google CEO Eric Schmidt and CFR Adjunct Fellow Jared Cohen to discuss “The Digital Disruption” as part of the organization’s CEO Speaker Series.
The wide-ranging discussion touched on the impact of mobile technology in the developing world, the necessity of cultivating reliable sources of information in cyberspace and the challenge of keeping these new technologies out of the hands of bad guys.
Both Schmidt and Cohen (also director of Google Ideas), while recognizing the pitfalls of disinformation and rogue agents, were upbeat about the potential of “connection technologies” to bring about a more transparent, democratized world.
The one head scratcher of the evening occurred when Schmidt inadvertently fished the fax machine out from the dustbin of history while extolling the potential of new technologies to function as a diplomatic tool. “It’s cheaper to invade a country with fax machines than with guns. And trust me, the fax machines will be used and will help to topple the regime,” he said.
Fax machines? When was the last time anyone used a fax machine to send routine documents, much less topple a hostile regime? Schmidt, who obviously knows a lot about cutting-edge technologies, merely misspoke, but it was strangely reassuring to see that even the Google CEO has a hard time letting go of technological anachronisms.
Video: The Digital Disruption [CFR.org]
“The Digital Disruption: Connectivity and the Diffusion of Power” [Foreign Affairs]