A Brief But Spectacular take on the future of the internet

Vint Cerf is known for his pioneering work as one of the fathers of the internet. He now serves as the vice president and chief internet evangelist for Google where he furthers global policy development and accessibility of the internet. He shares his Brief But Spectacular take on the future of the internet.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    Vint Cerf is known for his pioneering work as one of the fathers of the Internet. He now serves as the vice president and the chief Internet evangelist for Google. That's his actual title.

    Tonight, Cerf shares his Brief But Spectacular take on the future of the Internet.

    Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google: As the Internet evolved, it didn't occur to us that somebody might want to interfere with it or to spread bad information.

    The good part is that voices that might not have been heard can be heard in the Internet environment. The not-so-good thing is that some voices that you don't want to hear are also amplified, including truths and untruths.

    So we're being asked in some sense to pay for the powerful tool that we have available by using our brains to think critically about the content that we see.

    My good friend Bob Kahn and I started working on the Internet in 1973. It wasn't like we woke up one day and said, huh, we're going to build the Internet. It was more like a problem that was posed to us. How do we figure out how to connect these different kinds of packet nets to each other?

    And so it was an engineering job. Well, let's look at the Internet and see where it is today. About two-thirds of the world's population have access to it. We have to understand how to make all of these applications literally accessible to everyone. If there's a sound component that includes speech, there should be captioning available in the normal course of events.

    If you're blind and you can't see what the Web site looks like, there should be a way of describing it audibly. All of these things are technically feasible. It's just that not everybody who designs a Web site knows how to do that or has an intuition for doing that. And so we need to help people see examples of what makes a good user interface that's universally accessible.

    Many people get worried about artificial intelligence. For one thing, it brings to mind robots and the robots are taking over. I think that's an overblown concern. The thing that we do want to make sure of is that we use these kinds of technologies in ways that are safe and secure.

    And that is going to require a lot more attention, but I believe that's achievable. There will have to be laws agreed and on an international basis in order to protect people from harm or to hold people accountable for bad behavior. But the agency part is to help people, institutions, and countries even to know how to protect themselves in the online environment.

    People ask about, what am I proud of them? And I don't feel pride, as much as I feel some gratitude to know that what Bob Kahn and I and a mass of other people have designed and built is still open to further revolution. And the fact that it has opened up so many opportunities for other people to contribute, I think, is a very important element in the Internet story.

    My name is Vint Cerf, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on the future of the Internet. You ain't seen nothing yet.

    (Laughter)

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And you can watch more Brief But Spectacular videos at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

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