Google's Larry Page pushes for thinking big

20 Mar 2014


Google CEO Larry Page said at the TED 2014, yesterday in Vancouver, Canada that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's mission to send humans to Mars was exactly the kind of big mission a company should have.

TED (technology, entertainment, design) is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, under the slogan "ideas worth spreading".

"Companies are doing the same incremental thing that they did 50 years ago or 20 years ago. That's not really what we need," Page said. "Especially in technology -- we need revolutionary change."

And the thinking big idea was central to his talk which was hosted by journalist Charlie Rose. The Google co-founder talked about a range of issues, from the untapped potential for companies to be change agents to big ideas about cyber security.

Discussing the capabilities of his own company, he said the Google had to clean up the "mess" that was computing and explained the reason for Google's acquisition earlier this year of DeepMind, a company that developed learning algorithms (See: Google to buy London-based artificial intelligence company DeepMind).

"What's really amazing about DeepMind is that it can actually learn things in this unsupervised way, and it started with video games," he said. He demonstrated with a series of videos how DeepMind's algorithms could teach a computer how to be the optimal video game opponent. "It's learned to play all of these games with superhuman performance."

When asked why Google bought the UK machine learning firm DeepMind, Page said, "I was looking at search and trying to understand how to make computers less clunky and also thinking about how speech recognition is not very good," Page.

"We are still at the very early stages with search. Computers don't know where you are and what you are doing," he added.

He said he was drawn to the company as it had helped make computers smarter - teaching them how to play computer games.

"It was really exciting, we have not been able to do this before. Imagine if that intelligence is thrown at your schedule," said Page.

The Google chief was also asked about the Edward Snowden revelations, after the whistleblower made a surprise appearance at Ted.

"It is disappointing that the government secretly did this stuff and didn't tell us about it," said Page.

"It is not possible to have a democracy if we have to protect our users from the government. The government has done itself a tremendous disservice and we need to have a debate about it," he added.

Google had had to face criticism for the way it collected users' data. It is currently embroiled in row with European regulators over its privacy policy.

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