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Google's Eric Schmidt talks about how to run the world (not that he wants to)

June 9, 2008 |  3:48 pm
Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the Economic Club in Washington

Despite its famous motto of "Don't be evil," there are some in the dark corners of the Web who speculate that Google's real plan is to take over the world. Google Watch features headlines such as "Google Must be Stopped," and "Is Google God?" The site Google World Domination even has a countdown clock, which indicates that the Skynet-type moment when we will all be slaves to the mighty Google algorithms will take place in roughly 6 years and 192 days. (Interestingly, the site, which includes a creepy video, features ads by Google, demonstrating how insidious that plot actually might be).

With that type of speculation out there, it's news any time a Google executive talks about running the world.

And that's exactly what Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt did today, sort of.

He didn't say that Google wanted to run the world. But he did offer an interesting suggestion to a crowd of power players in Washington about the best way to do it: Just like Google.

"It is possible to build a culture around innovation. It is possible to build a culture around leadership. And it is possible to build a culture around optimism. Google is an example, but by no means the only example, of a culture that can be built based on relatively scalable principles. We could run our country this way. We could run the world this way."

It was meant to be an inspiring moment ...

...as Schmidt wrapped up a speech to the Economic Club of Washington during a luncheon in a packed ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Click here for an audio clip of Schmidt's comments.

The appearance was a homecoming of sorts for Schmidt. Vernon E. Jordan Jr., the club's president and a former President Clinton advisor, noted that Schmidt was born a few blocks away from the hotel at George Washington University Hospital, and grew up in the Northern Virginia suburbs. His mother, Ellie Schmidt, was in the audience.

Schmidt talked about cloud computing and the promise of mobile devices, all the while plugging some Google products. For the journalists sitting in the back of the room (no lunch of seared beef filet with Cabernet reduction and lemon and thyme glazed salmon filet for us), Schmidt did commisserate about the state of the newspaper industry.

"We all care a lot about this. Newspaper demand has never been higher. The problem is revenues have never been lower. So people are reading the newspaper they're just not reading it in a way where the newspapers can make money on it. This is a shared problem. We have to solve it. There's no obviously good solution right now."

One possible solution some have have floated has been for Google to use a sliver of its approximately $175 billion market cap to buy a newspaper, such as the New York Times, but Schmidt recently downplayed such an idea.

Like many Silicon Valley executives who come to Washington, Schmidt spoke broadly about technology (his speech was titled, "The Future of the Internet: Engine for Economic Growth") and did his best not to make any major news. He didn't even come close to mentioning Yahoo, let alone comment on the possibility of Google cutting a deal to place ads next to Yahoo's search results.

Schmidt opted to talk less about the nuts-and-bolts of one of the world's largest companies than the ways in which technology can shape the future. Noting that the United States was founded "by people who saw a better model," Schmidt concluded his speech with this call to arms:

"So let's be revolutionaries. Let's take this opportunity, this huge change that is before us, with technlology, and let's change businesses, communications and the way we interact, on some new principles that reflect the very best of America."

Those sound like the words of someone who might be considering a run for higher office one day, assuming Google isn't running everything by then.

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Puzzanghera, a staff writer, covers tech and media policy from Washington

Photo: Google CEO Eric Schmidt during today's speech before the Economic Club of Washington. Credit: Getty Images.

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