Business

Both Google co-founders reveal beliefs on rent, privacy, taxes, law, & future tech (in 7 quotes)

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It’s rare to get one Google co-founder to speak publicly, let alone both at the same time. But noted venture capitalist and longtime friend Vinod Khosla managed to get both Google co-founders to reveal their thoughts on everything from novel government policies to the future of technology.

Here is how two of the most powerful technologists in the world imagine the future.

Tax waste, improve efficiency

Sergey Brin says it’s kosher for the government to eliminate waste and bad behavior through taxes.

I think ideally, one would try to tax more of the things that we don’t want, and either subsidize or encourage the things that we do want. The kinds of things people spend money on that are wasteful, you can imagine having higher taxes on. Or things that are harmful, like carbon, could be taxed at a higher rate. On the one hand, presumably it will slow wasteful spending.

Unnecessary work for everyone, part-time

Larry Page says he’s optimistic that robots will usher in a world of abundance and eliminate much of the work we do today. In the past, he argues, most people were farmers, but thanks to machines, they can dedicate themselves to other pursuits. However, the robot work-apocalypse needs to be balanced with the desire for people to feel apart of a productive economy.

Most people like working, but they’d also like to have more time with their family or to pursue their own interests. So that would be one way to deal with the problem, is if you had a coordinated way to just reduce the work week. And then, if you add slightly less employment, you can adjust and people will still have jobs.

A limit on the number of laws

Larry Page evidently wants governments to put a ceiling on the number of laws. As a global company, he estimates that Google has to comb through millions of laws and come up with a complex system to adhere to them all.

One thing I propose is that– I was talking to some government leaders. I said — actually to the President of South Korea. It was great. I said, ‘Hey, why don’t you just limit your laws and regulations to some set of pages? And when you add a page, you have to take one away.’ She actually wrote this down. She’s great.

Get rid of HIPAA

I’ve written extensively about Larry Page’s desire to save lives through a public database of health information. The law currently holding back the ability of researchers to mine health information is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which puts strict regulation on patient privacy.

Imagine you had the ability to search people’s medical records in the U.S.. Any medical researcher can do it. Maybe they have the names removed. Maybe when the medical researcher searches your data, you get to see which researcher searched it and why. I imagine that would save 10,000 lives in the first year. Just that. That’s almost impossible to do because of HIPPA. I do worry that we regulate ourselves out of some really great possibilities that are certainly on the data-mining end.

For good measure, Sergey Brin noted that the company’s blood glucose monitoring contact lens is “coming along pretty well”.

The problem with rent control

Rent control is the only thing saving many San Franciscans from getting booted out of their homes, thanks to skyrocketing housing prices. Page seemed to imply that because San Francisco has refused to build enough housing, rent control laws ultimately end up hurting the poor, because they’ve never been able to own a home.

We’re building lots of jobs, lots of office buildings, and no housing. So it’s not surprising that caused a lot of issues. You also have a lot of people who are rent controlled, so they don’t participate in the economic increase in housing prices. It actually hurts them. It doesn’t help them. So I think those problems are more structural and very serious problems. We’re not really on a path to fix those problems in this area.

Robots better than humans

With the acquisition of artificial intelligence firm, DeepMind, Sergey Brin foresees building machines that are, in some ways, much better than humans.

We do have lots of proof points that one can create intelligent things in the world because– all of us around. Therefore, you should presume that someday, we will be able to make machines that can reason, think and do things better than we can.

Read the full transcript of the talk here, or watch it below:


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