HALIFAX – One of the world’s top technology executives is urging democratic countries to turn to youth in a bid to find innovative solutions to looming security problems.
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., was in Nova Scotia on Saturday, speaking to the Halifax International Security Forum.
In a wide-ranging panel discussion, Schmidt said there are a number of technological issues on the horizon when it comes to security, from the development of quantum computing to the rise of technology that doesn’t require human control.
He also said some fresh sets of eyes would be helpful in tackling security issues and “a new set of brains and talent” is needed.
Schmidt also said getting good at artificial intelligence will be very important to both governments and businesses in the coming years.
He noted there are a huge number of computer scientists coming out of the world’s top universities who can provide leadership.
He said Canada has made early progress on the artificial intelligence file by being open to immigrants and by heavily funding research.
“They understand that in Canada, this will be a major differentiator for them,” Schmidt said.
The executive took a number of questions from a crowd filled with government representatives, academics, security analysts and journalists, many of which addressed Google’s role in protecting and disseminating information.
He noted the company is trying to find ways of dealing with issues such as misinformation and sites that advertise themselves as news while spreading propaganda.
“We’re well aware of it, we’re trying to engineer the systems to prevent it. We don’t want to ban the sites, that’s not how we operate,” Schmidt said.
Information that is repetitive, exploitative, false or likely to be weaponized should be de-ranked, according to Google’s algorithms, he said.
But determining what falls under those labels can be tricky, particularly in cases where groups have vastly different beliefs on an issue.
“It’s very difficult for us to understand truth,” he said. “When it gets to a contest of group ‘A’ versus group ‘B’ … it’s difficult for us to sort out which is higher.”