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Google's Schmidt shares vision in tech treatise

SAN FRANCISCO--Some illuminating books already have been written about Google's catalytic role in a technological upheaval that is redefining the way people work, play, learn, shop and communicate.

Until now, though, there hasn't been a book providing an unfiltered look from inside Google's brain trust.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who spent a decade as the company's CEO, shares his visions of digitally driven change and of a radically different future in “The New Digital Age,” a book that goes on sale Tuesday.

It's a technology treatise that Schmidt wrote with another ruminator, Jared Cohen, a former State Department adviser who now runs Google Ideas, the Internet company's version of a think tank.

The book is an exercise in “brainstorming the future,” as Schmidt put it in a recent post on Twitter — just one example of a cultural phenomenon that didn't exist a decade ago.

The ability for anyone with an Internet-connected device to broadcast revelatory information and video is one of the reasons why Schmidt and Cohen wrote the book. The two met in Baghdad in 2009 and were both struck by how Iraqis were finding resourceful ways to use Internet services to improve their lives, despite war-zone conditions.

They decided it was time to delve into how the Internet and mobile devices are empowering people, roiling autocratic governments and forcing long-established companies to make dramatic changes.

The three years they spent researching the book took them around the world, including North Korea in January over the objections of the U.S. State Department. They interviewed an eclectic group that included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Mexican mogul Carlos Slim Helu, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the former prime ministers of Mongolia and Pakistan. They also drew on the insights of a long list of Google employees, including co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

The resulting book is an exploration into the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead as the lines blur between the physical world around us and the virtual realm of the Internet. Schmidt and Cohen also examine the loss of personal privacy as prominent companies such as Google and lesser-known data warehouses such as Acxiom compile digital dossiers about our electronic interactions on computers, smartphones and at check-out stands.

“This will be the first generation of humans to have an indelible record,” Schmidt and Cohen predict.

To minimize the chances of youthful indiscretions stamping children with “digital scarlet letters” that they carry for years, online privacy education will become just as important — if not more so — than sex education, according to Schmidt and Cohen. They argue parents should consider having a “privacy talk” with their kids well before they become curious about sex.

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A book by Google's Eric Schmidt is seen in San Francisco on Friday, April 19. In it, Schmidt shares his vision of a radically different future. (AP)

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