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The Digital Disruption

Speakers: Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google, Inc., and Jared Cohen, Adjunct Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Director, Google Ideas, Google, Inc.
Presider: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
November 3, 2010, New York.
Council on Foreign Relations

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RICHARD N. HAASS: Let's get started. If everybody could take their seats, it would be as much in your interest as ours.

Well, good evening, and welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations. I'm Richard Haass, and I'm fortunate enough to be presiding tonight. I'm also even more fortunate to be the president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

For those of you who are new to the council, and that might be a few people tonight, we are an independent, nonpartisan membership organization. We're also a think tank, and we're also a publisher. And our mission is to do what we can to increase the understanding of the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and the American people.

Let me just make a few administrative points before we get under way. Tonight's meeting is part of our CEO speaker series -- you just got promoted, that's great -- (laughter) -- and sponsored by the council's Corporate Program. And the Corporate Program explores the business impact of global issues through meetings like this one, through conference calls, through publications and a whole lot more.

And our website, cfr.org, provides a wealth of information about the Corporate Program and about how to become a corporate member, if you are so inclined.

We have people listening in tonight via teleconference. So those of you who have cell phones and other mobile devices, please turn them off.

The theme of tonight's meeting is about disruptive technology. We want to talk about it rather than experience it. (Laughter.) Thank you for laughing. It's just so rare. (Laughter.) I can't tell you how rare it is. Okay.

We've also got people hooked into this meeting from around the country, national and corporate members, and I'll be taking -- I hope you forgive me for this -- I'll be taking their questions via an iPad.

ERIC SCHMIDT: Okay. We have a product coming. (Laughter.)

HAASS: Just checking. Just checking. Didn't want you to storm off the stage already.

By the way, for those of you who are active in social media, both the Council on Foreign Relations and Foreign Affairs have Facebook pages. They both have Twitter feeds. And I understand that tonight's meeting will be rebroadcast on CFR's and Google's YouTube channels. We are hip. (Laughter.)

So what we're going to do here tonight is I'm going to talk with these two gentlemen for a few minutes, and then we are going to open it up to you, our members, for questions.

And finally, this meeting, gentlemen, is on the record. And that means anything you say can and will be used against you. And since these gentlemen are from Google, what will be said here tonight will be, you know, will be there for posterity.

Eric Schmidt, I believe you all know, who is chairman and CEO of Google.

And here is Jared Cohen, who you may not know, but if you don't already, you should and you will. He has the coolest title in the world, which is director of Google Ideas. But more importantly, he's an adjunct senior fellow here at the Council on Foreign Relations. We like to think that's an even cooler title.

Their bios are in the packets, so I won't go through it. But they have co-authored an article.

This, by the way, for both of you, is known as a hard copy. (Laughter.) Something you probably haven't seen in years. You open it --

JARED COHEN: It's very cool, it's very cool.

HAASS: -- of the magazine.

COHEN: This is, of course, why you have your iPad is you don't need to read that anymore.

HAASS: Exactly, that's true. This is Jim Hoge's final issue. More than 100 issues Jim has edited in 18 years. And in many ways, I can't say he saved the best to last, because he edited so many extraordinary issues and articles, like Sam Huntington's Clash of Civilizations, but it really is an extraordinary, meaty -- not in the Japanese sense, but meaty in the general sense, a smart issue. And one of the smartest pieces is the one by these two gentlemen.

I will assume that most of you haven't read it yet, but I also assume that most who will read it will read it. So what I thought I'd just begin with is by asking Eric and Jared to sort of give us the Cliff Notes. Essentially, what are a couple of takeaways?

And I thought I'd begin with Eric on, sort of, when we talk about the disruptive technologies and the rest, what are we talking about?

And I'll turn to Jared who has, until recently, worked in my old haunt, the policy planning staff at the State Department, to talk a little bit about what they see as the foreign policy consequences of it all.

And then we'll take it from there. So Mr. Schmidt.

SCHMIDT: Well, first, Rich, thank you. And thank you for having us both here at this event. And thank you all for your time. I am extraordinarily excited about the scale of the mobile revolution. And I think most people don't appreciate how fast this mobile phenomenon is going to occur, especially outside of the developed world.

To give you some of the numbers, there are between 4 (billion) and 5 billion mobile phones of one kind or another. And there are approaching 1 billion what are called smart phones, which are capable of some reasonable amount of Internet browsing. Phones like this, which is a Google product with Samsung, today the product cost is in the 3(00 dollars), $400 kind of price points.

Because of Moore's law and volume improvements and so forth, it's reasonable to expect over the next few years for the price points of these pieces of hardware to get to the point where they can become the primary way in which people use telephony and mobile services in the third world.

Now, you sit there, and you go, wow. So all of a sudden, people who only recently have television, have almost no information, don't have access to libraries and books, all of a sudden they get access to all the world's information in every known language, and they can communicate, not just learning and education, they can follow their favorite stars. We'll run a test and discover if everyone else is just as obsessed with Brittany Spears as Americans are. That sort of thing. And probably, the answer will be yes.

The important point is that the underlying capability of these devices is riding on this incredibly high-velocity declining cost curve, which benefits everybody. And we're talking about another 1 billion people joining the conversation at this level over the next two to three years. So a very, very large number.

The implications of this are just beginning to be understood. And what we've tried to do is to articulate a little bit of this, and I'll get Jared to talk about that in a sec.

But remember that these are devices that have more power than supercomputers a few years ago, in the hands of people who have never had anything like it before. So they can talk to each other, obviously, but they can also run new applications, which will allow them to have private communications, organize thought, organize new ways of doing things, play games, change the world.

So it is the implication of the software platform on top of this extraordinary expansion, very powerful computers connected to a back end which is even more powerful, that I think sets the stage for what's going to happen to foreign policy, to governments and to society as a whole.

Jared.

COHEN: Well, I'd like to echo Eric in thanking Richard and the council and all of you for giving us a chance to discuss what is really certainly a hot topic these days and which is certainly a topic that's not going away.

And to continue Eric's narrative on this, one of the things that, you know, we tried to do is take a look at the world through the lens of connectivity. So if, you know, connections are, you know, growing exponentially, you know, to the point where, you know, those that aren't connected today will be some of our most connected users tomorrow, then how we understand where the sudden influx of technology into, you know, different societies around the world will have the greatest impact. It's best understood if we think about the breakdown of connectivity.

So rather than look at the world in terms of developed and developing, East and West, North and South, we tried to break it down in terms of, you know, uber-connected economic powerhouses, hyper-connected, you know, societies like Estonia and Sweden and so forth. And then with the more traditional developing world, we tried to break it down in terms of partially connected societies and connecting societies.

And North Korea is sort of its own category of disconnected. And so for the purposes of the article, we didn't state the obvious. We also wanted to stick to the word limit. (Laughter.)

But as we think about, you know, connecting societies and partially connected societies, you know, both Eric and I believe that's where the sudden influx of technology is going to have, you know, probably the most unpredictable impact. And we deliberately say earlier in the article that the 21st century will be all about surprises.

And in particular, when we think about connecting societies or partially connected societies that are either inclined towards openness or inclined towards being more closed societies, we view it as, you know, countries that have weak central governments, dire socioeconomic conditions, youth bulges, large diaspora communities living in some of these uber-connected societies, and civil societies that are prone to dissent and protest and have a history and tradition of that as being the societies that are really the places to watch.

And when we say where technology will have the most disruptive impact, that can be either for good or for ill. It can mean that terrorists will get their hands on these technologies and a fragile state will become a failed state.

Or it means that, you know, rural farmers can use these technologies to fundamentally transform how we think about rural access to urban markets.

And so the outcomes will be diverse, but these are the places where we think you have to watch.

HAASS: In the article, you actually write about Gutenberg and his technological breakthrough of the printing press. And tonight, Eric, you already referenced television.

One of the questions I had, re-reading the piece today, is, is there anything special or unique about the technologies you're writing about? Is it simply the latest in a long historical series? Or is there something qualitatively different about the kind of stuff we're talking about here tonight?

SCHMIDT: I would argue that it's qualitatively different in one fundamental aspect. It's empowering of individuals in a way that technology has never done before. All previous technology revolutions have involved some form of infrastructure, some form of common way it was provisioned or some kind of command and control system.

Because of the nature of mobile computing and because of Moore's law and the improvements in CPUs and so forth and so on, you can give people every known tool that used to be centralized as individuals -- everyone's a publisher, everyone's a writer, everyone's a communicator, everyone's a photographer, everyone's an editor, everyone's a blogger. All of a sudden, we have an explosion of what everyone wants to do.

One of the consequences of that is it becomes much more unpredictable what people actually want to do. One interesting statistic at Google is that 15 percent of the queries we see every day are unique, we've never seen them before. The world is much more diverse, much more random, if you will, than we think.

HAASS: Well, let's come to this question of, you used the phrase disruption, and you just talked about the idea that technology could be used for good or ill. I mean, al Qaeda and a lot of these groups use the Internet as a principal recruiting and training tool. The same medium can be used for wonderful things, to save lives -- you know, medicine, people can read x-rays half a world apart, whatever. So the technology is neutral.

That said, it's unlikely that it's 50/50 in its neutrality. Is there a bias in the technology? Is it all things being equal? What likely is it more good than bad? Does it tend to empower individuals as opposed to the collective or the state? What's the bias in the technology today? What do we know?

COHEN: Well, I definitely don't think it's 50/50. And I also think it's important to note, you know, that the debate is not, you know, is technology good or bad? Because the technology is already out there, you know, that's already beginning to play itself out there.

The real debate we have to have is, how do we leverage it to optimize for more positive outcomes?

So to get to your question, Richard, you know, I almost prefer to kind of, you know, think more offensively in the sense that these technologies are out there, they're there to stay, they're becoming increasingly complex and interactive. And the ways in which people use them in repressive societies are surprising oftentimes to the engineers who develop them, right? Because engineers develop these technologies from the perspectives of having lived in free and open and democratic societies, largely for, you know, emerging markets that are also free and open societies.

And you know, it's very unpredictable what happens when you throw these technologies into societies where people actually read the instructions manual. And that might sound strange, but, you know, by a show of hands, how many of you in the audience have ever read the instructions manual to your cell phone, BlackBerry, Android, iPhone? Probably not a lot. And why would you, because you don't need to understand the 100 percent of functions that your handset actually allows you to use, because you have freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

But go to a place like Iran, and you need to know every single aspect of that tool and what it can actually do, because it's your -- you know, it's your bridge to civil liberties that you wouldn't otherwise have. And that can work both ways, right?

And so likewise, a hostile regime can view technology as a way to infiltrate populations in ways that they couldn't before. Or a hostile regime can look at technology as a way to track down activists. Because one of the challenges that users have is, because these technologies are so new in a lot of these societies, you know, they're taking risks without even necessarily knowing what those risks are.

So whether you're a government, whether you're a company, whether you're a civil society organization, whether you're an academic writing about this, the tools themselves are inevitable. That anybody who's seeking to optimize for a more positive outcome needs to work and think strategically about how we educate populations to use these tools responsibly so that the 50/50, you know, balance that Richard alluded to is more of a 90/10.

HAASS: You mentioned Iran. And I would think that is both exciting and sobering simultaneously. We saw what happened about 16 months ago, or so, the green movement after the fraudulent elections. But then the guys with the sticks came out and crushed a lot of people's skulls and the government learned how to fight back.

What does Iran teach us, then? What have we learned about the technology? Because simultaneously it was in the hands of the protesters, it was -- and the regime essentially countered. What surprised you about it? What did we learn from that?

COHEN: Well, I think there's a lot of lessons learned from Iran. You know, people often point to, you know -- they contrast Iran in June of 2009 with Moldova in April of 2009. In Moldova, a similar phenomenon, except the communist government, you know, was pressured into calling for re-elections and then lost the re-elections. And obviously in Iran, the protesters didn't achieve the outcome that they had actually anticipated.

But I would argue that what happened in Iran is not a net negative. You know, in sort of talking to activists all throughout the world, they actually took a lot of best practices away from Iran. You know, there was a feeling in a lot of societies that if people can, you know, use technology as a way to get information to the rest of the world and throw it into a global megaphone of connection technologies, then it allows even the most repressed societies to engage a global population.

And so it wasn't successful in Iran in terms of achieving its immediate objectives. But it was successful in terms of inspiring activists in other parts of the world to think about the power of what technology can do to identify an entirely new set of challenges that they need to solve for as they're advocating for basic freedoms and civil liberties.

And you know, at the end of the day, I don't think we know exactly what the end of the story is going to be in Iran. I mean, the very notion that that many people went to the streets and technology was a way that they were able to connect what was happening on the ground to people outside the ground is remarkable.

Remove cell phones, remove the 60 percent of the country that has cell phones from the equation in Iran, and tell me if any of you would have seen the video of Neda Soltan being murdered on the streets of Tehran. That video was not just the most impactful viral video of all time, but that video, you know, in, you know, a matter of hours reached the desks of some of the most powerful and least accessible people on the planet, presidents and prime ministers.

And not only that, had a magnifying glass over them, making sure that they watched it and forced them to actually respond. And thus, because it changed their rhetoric, actually changed the policies of a number of governments around the world.

HAASS: Eric, I'm quickly going to get out of my depth. One of the things that governments do is, to the extent technology requires nodal points where you have centralization and obviously this chance for governments to intervene there, are there ways you can consciously design technology, or when you manufacture it, to increase the degree of dispersion to make it more difficult for government? Can you consciously design, if you will, a generation of stuff that, all things being equal, gives the authoritarian governments heartburn?

SCHMIDT: You absolutely can. It's illustrative in the example that Jared cited. The government was sufficiently worried about communications connections technologies that they actually, for various periods of time, shut down the cell phone network, shut down SMSing and so forth. So they understood the power of peer-to-peer communication.

China, of course, understands this very well with respect to what is known as the great Chinese firewall, which blocks access to information that they deem illegal and we think is political speech. And Google is heavily involved in dealing with that and ultimately moved out of that censorship because we were unhappy with it.

The technical answer is that there are interconnection points where the Internet works where governments can interpose themselves. So far, the only regime that's done this dynamically and actively is China. There are many Asian and Arab countries that would like to have the Chinese model to apply, but it's expensive to implement the Chinese model.

So one of our theories, I think, is that this yearning for political expression, for freedom, for communication, is it's a race against the government's ability to repress it. And I think we would probably both say that ultimately the people will win over the governments. The yearning is so strong.

Technologically, there are extremely bad examples that you could use. For example, you could build tools that had built-in what is called Triple DES encryption, which allows you to have peer-to-peer communication, which enables the dissidents, but it also enables the terrorists to talk.

And so looking at it sort of as sort of starkly as I can, it seems to me that societies face a choice, right, around how much liberalism, the police role and so forth and so on. And those are essentially political issues, and the technology just takes them to the fore.

The difference now is that the users have a lot more power.

HAASS: But doesn't Google also have a choice in the sense -- or other -- I don't mean to single you out, necessarily. But the same technology, which can strengthen the hands of the protester against the authoritarian, could also, in the hands of a terrorist arguably make it harder for NSA or someone who want to track them to be able to track them.

Is this a debate you ever have? What's kind of the responsible thing to do?

SCHMIDT: We do. We have this debate a lot. And indeed, there are governments that are now trying to figure out how to regulate this question, because there's a concern that what is known as key -- essentially revocation, where you have keys that can unlock these things and so forth.

Recently, for example, there was a big fight between the BlackBerry maker, which is RIM, and the India government fundamentally over a question of an encryption key that is a corporate key. So this is beginning to become an issue. And I think that the debate is not over on how the world will solve this.

HAASS: Do you also think about the implications of all this, not just for the Irans or the Chinas of the world, where you've got people power, if you will, against an authoritarian-like regime, but for American democracy, what the implications are? And do you ever ask yourself, what is it that might be healthy or unhealthy in terms of the future trajectory of this society, if you will, a fairly mature democracy?

SCHMIDT: Well, the fact that there's more speech does not necessarily mean that there's better speech. And there's a lot of evidence that the combination of all these technologies allows narrow casting, finding your friends, not listening to everything else.

One of the positions I've taken is that technologies that do exist today can be used to bring up new information. So if we give you a news feed, we should also give you a feed of things that you should also know. And maybe you won't read them, but at least we can select and try to sort of broaden -- you know, we can do these things with algorithms now.

But I think it's not obvious. It's not obvious that the explosion in communication is fundamentally producing a better democracy. It's certainly producing a louder one, right? And that's where we are today.

HAASS: What about better economies? You hear all these things about mobile devices being able to essentially become banking systems, and the idea that this has become a sort of decentralized capitalism. What's the --

SCHMIDT: I think that's a leap. It's a fun leap, but it's probably a little too aggressive. In the third world, the phones are being used as banking systems because the bank systems are not reliable, people can't handle cash, things get stolen and so forth and so on.

There are new technologies generally known as NFC, Near Field Communication chips, which will be available in phones over the next year, which will allow essentially a replacement of your wallet, in a secure way, by your phone.

That enables a whole generation of new electronic services and payment systems and so forth, and people are very excited about that. And that technology will eventually go into the rest of the world as well. But all of these technologies fundamentally involve dealing with existing institutions.

The real power for the mobile phone is the fact that people live in a local context, especially where they have no communications whatsoever. And all of a sudden, they're going from living in a local world, local prices, local village and so forth, and all of a sudden, they're in a global market, or at least they can talk about the prices with the neighbor next door.

There are many, many stories in the mobile world about how people used to have no information, and now using their phone or SMSing or what have you, they're able to get more accurate pricing, and so withheld their product or they negotiated better or so forth and so on. So more information clearly makes the economics more efficient, if you will, which ultimately leads to better returns.

HAASS: I only have a couple more questions, and then I'll open it up.

You know, the theme is "disruption," if you will. You know, I've spent a lot of my life thinking about international relations, and there's always a tension between forces of order and forces of disorder. So disruption makes someone like me a little bit nervous.

There's potentially good disruption, but there's also potentially bad disruption. And so one of the questions is, how do you use this to create order? Are there ways in which this can -- comes to mind, for example, linking communities and all that in ways that aren't -- they may be disruptive on one level, but they're also creating new connections on another level.

SCHMIDT: You may have some -- (inaudible). One way to think about this, which I don't think my industry has really reasoned through, is, let's get the defaults right.

The example I would offer is that when you travel in a poor country, you have typically what are called 2.5G networks, so-called Edge networks. And these occurred because the original GSM spec mandated them. They just happened. It wasn't that there was a lot of demand for data networks. They just happened.

This is why when you roam in those countries, your BlackBerry, your mobile phone, you can text, it all works at all. Somebody just randomly made that decision, probably some engineer, and boom, all of a sudden we have that connectivity.

I think it's important in our industry to say, given that most countries, and I'm excluding China here, will just implement the technology that we build, what are the implications to the societal order? This is where I think we can be both attacked from the standpoint of American hegemony, but also having a positivist view or a particular bias, because we clearly, we, at least, at Google, have a strong view that more information is better. That's our bias.

And you can imagine lots of other companies agreeing with that. And as a whole, that American export, that American value becomes one of the most important things we do as citizens.

COHEN: And I would add one more thing to that, too. If you look at just the vast array of global challenges -- economic, political, security, social -- you know, you have a lot of people working on these challenges and a lot of resources being thrown at them, but really not necessarily a huge dent actually being made in addressing any of them.

And when I look at technology, technology is part of every problem, and it's part of every solution, right? It makes things more complicated that we're challenged with in the international system, but it's also inadvertently helping address them or could certainly be used to help address them.

But I think part of the problem that exists is, you have, you know, different sets of expertise and methodologies and resources and capabilities broken down into different silos that cut across various sectors in society. So the biggest gap that we notice is, expertise on the tools and expertise on the substantive nature of these challenges.

And you know, I think if we're to really be serious about making sure we're solving for the right problems and making sure we really understand these challenges, then it really is much more of a SWAT team model in terms of how we think about them and how we act on them. And it means there's a relevance that exists between technology stakeholders and government stakeholders.

I know Richard doesn't like the word "stakeholders," but I'm going to use it here.

And a good example of this that, you know, I think is useful for understanding is, if you're a woman in eastern Congo and you're at daily risk of sexual and gender-based violence, or you're an activist in a country at daily risk of torture and arrest, you're more likely to turn to your cell phone or your handset as a tool to help you address your human rights needs than you are the charter for the Geneva Convention, right? I think we would all agree that's very obvious.

But if that's so obvious, then why are the cell phone manufacturers, the apps developers, the people with deep understanding of technology, the most removed from the human rights community that's actually thinking about and acting on these challenges? It's not because they don't want to work with each other, it's because there's literally no vehicle to convene and connect them.

SCHMIDT: And again, this gets back to one of the sort of insights that we would claim in our paper, is that in countries which have vibrant civil societies, relatively weak governments, right, the diaspora of other people and money coming in in one way or another, the outcome is currently unpredictable. That's our point.

So it's probably in our interest as a society to figure out how to make that outcome be more positive by anticipating how the products will be used, getting them a little bit designed with more of the bias that Jerry is implying, maybe more of a human rights bias, or at least a civil liberties bias, and that's a conversation that's not occurring today.

HAASS: Well, it seems to me there's two, then, potential conversations. One is the conversation between you and the place you used to work and I used to work, which is the U.S. government. And the other is a conversation between the U.S. government and other governments, which is, whenever new technologies come along, say in the military area, you immediately start thinking of various regimes to regulate them or structure the interaction.

Indeed, cyber is exactly at the point today where nuclear was maybe 50 years ago, where people are beginning to think, what sort of rules do we set up? What sort of arrangements do we put into place?

Do we need to think that way about this? Do we simply want to have a world where this kind of happens? Or do we actually want to have the United States go out and try to negotiate certain dos and don'ts in this space?

COHEN: Well, I think part of the challenge -- and you know, Eric and I get at this in our article -- is, you know, when you look at what we call the interconnected estate or cyberspace or the world's largest ungoverned space, really whatever you want to call it, you have a fundamental problem. Which is, this space isn't some sort of separate realm, but rather an extension of the traditional realms that we all know and understand, except for one key problem is, you know, there's nobody to convene around the table as this space becomes larger and more transnational.

I mean, there's no laws that -- you know, it's difficult to enact laws, you know, that can easily be enforced, because who do they apply to, and who has jurisdiction over what?

And so it becomes increasing -- look, it's hard enough to come up with international law and implement international law when you actually do have states to bring around a table in a forum, the U.N., to actually, you know, bring them together.

When you don't have any of that, it's just that much more complicated. And so the question is, you know, in terms of, you know, how we look at this moving forward is, you know, who are the actual players in this space? And it's really everybody.

And so it becomes an issue of, what can we do to affect norms and affect behavior so that individuals are behaving responsibly and positively in a space that really no state or government can fully control?

SCHMIDT: So my question, and I don't know the answer to this, is, do you get to the right outcome by engaging the U.S. government in a strong and positive way, or do you have the U.S. government simply provide some generalized air cover and try to do it bilaterally within companies, within partnerships, within NGOs? And that's a question to be debated.

I worry that if the U.S. government takes a very strong prescriptive position that in fact it will inflame the other side and they'll start to pay attention. They may actually be better off to try to sort of infiltrate, if you will, for lack of a better word, with powerful connective technology which represents the values that we're espousing.

This is the basically invade-with-fax-machines argument. It's much cheaper to invade a country with fax machines than with guns. And trust me, the fax machines will be used, and they will help topple that regime.

HAASS: Conceivably, but guns have been known to triumph. The problem -- it sounds very similar to years ago when people argued certain economic arguments, and at times it just gets trumped. Every once in a while, military might trumps.

SCHMIDT: No one is arguing here that the tanks win eventually. Of course, they win eventually. The question is, at some point, even dictatorships operate with some level of support from the people. If you can figure out a way to get the average person to recognize that they're being ill-served by this dastardly government that they have, it will accelerate a change that would have occurred anyway.

A classic example, if you look in East Germany and West Germany, is, the West Germans put the television towers right along the border. Because they figured over some number of years, watching all that West German television would have an impact, right? And indeed, that was certainly a component of what ultimately was a pretty amazing event.

HAASS: For sure. I could continue, but I will show uncharacteristic self-restraint. (Laughter.)

If you want to ask a question, raise your hand, wait for a microphone, say who you are. And please, limit yourself to one succinct question. I'll do my best to recognize as many people as I can.

Yes, ma'am. Wait for the microphone, and we'll quickly get you one.

QUESTIONER: Hi, I'm Rebecca MacKinnon with the New America Foundation. In your article, and you were just alluding to this, that the Internet and new technologies have really challenged the Westphalian system of nation-states and this rise of stakeholders and so on.

And one thing that's very interesting with Google and a number of other companies is that you have your own global constituency, that your users are sort of a constituency. And I'm wondering whether you're thinking about how to engage that constituency, both to help with problems about how to get your engineers to think about how to better serve some of those constituencies by maybe having some kind of deliberative process with them, and also how you might leverage those constituencies vis-a-vis governments that might be doing things that you observe are not in the interests, do not seem to be what those constituencies actually want.

SCHMIDT: It's always best for us to operate from the standpoint of the citizens in the country rather than Google against the government. We've tried that; it doesn't work.

So we're much better off if it becomes obvious to the Google users in a country that they're being ill-served by some policy -- a classic example being censorship, blocking of YouTube and so forth and so on. So we work hard to make sure of that, because ultimately they do listen to that.

Most of the governments that we deal with fundamentally want to modernize their countries. And they understand that they need to interact with this connected technology that we talked about. They understand they have to do it. They want to do it on their terms, however.

HAASS: Let me ask a question, because you just raised it. Do you actually think it's possible for governments to absorb technology in an apolitical way? Or do you think that basically you're inevitably a bit of a Trojan horse -- that they can't just skim off the part of technology that helps economic growth and the rest, that like it or not, they let you in and to some extent you're going to set in motion stuff that's going to ultimately weaken their hold?

COHEN: I don't know that a Trojan -- I wouldn't say it's a Trojan horse analogy because ultimately what we're doing is putting tools in the hands of people to be empowered to affect outcomes that are more fitting for what their actual desires are. And that's less sort of, you know, a sneak attack and more giving people the tools to actually, you know, transform the nature of a social contract between them and their government.

Now, depending on the society that can be more effective in some places than in other places. In more repressive societies, you can give them all the tools that you want and, you know, it might chip away at this but it doesn't transform the society instantly. In a very open society it, you know, it certainly challenges a democratic system to get creative with how they preserve that system while at the same time absorbing these new tools.

But going back to our article, it's those connecting nations and those partially connected nations where technology is still sufficiently new and sufficiently disruptive that you all of a sudden give people the tools to be able to do things that they weren't able to do before, hold a government to account in ways they couldn't before, connect information to each other and resources in ways that they couldn't before, you know, and I think that all of a sudden you get a much clearer picture on what, you know, that country's particular constituency actually thinks and wants in terms of the future of their society.

SCHMIDT: So let me -- again, following the Trojan horse question let me suggest that it is the nature of the technologies we're talking about that they empower the citizens. In the scenario where the citizens as a result of their empowerment become even more unified in their rabid argument of their political view or their national view, which is counter to the U.S. interest, it's clearly not a very good Trojan horse strategy. But it's clearly an empowering strategy.

HAASS: We got lots of things -- in the back I see. Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: Thank you, yes. Rory O'Connor from Global Vision and the Media Channel. I wonder how you respond to assertions by people like Malcolm Gladwell, for example, that the politically disruptive effects of social media have been greatly exaggerated, at the least.

COHEN: Well, as we said before, I don't think anybody would dispute the fact -- if we just start with the facts I don't think anybody would dispute the fact that there's a heck of a lot of technology out there and, you know, it's spreading exponentially and faster than we could have ever imagined. And in terms of Gladwell's article I assume, you know, most people in this room read it, but those who didn't, he compared --

HAASS: It wasn't in Foreign Affairs so people here didn't read it. (Laughter.)

COHEN: He basically made the arguments that -- made the argument that the civil rights movement happened without the technologies of today and that we exaggerate the role of technology in cases like Moldova and Iran. There's a couple things that I'll say about this. I know Eric has a lot to say about this as well.

One, you know, the article ignores the fact that the civil rights movement used the new technologies of the day -- you know, television and, you know, various other forms of technology. And it was those new technologies of the day that made it so, you know, a group of individuals who were being hosed or attacked with dogs were images that a state legislator in, you know, a state in New England or a state in the Northwest or a state somewhere else in the country had to actually be held to account for, given the laws that existed in the country. And then nobody's saying that, you know, technology is, you know, the reason why there's a revolution in this country or a movement. You know, all it is is a tool.

It's -- again, it's a tool that empowers people for good or ill. But it's certainly -- it's hard to imagine a movement in the 21st century that doesn't in some way, shape or form leverage these technologies, because every single, you know, movement in the past for the most part has leveraged whatever the new technologies are for the day. Because to be honest with you, it's just straight-up common sense.

You know, if you're trying to -- if you're orchestrating a movement you're clearly trying to solve for some kind of problem, and if you're solving for any kind of problem you certainly would be foolish to not use as many tools that you have at your disposal. And so, you know, if there's a movement in the past that hasn't used the new technologies of the day then it's probably not a very sophisticated movement.

SCHMIDT: But, Jared, you didn't really quite make the other half of his argument, which I happen to agree with, which is that -- this is a surprise, we had this conversation -- (laughter) -- that basically --

COHEN: I had to look surprised.

SCHMIDT: Ah, Jared. (Laughter.) The -- one of the arguments that he makes, which I think is correct, is that many of these movements that came because of small -- small numbers of people who worked very, very closely together -- a very tight bond -- very tight bonds, and he makes the argument in the article that the -- that the current technology is essentially enabling what he calls weak bonds. It's a (roughly correct ?) argument. The problem with his argument is that the next generation of mobile technology is all about tight bonds. So in fact we'll get caught up in this -- (inaudible).

QUESTIONER: I'm sorry. Just for the ignorant, what's -- what is a tight bond?

SCHMIDT: What he -- he basically says that the way you plot a revolution is you have three people who sit there and they talk at the kitchen table all the time. It's not fundamentally done by a broad mass. It's done by people who are willing to risk their lives, and I would argue that the mobile technology that is today available, and in particular, coming with the kinds of technologies that are available, will in fact empower people to do exactly that.

HAASS: Andrew.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Andrew Rosen (sp). I'm a digital media entrepreneur. I wanted to actually come back to your point about the vibrant society and the weak government because the interesting point, if you frame it in the Larry Lessig code-versus-code problem --

SCHMIDT: Sure.

QUESTIONER: -- and what's interesting is symbolically you both actually represent that. You have the -- you represent legal code, the government code -- government regulation -- and you represent programming code. And in your vibrant society -- in your vibrant society and weak government, you essentially have a code-versus-code dilemma.

SCHMIDT: Exactly.

QUESTIONER: And the problem there is, you know, you're not really talking about your code -- programming code being disruptive. In fact, if you're empowering these local communities against a weak government you're talking about transformative. And so the thing that I didn't understand in your piece is why you weren't willing to go to the lengths of transformative despite this example that you've given.

SCHMIDT: Well, the question is -- speaking for Google, we have to be careful not -- there are lines we don't want to cross. We don't want to be seen as threatening the supremacy of governments, for example. It's just a bad deal, right? It's not -- not a good outcome. (Laughter.)

So let me make -- let me make an observation about software. In the case of a strong government, if I'm a software programmer I write the code, the strong government purchases the product which has my code in there, downloads it or whatever. They have the capability of modifying it, rejecting it, or whatever. In weak governments, they fundamentally don't. They -- they're stuck with what I did, right?

So I, in some sense, have more leverage over those governments just because of the nature of it. This is your code-versus-code argument. In this case, the Larry Lessig arguments are correct. So in a weak government's case, I would argue that the software community has a responsibility to understand how our technology is going to be used by governments that don't have the choice of rejecting it, right? They're stuck with our values, our bugs and, you know, our policies and so forth and so on and our limitations.

QUESTIONER: But with weak governments -- I mean, it's one thing to try to weaken an authoritarian government, consciously or unconsciously. But I would think -- if one of the principal strategic challenges in today's world is not strong states but weak states, because when they collapse or fail all sorts of negative consequences follow, don't you exacerbate that problem?

COHEN: Can I -- I'll draw on one failed state. I mean, if we look at Somalia -- I mean, I think Somalia is actually a really interesting place to play this out. It has, you know, one of the fastest Internet growths in all of Africa. It has one of the largest and fastest-growing cell phone markets in all of Africa, and you sort of ask yourself why. Well, one, the central government, you know, isn't strong enough to regulate anything or let alone nationalize anything, and then two, it's really dangerous to actually get around in Somalia -- so much like Iraq. You know, it's worth paying whatever money you have to have a cell phone because nothing else really seems to work in the country.

And so you get this scenario in a place like Somalia where the telecom companies are both private entities as well as success stories for institution building. You know, so you -- in the absence of a vibrant civil society in terms of NGOs and, you know, foundations and grassroots organizations, in a failed state like Somalia you have the telecom companies all sort of, you know, half to a full dozen of them doing women's empowerment initiatives, doing development initiatives, doing financial inclusion initiatives, doing health initiatives.

They sort of end up filling a gap that's left by both the government as well as the fact that the society is not fit for more traditional organizations to set up shop on the ground. And so it actually -- you know, yes, it's being used by al Shabab and al Qaeda to, you know, coordinate and so forth, and that's just an unfortunate outcome but one that's really, you know, difficult to avoid. But the net positive in a place like Somalia in terms of what cell phones are actually able to do is really spectacular.

And one other thing that I'll add on this is if you want to figure out how to actually do any kind of, you know, traditional institution building in a country that's basically been a failed state since the Cold War, you know, it might actually make sense to look at the one success story for actually building something that's organized and transcends tribal and clan dynamics and actually functions. You know, it's just sort of an interesting way to look at institution building to draw on something that we typically haven't looked at as an institution.

HAASS: Yes, sir. (Did, Orville, I catch you ?) --

QUESTIONER: Orville Schell from the Asia Society. Eric, I'm intrigued by your optimism that interconnectivity will triumph the -- in China, ultimately. It seems to me to date they've done a pretty good job in keeping up with it. Indeed, you yourself hit something of a wall there. So I wondered if you could maybe just sketch out a little bit the scenario for your optimism.

SCHMIDT: I ultimately believe in the power of human, you know, yearnings, and people want a better place for themselves and their families. My experience is people pretty much want the same everywhere regardless of where they are, and that's true in China as well, as you know. You've studied China for a very long time.

The government has a very, very extensive program to try to make sure that the Internet does not get out of control. In addition to the Great Firewall, which is a series of routers that block content -- it's illegal, by the way, to discuss the nature of what they do or how they do it, so I'll just summarize by saying there's a big thing which sits there and makes sure that inappropriate content, from their perspective, doesn't make it into the country. They also have very large organizations -- estimates are 30 (thousand), 50,000 numbers -- no one's quite sure -- of people who actively censor blogging and so forth. And the censorship laws in China are such that self-censorship is required.

In other words, you can be guilty because you didn't properly self-censor and the police apply that. So the question is, at what point will there be so many Chinese people online that such mechanisms break down in terms of censorship and so forth? Because they don't -- they obviously don't scale, right. There's just -- there's some limit to that. The current number of mobile phone subscribers in China -- there's at least 550 million mobile phones in use by China Mobile, which is the largest of the four operators, and the others are a smaller number. So if you think about the scale, they've got a billion phones, if you will, that are trying to express themselves. Be very difficult, in my view, to completely keep up with that.

HAASS: Sure.

QUESTIONER: Christopher Graves -- Christopher Graves with Ogilvy Public Relations. Could you paint a picture for us about the longer-term impact of social media? Because while I take your point, Jared, that there's always been some technology, this technology is clearly different in terms of allowing instant self-aligning tribes. But those tribes -- often the contradiction is as broad as we get globally, we tend to get narrower with homophily. So don't we get shriller and more polarized as we get broader?

SCHMIDT: So that's one possibility. Another possibility is that technology will come along that will create great meeting places for communication. People will all of a sudden come back. It's very difficult to know how the intersection of future technology and the future use of this will affect our society. I think what we know is people love to talk. They like -- they like to listen. They like to talk a lot and they have a lot to say. And I would also observe, speaking as a person who studies the Internet a lot, people have a lot of free time, right? (Laughter.)

SCHMIDT: So I think all of that is working -- is working to make these things happen. The way to express this as a negative is to imagine a situation where you get these very, very tight walls of communication, which are very difficult for anyone to penetrate, where people can do things which should not be done, right -- illegal activities or whatever. And we need to have an appropriate balance between the government sort of watching that and the privacy. And in our view, the best way to solve that is through a public democracy -- through a democratic process where people discuss the rights of the police, the rights of the civil citizens, what is appropriate speech, what is not appropriate speech.

HAASS: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTIONER: Barbara Samuels from the Global Clearinghouse on (sic) Development Finance. I wanted to push a little bit more on how we could be creative in using technology to increase the productivity -- good government. We talked in the Third World about mobile phones and all of that, but one of the things we've been trying to do in the development side is help investment promotion agencies with investor aftercare business-enabling environments just like a private sector company would be: getting more transparency performance reports, making sure that existing investors can openly report on issues, and then have a ticket system to try and push on that.

If you think that there's a real opportunity here -- if we ran our private sector companies like governments we'd be in trouble, right? So if you look at the kinds of productivity and outreach a company like yours has, how would you really think about how to be -- use technology more effectively in governments, both in the developing world and here? And how would we move forward on that? Thank you.

COHEN: I'll say a quick response to that and then, you know, Eric, I'm sure you have a lot to say about this as well. I mean, I think it goes back to the silo busting point that I was making before -- that people that understand issues of governance and transparency and accountability and all the issues that surround how we support democracy at the grassroots level, you know, that's not what engineers are trained to do. There are some engineers that understand that because they read about it and have a passion for it but that's not, you know, sort of how they earn their paychecks -- that, you know, can't sort of necessarily be broken down to a code.

And so, you know, if you look at all the organizations that are out there, there's no shortage of individuals and entities and networks that are working on governance issues in different parts of the world. But, you know, I think they're oftentimes using very rusty tools, right -- still working with pamphlets, still doing very traditional training. And so I think, you know, there's two things that have to happen. One, the organizations that have the expertise on this subject need to find a way to engage those that have expertise on the tools, and then two, people who have the expertise on the tools need to understand that they actually have a critically relevant set of expertise that needs -- that needs to be leveraged so that we can actually combine the best of both and come up with an innovative solution.

SCHMIDT: It's probably the case that the connective technologies that we're talking about force transparency on governments in the following way. I can't imagine running any kind of society without transparency anyway because otherwise people tend to do self-dealing and other things which we all know are bad. But now because the individuals are empowered they can detect it. So you're fundamentally forced into a more transparent model whether you like it or not -- whether it's the picture that somebody takes on a mobile phone of some evil thing done by a government official or the cooking of the books that goes on at a local or regional level or the incessant, you know, corruption and fraud and where did the money go. These are all systems and things that can now be tracked extremely accurately with this new technology, and I'd argue that's a very good thing.

HAASS: Ambassador Scolle (sp).

QUESTIONER: Mike Skol of Skol & Serna. This room is filled with experts -- most of us who really are experts -- and yet your technology -- the global technology empowers billions of people to be experts and add to the sum of knowledge on the Internet globally. My sense is that there is a lessening of reliable sources for most people as a result of this process. There's a lot of bull that now enters the world encyclopedia that many, many people believe and act upon. How do you react? Are you trying to deal with this at all?

SCHMIDT: The problem you're describing is fundamentally occurring already in the newspaper area, for example, where the loss of investigative journalism is a real tragedy for America. And it's true in other countries as well just because of the economic model, and some of that has been caused by the -- by the Internet and other things as well.

So it seems to me that the most important thing to do is to develop a set of brands, because that's how people react, that are in fact trusted. I would actually argue that CFR is attempting to be a brand of at least, you know, judgment and so forth. You introduced yourself --

HAASS: Succeeding is the word, I think.

SCHMIDT: Succeeding -- thank you. (Laughter.)

And, you know, CFR, you describe yourself as nonpartisan, committed and so forth and so on. That's an example. And so maybe there will be a set of new institutions that will -- that will connote that quality of thinking and so forth that in the cacophony of information, which is sort of overwhelming, you'll have to hunt through it.

One of the dangers of information is it's very easy to create disinformation. And there's a lot of evidence that people are now trying to use the various tools and techniques which are today not perfect to manipulate outcomes. So somebody will say well, I had so many hits, and we'll say, well, how do you know that those were real hits -- maybe that was a computer that was just fooling you, right? So there are all sorts of techniques like that, and I think we're in an early stage of that kind of reliable brand, reliable quality in this new medium.

HAASS: Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Lane Greene from The Economist magazine. I just learned the other day that if you search for the same string of texts from a couple of different computers on Google you'll get slightly different results. Some things will move up a bit, some things will move down a bit. You alluded to this earlier when you talked about the idea of a bubble where people will only get what they're looking for, and I understand that those results are slightly modified by the cookies that are already on someone's computer or the things they've already searched for.

SCHMIDT: It's actually by your -- it's not by the cookies. It's by your search history.

QUESTIONER: Okay. So people are looking for X, then they're going to find a lot more like X. What are you doing to make sure that this isn't a slippery slope to make sure that people are getting even more what they're looking for in a bad way?

SCHMIDT: We're very, very sensitive to this issue, and it turns out there are technologies in computer science known as collaborative filtering which allow us to surface things which are -- let's call it serendipity. One of the great things about The Economist or The New York Times or the Washington -- you know, whatever -- is you see the story you want and then you see the story right next to it, which is interesting, and you'll learn something. And there are computer technologies which allow us to do that now for these online information sources as well. I think virtually all of the reliable information services, including Google's, will ultimately have a combination of this more targeted information plus things which through serendipity we can suggest that are interesting, challenging and different.

HAASS: Sir.

QUESTIONER: Mike -- (inaudible) -- from Diligence. Would you address the issue of crime? On an anecdotal basis, what has changed with the new paradigm that you're discussing? What is new in the world of crime and fraud?

SCHMIDT: Are you an expert in this area, Jared?

COHEN: I can talk --

SCHMIDT: Crime and fraud?

COHEN: I can talk about it a bit.

MR. : (Inaudible) -- focus not so much the electronic money laundering.

SCHMIDT: You know, the -- there -- I think that it's a long and complicated answer. Virtually, it's always a shame that the Internet has criminals on it and -- (laughter) -- because those of us that were involved, it never occurred to us that criminals would actually show up on the Internet. It was all going to be nice people who wouldn't violate anything. I'm obviously being facetious.

So there's a lot of evidence that, for example, e-mail and cell phones are being used, you know, for crimes, as people know, but you also have much greater ability to detect this.

So the effect on the police is the police all now have high-tech task forces, the FBI and so forth and so on. And there's always a balance between the two and we're always trying to find that right balance, I think, as a society. But so far it hasn't fundamentally changed anything. There's a lot of concern, as Richard said, about cyber security -- that somebody could attack something over the Internet. I'm pleased to say that the key networks that actually carry important things in the military and things like that are completely segregated from the -- from the Internet that you know. So the attacks would be much more of a denial of service -- you know, shut down certain aspects of business and so forth -- and hopefully those are mitigated by industrial action. Jared?

COHEN: Yeah. It's interesting, I mean, because -- you know, I don't come from the technology world. I come from the foreign policy world. My natural inclination is actually to think about an entirely different set of crimes. So I might -- when you say crime I immediately think of Mexico, drug cartels, you know, sort of more traditional crime for those of us working in the foreign policy space. And Mexico's an interesting example to zero in on.

I mean, one of the big challenges in Mexico is nobody wants to report the crimes because they fear, you know, action being taken against them. Nobody wants to provide tips. The police don't want to act on the crimes that they do get and the media in Mexico doesn't want to cover it, all for the same reasons -- that there's fear. Now, I don't know exactly what the answer is but I know that, again, we have a different set of tools today than if we were thinking about this, you know, challenge 15 years ago.

SCHMIDT: You know, as an example your mobile phone records where you are. At least in the United States, your mobile phone provides what are called E 911 services. So there is, in fact, a record of where you are, and it's regulated.

HAASS: I see a hand over there. I can't see a -- (inaudible).

QUESTIONER: Hi, thanks. I'm -- (inaudible.) Eric, you know so much more than we know about 10 years, 20 years from now about our lives, and you know so much about our lives now. So I know what scares me but I want to know what scares you because of what you know. (Laughter.)

COHEN: I actually want to know that too.

SCHMIDT: Thank you. (Laughter.)

So if you're an optimist -- if you're an optimist as I, as both Jared and I are -- and I really do believe that this technology, that all of the things that we're talking about here are going to make the world a much, much better place, and I can give you reams and reams of examples. The rate of scientific discovery, the collaboration, new medicines, the essential human goodness of people coming out in story after story, the ability to do automatic translation between languages so people who would fight can now talk. All of these things are positive.

What I worry about is the empowerment of the rogue evil person over a 20-year period. What we've seen with terrorism is that you can get a truly evil person who can use the tools of the trade at the time and do disproportionate damage to their station. And it -- and unfortunately the technology, being neutral, doesn't find a way from that person. We can't write the code that says, if you are Osama bin Laden we can't -- you know, we turn off your cell phone. Indeed, I suspect people don't think he's using one now.

The important point is we have not yet quite figured out how to deal with the person whose intent is evil and where empowerment of information just allows him to do more evil things. Transparency is part of it, and the fact that we know what people are doing and we -- and everybody sort of looks at each other and so forth, there's safety in numbers. All those things are all positive. But ultimately you want to think about the Unabomber case. You've got a brilliant mad person sitting in a -- in a log cabin. Today, what tools would the Unabomber use? Ten years from now what tools would the Unabomber use? And this is an -- this is evil, and we need to be aware of it and worry about it. That's what I worry about.

HAASS: But isn't -- but isn't your argument, though, that it's inherent in the trajectory of the technology if you have a -- if the bias is in favor of empowerment of individual, it seems to me then the actual purposes to which the technology is going to be put is going to vary according to human nature. And that's one of the few things probably beyond the reach of even Google -- that human nature is going to continue to be varied, and you're going to have wonderful people and you're going to have awful people. And the technology will ultimately play out in constructive and destructive ways simultaneously. It seems to me that's inherent in the beast.

SCHMIDT: Again, my personal view is easy to understand. I think first place, the world is getting very small because of the communications technologies. It's very important that governments and legitimate societies get to know each other. So China's rise and integration into the world economic and political and systems and so forth -- they have as much an interest in safety and security and the future of the Earth as anybody else, right? So that's a positive, I would argue, and we can debate the specific tactics and we don't like their particular rules. But fundamentally, it's better to have them integrated, would be my argument.

So you make all that argument at the nation-state level, at the institutional level, at the trade level and so forth. You still don't answer the question of the rogue crazy person operating in secrecy. And that -- we have to think as a society how we're going to detect that person, how we're going to prevent them from doing evil, right, in a way that protects civil liberties but also protects our own safety, and it's not an easy answer. In the case of the Unabomber, by the way, he was ultimately turned in by a family member, right?

COHEN: You know, there's another example of this, too, which I think is important to note. And actually a point to make about this is that, you know, the small number of bad actors relative to those that are actually using technology either neutrally or as a force for good are just much louder, right? It's the same thing -- it's the same problem we have with terrorism, right? There's 1.8 billion Muslims on the planet, and a small number of terrorists who also happen to be Muslim happen to be very loud and they, you know, they -- it leads to misperceptions about the religion at large. And so one of the unfortunate things we have is you hear more about -- or at least, you know, from the government standpoint when you're sitting, you know, in Foggy Bottom you hear more about the negative uses of technology because it's what excites people. The same way when you look at the Middle East you hear more about, you know, the terrorist attacks and all the catastrophe.

But to Eric's point, the -- an example that's worth noting, I remember I was in -- I was in Guatemala and I met a family in Guatemala City that had actually been extorted from an MS-13 gang member that was in a prison in Los Angeles, who used his cell phone in the prison to literally extort a family in Central America. On a trip to Afghanistan, I was in Pul-e-Charkhi Prison and I met a Taliban -- or a, you know, a quasi-Taliban inmate who had allegedly orchestrated attacks on three government ministries in February of 2009. As a joke, after interviewing him I asked him if I could have his phone number and he pulled out what looked like an iPhone. You know, it --

SCHMIDT: Jared, how did he have an iPhone?

COHEN: Well, so I -- so I asked this question, and there is -- obviously -- and they have -- you know, the prisons are not very well guarded. And what's interesting, I was told that cell phones being smuggled into the prisons had been a problem and the prison guards had told me that they solved it because, you know, everybody around the prison knew that the cell phones had been used to organize and connect to people outside of prison walls to pull off this triple and simultaneous suicide attack.

And so I asked the question at the end to see if it was in fact true, and it turns out that, you know, there's just this constant flow of people that they let in and out of these prisons. You know, they're not -- you know, the walls are sort of more metaphorical than they are actual walls, and it's even more the case in Central America where the prisons are basically, you know, like these ungoverned spaces where the guards themselves won't even go into some of these -- some of these cell blocks. And prisoners sort of go out and work during the day and go out into society and go back into the prison at night, and it becomes this, you know, revolving door that is monitored by the prisoners themself and -- or themselves. And whether that's in Central America or Afghanistan, it's just the product of a society whose government doesn't have the capacity to actually, you know, fully keep inmates that are in the prison, you know, from, you know, going back and forth throughout society either physically or through digital connectivity.

QUESTIONER: There's a piece in the article I think used the expression "cats and mice," and there -- a lot of the things we're talking about here -- so these competitions are almost races.

SCHMIDT: Well, it's always a race between the -- you know, the lock picker and the lock maker. We have very, very strong technology that can prevent a lot of this, but it has secondary effects -- it's hard to use, or it can cover up people's tracks, or it's hard for the police to inspect. And those are all judgment questions that government needs to sort out.

HAASS: That's the perfect place to suggest that everybody here, if you've read it already, reread it, if you haven't read it read it -- "The Digital Disruption," in the November-December issue of Foreign Affairs. I want to thank Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen for contributing the piece and for being here tonight.

SCHMIDT: Thank you.

(Applause.)

SCHMIDT: Thank you, Jared.

(Applause.)

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