Sundar Pichai of Google: ‘Technology Doesn’t Solve Humanity’s Problems’ (nytimes.com)

In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has addressed some of the recent tensions within the company and those that the entire industry appears to be grappling with. From the story: Question: An estimated 20,000 Googlers participated in a sexual harassment protest this month. What’s your message to employees right now?
Pichai: People are walking out because they want us to improve and they want us to show we can do better. We’re acknowledging and understanding we clearly got some things wrong. And we have been running the company very differently for a while now. But going through a process like that, you learn a lot. For example, we have established channels by which people can report issues. But those processes are much harder on the people going through it than we had realized.

Question: Do you worry that Silicon Valley is suffering from groupthink and losing its edge?
Pichai: There is nothing inherent that says Silicon Valley will always be the most innovative place in the world. There is no God-given right to be that way. But I feel confident that right now, as we speak, there are quietly people in the Valley working on some stuff which we will later look back on in 10 years and feel was very profound. We feel we’re on the cusp of technologies, just like the internet before.

Question: Do you still feel like Silicon Valley has retained that idealism that struck you when you arrived here?
Pichai: There’s still that optimism. But the optimism is tempered by a sense of deliberation. Things have changed quite a bit. You know, we deliberate about things a lot more, and we are more thoughtful about what we do. But there’s a deeper thing here, which is: Technology doesn’t solve humanity’s problems. It was always naive to think so. Technology is an enabler, but humanity has to deal with humanity’s problems. I think we’re both over-reliant on technology as a way to solve things and probably, at this moment, over-indexing on technology as a source of all problems, too. Further reading: After Paying Off Men Accused of Sexual Harassment, Google Says It Will Meet Many of the Protesters’ Demands.

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