Alphabet's Eric Schmidt: 'Big data is so powerful, nation states will fight' over it

Alphabet's Eric Schmidt: 'Big data is so powerful, nation states will fight' over it

By Rob Price March 9, 2017

If big data really is the "new oil," does this mean that countries will fight over it?

This is what Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, suggested in a speech at the company's Google Cloud Next conference on Wednesday.

"I think big data is so powerful that nation states will fight over how much data matters," he told attendees.

"He who has the data can do the analytics and the algorithms ... the scale that we talked about will provide huge nation state benefits, in terms of global companies and benefits for their citizens, and so on." (You can watch Schmidt's full keynote speech below.)

Like artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), big data is pretty hyped — but even so, this is still a bold prediction.

It came in the middle of Schmidt's keynote — essentially a sales pitch to attendees telling them why they need to hurry up and move all their data and systems to Google's cloud services. "Just get to the cloud now," he said. "Just go there now. There's no time to waste any more."

His argument is that Google, with its tens of billions of dollars of investment, can build the underlying infrastructure better than any single smaller company could hope to, so it doesn't make sense for them to build their own data centres when their resources could be freed up by using Google Cloud and allocated elsewhere.

By using Google's cloud services, he went on, it allows companies to scale their businesses rapidly — citing Niantic's "Pokémon Go" smartphone game and Snapchat as two examples.

And once in the cloud, it gives customers access to Google's tools to access and analyse their all their data in ways they couldn't do by themselves.

"I'll bet the rest of my professional career that the future of your business is big data and machine learning [a form of AI] applied to the business opportunities, customer challenges, and things before you."

When people say data is the "new oil," they tend to mean there are massive opportunities there, making it hugely valuable. With sufficiently advanced technology, you can analyse huge data sets to discover trends and actionable information that would be impossible to figure out before the internet age.

Google, with its AI expertise, is presenting itself as the cloud industry player best positioned to help ordinary companies to unlock these benefits — benefits that could be of interest to nation states too.


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