Monday, September 14, 2015

Is Eric Schmidt the Donald Trump of Technology?

There was a time when I could always count on Eric Schmidt (now Executive Chairman of Alphabet, the corporation formerly known as Google) to get my dander up every time he made a public statement. However, I see that the last time I had such a reaction is more than a year ago; and I was kind of thankful that he was finally allowing me more time to concentrate on my interest in the performance of music. This weekend, however, Schmidt was at it again, using the BBC News Web site as his bully pulpit for a muddled sermon about artificial intelligence that betrayed just how much the use of that noun "intelligence" is little more than a con job.

This morning, writing for CNET News, Lance Whitney decided to focus of Schmidt's interest in music recommendation and his accusation that Apple employs "elite tastemakers." As usual, Schmidt offered up a flamboyant display of his own ignorance. Anyone who still believes that the Internet is involved in anything other than efficient marketing must be under the spell of some pernicious Kool-Aid. Whether it involves ranking search results (not to mention displaying those results in a frame of advertising links) or making recommendations to "music consumers" (not to be confused with those who actually take the time to listen to music), the game is never about predicting future trends, as Schmidt seems to think. The fundamental premise of marketing is that consumers are sheep, and all they need is a sheepdog to follow. What this means is that recommendation need involve little more than what everyone is consuming now, rather than what they are likely to be consuming in the future. When a trend starts to form, no matter for what reason, technology can amplify it; and this basically makes for a larger body of happy consumers (not to mention the performer involved in the trend). This is not so much rocket science as freshman statistics, and Schmidt probably knows this full well as it applies to the core competency behind Google.

What is more interesting than whether or not Schmidt "gets" any concepts involved "knowledge-based" technology is that he seems to have latched on to learning the rhetorical style of Donald Trump. Having seen how Trump has managed to garner so much attention by saying so many outrageous (not to mention inconsistent) things, it would appear the Schmidt has decided to get in on that game. Could it be that his BBC gig was little more than a rehearsal for a desired appearance on Fox News?

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