The last major public speech from Google cofounder Larry Page offers a fascinating hint at what he could do next
- On Tuesday, Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin announced that they're exiting leadership roles at Google's parent company, Alphabet.
- Though both will remain on the board and, together, retain a majority vote in the company, they are no longer actively managing Google's parent company, Alphabet.
- After over 20 years at Google, it's unclear what the two billionaires will do with their time and they're not saying just yet.
- But in 2013, Google cofounder Larry Page made a rare appearance on stage at the company's annual developer's conference. In a freewheeling Q&A afterward, he offered a rare, raw look into what he might work on next: law and regulation, and creating a safe space for unfettered technological and societal experimentation.
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In a surprise announcement on Tuesday afternoon, Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin revealed that they're leaving the company they founded over 20 years ago.
"We are deeply humbled to have seen a small research project develop into a source of knowledge and empowerment for billions - a bet we made as two Stanford students that led to a multitude of other technology bets," the pair said in a joint letter published on Google's blog Tuesday afternoon. "We could not have imagined, back in 1998 when we moved our servers from a dorm room to a garage, the journey that would follow."
Brin and Page were serving as President and CEO of Google's parent company, Alphabet, before the announcement. Alphabet was created in 2015 with the intention of helping all of Google's various businesses - from self-driving cars with Waymo to drone deliveries with Wing - operate more efficiently. While Google focused on stuff like Search, Maps, and Android, Alphabet was intended to focus on entirely new ventures for Google.
What the two Google billionaires do next is unknown, but we can glean some ideas as to Larry Page's next projects from a Q&A he did at Google's 2013 developer conference, I/O.
One subject Page repeatedly brought up in answering a variety of different questions: law and regulation.
When asked by one attendee about Google's impact on society, he said, "The pace of change in the world is increasing. We haven't adapted mechanisms to deal with that. Maybe some of our old institutions, like the law and so on, aren't keeping up with the rate of change that we've caused through technology."
He cited then-current laws and regulations as antiquated, and pointed to the 50-plus-year-old laws governing companies going public that Google had to work around.
"If you look at different laws we make - they're very old. The laws when we went public were 50 years old. And law can't be right if it's 50 years old," Page said. "That's before the internet. That's a pretty major change in how you might go public."
Another major subject: having a place in the world to allow for unfettered technological and societal experimentation.
"We haven't built mechanisms to allow experimentation," Page said. "There are many, many exciting and important things you could do, that you just can't do because they're illegal or they're not allowed by regulation. And that makes sense - we don't want our world to change too fast."
Jim Rankin/Toronto Star via Getty Images
But what if there were a place set aside for those type of "exciting and important" experiments - "an environment where people can try out different things, but not everybody has to go," Page said. He pointed to Burning Man, the annual Nevada desert gathering Page and other Google execs are famous for attending, as an example of such a place.
"As technologists, we should have some safe places where we can try out some new things and figure out what is the effect on society, what is the effect on people, without having to deploy it into the normal world," he said. "And people who like those kinds of things can go there and experience that. We don't have mechanisms for that."
Though it's unlikely that his next move is bankrolling an experimental society, with over $62 billion at his disposal, Page could certainly do it.
For a rare look into the mind of one of Google's two cofounders, check out the Q&A right here:
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