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Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, speaks during the session 'The Future of the Digital Economy' in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters picEric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, speaks during the session 'The Future of the Digital Economy' in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

DAVOS, Jan 23 — Google boss Eric Schmidt predicted today that the Internet will soon be so pervasive in every facet of our lives that it will effectively “disappear” into the background.

Speaking to the business and political elite at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Schmidt said: “There will be so many sensors, so many devices, that you won’t even sense it, it will be all around you.”

“It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room and... you are interacting with all the things going on in that room.”

“A highly personalised, highly interactive and very interesting world emerges.”

On the sort of high-level panel only found among the ski slopes of Davos, a panel bringing together the heads of Google, Facebook and Microsoft and Vodafone sought to allay fears that the rapid pace of technological advance was killing jobs.

In the Gallery


  • Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) arrives to meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) meets with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • Swiss National Bank Chairman Thomas Jordan (right) is pictured with Swiss President and Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga on the sidelines of the 45th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • China's Premier Li Keqiang (left) shakes hand with Swiss President and Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga on the sidelines of the 45th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • Swiss President and Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga makes welcoming remarks ahead of the World Economic Forum plenary session in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • Klaus Schwaab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum makes welcoming remarks ahead of the WEF plenary session in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • China's Premier Li Keqiang waves to listeners after his speech during The Global Impact of China's Economic Transformation event in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • China's Premier Li Keqiang (left) shakes hands with Klaus Schwaab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum after speaking during The Global Impact of China's Economic Transformation event January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), gestures during the session ‘Closing the Climate Deal’ in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone Group, gestures during the session ‘The Future of the Digital Economy’ in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft Corporation, gestures during the session ‘The Future of the Digital Economy’ in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • A participant uses his phone in a corridor during a session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, speaks during the session 'The Future of the Digital Economy' in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg gestures during the session ‘The Future of the Digital Economy’ in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. — Reuters pic M

  • Brazil's Finance Minister Joaquim Levy, Haruhiko Kuroda, Governor of the Bank of Japan and Benoit Coeure (left to right), member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank (ECB) attend the session 'The Global Economic Outlook' in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 24, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • Laurence Fink, Chairman and CEO of Blackrock Inc., hosts the session 'The Global Economic Outlook' in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 24, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam attends the final session 'The Global Agenda 2015' in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 24, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • Roberto Egydio Setubal, CEO of Itau Unibanco attends the final session 'The Global Agenda 2015' in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 24, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • The shoes of Katherine Garrett-Cox, CEO of Alliance Trust, are pictured at the final session 'The Global Agenda 2015' in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 24, 2015. — Reuters pic

  • Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, gestures during the session 'The Global Economic Outlook' in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 24, 2015. — Reuters pic

“Everyone’s worried about jobs,” admitted Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook.

With so many changes in the technology world, “the transformation is happening faster than ever before,” she acknowledged.

“But tech creates jobs not only in the tech space but outside,” she insisted.

Schmidt quoted statistics he said showed that every tech job created between five and seven jobs in a different area of the economy.

“If there were a single digital market in Europe, 400 million new and important new jobs would be created in Europe,” which is suffering from stubbornly high levels of unemployment.

The debate about whether technology is destroying jobs “has been around for hundreds of years,” said the Google boss. What is different is the speed of change.

“It’s the same that happened to the people who lost their farming jobs when the tractor came... but ultimately a globalised solution means more equality for everyone.”

Everyone has a voice

With one of the main topics at this year’s World Economic Forum being how to share out the fruits of global growth, the tech barons stressed that the greater connectivity offered by their companies ultimately helps reduce inequalities.

“Are the spoils of tech being evenly spread? That is an issue that we have to tackle head on,” said Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft.

“I’m optimistic, there’s no question. If you are in the tech business, you have to be optimistic. Ultimately to me, it’s about human capital. Tech empowers humans to do great things.”

Facebook boss Sandberg said the Internet in its early forms was “all about anonymity” but now everyone was sharing everything and everyone was visible.

“Now everyone has a voice... now everyone can post, everyone can share and that gives a voice to people who have historically not had it,” she said.

Schmidt, who said he had recently come back from the reclusive state of North Korea, said he believed that technology forced potentially despotic and hermetic governments to open up as their citizens acquired more knowledge about the outside world.

“It is no longer possible for a country to step out of basic assumptions in banking, communications, morals and the way people communicate,” the Google boss said.

“You cannot isolate yourself any more. It simply doesn’t work.”

Nevertheless, Sandberg told the assembled elites that even the current pace of change was only the tip of the iceberg.

“Today, only 40 per cent of people have Internet access,” she said, adding: “If we can do all this with 40 per cent, imagine what we can do with 50, 60, 70 per cent.”

Even two decades into the global spread of the Internet, the potential for opening up and growth was tremendous, she stressed.

“Sixty per cent of the Internet is in English. If that doesn’t tell you how uninclusive the Internet is, then nothing will,” said the tycoon.

The World Economic Forum brings together some 2,500 of the top movers and shakers in the worlds of politics, business and finance for a four-day meeting that ends tomorrow. — AFP

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