Jared Cohen on the New Digital Age

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jared Cohen, the director of Google Ideas and a former adviser to secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, takes on some of the toughest questions about our future: Who will be more powerful in the future, the citizen or the state? Will technology make terrorism easier or harder to carry out? What is the relationship between privacy and security, and how much will we have to give up to be part of the new digital age? In The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, he and Eric Schmidt outline the promise and peril awaiting us in the coming decades.


Jared Cohen

Comments [66]

Mel Brooks/Carl Reiner

1966 Interview with "The 2,000 Year Old Man"


May. 15 2013 12:28 PM

This is totally Mel Brooks interviewing "The 2,000 Year Old Man."

May. 15 2013 12:26 PM
Jeff Schwarz from West Paterson, NJ

Where is the story with Jared Cohen? This recording is the story about Andrew Revkin's stroke

May. 15 2013 10:38 AM

Apropos to my previous post:

__________Begin Quoted Text_________
"he [Humboldt] has no idea, writing in 1790, of the ways in which the notion of private person would come to be reinterpreted in the era of corporate capitalism. "He did not foresee", I now quote the anarchist historian Rudolf Rocker: "he did not foresee that democracy, with its model of equality of all citizens before the law, and liberalism, with its right of man over his own person, both would be wrecked on the realities of capitalistic economy."
“Nor did Humboldt understand in 1790 that capitalistic economic relations perpetuated a form of bondage which, long before that in fact, as early as 1767, Simon Linguet had declared to be "even worse than slavery,[...]"
_______________End Quoted Text____________

Above quotes from "Government in the Future", a lecture delivered by Noam Chomsky in 1970

And to preempt the type of /reflexive/ responses I would expect from those who view the world with little more nuance, complexity, sophistication and ambiguity than a superhero comic strip, here is another excerpt from this same lecture of Chomsky's:

“[...]but at the very least it is clear that one would have to be rather naive after the events of the past half century to fail to see the truth in Bakunin's repeated warnings that the Red bureaucracy would prove the most violent, terrible lie of the century. He once said "take the most radical revolutionary and place him on the throne of all Russia", he said in 1870, "or give him a dictatorial power and before a year has passed he will become worse than the Czar himself." I'm afraid, in this respect, Bakunin was all too perceptive and this kind of warning was repeatedly voiced from the left."

May. 14 2013 07:49 PM

John A, May. 14 2013 10:47 AM:
"Obsession with the size of government masks the largest problem:
Who will be more powerful in the future, the citizen, the state, or the corporation?"

1.) How much of a distinction can even be made between the state and the corporation?

The real question is whether the state exists to serve the corporation or whether the corporation exists to serve the state. Or, rather, which of the two statements is /more/ true, as /both/ can clearly be seen to be the case, at least /de facto/.

2.) Barring anything short of full-fledged, revolutionary upheaval, can you envision the power of the ("99%") citizen even /approaching/ that of the state-corporation, state/corporation or state OR corporation?

When was the last time, /anywhere/, such a thing could be found?

3.) Vague, general invocations against "Big Government" and "high taxes" are indeed little more than a demagogic gimmick.

It's like if an individual were to declare, /arbitrarily/, WITHOUT REGARD TO COST OR INCOME, "No more spending big money on food. From now on, total food expenses will be limited to no more than 10% of (my/our) budget."

Size is completely /relative/, and therefore meaningless outside of specific context.

We must first, as a society, decide what services, specifically, government has a legitimate role or obligation in providing and then order them in terms of priority. The next step is determining the costs of providing those services and assessing existing and potential revenue sources. THEN, and only then, can decisions regarding taxation and spending be made in any kind of rational, intelligent, logical manner.

May. 14 2013 07:46 PM

Disclaimer that /shouldn't/ even be necessary but sadly, owing to the all-too-common tendency to try to neatly fit everyone into clear, rigid, simplistic, often binary categories, has proven to be necessary:

Quoting or citing an individual, group, web site, idea, philosophy, ideology, product or service-- even in a seemingly favorable context --does NOT necessarily equate to /endorsement/ of or agreement with the entity itself, and certainly not with/of _all_ of the views, positions, aspects, or other products or services that may be held-by, offered-by or associated with the quoted or cited entity.

May. 14 2013 07:29 PM

BTW, in case anyone behind the scenes at WNYC has seen my critical comments of Google and may be wondering how I reconcile them with the Gmail address I used to register at this site, let me state:

I have begun a process that I hope will end in a complete migration from Gmail.

Fortunately, with the notable exception of the search engine itself, I never adopted and became invested in any of Google's other services. Unfortunately, Google's search functionality, appears unrivaled and sometimes all-but-impossible to avoid. This, I'm afraid, is the sobering reality.(Even the Google-scraping startpage.com often returns results that differ considerably-- often /critically/-- from those obtained via the G-Monster directly.)

The Googlestein is voracious, insatiable and predatory. That much is for sure. But there are ways to at least minimize how much of your data--and, along with it, your soul-- you feed it.

Judicious use of Tor ( https://torproject.org ) via the Tor Browser Bundle or Tails ( https://tails.boum.org ), can be a valuable tool here but ONLY if certain basic precautions are taken, not the least of which is plain (not-so-common) sense. (And this is a pretty big IF, when you consider that the average Internet user is likely to think that JavaScript refers to fonts used by Starbucks or is a new, "hip" term for a coffee recipe...)

Even then, there is the whole question of browser and even (or especially) hardware /fingerprinting/. And if /anyone/ has the capability of exploiting this effectively in a manner that could compromise privacy, Google is undoubtedly at the top of the list.

Some resources for information on privacy-technology topics:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation

Schneier on Security, "A blog covering security and security technology."

Wilder's Security Forums- Privacy Related Topics

May. 14 2013 06:06 PM

Thanks for that tracking article, Amy--lots of really good tips!

May. 14 2013 02:06 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To "independent" Noach

Your Big Brother is your rebbe.

May. 14 2013 02:03 PM



May. 14 2013 02:02 PM
jgarbuz from Queens


I suspect you missed your calling in the old NKVD, later called the KGB. You would round up "right wing counterrevolutionaries" and dispatch us all with a shot in the back of the head. You're the "Big Brother" wannabe! Admit it!

May. 14 2013 02:01 PM

jgarbuz from Queens, May. 14 2013 01:26 PM:

"Otherwise, there is no "Big Brother" except in fictional works, such as "1984" or other cheap works of dystopian entertainment, totalitarian states notwithstanding."

Wow! That's the first time I've ever seen /anything/ by the great George Orwell, much less 1984, dismissed as a "cheap work of dystopian entertainment".

And given jgarbuz's recent reply to a post of mine, in which he completely conflated (mere) "nudity and sex", per se, with the type of (depraved) 'cheap entertainment' that I had condemned, the irony is not lost on me.

( http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/2013/may/07/jaron-lanier-asks-who-owns-future/ )

May. 14 2013 02:00 PM


May. 14 2013 01:58 PM
jgarbuz from Queens


Why don't you join the Google police force so that you can come and get me?

May. 14 2013 01:58 PM
Pat from Chicago

Wait! Are there transcripts for this interview available?
Did I hear right? When asked about the slow and expensive internet connections in the U.S. relative to other countries (I believe Leonard mentioned Japan or S.Korea) Jared Cohen said something to the effect that this inadequacy would spur innovation here in the states?

May. 14 2013 01:58 PM
Tony from Canarsie

jgarbuz from Queens -- It's all a matter of personal taste, of course.

May. 14 2013 01:58 PM
Andrea from Philadelphia

FYI, Jared Cohen: I have never used the "automatic" check out system at CVS without it instructing me to call on a staff person for assistance. It's generally quicker to go through the cashier line than the so-called "time-saving" digital system

May. 14 2013 01:55 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Tony from Canarsie

I don't read fiction or other forms of printed entertainment unless I can learn something useful from it. I even tend to watch documentaries or historical movies for the most part, although I will watch a better action movie or drama just for the adrenaline boosts. Otherwise, I've had my own dramas in my own real life, so why read or watch somebody else's pack of made up lies and fantasies?

May. 14 2013 01:55 PM

Too psychotic for YouTube.


May. 14 2013 01:53 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Last year (11/29/12), Marketplace had a story on how to keep from being tracked (http://www.marketplace.org/topics/tech/top-10-ways-avoid-being-tracked-online).

May. 14 2013 01:53 PM
Tony from Canarsie

The most boring Powerpoint presentation EVER.

May. 14 2013 01:53 PM

Is it any coincidence that "Google" has 6 letters in it??


May. 14 2013 01:52 PM

Google doesn't sell info???

I had a few gmail interactions with a doctor, my only online contact. Next thing I know, LinkedIn suggests I add her as a contact(!)

Love Jaron, but Don't tell me google doesn't sell info.

May. 14 2013 01:52 PM
jgarbuz from Queens


I don't hold a candle for Google. They banned me from Youtube and all of the forums they control, so I am no Google fan. They are left wing autocrats. But thankfully, they can't control the internet and the whole digital world. I can surivive without commenting on Youtube or other Google forums. They have not sent their police to get me yet :)

May. 14 2013 01:51 PM
Nick from UWS

"Google does not sell your information. Period".

This is a straight-up lie.

May. 14 2013 01:50 PM

Nick from UWS ~


May. 14 2013 01:49 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Good questions, Leonard. Too bad they're going over your guest's overly self-assured head.

May. 14 2013 01:49 PM
Nick from UWS


Did you ever hear a clearer description of fascism than that? And who's going to decide what a "mistake" is? This moron? This guy is a sociopath.

May. 14 2013 01:47 PM
Tony from Canarsie

jgarbuz from Queens -- I don't read literature for prophecy. I read it for the author's particular viewpoint and style. And Orwell was a master stylist who wrote more than one book. I recommend you check out his non-fiction.

May. 14 2013 01:47 PM

As i mentioned - so clever.

May. 14 2013 01:47 PM
jgarbuz from Queens


There are plenty of other search engines you can use. Or use the Yellow Pages :)

May. 14 2013 01:46 PM

Jared... when do we start tattooing "GOOGLE" onto our foreheads??

May. 14 2013 01:44 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Political minorities? OK, but what about economic minorities? New technology (at any stage) often seems to shake things up & open up opportunities for people lower (but not too low!) on the economic ladder to move up, but mostly in the early stages. Later, the new structure tends to harden in place & it's just as hard to advance as it was before the previous new tech came along.

May. 14 2013 01:43 PM

Geek Beast™

May. 14 2013 01:42 PM

This guy "argues" too much..! Try another word..!

May. 14 2013 01:42 PM

Nick from UWS ~

Typed the word out of my head - f*n SCARY!!

May. 14 2013 01:42 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Sorry, in my last post I meant "Animal Farm" not Animal House :) Animal House was my fraternity back in 1965 :)

May. 14 2013 01:41 PM

This guy advising Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton explains a WHOLE lot of stuff!!

May. 14 2013 01:40 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Orwell's "1984" is pure junk, whereas his "Animal House" was definitely insightful and entertaining. But if you want something that is almost prophetic, read Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." My teacher in the 8th grade, back in 1958, made us read both. Even then I dismissed "1984" as nonsense, or retrospective on the Nazi and Stalin's regimes. But it had nothing to do with the future. Brave New World describes the future as it is now unfolding.

May. 14 2013 01:39 PM
Nick from UWS

"The future will have no hidden people. In fact, those who are not using technology will be held in suspicion."

And there you have it...the intention of an Orwellian police state, stated clear as day, straight from the mouth of Google. Let's not say we didn't have warning...he's saying it straight to our faces.

May. 14 2013 01:39 PM
Mike from Tribeca

I'm looking forward to the self-operating F train, but then again I like to live dangerously.

May. 14 2013 01:38 PM

Tony, it's just no use...

The plaque congealed long ago.

May. 14 2013 01:37 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Look, all these people want to do is sell us stuff! Nothing wrong with that, unless you get addicted to buying a lot of stuff, and getting into debt for things you really don't need. Otherwise, these people are harmless.

P.S., I think the driverless car is the best thing Google has ever done, IMHO.

May. 14 2013 01:36 PM
Tony from Canarsie

jgarbuz from Queens -- Considering your meandering comments below, it's ironic that you're calling George Orwell a writer of "cheap work."

May. 14 2013 01:34 PM


"Delete" is little more than an illusion, as ALL data is retained INDEFINITELY. Even when a user closes an account completely.

Respect for privacy? Transparency?

What is that old analogy, the lobster in the pot of slowly-heating water, or the frog in the jar, doesn't realize the danger until its too late?

That's what its like with Google, the way they lure people, dangling before them all these "FREE!" services with "cool", "amazing", "awesome" features...

But people eternally forget the timeless maxim, 'There's no free lunch'.

May. 14 2013 01:33 PM

...some folks are so incredibly creative!

May. 14 2013 01:31 PM
jgarbuz from Queens


What I want to know is, who controls your mind? Tell him to fix the controls.

May. 14 2013 01:29 PM

Make no mistake, this guy and the monster he represents seek to control your mind.

May. 14 2013 01:27 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

So, Leonard, how about video games? Why are they being ignored by old people? Is it because they don't know how to play them?

May. 14 2013 01:27 PM
jgarbuz from Queens


You're "Big Brother" or a big brother wannabe. Otherwise, there is no "Big Brother" except in fictional works, such as "1984" or other cheap works of dystopian entertainment, totalitarian states notwithstanding.

May. 14 2013 01:26 PM
Nick from UWS

His remarks about what people did before the internet expose his deep ignorance about anything other than himself and his own infantile ideas, despite his claim that Google and such things will make obsolete older forms of education. This guy himself is the worst advertisement possible for the "digital age."

May. 14 2013 01:25 PM
John A

FOIA laws for a person to inspect his own online data.
Online is a state. It will need government, law enforcement, ambassadors, the works.

May. 14 2013 01:25 PM

"Who will be more powerful in the future, the citizen or the state?"

It's pretty clear that the Korporation™ will be omnipotent.

May. 14 2013 01:24 PM
William from Manhattan

Mr Cohen is answering every question about corporate accountability regarding critical issues of privacy etc, with the same talking point: "Trust Us." If you had the chair of ExxonMobil on the show, that answer would not be accepted. Why give Google a pass?

May. 14 2013 01:24 PM
Tony from Canarsie

In the future, will all words end with "ivity"?

May. 14 2013 01:23 PM

Google® is a key component of the Brave New World.

The network of 24/7 Big Brother surveillance machine.

May. 14 2013 01:21 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Could you ask your guests about an important digital technology called "video games." Do they have any experience or opinions about that important and emerging interactive medium?

May. 14 2013 01:21 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Great questions for this cyborg, Leonard.

May. 14 2013 01:21 PM
Nick from UWS

This guy's struggle to cast the fascism of Google in a positive humanistic light is no different than listening to a rep from Monsanto.

May. 14 2013 01:21 PM

Please tell this pompous guy that people used to write letters to express themselves, not throw shoes at TVs.

May. 14 2013 01:21 PM
john from office

People will use all this tech to watch cat videos, hear rap songs and chat. And of course Porn.

May. 14 2013 01:18 PM
Nick from UWS

This guy's megalomanic zeal from being in close proximity to the center of Google is obvious. It's a shame how his humanity has been destroyed by becoming a Google soldier...another life wasted and useless.

May. 14 2013 01:18 PM
Tony from Canarsie

One person's interconnected individual is another's online troll.

May. 14 2013 01:18 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Actual reality that surrounds you will decrease in importance, as the virtual universe expands to encompass all of us no matter where we live. Already, we can "travel" anywhere virtually, through movies and through virtual reality video games. We don't have to go anywhere. We can get goods delivered to us from anywhere. Increasingly we can "work" from home. As time goes on, location will mean nothing. Wherever we are physically located, we will be able to do and see and experience whatever we want virtually.

May. 14 2013 01:12 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Virtual reality will be the only reality by the latter part of this century, and each individual will be able to create and alter it to his or her own specifications.

May. 14 2013 12:26 PM
John A

Obsession with the size of government masks the largest problem:
Who will be more powerful in the future, the citizen, the state, or the corporation?

May. 14 2013 10:47 AM

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