Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt: Just Say Yes at Stanford GSB (Full Transcript)

Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt

Here is the full transcript of Alphabet’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt’s talk titled “Just Say Yes” at Stanford GSB…This event took place on Monday, April 24, 2017.


Eric Schmidt – Executive Chairman, Alphabet

It’s great to be back wearing my, almost, Stanford red, and I’m excited for you all to graduate. And I’m excited for the first year to make it to the second year, and it’s just wonderful to be here.

I will tell you that in the 14 years I’ve been teaching here, the faculty, I think, has been pretty much the same, and the students just are getting more impressive. All right, so you really are the best, and my guess is that 10 years from now, the students will be even stronger. That’s extraordinary, the statement of what Stanford has been able to do.

What I wanted to do was talk for a few minutes about the age that we’re in and the age we’re going to. And then I thought, since I’ve been here so long and because we talk a lot about these things, talk a little bit about sort of life advice, some of things that we talk about in our class.

And maybe you can debate and disagree or agree on this or anything else, or, perhaps, present your latest startup idea and see how well you do in front of your peers. I’m convinced that we’re actually entering an age of abundance, and that age of abundance is defined by too much information, right?

The first thing was turn off your Twitter feed so that you could actually focus on something. Whenever people say, turn off your phone, I always say, don’t turn off your phone, we’re in the phone business, you get the idea. We clearly have too much food, right, the world is not only capable of feeding itself, but in fact obesity and weight gain, and so forth are becoming major healthcare issues around the world. There are startups and industrial processes that will solve many of the housing problems we have worldwide, and we’re going to have abundant housing, of relatively high quality.

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And it looks like we’re going to have pretty ubiquitous transportation, as a service, high quality also, as well. So a lot of the things that we’ve talked about, as we arrive in this age of abundance, look pretty good. But at the same time, it’s pretty clear to me that while we’re going to have the sort of material things in great supply, we’re still going to have religious, nationalistic, and personal conflicts to look forward to.

All right, I think that’s the reality, all right, and speaking as your local technology optimist, we haven’t been able to quite fix those problems yet. People, too much in others’ worlds, too much regulation, too much anxiety, a loss of egalitarianism.

We’ve sort of forgotten the benefits of integration and tolerance. All right, we seem to be sort of backtracking on some of the core values that have gotten us to this august state that Stanford and we all are here today. And it’s funny when you look back at the election, who would have thought that the KGB would be back, through Twitter and Facebook? I mean, that’s not the prediction we made a year ago here at the school, right, and yet it’s very real, so how are we going to react to this?

Are we going to react to this in terms of regulation and suppression, and so forth? Are we going to end up in the equivalent of suburban cul de sacs that are highly protected from this abundance? How are we going to sort this out? I don’t think society has figured this out. The principles that I’ve been operating under, which I would encourage you to operate under, are personal freedom and economic freedom, all right.

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