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Facebook and Google Generation; Highlights from Dr. Eric Schmidt’s Carnegie Mellon University Commencement Address – Spring 2009

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Dr. Eric Schmidt

While I was searching through in the internet yesterday, I came across an interesting piece of speech by Dr. Eric Schmidt – Executive Chairman, Google Inc. It stroked me most, because the speech was about us – ‘Facebook and Google Generation’ (Hereafter will be referred to as ‘F&G Generation’). F&G Generation is the generation I belong to. I wanted to share the highlights, because that is the generation my friends at uni, school, office, etc belong to.  Here are some of the highlights of his speech.

I watched a few other commencement addresses done by Dr. Eric Schmidt in various top universities, such as University of California, Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania, Boston University. I selected Carnegie Mellon University commencement address because, it was the shortest and it was the sweetest. In all the commencement addresses I saw one common thing. That is at the start of each speech Dr. Eric stated the importance of the university to USA and to the world. He speaks a bit about the contribution these universities have done for the betterment and advancement of mankind. He spoke about transistor, Bell Labs, William Shokley, Robert Noyce, Sillicon Valley, etc according to the situation. In other words he highlighted the importance of University – industry collaboration at the beginning of each speech.

So when I think about you all, I think about you as the Facebook and the Google generation, the first generation that really grew up with the Internet. When I grew up, you know, we had Tang, you had Red Bull. We used a program that was called basic, you all used Java. We had VCRs that held a half an hour of video that cost $700, and you all can upload 15 hours of video in to You Tube every minute.  We got our news from newspapers, you get yours from blogs and tweets.  And for those of you who don’t know, that’s not what you hear in zoos.  We stood in line to buy Pong, you stood in line to buy Wiis.  We just didn’t tell anyone about our most embarrassing moments, you record them and post them to Facebook and You Tube every day.  I am so happy that my record of my misachievements is not around for posterity.  I’m looking forward to yours being there for many, many years.

Above quote shows the significant difference which has taken place over last 30 years. For us it might not be a significant difference. But believe me, this is an unbelievable difference for your parents. Sometimes my father becomes furious when the sound ‘clog’ comes out of my laptop when a friend send me a chat message in facebook. Advancements happened in Telecommunications is one major factor for the rise of F&G generation. Telecommunications has made sure that F&G generation have access to internet via his/her smart phone, tablet, laptop, etc. In Sri Lanka mobile service providers have done a tremendous job in making sure that F&G generation in Sri Lanka get high quality data services. They have developed their products according to the requirements of the customers. I saw some recent advertisements of Dialog and Mobitel, promoting a package specially designed for youtube and facebook users. This is a fantastic thing, because these things weren’t happening 5 years back. I’m using a Dialog data connection and I have the luxury of using free Gmail, Google+ and Google Search services via my smart phone by logging into dialog.freezone.lk. However, at the end of the day customers are benefiting, because of the competition between operators.

Did you know that we use mainframe computers with 300 megabytes of storage to go to the moon six times?  Your iPods, 120 gigabytes have 500 times more just to get you to your next class.  We thought friend is a noun, right, you think it’s a verb.  We had phone booths, anybody seen a phone booth recently?  You have cell phones. We wore watches, took pictures with cameras, navigate with maps, and listened to transistor radios.  You have a cell phone. We thought that the marvels of computers and technology again, largely invented here, would change the world.  You agree, and we’re both right.”

Everything has got miniaturized. Today a Samsung S4 or an Apple iPhone 5 could do almost everything you did with several equipments few years back. I don’t have a Samsung Galaxy S4 or an Apple iPhone 5. I have an Android smart phone which I bought recently (Dialog i43) for Rs. 16000. I feel like, I bought a TV, a Radio, A Camera, a Kindle, etc for Rs. 16000. Competition among smart phone vendors has done wonders when considering the features latest smart phones have. Android OS is another factor which has revolutionized the smart phone industry.

So what can we do with a vastly more powerful Web?  Right, the Web of information that comprises all of what we know. You can obviously have face-to-face meetings with colleagues around the world, but more importantly now we can do dynamic translations so we can translate between languages so you could actually understand.  You’re traveling in Mongolia and you’re on a motorcycle — many of you will do this right after you graduate, right, to get away — and you have an accident, and you can actually have a doctor consult with you around the world and they can translate and provide you the healthcare that you need.  These are very real wins.

Here Dr. Eric speaks about the applications available to F&G generation. There are millions of them at the moment in cyber space. According to the requirement anyone can download apps. What you need is a data connection which would connect you to the internet. Dr. Eric speaks about face-to-face meetings with colleagues around the world. Why does F&G generation want online conferencing?  In some parts of the world it is used mostly for fun. But in some parts it is used for things such as discussing about a start-up (may be talking about strategic plans), about a requirement given by a client to a newly formed start-up by a group of people belong to F&G generation. Actually speaking, after I bought the smart phone I rarely used my laptop to connect with my friends via facebook, skype, etc. That is because, using apps is more convenient. But when app usage goes high it would be quite a big challenge to maintain the same service levels. They will have to expand the capacity of their networks. In Sri Lanka also smart phone penetration continuously keeps on growing. So telecom service providers might have to expect some difficult times ahead I guess.

At the end of each speech Dr. Eric reminded everyone about the importance of being simple and humble in order to become successful. As the last words of his speech Dr. Eric Schmidt reminds a very important thing to F&G generation “always remember to be nice to your parents and true to your school”.