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Google's Larry Page: DeepMind 'discovered CATS on its own'

Choc Factory chief talks at TED, 'disappointed' with NSA, says hi to robo-Snowden

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Google co-founder Larry Page has said he was "disappointed" with the US government after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed just how much the agency was snooping on everybody.

Charlie Rose (L) and Larry Page (R) at TED 2014 in Vancouver

Charlie Rose (L) and Larry Page (R) at TED 2014 in Vancouver. Credit: James Duncan Davidson

"It is disappointing that the government secretly did this stuff and didn't tell us about it," Page said on stage at the TED Conference.

"It is not possible to have a democracy if we have to protect our users from the government. The government has done itself a tremendous disservice and we need to have a debate about it."

Snowden had appeared at the same TED Conference in Vancouver yesterday via video link and chatted with Sir Tim Berners-Lee about the internet bill of rights they propose, a kind of Magna Carta for the web.

Page's co-founding buddy Sergey Brin was photographed "meeting" robo-Snowden - the video link on a remote control robotic screen - later in the show.

Today, a federal judge in San Francisco extended a nationwide order blocking the NSA from destroying telephone surveillance records it collected over five years ago. The order is in connection with an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against the agency.

Page said he didn't want the backlash over the NSA to lead to too many restrictions in the name of privacy, since he still advocates for open data, particularly in light of the problems he's had with his voice.

"I’m worried about throwing the baby out with the bathwater," he said. "When I lost my voice I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone’s medical conditions were available anonymously to medical doctors? You could see what doctors accessed it and why, and learn more about conditions you have.

"I was scared to share this voice stuff, but Sergey persuaded me, and it’s been really positive. I got all this information, I got a survey done, got medical conditions from people with similar issues. We’re not thinking about the tremendous good that could come from sharing the right information with the right people in the right ways," he added.

Page also talked about why Google decided to slurp British AI firm DeepMind.

"Voice recognition is important. Right now even state-of-the-art speech recognition is not very good. It doesn’t understand you," he explained.

"So we ran machine learning on YouTube, and DeepMind discovered cats on its own. DeepMind started playing video games and learning automatically. The same program can play all these games [like Battlezone, Pong, Demon Attack] with superhuman performance. Imagine if this kind of intelligence were thrown at your schedule, your information needs. That’s what I’m excited about."

Page also said that he thought the reason that Google succeeds is because unlike other firms, they think about the future.

"I try to focus on that: What is the future really going to be? And how do we create it? And how do we power our organisation to really focus on that and really drive it at a high rate?" he said.

"When I was working on Android, I felt guilty. It wasn’t what we were working on, it was a start-up, and I felt guilty. That was stupid! It was the future." ®

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