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商业 - 科技 - 头脑风暴大会

谷歌、贝宝高管激辩“科技是否改变生活”

Miguel Helft 2012年07月19日

谷歌执行总裁埃里克•施密特和贝宝联合创始人彼得•泰尔这两位硅谷最聪明的人就“科技是否改变生活”展开了针锋相对的辩论。

    过去30年间,技术改善了我们的生活吗?答案取决于你问的对象是谁,因为硅谷一些名流对这个问题的看法堪称争锋相对。

    谷歌(Google)执行总裁埃里克•施密特就认为,技术扮演了非常积极的角色,帮助20亿人脱离了贫困,使地球上所有人都能获得之前只有小部分人才能获得的重要信息。他说,将来发达国家的人们预计将拥有“很长的寿命和非常富有成效的生活”。他还补充说,对于发展中国家的人们而言,“世界也将变得更美好”。

    然而,贝宝(PayPal)联合创始人彼得•泰尔却反驳说:“我觉得你为谷歌做了个很好的广告。”泰尔是硅谷最成功的投资者之一。

    泰尔与施密特之间的这场辩论发生在《财富》杂志(Fortne)在美国科罗拉多州阿斯彭举办技术头脑风暴会议期间的一场晚宴上。泰尔认为技术是唯一能改善人们生活的力量,但是却没有做到这一点。泰尔说,过去30年间,工资水平停滞不前,我们遭受了“能源创新的灾难性失败”,狭窄技术领域中取得的进展并没有转化成大众的福利。

    泰尔 将过去30年与之前的40年进行对比,认为之前的40年间工资大幅上涨,汽车、航空、超音速喷气机和电脑方面的创新都获得了飞跃发展,而且切实改善了人们的生活。

    两位高管的辩论多次变得激烈,两人几乎找不到一致的观点。泰尔认为我们未能将绿色革命中粮食生产的成果持续下去,所以粮食价格上涨,从而引起“阿拉伯之春”。施密特则认为粮食价格上涨是由于政府误导性的粮食政策,而“阿拉伯之春”主要是人们对暴虐政权忍无可忍的结果。(他们只有一个问题达成了共识,即社会媒体在使该地区剧烈动荡的起义中只起到了很小的作用。)施密特认为由于人口老龄化问题,政府承担了过多不可持续的福利项目。泰尔却认为不存在人口问题。

    但两人确实都认为政府已经破产,但对于背后的原因仍各持己见。泰尔着重批判高等教育费用急剧上涨。他认为上大学让学生欠下堆积如山的债务,却没有给予学生更大的回报前景。泰尔认为高等教育就是“教育泡沫”,“教育债务正在将整整一代人变成受契约约束的仆人”。

    两人的辩论以施密特的话结尾。他说:“按你的逻辑,接受高等教育的人会越来越少”。他又补充说:“维持竞争力的唯一途径就是接受更多的教育。”

    这次辩论究竟谁赢谁输,无法定论。但施密特最后一句话确实为他赢得了一轮掌声,这倒不稀奇。

    Has technology improved our lives over the past 30 years? It depends who you ask -- and some of Silicon Valley's biggest luminaries couldn't disagree more.

    According to Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google (GOOG), technology has had an overwhelmingly positive role, lifting some 2 billion people out of poverty and spreading access to vital information from a relative small number to virtually all the people on earth. Going forward, people in the developed world can expect to have "extraordinarily long lives that are very productive," he said. And for those in developing countries, "the world gets better too," he added.

    The retort from Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal (EBAY): "I think you do a fantastic job as Google's minister of propaganda." Thiel is one of the Valley's most successful investors.

    Thiel, who debated Schmidt during a dinner conversation at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado, said that technology is the only thing that could improve people's lives, but it hasn't. Over the past 30 years, Thiel argued, wages have stagnated, we suffered from a "catastrophic failure of energy innovation," and progress in narrow areas of technology has not translated into general wellbeing.

    Thiel contrasted the last 30 years with the prior 40, when wages rose dramatically, and innovation in cars, aeronautics, supersonic jets and computers delivered giant leaps that translated into improvements in the lives of people.

    There was little that the two executives could agree on during a debate that got heated at times. To Thiel, the Arab Spring was caused by rising food prices caused by our inability to sustain gains in food production from the green revolution. To Schmidt, food prices have risen, but only because of misguided food policies by governments, and the Arab Spring was largely the result of people being fed up with oppressive regimes. (They did agree that social media only played a marginal role in the uprisings that convulsed the region.) To Schmidt, government is burdened by entitlement programs that are unsustainable given the aging population. Thiel denied there was a demographic problem.

    The two did agree that government was broken, but not on what is ailing it. And Thiel was particularly critical of higher education, the costs of which have risen sharply. Universities, he said, have burdened students with mountains of debt and not given graduates significantly larger earning potential. "The debts being imposed on people linked to education are turning and an entire generation into something close to indentured servants," Thiel said, calling the problems with higher ed an "education bubble."

    Schmidt had the last word. "Through that logic, fewer people would get educated," Schmidt said. He added: "The only way to maintain competitiveness is to get more education."

    It's not clear who, if anyone, won the debate. But perhaps not surprisingly, Schmidt's last line earned him a round of applause.

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