TED Talk: Charlie Rose Interviews Google’s Larry Page

This is quite a special TED talk, in which Charlie Rose interviews Google’s 40-year-old CEO, Larry Page.

I’ll highlight some of what they talked about in a few paragraphs, and then, the 23-minute talk is below.

Page says that “we are still in the very early stages of searching for information” and that “computing is ‘kind of a mess’” so he’s still very interested in the search process of finding the information that we as individuals are looking for, and to “have computing understand ‘you’.”

They discussed Google’s recent acquisition, DeepMind. Page said that voice, youtube, and video games are important, demonstrating that computers can learn from youtube enough to draw a cat from what they’ve learned, for example, and that a boxing video game shows that computers have become super-human, which can have real, useful applications. (!!!)

They talked about crossing the boundaries of computer science with neuroscience.

Page included quite a nice video segment of a farmer in Kenya who was losing his potato crop. He went to his local (dilapidated) cyber cafe to search potato diseases on the internet, which gave him hope. He uses the internet to help people, searching for a better life. He posts what he learns on a wooden notice board so its available to the “grandmothers”, too. “It is how we use it that will define us,” he said.

Because two-thirds of the people in the world still don’t have good access to the internet, Page is looking into using balloons to get access points up cheaply, saying “we can build a world wide mesh of these balloons that can kind of cover the whole planet.” Then, technology can show the way to change the world.

I liked how he explained several times during the interview how he, himself, had learned of the technology which he described through his own internet searches.

They had a discussion about security and privacy, the government, medical records, and providing people with choice, mentioning the use of the incognito mode in Chrome, for example.

Next, the conversation moved to transportation. He explained what led him to his interest in automated transportation: for safety reasons; and, for space-saving reasons (LosAngeles is half parking lots and roads and most cities are not far behind and this is a crazy way to use our space). He wants this to happen quickly, and thinks it’s possible, saying that they’ve driven 100,000 miles automated, now. BUT, he also loves bicycles, and all Google employees have access to free bicycles. He thinks someday bicycle travel might be efficiently placed above the street traffic.

Page likes the word additionality, an economic concept.

Additionality: Net positive difference that results from economic development intervention. The extent to which an activity (and associated outputs, outcomes and impacts) is larger in scale, at a higher quality, takes place quicker, takes place at a different location, or takes place at all as a result of intervention. Additionality measures the net result, taking account of deadweight, leakage, displacement, substitution and economic multipliers. (source: wikipedia)

He says that the more you learn about technology, the more you learn what’s possible, but that invention is not enough, we need implementation.

He’s dismayed that so many people think that companies are evil, saying that corporations are an agent of change if they’re run well, and, that “we need revolutionary change, not incremental change.”

To close, Rose asked Page what he asks in all of his interviews, “What state of mind has served you best, or, what quality in you has enabled you to think about the future and at the same time change the present?”

Page answered by saying that he’s looked at what companies do wrong, and found that more companies are failing today, because “they’ve missed the future.” So for me, I just focus on “what is the future really going to be, and how do we create it” and then I cause our organization to focus on that.

IEA: World Water Day Awareness of Water Use in Energy Production

“Water availability is a growing concern for energy, and assessing the energy sector’s use of water is important in an increasingly water-constrained world” —IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven

Tomorrow is officially designated “World Water Day” and this week, the IEA has been trying to raise awareness about the amount of water used to produce energy – on Twitter. The chart below is from the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2012 PDF “Water for Energy – Is Energy Becoming a Thirstier Resource?

Please take note of the fact that the bottom half of the chart relates to water requirements for producing biofuels, and also note the differences between the various biofuels water requirements. Especially, note the minimum for each biofuel, which is defined as “non-irrigated crops whose only water requirements are for processing into fuels.” (This chart should also help drive home the fact that using irrigated corn to produce ethanol is highly irrational and wastes a precious resource, something that should be corrected by policy – now.)

To follow, are some of the IEA’s tweets (and facts from the PDF linked above), (rewritten for clarity), that contain some very interesting statistics about water use in energy production:

It can take nearly 60 gallons of water to power a 60-Watt incandescent light bulb for 12 hours.

154.3 trillion gallons of freshwater are used in energy production per year.

Water requires energy, and energy requires water: Each kilowatt hour of electricity requires the withdrawal of approximately 25 gallons of water.

Energy depends on water for power generation, extraction, transport and processing of fossil fuels, and irrigation of biofuels feedstock crops.

Energy accounts for 15% of global water usage, and will consume ever more through 2035.

Global water withdrawals for energy production in 2010 were estimated at 583 billion cubic metres (bcm), or some 15% of the world’s total water withdrawals. Of that, water consumption – the volume withdrawn but not returned to its source – was 66 bcm. In the New Policies Scenario, withdrawals increase by about 20% between 2010 and 2035, but consumption rises by a more dramatic 85%. These trends are driven by a shift towards higher efficiency power plants with more advanced cooling systems (that reduce withdrawals but increase consumption per unit of electricity produced) and by expanding biofuels production. (source: PDF)

So, as we can see, the IEA’s anticipated increase in biofuels production between 2010 and 2035 accounts for a large share of the anticipated increased demand for water used to produce energy.

In the energy-food-water nexus, water is the member of that threesome that is increasingly grabbing the headlines. And, in my opinion, a more accurate description of the problem we face would be the energy-food-water-biofuels nexus.

(IEA’s Twitter Feed)