We’ve consumed and shared a lot of information over the last several decades, thanks to the global connectivity offered by the Internet.
But former Google CEO Eric Schmidt believes that the Internet will soon split in two distinct versions, one of which will be a more controlled Chinese iteration.
Schmidt made the statement at a private event in San Francisco on Sept. 19. The event, reported by CNBC, was organized by Village Global VC, an investment firm that invests Alphabet’s money in startup companies.
Schmidt shared his thoughts when economist Tyler Cowen asked him about the possibility of the Internet splitting into multiple network with different regulations within the next decade or so.
“What’s the chance, say, 10 to 15 years, we have just three to four separate internets?” Cowen asked.
Here’s what Schmidt had to say:
I think the most likely scenario now is not a splintering, but rather a bifurcation into a Chinese-led internet and a non-Chinese internet led by America.
If you look at China, and I was just there, the scale of the companies that are being built, the services being built, the wealth that is being created is phenomenal. Chinese Internet is a greater percentage of the GDP of China, which is a big number, than the same percentage of the US, which is also a big number.
If you think of China as like ‘Oh yeah, they’re good with the Internet,’ you’re missing the point. Globalization means that they get to play too. I think you’re going to see fantastic leadership in products and services from China. There’s a real danger that along with those products and services comes a different leadership regime from government, with censorship, controls, etc.
Current Google leadership thinks different
Schmidt’s views differ from that of his successor at Google, the current CEO Sundar Pichai. Under Pichai’s leadership, the company has reportedly been developing a censored version of its search engine called “Project Dragonfly.”
The cagey project is said to include means to suppress certain search results. It’s even alleged to let authorities block search results for sensitive queries.