Saturday, April 20, 2013

Transcript reveals secret meeting between Google's Eric Schmidt, Wikileaks' Julian Assange

A newly released transcript, published early Friday by Wikileaks, shows that Google Chairman Eric Schmidt met with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on June 23, 2011 for five hours, discussing topics to be used in Schmidt's upcoming book, The New Digital Age, which will be released on Tuesday.

Also in attendance was Jared Cohen, Schmidt's co-author and a former Secretary of State advisor to Hillary Clinton, along with Lisa Shields of the Council for Foreign Relations.

On the transcript, among the first statements Assange makes -- on tape -- is:
I have been given a guarantee that I will see the transcript and will be able to adjust it for accuracy and clarity.
Rest assured that Assange was taking every precaution to ensure any information in the transcript was accurate.

The discussion ranged far and wide, from topics as diverse as Tor to Bitcoin (which Assange had to explain to Schmidt) to the Patriot Act. Some selected tidbits:

When asked about why he created WikiLeaks, Assange said he did so in response to what he saw as too many "unjust acts."
JA: Let me first frame this. I looked at something that I had seen going on with the world. Which is that I thought there were too many unjust acts. [...]

And I wanted there to be more just acts, and fewer unjust acts. And one can sort of say, well what are your philosophical axioms for this? And I say I do not need to consider them. This is simply my temperament. And it is an axiom because it is that way. And so that avoids, then, getting into further unhelpful discussions about why you want to do something. It is enough that I do. So in considering how unjust acts are caused and what tends to promote them and what promotes just acts I saw that human beings are basically invariant.
Regarding Bitcoin:
JA: On the publishing end, the magnet links and so on are starting to come up. There's also a very nice little paper that I've seen in relation to Bitcoin, that... you know about Bitcoin?

ES: No.

JA: Okay, Bitcoin is something that evolved out of the cypherpunks a couple of years ago, and it is an alternative... it is a stateless currency.

JC: Yeah, I was reading about this just yesterday.

JA: And very important, actually. It has a few problems. But its innovations exceed its problems. Now there has been innovations along these lines in many different paths of digital currencies, anonymous, untraceable etc. People have been experimenting with over the past 20 years. The Bitcoin actually has the balance and incentives right, and that is why it is starting to take off.
The Patriot Act and a possible leak from Google:
JA: We wouldn't mind a leak from Google, which would be, I think probably all the PATRIOT Act requests.

SC: Which would be [whispers:] illegal. [stunned chuckles]

JA: Well, depends on the jurisdiction, da da da da.

SC: We are a US...

JA: There's higher laws. There's higher laws. First Amendment and you know.

ES: I've actually spent quite a bit of time on this question. Because I am in great trouble because I have given a series of criticisms about PATRIOT 1 and PATRIOT 2. Because I think they're... because they're non transparent. You know, because the judge's orders are hidden and so on. And the answer... the answer is that the laws are quite clear about Google and the US. We couldn't do it. It would be illegal.
The blurb at Amazon.com mentions Assange, but not the extent of his involvement in the book, saying:
In an unparalleled collaboration, two leading global thinkers in technology and foreign affairs give us their widely anticipated, transformational vision of the future: a world where everyone is connected—a world full of challenges and benefits that are ours to meet and to harness.

Eric Schmidt is one of Silicon Valley’s great leaders, having taken Google from a small startup to one of the world’s most influential companies. Jared Cohen is the director of Google Ideas and a former adviser to secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. With their combined knowledge and experiences, the authors are uniquely positioned to take on some of the toughest questions about our future: Who will be more powerful in the future, the citizen or the state? Will technology make terrorism easier or harder to carry out? What is the relationship between privacy and security, and how much will we have to give up to be part of the new digital age?

In this groundbreaking book, Schmidt and Cohen combine observation and insight to outline the promise and peril awaiting us in the coming decades. At once pragmatic and inspirational, this is a forward-thinking account of where our world is headed and what this means for people, states and businesses.

With the confidence and clarity of visionaries, Schmidt and Cohen illustrate just how much we have to look forward to—and beware of—as the greatest information and technology revolution in human history continues to evolve. On individual, community and state levels, across every geographical and socioeconomic spectrum, they reveal the dramatic developments—good and bad—that will transform both our everyday lives and our understanding of self and society, as technology advances and our virtual identities become more and more fundamentally real.

As Schmidt and Cohen’s nuanced vision of the near future unfolds, an urban professional takes his driverless car to work, attends meetings via hologram and dispenses housekeeping robots by voice; a Congolese fisherwoman uses her smart phone to monitor market demand and coordinate sales (saving on costly refrigeration and preventing overfishing); the potential arises for “virtual statehood” and “Internet asylum” to liberate political dissidents and oppressed minorities, but also for tech-savvy autocracies (and perhaps democracies) to exploit their citizens’ mobile devices for ever more ubiquitous surveillance. Along the way, we meet a cadre of international figures—including Julian Assange—who explain their own visions of our technology-saturated future.

Inspiring, provocative and absorbing, "The New Digital Age" is a brilliant analysis of how our hyper-connected world will soon look, from two of our most prescient and informed public thinkers.
The book will be released on April 23; the full transcript can be read at Wikileaks.org.



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