AAAS Larry Page, the most reclusive of Google's ruling triumvirate gave a rare public speech at the AAAS meeting in San Francisco on Friday. During an hour long session he revealed an instinctive allergy to the firm's political significance.
Presumably referring to his firm's cooperation with the Chinese regime's censoring of the web, Page said: "We've tried to step back a little bit and say 'what ever information's out there we're going to make available'. There's governments and other people that restrict various kinds of things and we just try and stay out of it."
He didn't repeat co-founder Sergey Brin's comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the decision to cooperate with Bejing had been a "net negative" for the business.
Questioned about Google Earth, Page washed Google's hands of recent controversies surrounding images of military bases in Iraq. Complaints about data are dealt with by Google's satellite imaging contractors, he said, Google Earth just publishes what it is given.
That doesn't seem to square with a Google spokesman, who when questioned on British army concerns about bases in Basra, said: "Of course we are always ready to listen to governments' requests. We have opened channels with the military in Iraq but we are not prepared to discuss what we have discussed with them. But we do listen and we are sensitive to requests."
However, in an ambitiously broad speech, Page felt able to give his thoughts on most of the ailments of the geopolitical scene in 2007, including:
Education: sounds like high school pretty much sucked
Transport: current most advanced form of transport: the elevator
Nuclear power: solar is better
*** the three letter most popular search word on Google, though Page was too demure to utter it. Answers on a postcard.
Video of the session is here (Real player required). ®
There was some skepticism of Page's green credentials from the audience, with one questioner asking if he had travelled to the conference by public transport. The answer was "no", and several scientists The Register spoke to poured scorn on Page and Brin for their recent joint purchase of a Boeing 737. As an X-Prize trustee, Page is also an advocate of that most carbon-sensitive of holiday choices: Earth orbit.