Some of the biggest names in the technology industry are among the guests at the 61st annual meeting of the Bilderberg Group – a secretive talking shop for the top echelons of business and politics or a shadowy cabal seeking to rule the world, depending on whom you believe.
Eric Schmidt, making his fourth trip, will represent Google as the group meets at the Grove Hotel in Watford, UK. Another old conference hand, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, will also be there. Craig Mundie, formerly Microsoft CTO and now Ballmer's special advisor, is on the guest list, as is PayPal-founder and Facebook-backer Peter Thiel and online activist Lawrence Lessig.
Technology issues are on the agenda, according to the organization's press release. Among the 12 topics for discussion over the three days of the conference: "How big data is changing almost everything", "Cyber warfare and the proliferation of asymmetric threats", and "Online education: promise and impacts".
Also on the 140-person guest list is the head of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, president of European Commission José Barroso, government bigwigs from across Europe and the US (including long-time attendee Henry Kissinger), the heads of financial, manufacturing, and media companies in the US and Europe, and a light smattering of journalists, all of whom have been sworn to secrecy.
Secret rulers of the world?
The Bilderberg Group takes its name from the hotel used for the first meeting back in 1954. The group was set up by European and US statesman as a confidential conference for the great and the good to discuss world issues candidly and openly.
The conference is hosted in a different venue each year in a quiet five-star hotel with good security and attached golfing facilities. Attendees are encouraged to speak their minds and are forbidden to discuss conversations in the conference with outsiders. This year's conference even has a no-fly zone set up over the hotel's grounds.
For years the group met behind closed doors and its existence wasn't mentioned in the mainstream media. But with the increase in information from internet communications, the news of the get-togethers got out and conspiracy groups got interested, not least because of the august attendee roll.
Former British professional footballer and now conspiracy-theory loon David Icke claims that Bilderbergers have created genetically-engineered blood lines of people to run the world as the captains of industry and use 3D projections to manipulate human perception and emotions. He also claims many are 12-foot, blood-drinking, shape-shifting lizards.
It has also been reported (correctly) that presidents Clinton, Bush the Second, and Obama all attended conferences before they were elected, as were British prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.
This is taken by some as proof that the group picked them for their roles, but Bilderberg founder and British cabinet minister Dennis Healey said that invitations are simply issued to people who show potential.
In an interview with journalist Jon Ronson for the documentary "Secret Rulers of the World", Healey said that the group was set up to allow people at the top of their respective fields to discuss world issues, and while attendance does give the advantage of networking, it's not a sinister cabal set on world domination.
"To say we were striving for a one-world government is exaggerated, but not wholly unfair," he said. "Those of us in Bilderberg felt we couldn't go on forever fighting one another for nothing and killing people and rendering millions homeless. So we felt that a single community throughout the world would be a good thing." ®