Former vice president of the United States and Nobel Prize recipient Al Gore was the headline speaker at the first-ever Connect 2016 conference in San Francisco yesterday and he had plenty to say about the current state of technology, U.S.-China relations, and of course, climate change.
The conference, organized and hosted by Cheetah Mobile (a Chinese mobile Internet company headquartered in Beijing), gave the former presidential candidate a major portion of the morning agenda to offer his views on a wide range of subjects. Gore opened by praising the Paris accords with China on climate change that were finalized last month.
“It has now created a new sense of hope that we have a realistic opportunity to solve the climate crisis,” said Gore.
The former vice president was also noticeably upbeat about the state of relations between the U.S. and China, despite recent tensions over unofficial reports that a massive theft of government agency files was led by Chinese state-sponsored hackers. “Overall, I think it’s a relationship that’s good and improving,” said Gore.
Despite speculation in recent months that Moore’s Law (the expectation that computer processing power will double every two years) was slowing down, Gore offered his belief that would not happen anytime soon. “My own bet is that it will continue,” said Gore.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner based his opinion on continued advances in smartphone technology that are driving Internet connectivity with such impact that it has transcended human thought across the world. “We are connecting to the global mind on a regular basis,” said Gore.
In a question and answer session following his remarks with Cheetah Mobile CEO Sheng Fu, Gore drew the line at the possibility that the Internet could even ultimately replace government. “You do not want to be governed by a cat video,” said the former senator and U.S. vice president.
The Connect conference yesterday was also noteworthy for two intriguing presentations delivered by top executives from Facebook and Yahoo. David Baser, head of monetization products for Facebook, provided a concise description of the social media giant’s focus on providing services for growing mobile businesses.
Facebook’s work in this area is especially significant because of data, referenced by Baser in his presentation, which shows that 85% of U.S. consumers’ time on their smartphones is currently spent using only five apps (hint: Facebook is one of them). His company has a nearly unchallenged marketing opportunity to deliver a huge captive audience for mobile businesses, large and small.
The company has worked hard to streamline the process for business owners. Business pages can now be set up on Facebook entirely from a mobile phone.
Facebook has also worked hard to integrate its popular messaging platform into the business page as well. According to Baser, if Facebook’s data shows that a certain business replies to at least 90% of its messages in an average of five minutes or less, they’ll receive a green “thumbs up” banner labeling them as “very responsive” to messages.
“We want businesses to find it easy to use messages to communicate,” said Baser.
The other key technology worth watching in the connected mobile world is the continued evolution of search. As Yahoo’s vice president of search products Andre Vanier told attendees, the most important thing in today’s mobile world is “to get what you want faster.”
This can be a challenging problem and the solution, as we’ve seen so far, has been to simply bring over the same looking search functions we’ve come to know and love in the desktop to our smartphone device. But that search landscape is changing thanks to messaging and apps which increasingly are coming to the smartphone platform with search already built-in. Just ask Siri.
And Vanier points out that as mobile technology with the ability to learn our habits and retain information continues to advance, the need for search will lessen. This can be found in driving directions, for example, where positioning technology inside our phone pinpoints current location and will offer recommended routes before we can type the search command.
“Search is becoming a way of providing information before you even ask for it,” said Vanier.
In his closing remarks yesterday, former vice president Gore called on the audience to “think beyond yourselves and the commercial opportunities you are pursuing.” Based on the conference presentations from Cheetah, Facebook, and Yahoo which outlined enormous business potential in the connected mobile world, that may well be the most significant challenge of all.