This morning’s Observer column:
Three years ago, Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman (aka adult supervisor) of Google, spent some time in Cambridge as a visiting professor. He gave a number of lectures on his vision of what a comprehensively networked world would be like and then at the end took part in a symposium in which a number of academics commented on his ideas. As the discussion converged on the question of the new kinds of power wielded by the great internet companies, an increasingly puzzled look came over Schmidt’s countenance. Eventually the dam broke and he intervened in the debate to say that he had suddenly realised that the difference between Europe and America was that “in Europe, people tend to trust governments and are suspicious of companies, whereas in America it’s the other way around”.