Google Chairman Eric Schmidt Plays Not My Job

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The Executive Chairman of Google joins us and insists he doesn't already know everything about us. Originally broadcast May 11, 2013.

BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME, NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. And here is your host at the Nourse Theatre in San Francisco, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, Bill. Thanks so much.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: So this is our Summer Jobs show. We've done rock 'n roll. We've done petty crime, but wouldn't it be cool, just for a summer, to be an Internet tycoon?

KURTIS: Well, if I had the job, I'd get a really big jet to carry my little jet around when it got tired.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: We're not sure if that's how Eric Schmidt rolls Now, when the CEO of Google appeared on our show in May of 2013, we asked him about how much Google really knows about all of the people who use it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

ERIC SCHMIDT: Well, as much as you'll let us know. We keep information about your searches for 12 to 18 months, and then we forget everything.

SAGAL: Really?

SCHMIDT: Yes, really.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: If you wanted to, could you just flip a switch on your office computer and just, like, read my emails just for the hell of it?

SCHMIDT: Yes, and I would lose my job, be fired, and be sued to death.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: If you admitted it.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: Someone would find out, trust me.

SAGAL: Really?

SCHMIDT: Yes.

SAGAL: Because they'd Google you, and they'd find out.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So your story is is that Google, as we know, was founded by these two grad students at Stanford who came up with this search thing. They were very young men at the time, and they founded this company, and you were brought in to provide adult supervision, as they said in the day. Is that about right?

SCHMIDT: That's roughly right.

SAGAL: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And so, what was Google like as a company when you showed up?

SCHMIDT: Well, extraordinarily smart people and very young and very crazy.

SAGAL: Really?

SCHMIDT: But we had lots of great benefits, you know, people rollerblading down the hall. That sort of thing. But extraordinary insight into technology. I don't think there's been such an assemblage of people for a long time. It's a new generation. Now, of course, Larry, one of the founders, runs the company. Sergey is busy inventing the future, and the boys grew up.

SAGAL: Really? So what was it like, I mean, what did you have to teach them to do? Like, guys, you're going to have to wear pants to work. I'm sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: Well, we actually had to have a rule, we had to have two rules. The first rule - these are both rules I enacted. The first is that you had to wear clothes to work.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really?

SCHMIDT: We do have a dress code.

SAGAL: Wait a minute. So what were - what were people - people were coming naked? What?

SCHMIDT: Let's just not get into the details except that we do have a dress code at Google. You have to wear clothes.

SAGAL: OK. I'm doing a Google image search - Google early days employee. Oh, my God.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: The first rule, you have to wear clothes. What's the second rule?

SCHMIDT: Well, the second rule is that you have to have fun. You can be serious without wearing a suit, and we wanted to invent the future.

SAGAL: Right. And you did, and here it is, and it's nice. I've been to the Googleplex, your headquarters in California, and it is amazing. There's volleyball pits, and there's an amazing cafeteria that has everything but a cash register. And there are classes all day - there's yoga, there's a ball pit. There's a ball pit for grown-ups. How does any work ever get done?

SCHMIDT: Free breakfast, lunch, and dinner, massages, you name it, bring your dog to work, bring your other pets. We had one employee decide that the policy allowed him to bring his boa constrictor to work.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: How'd that work out?

SCHMIDT: We have revised the policy that you have to wear clothes, and you do not bring your boa constrictor to work.

SAGAL: Really? That's in the rules now?

SCHMIDT: Boa constrictor.

CHARLIE PIERCE: On the other hand, it made the ball pit interesting.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Eric Schmidt, we're delighted to have you with us. We've invited you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Try Googling That, Big Shot.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: I am (unintelligible).

SAGAL: Google, as we know...

SCHMIDT: I've kept (unintelligible).

SAGAL: Yeah. It seems to find everything, so we're going to ask you about three things that cannot be found, at least as far as we know. Answer two questions correctly, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Bill, who...

SCHMIDT: There's nothing that cannot be found through some search engine or on the internet somewhere.

SAGAL: Oh, so you say, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So you say. Bill, who is Google chairman, Eric Schmidt, playing for?

KURTIS: Ashley Burden of Columbia, Missouri.

SAGAL: All right. Here's your first question, Eric. For more than a century, people have been looking for what in the deserts of Southern California - A, a fungus that can cure baldness; B, a treasure ship from the 19th century; or C, the real killers?

SCHMIDT: The fungus.

SAGAL: The fungus. Oh, from your mouth to god's ears, but actually, it's the treasure ship. For more than a century, there have been legends of a wooden ship filled with treasure somewhere in the desert south of the Salton Sea. How did it get there? They say a big wave somewhere.

SCHMIDT: By the way, am I supposed to be using Google during this thing or not?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, you've got it hardwired into your brain (unintelligible).

SCHMIDT: I've got a browser up here, I'm running Chrome, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: If I could just type your questions in, I'll get the answers right.

SAGAL: I don't know. Sometimes Chrome, you just end up with some strange site that doesn't help. Now I'm not saying - I don't mean that. I don't mean that.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Don't turn it off. This is a test of your knowledge, I'm just saying, not the world's knowledge, your knowledge. Next question, the town of Rennes-le-Chateau, France, because of an enduring mystery is regularly overrun by whom - A, people looking for Amelia Earhart; B, fans of The DaVinci Code; or C, mongooses?

SCHMIDT: The first one.

SAGAL: The first one, people looking for Amelia Earhart are going to Rennes-le-Chateau, France?

(LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: No, the third one.

SAGAL: The third one.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Mongooses?

SCHMIDT: Yes.

KURTIS: I'd go to that Chrome.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: I'm trying to type the question in you're asking me, so I need to use Google Voice Search here.

SAGAL: Do it. Actually, at this point, I think we best better let you use the crutch, so go on.

(LAUGHTER)

PIERCE: Rennes-le-Chateau.

SAGAL: Rennes-le-Chateau. We've never tried this. You're the chairman of Google, you get to use Google, go ahead, see if you can answer the question.

SCHMIDT: Um...

(LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: The pure society, the Free Masons, the (unintelligible), I mean, you know, there's lots of information here.

SAGAL: I know.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Meanwhile, we got Bill Gates on the other line. He used Bing, and he got it.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: He's waiting to win. I'm kidding, I'm kidding. So all right. So what do you think?

SCHMIDT: And the answer, of course, is the DaVinci Code according to Wikipedia, so there.

SAGAL: So there.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTIS: Yes, yes.

SAGAL: So there.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: It is. Back in the '50s, a restaurant owner started spreading stories about hidden treasures, and the priori that launched all these other stories, many of which Dan Brown used in his book which is why these people are coming to Rennes-le-Chateau and really annoying the natives. All right. So you've one more chance, and you have the vast power of the internet via your own company, so let's see if you can answer this one.

Another great mystery is the Lost Dutchman Mine, a valuable gold mine somewhere in the Superstition Mountain area of Arizona. Many men have died searching for the mine. One prospector, James Cravey, was found dead in the mountains, and the coroner ruled that there was no foul play despite what - A, he was found with a dented cook pot near his broken skull; B, There was a guy next to him who told the searchers, yep, I shot him just a little while ago, that was me; or C, his head was found 30 feet from his body?

His name was James Cravey. That's C-r-a-v-e-y.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Lost Dutchman Mine, you just go ahead. I play Angry Birds on my iPad. Go.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Let me know when you're ready.

SCHMIDT: We're searching, we're searching, and we're reading...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I find this hilarious.

SCHMIDT: Lost Dutchman Mine. It's amazing the amount of information that's on the internet.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: It's true.

SCHMIDT: His head was 30 feet from his body.

SAGAL: Did you just find that on the internet?

SCHMIDT: No, I'm just guessing.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: I'm still reading about all the other deaths.

SAGAL: Well, you're right. His head was found 30 feet from his body. The coroner says...

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: ...This according to one Lost Dutchman website we found, no foul play. How his head got 30 feet from his body on its own, we don't know. Bill, how did Google chairman, Eric Schmidt, do on our show?

KURTIS: Eric got two right...

(APPLAUSE)

KURTIS: ...Playing for Ashley Burden.

SAGAL: Eric Schmidt is the executive chairman of Google and author, along with Jared Cohen, of the book, "The New Digital Age." Eric Schmidt, thank you so much for joining us.

(APPLAUSE)

SCHMIDT: Thank you, all.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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