If Google CEO Larry Page were to get hit by a bus tomorrow, most of his fortune would go straight to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Why? Because Musk is truly audacious.
At the TED 2014 conference Wednesday in Vancouver, Canada, Page said Musk's SpaceX mission to send humans to Mars is exactly the kind of big mission a company should have.
"Companies are doing the same incremental thing that they did 50 years ago or 20 years ago. That's not really what we need," Page said. "Especially in technology -- we need revolutionary change."
And this idea of thinking big seemed to be the theme of Page's talk, which was hosted by journalist Charlie Rose. The entrepreneur talked about a mirad of issues, from the untapped potential for companies to be change agents to big ideas about cyber security.
Page discussed the capabilities he thinks his own company has to clean up the "mess" that is computing. He explained the reason for Google's acquisition earlier this year of DeepMind, a company that develops learning algorithms.
"What's really amazing about DeepMind is that it can actually learn things in this unsupervised way, and it started with video games," Page said. With a series of videos he demonstrated how DeepMind's algorithms can teach a computer how to be the optimal video game opponent. "It's learned to play all of these games with superhuman performance."
Until recently we haven't started to teach computers to behave like that, Page said. And it has lots of other use cases. "Imagine if this kind of intelligence was thrown at your schedule. Or your information needs or things like that. We're really just at the beginning of that," Page said.
In light of the ongoing national discussion around Internet security, Rose asked Page where he stood on the issue.
"I'm sad that Google's in the position of protecting you and our users from the government doing secret things that nobody knows about," Page responded. It's important that the government disclose to information companies what kind of surveillance it needs to do, how it plans to do it, and why -- a conversation that has yet to happen, Page said.
"I think we need to have a debate about that, or we can't have a functioning democracy. It's just not possible," he said.
Rose ended with a question he said he puts to many of his interview subjects. "What quality of mind is it that has served you best?" he asked.
Page responded that he's studied lots of failed companies in order to learn why they ultimately didn't succeed. Most of them did the same thing wrong.
"Usually it's just that they missed the future. And so I think, for me I just tried to focus on that," Page said. "What is that future really going to be and how do create it?"