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CEO Schmidt Ponders Google's More 'Personal Future'

The search engine's chief executive highlights how his company is creating a culture that is "living with a historical record."
Google CEO and chairman Eric Schmidt spoke Friday about the future of search, personalization, democracy, and even China, but you wouldn't know it from the reaction of the crowd.

An audience of about 1,000 people surfed, searched, texted, and created content as they listened to the leader of Google.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman even noted the crowd's activities while interviewing Schmidt on stage at the Personal Democracy Forum.

"It looks like a Google meeting," Schmidt answered. "In Google meetings, no one is ever looking at the speaker."

Schmidt was the featured speaker, and plenty of people were watching. He talked about the future of search, the Internet's impact on politics, Google's challenges in dealing with governments around the globe, and his company's attempts at transparency.

Just weeks after Googleannounced iGoogle, a new name for its personalized home page with gadgets that tell Google about users for individualized service, Schmidt indicated Google would become much more personal in the future.

"You can imagine in 10 years, Google will say, 'Good morning Eric! You're late already, but, Eric, you're always late.' "

Friedman said the Internet makes it difficult for politicians to escape their mistakes, and few of today's candidates would be able to run for office had they grown up in this era of cell phone camera ubiquity. Schmidt joked that people should be able to change their names after their teen years are behind them.

"People are living with a historical record," he said. "They are probably going to be much more careful about how they talk to people, what they offer of themselves."

On the other hand, the Internet can help politicians by allowing them to deliver personalized messages and accomplish the loftier goal of verifying truth, Schmidt said.

He touched lightly on his company's business relationship with China, which has a "Great Firewall" to censor information delivered to its citizens.

"You have to believe that access to broad information has to be good for Chinese democracy," he said.

Schmidt also talked about Google's decision nearly two years ago to become more transparent. Minutes later, a moderator announced that the press would not be allowed to participate in the Democracy Forum's question-and-answer period with the Google CEO.