Google's Page urges scientists to market themselves

Page describes several of his areas of interest in science and technology during the hour-long talk, which was a rare engagement for the nerdy billionaire. Photo: Page on stage Video: Page talks science

SAN FRANCISCO--Google co-founder Larry Page has a theory: your DNA is about 600 megabytes compressed, making it smaller than any modern operating system like Linux or Windows.

The programming language of humans, if you will, would include the workings of your brain, said Page, who offered his hypothesis Friday night during a plenary lecture here at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference. His guess, he said, was that the brain's algorithms weren't all that complicated and could be approximated, eventually, with a lot of computational power.

"We have some people at Google (who) are really trying to build artificial intelligence and to do it on a large scale," Page said to a packed Hilton ballroom of scientists. "It's not as far off as people think."

Page, the director of products at the 8-year-old search giant, described several of his areas of interest in science and technology during the hour-long talk, which was a rare engagement for the nerdy billionaire. But the common thread in the lecture seemed to be enthusiasm for what Page (and co-founder Sergey Brin) managed to do well with Google: good old-fashioned entrepreneurialism while solving a single problem.

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Video: Google's Larry Page talks science
Co-founder of Google at AAAS gathering

Page gave the example of Steven Chu, professor of physics and Nobel Prize winner. Chu was a failed grad student who decided to "get good at building lasers" and then he later won the Nobel Prize for his work with the technology. "When you have basic technology you find interesting things to do with them, and if you're lucky they'll turn into something big," he said.

And that was his main advice to the scientists in the room: take their scientific studies, market them better and make them readily accessible to the world. That way, the world might have a better chance at solving problems like energy consumption, poverty and global climate change.

"Virtually all economic growth (in the world) was due to technological progress. I think as a society we're not really paying attention to that," Page said. "Science has a real marketing problem. If all the growth in world is due to science and technology and no one pays attention to you, then you have a serious marketing problem."

To that end, Page urged the group to take on more leadership roles in society, i.e., politics, so that they could control more funding for research and development. He also said that scientists should get in the habit of investing part of their scientific grant money to marketing budgets, in order to get the word out to the media about their research.

Entrepreneurialism should also be more ingrained in university culture, Page said, much like it is at his alma mater Stanford University and Google's home base, Silicon Valley.

Finally, he called on the scientists to make more of their research available digitally. Even though Google Scholar tries to open access to scientific work, it still falls short.

"Most of the works you guys have done are not represented in those searches. We have to unlock the wealth of scientific knowledge and get it to everyone. I don't care what we do, but we need to do something," he said.

Page said he hopes Internet video, like Youtube and Google Video, will evolve to include scientific lectures. He said he would like to see a "box in the back of every classroom," where professors could push a button and "whatever you said would go on Net. It's important to get all that out there."

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