Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Photo: Social Media

Los Angeles/London: The free and open internet is under attack around the world, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has warned, asserting that many countries are restricting the flow of information and the model is often taken for granted.

In an in-depth interview with the BBC at the Google headquarters at Silicon Valley in California, the tech boss covered a wide range of topics, including the threat to free and open internet, and also narrowed down on two developments that he feels will further revolutionise the world over the next quarter of a century as artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing.

Pichai, 49, who was born in Tamil Nadu and grew up in Chennai, has said India is deeply rooted in him and a big part of who he is.

"I'm an American citizen but India is deeply within me. So it's a big part of who I am," he said, when asked about his roots.

During the conversation, the interviewer asked Pichai, when was the time he last cried. Pichai’s answer was, “Seeing the morgue trucks parked around the world during COVID. And seeing what’s happened in India over the past month."

Pichai, who was born in Tamil Nadu and grew up in Chennai, has said India is deeply rooted in him and a big part of who he is. In the course of the interview, Pichai reveals that he was born into a middle-class family in Tamil Nadu, in south India and the various technologies had a transformative impact on him, from the old rotary phone that they were on a waiting list for, to the scooter they all piled on to for a monthly dinner.

Pichai also addressed the controversies around tax, privacy and data. He argued artificial intelligence was more profound than fire, electricity or the internet.

"I view it [artificial intelligence] as the most profound technology that humanity will ever develop and work on. You know, if you think about fire or electricity or the internet, it's like that. But I think even more profound," said Pichai, the CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet.

When asked about whether the Chinese model of the internet based on surveillance is in the ascendant, Pichai said the free and open internet "is being attacked". While he didn't refer to China directly, he said: "None of our major products and services are available in China."

On the controversial issue of tax, he said: ?We are one of the world's largest taxpayers, if you look at on average over the last decade, we have paid over 20 per cent in taxes.

"We do pay the majority of our share of taxes in the US, where we originate and where our products are developed. I think there are good conversations and we support the global OECD conversations figuring out what is the right way to allocate taxes, this is beyond a single company to solve," he said.

He was also asked about his own personal tech habits and encouraged everyone to adopt "two-factor authentication" when it comes to passwords to ensure multiple protections and admitted he is constantly changing his phone to test out new technology.

Pichai is universally regarded as an exceptionally kind, thoughtful, and caring leader, the report said.

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