Google’s annual conference for developers, called Google I/O, has historically been all about the tech: the bigger, the faster, and more eye-popping the better. In 2015, the company launched a virtual reality headset and an enhanced Android smartphone operating system. The next two years it shifted the focus to the integration of Google devices into homes and the arrival of artificial intelligence. And as the 2019 conference begins today (May 7), it’s likely to hit a different note.
It became clear last year that Google was no longer just speaking to its fans and developers at Google I/O. Instead, it was telling the world how it wants to be seen: Not as just a search engine, but as the operating system behind our lives. CEO Sundar Pichai gave the event’s keynote, describing the “deep sense of responsibility” the company has for how its technology is used. While letting others showcase Google’s latest technology, Pichai chose to announce the company’s latest “Digital Wellbeing” initiative, which encouraged its customers to use its products less.
“People are anxious to stay up to date with all the information out there,” he said. “They have FOMO: the fear of missing out. We think there’s a chance for us to be better,” citing a new acronym, “JOMO,” or the joy of missing out. “It’s clear technology can be a positive force, but it’s equally clear that we can’t just be wide-eyed at the innovations technology creates. Now the path ahead needs to be navigated carefully and deliberately, and we feel a deep sense of responsibility to get this right.”
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