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Interview: George Gilder on Knowledge and Power


MR. DRISCOLL:  This is Ed Driscoll for PJ Media.com, and we’re talking with technology author and futurist George Gilder, His latest book is titled Knowledge and Power: the Information Theory of Capitalism and how it is Revolutionizing our World. It’s published by Regnery, and available from Amazon.com and your local bookstore. And George, thank you for stopping by today.

MR. GILDER:  Glad to be here.

MR. DRISCOLL:  George, we should probably start with the title of the book.  What is the information theory of capitalism and who pioneered it?

MR. GILDER:  Well, I -- I pioneered it.  But information theory was developed by Claude Shannon to explain networks, to define information, so it was possible to gauge the capacity of infor -- of channels or networks or telecommunications systems to bear information.  And Shannon defined information as unexpected bits, as surprise, essentially.

And ever since I wrote Wealth and Poverty, years ago, I've been looking for a way to incorporate entrepreneurial creativity, which always comes as a surprise to us, into economic models.  And writing about telecommunications technology and about the Internet, I discovered Claude Shannon's works and saw that he defined information as surprise.  And so what we have is this vast theory that underlies all the most productive industries in our economy, all the information tools that enrich our lives in so many ways, that that very same theory also is perfectly aligned with a capitalist economy.

MR. DRISCOLL:  For those who haven't heard of him, can you talk a little bit about who Claude Shannon was?

MR. GILDER:  Well, Claude Shannon is one of the great figures of our history.  He was an engineer at MIT and Bell Labs.  And his job was to explain how you can build vast networks to transmit information around the globe in the face of noise and interference and other obstacles to communication.

And essentially what I do is take Claude Shannon's theory and apply it not to transmission of information across wires and across the electromagnetic spectrum and wireless devices, but across the world, entrepreneurial ideas transmitted across the world in the face of resistance and government interference.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Shortly after Barack Obama won in November of 2008, Time magazine created a Photoshopped cover which featured him as Franklin Roosevelt, complete with jaunty cigarette holder, and the words “The New, New Deal.”  Which really set the antediluvian tone for this administration. What is it about the diversified high-tech free market that seems so anathema to Obama and his cronies?

MR. GILDER:  Well, the knowledge in our economy is distributed in people's heads.  And the sophisticated knowledge that underlies our technology is concentrated in the minds of a few thousands or hundreds of thousands of people around the world.  And in order to unleash this knowledge and convert into wealth, which -- and wealth is essentially the accumulation of knowledge -- it requires that government get out of the way, that government not be a noisy force in the economy, distracting entrepreneurs from their creative purposes toward government goals and government distractions.