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Interview: George Gilder on Knowledge and Power

MR. DRISCOLL:  George, Knowledge and Power has a chapter called “California Debauch.” What is it about Sacramento that makes it feel so stacked against anyone running a business, large or small in the once Golden State?

MR. GILDER:  Yeah.  Well, it's -- it's really sad.  I mean, as I put it in the book, the venture capitalists of Silicon Valley are sicklied over by a pale cast of green goo.  The whole governmental and elite structure of California has taken over and is suppressing the knowledge of the California economy, which was once the leading economy in the entire world, the pioneers of all the new technologies that -- that endow our information economy.

And now Silicon Valley has essentially moved to Israel.  Now, all the major American companies get their chief innovations, not in Silicon Valley, but in Tel Aviv and Haifa and Netanya and Migdal Ha'emek in Israel, from Cisco to Microsoft to Johnson & Johnson to Monsanto, all the great American companies -- Intel, Paramount -- all get their key innovations from Israel.  And our defenses are increasingly dependent on advances that are made in Israel.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Are there industries that at first glance seem moribund that could benefit from learning from the tech sector?

MR. GILDER:  I mean, all -- all businesses are ultimately knowledge businesses.  And you know, agriculture is being transformed by biotech.  Pharmaceuticals are being transformed by the discovery that human -- the human is not chiefly a physical and chemical system; it's an information system, just as the economy is an information system.  And a human body is a programmable platform.

And a company I write about in the book actually, in the acknowledgements of all places, is -- and other companies in Israel, are pioneering the use of economy as an informat -- the human body as an information system that -- with trillions of ribosomes that can produce any enzyme or protein that is needed.

MR. DRISCOLL:  George, your earlier books predicted a dazzling future for the Internet, which on the one hand, has come true beyond its inventors’ wildest dreams. But on the other, how much do the reports that the NSA is spying on us via the Internet put a damper on those early visions?

MR. GILDER:  They're a great vindication of our information technology.  The NSA leads the world in computer capabilities and using the innovations that are supplied by information technology companies all around the world.  And they use computers to pore through vast quantities of data, looking for signals of terrorist threats.

And this is a great function of government.  The government is supposed to defend us.  And it doesn't invade our privacy at all.  Our privacy's invaded when police knock on our door and disrupt our lives and -- but -- or terrorists lay bombs in our path.  Our privacy is not violated by computers churning through data to find signals of terrorism.