Reason Podcast

George Gilder Is Excited about Life After Google and You Should Be Too: Podcast

The tech visionary makes the case that today's online giants will be massively disrupted because we'll tire of their walled gardens.


Google's dominance in so many aspects of our digital lives is "creating a walled garden that's basically controlled by two nerds in Silicon Valley," says George Gilder, the author who more than anyone else predicted today's imperfect online utopia in books such as Life After Television: The Coming Transformation of Media and American Life and Telecosm: How Infinite Bandwidth Will Revolutionize Our World.

Of course it's not just Google (which owns YouTube), Gilder says in a Reason Podcast recorded at FreedomFest, the annual gathering of libertarian held every year in Las Vegas. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and a host of other online ecosystems are working to keep us all within their own specific spaces, the better to sell to us and capture economic and demographic value from users. "This model of creating economic success on the Internet by homogenizing a walled garden doesn't replicate," argues Gilder, who says that if Apple or whomever can have their own proprietary space that keeps people tethered to one service on the Internet, then so too will China, Iran, and despotic regimes. "In the end, the internet breaks into fragile fiefdoms and falls apart."

Long a prophet of transparency, mobility, and cryptocurrency, Gilder says that disruption is coming and, as with earlier shifts from mainframe to personal computers, it will be upon us long before the solons of Silicon Valley know what hit them.

In a wide-ranging conversation, I also ask Gilder how his techno-optimism about the liberating effects of cyberspace and technological innovation square with his old preoccupations in books such as Sexual Suicide and Men and Marriage about preserving traditional gender roles. "I do think reproduction is a vital human function, and if we botch that, we aren't going to have any future. I really do think maintaining the sexual constitution, as I called it in Sexual Suicide, is important for procreation and having new generations." Even in a world filled every sort of sex robot imaginable, he says, won't be able to reprogram that.

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Audio production by Ian Keyser.

Photo credit: Jim Epstein, Reason

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  1. Reason, you better Think about what stories you should be covering today.

    1. I appreciated that, thanks.

  2. Good thing we weren’t playing “Alive or Dead?” when George Gilder’s name came up or I’d be down a point. I haven’t paid any attention to anything he’s said since about 1982.

    1. Same here. When he hooked up with the Discovery Institute he became dead to me.

  3. In unrelated news, I’ve had a Dropbox account since early days, when they were the only cloud system with full Linux support, along with the usual Mac and Windows support. Later they added Android (and I presume iOS).

    Then a couple of weeks ago, they started dropping notifications that come November 7, they would no longer support Linux on encrypted file systems. But aside from the paranoia about being in bed with the NSA, it was a lie, since one of the systems they complained about was old enough to have an unencrypted file system, and quite a few other people caught them on this too.

    So I started looking for alternatives, and settled on Syncthing. It’s pure peer-to-peer, no central servers, although you can configure it to look like that. It is also strictly a transport sync, no web interface, no file system manager. Excellent thorough documentation, open source. I experimented for a couple of days. Today they sent an obnoxious email repeating their lies about why, and I deleted my account, told them thanks for all the fish, and oh by the way, thanks for forcing me to look at alternatives and finding something better.

    They used to be great. Cool, simple, covered every OS. I recommended them every chance I got, even at work. I wish I knew why they decided to betray Linux that way; makes the NSA link sound plausible, except that implies Apple and Microsoft were happy to comply, except you can run Dropbox on an encrypted MacOS partition or encrypted Android phone.

    1. I’m not understanding. Are you using Dropbox as an active, mapped volume? (I’m sorry, I don’t use Dropbox).

      1. Not a separate volume, no. You designate a directory and it sync everything under it across all platforms you have registered with it, along with a central copy on their servers. You can, for instance, collaborate with others. Or you can put photo albums or indeed any fails, and pass links of directories or individual files to your friends for sharing.

    2. I never trusted Dropbox. It smelled like NSA the first I heard of it.

      1. Anything I actually wanted private, I encrypted before adding it to the shared dir. Shopping lists, for instance, I did not encrypt; if snoopy admins or the NSA wanted to know I was going to buy tuna next shopping trip, who cares?

      2. Add any document in our NSA Dropbox and you can access it anytime.

  4. Without listening to the podcast, I don’t really understand what this guy is saying. Sure, despotic regimes will do their best to wall-off their slaves’ ability to receive outside information. That has always been the case. Unless this guy is arguing that the age of the internet is going to lead to vastly more despotic regimes, I don’t see any real coherent point.

    Maybe I missed something in the podcast but I don’t have time for that.

    1. I don’t think you missed anything. The FANGs of the world competing for your exclusive interaction compares in no way whatever to a despotic regime mandating it. Fatally flawed analysis == incoherent thesis/point/call to action.

  5. I’m really interested in this member of the Reagan braintrust as he represents the fresh new face of libertarian philosophy. Fascinating stuff. Thanks Nick!

    1. Improving, but still painting with a sledgehammer

  6. Is he trying to tell me that the sex robots I have long waited for shouldn’t be sterile? I guess I have to pull out with them too.

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