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Signal over Noise

by James V. DeLong

Knowledge and Power: The Information Theory of Capitalism and How It Is Revolutionizing Our World, by George Gilder (Regnery, 400 pp., $27.95)

Don’t sit down with George Gilder’s Knowledge and Power with the idea that you are about to read a book. You are entering into an evening of rambling discussion with a thinker who is revisiting ideas that have animated him for almost half a century, as he delves more deeply into what he was trying to say all those years ago in Microcosm (or in the first version of Wealth and Poverty) or finally understands what Andy Viterbi of Qualcomm was telling him about information theory in 1993.

The work has the texture of a conversation, as threads are plucked, dropped, and found again a few chapters later. Tangents are in order, and tales from Gilder’s personal history, and an occasional rant that he just could not resist. Supply-side economics comes up, demand-siders are excoriated. The history of information theory is discussed, along with some of its broader concepts and extensions. Themes are stated but not explored in depth, often triggering a “but wait a minute . . .” reflex as some thought whizzes by.

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