There are a number of differences and similarities between Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) co-founder and executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Neither seem to put too much of a premium on privacy, the former however makes billions from that, the latter faces extradition and criminal charges. Both are technology pioneers and if given the time, most people would love to have either for dinner.
In a well-timed leak, the transcript of of a five hour secret conversation between the two has surfaced in recent days. Well timed? Yes, because Eric Schmidt and co-author Jared Cohen’s book, The New Digital Age, will hit the shelves tomorrow. The meeting took place during Assange’s house arrest in England replete with ankle bracelet in 2011. The full transcript is available on numerous websites including Wikileaks. In addition to giving you a link, we’ve highlighted a few areas of their conversation.
Please remember that Assange was not under house arrest for being a “hero” and his arrest was completely unrelated to his founding of Wikileaks. Assange was wanted and awaiting extradition to Sweden for questioning regarding allegations of sexual coercion, sexual molestation and rape. My intentions are not to condemn or vilify him nor to suggest the accusations were without merit, this caveat is simply intended to add context.
Below are a few excerpts from the conversation. There are many, but I found these stood out more than others:
This first exchange shows Assange’s sense of humor and Schmidt’s ability to misspeak regarding the software behind Wikileaks (Tor).
Eric Schmidt: Can we start… I want to talk a little about Thor. Right. The sort of, the whole Navy network and…
Julian Assange: Tor or Thor?
ES: Yeah, actually I mean Tor. Uh…
JA: And Odin as well.
ES: That’s right, sorry. Tor, uh, and the Navy network, and I don’t actually understand how all of that worked. And the reason I’m mentioning this is I’m…I’m fundamentally interested in what happens with that technology as it evolves.
At the time of the interview BitCoin wasn’t making the news it is now. That said, I was surprised that someone who is often considered one of the most intelligent speakers on technology was this ignorant of an emerging one.
JA: On the publishing end, the magnet links and so on are starting to come up. There’s also a very nice little paper that I’ve seen in relation to Bitcoin, that… you know about Bitcoin?
JA: Okay, Bitcoin is something that evolved out of the cypherpunks a couple of years ago, and it is an alternative… it is a stateless currency.
JA: And very important, actually. It has a few problems. But its innovations exceed its problems. Now there have been innovations along these lines in many different paths of digital currencies, anonymous, untraceable etc. People have been experimenting with [it] over the past 20 years. The Bitcoin actually has the balance and incentives right, and that is why it is starting to take off. The different combination of these things. No central nodes. It is all point to point. One does not need to trust any central mint….
All in all, it’s a good read and available here.