This is the transcript of a wide-ranging, two-part, three-hour interview with Al Gore, touching on the impact of technology and the Internet in politics, both in the U.S. and abroad; the state of the mainstream media and the left and right blogosphere; the role of the Web in spreading the facts about global warming, among others topics. The interviews were held in early and late October, first in the San Francisco offices of Current TV, then in his geothermal system-powered home in Nashville, which is certified as Gold LEED, one of the highest ratings for green design. An excerpt of the Q&A appeared in the Dec. 10, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone.
Jose Antonio Vargas: A year ago, weeks before the election, I visited Blach Middle School in Silicon Valley and spoke to a group of young reporters. In the middle of the talk, Naib Mian raised his hand and asked if I had downloaded Obama's iPhone application -- which showed, in real time, where Obama was campaigning, the number of campaign offices within a few miles of where Naib lives, how much money he had raised...
Al Gore: [Laughs.]
JAV: This kid was 13, and politics was right in his pocket.
JAV: What do you say to a kid like Naib?
AG: More power to you. More information to you. You know, politics, as we understand the word, is a recreation of the Greek concept which arose in a culture where spoken word was a medium of the community within which individuals could express themselves well, could yield influence and political power with ideas. Before we talk about what's happening now, let's look back to the history of the printing press. The printing press catalyzed the emergence of an information ecosystem with very low entry barriers for individuals and created a marketplace of ideas in which individuals were literate even without wealth, family connections and force of arms -- all important prerequisites for power during the period from the fall of Rome to the emergence of the printing press. Individuals use ideas without any of those prerequisites as a source of power or influence or political authority, then the ecosystem that flowed out of the technology of the printing press was eclipsed by electronic medium -- the antecedent being the telegraph, and then the radio and then the big kahuna, you know television, which has you know the attraction for the brain because it's moving. You know the average American now watches TV five hours a day. The average American in an average American lifetime spends 17 uninterrupted years -- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week --- watching TV. Seventeen years! So the reason why all the newspapers are in a nosedive is because -- first, that started with the afternoon newspapers, when television colonized that market niche. And the coup de grace was the Internet, coming in and taking in classified advertising...But now what's happening is, as evidence by that 13-year-old in Silicon Valley, that young kid with an iPhone, is that the Internet is now getting close to the stage where it will be possible for the Internet to eclipse television.