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Techscape: on Gore, Clinton and the internet

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Interview Dean Laura Tyson of the London Business School (LBS) is a former University of California at Berkeley Professor of Economics, Dean of its Haas School of Business and ultimately President Clinton’s Economic Advisor

A chance meeting and conversation at the recent London Business School graduation gave me an opportunity to interview Dean Laura Tyson about technology. She began regaling me with stories about Vice-President Gore’s passion for the internet and gizmos of all kinds.

Tyson’s arrival at LBS was a turning point in the institution’s brand. Prior to her arrival, LBS was frequently confused with LSE even though the latter offers no concentrated business education. Raising LBS’s profile significantly with her own and by forward-looking partnerships with CNN and others has catapulted LBS’s world-ranking into the top five business schools and kept it there often tied with or above the better-known INSEAD.

Tyson is a strong advocate of the “Keynesian school” of economic theory which “believes in the power of public policy to have a positive effect on the world", she says.

And her response to those who say the best thing government can do is leave people and business alone by not over-regulating and taxing them?

“Well,” she replies, “if that were true the internet wouldn’t be with us today - government (DARPA) would not have spawned the internet.”

Tyson’s first tech experience was as a professor at Cal Berkeley in the mid 80s. “The university was moving from these large computers to desktops to laptops and it all seemed to happen very fast,” Tyson recalled, “but I never used one at that point.”

“In the early 90s, I was involved in a survey of trade and industry,” the Dean said “where I met and got to know people like John Young of HP, Andy Grove of Intel and many other technology leaders; now that was an education.”

Soon Tyson’s first book, Who's Bashing Whom: Trade Conflict in High Technology Industries was published. About it she says, “One of the things it addressed was the ‘silicon chips versus potato chips question.’” She said this as if I should know what this is and I sheepishly informed her I hadn’t a clue. “It’s the idea,” she said professorially, “that government shouldn’t care whether business makes silicon or potato chips.”

“Isn’t that ridiculous?” I asked.

“Of course it is,” she said, “of course.”

So how did Tyson end up the most powerful woman working for the most powerful man in the world?

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