Peter Thiel is not Afraid to Stand Out from the Crowd
One of the few Silicon Valley giants to support political reformer Donald Trump, Peter Thiel risked irritating a lot of powerful and wealthy people in the establishment in order to create conditions more suitable to radical change. Where did Thiel come from, and what does he really want?
Venture capitalist and entrepreneur Peter Thiel was born in Frankfurt, Germany. And just like South Africa born Elon Musk, he got to the US just as fast as he could. But unlike Musk, Thiel turned away from nanny government and political correctness, and moved in very unexpected ways.
Once Thiel got established in the US as a youth, he had to work out what he wanted to do with his life:
He studied philosophy at Stanford University, graduating with a B.A. in 1989. He then went on to the Stanford Law School, and received his J.D. in 1992. After graduation, he worked as a judicial clerk for Judge James Larry Edmondson, a securities lawyer for Sullivan & Cromwell, a speechwriter for former-United States Secretary of Education William Bennett and as a derivatives trader at Credit Suisse prior to founding Thiel Capital Management in 1996. He then co-founded PayPal in 1998, and served as chief executive officer until its sale to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion. __ Wikipedia Peter Thiel
No Death, No Taxes, Infinite Energy!
“… Almost everyone either thinks by analogy or follows the crowd. Peter is much more willing to look at things from a first-principle standpoint.” [Elon] Musk [says], “I’m somewhat libertarian, but Peter’s extremely libertarian.”
… Thiel, who runs Founders Fund with Sean Parker and four others, poured his energy into a group of audacious projects that had less to do with financial returns than with utopian ideas. He invested in nanotechnology, space exploration, and robotics.
… Thiel also gave three and a half million dollars to the Methuselah Foundation, whose goal is to reverse human aging. He became an early patron of the Seasteading Institute, a libertarian nonprofit group that was founded, in 2008, by Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer and Milton Friedman’s grandson. “Seasteading” refers to the founding of new city-states on floating platforms in international waters—communities beyond the reach of laws and regulations. __ New Yorker
Thiel wants to jump-start a new world using disruptive technologies. And rather than waiting for these technologies to come about by themselves, as if by magick, he is instead sending out venture-seed probes into the darkness, and harvesting the best, one-by-one.
One of Thiel’s most speculative and long-term ventures is his investment in small scale, unconventional nuclear fusion, via Helion Energy. Nuclear fusion potentially provides the most abundant, high quality energy of all the reliable and important energy sources: fission, coal, natural gas.
Helion hopes to make a fusion generator that’s 1,000 times smaller, 500 times cheaper, and 10 times faster than more conventional, massive projects, according to its website. The company is building a “magneto-inertial fusion” generator. It produces power by injecting heated hydrogen and helium at high speed (a million miles an hour) into a “burn chamber,” where a strong magnetic field compresses the plasma to a temperature high enough to initiate fusion. Energy from the reaction is used to generate electricity. __ Bloomberg
Clean, Abundant, Reliable, Scalable, Portable Electrical Energy is Crucial to the Human Future
Advanced nuclear fission and scalable nuclear fusion will be critical foundations for radical new human infrastructures — both in the Earth environment and beyond. At the same time, humans who think broadly and unconventionally need to be freed from frivolous and counter-productive government regulation/taxation/mandates etc., and freed from suicidal politically correct coercion by both governments and other institutions of society.
Peter Thiel recognises that humans can only escape the pit they have dug for themselves by radically reforming all aspects of government, and many aspects of society — including higher education:
… for Thiel, the bubble that has taken the place of housing is the higher education bubble. “A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”
Like the housing bubble, the education bubble is about security and insurance against the future. Both whisper a seductive promise into the ears of worried Americans: Do this and you will be safe. The excesses of both were always excused by a core national belief that no matter what happens in the world, these were the best investments you could make. Housing prices would always go up, and you will always make more money if you are college educated.
Like any good bubble, this belief– while rooted in truth– gets pushed to unhealthy levels. Thiel talks about consumption masquerading as investment during the housing bubble, as people would take out speculative interest-only loans to get a bigger house with a pool and tell themselves they were being frugal and saving for retirement. Similarly, the idea that attending Harvard is all about learning? Yeah. No one pays a quarter of a million dollars just to read Chaucer. The implicit promise is that you work hard to get there, and then you are set for life. It can lead to an unhealthy sense of entitlement. “It’s what you’ve been told all your life, and it’s how schools rationalize a quarter of a million dollars in debt,” Thiel says. __ TC
This is one of the reasons why Thiel started the ThielFellowship. He wanted to encourage youth with big ideas to pursue them early, unsullied by university indoctrination (academic lobotomy).
The modern system of educational indoctrination — in place across the western world — is one of the primary reasons for groupthink political correctness and general echo-choir dull mindedness of modern societies, particularly among youth and young adults. Thiel is well aware that this massive, wasteful, financially ruinous, life-destroying system requires radical reform. The administration of a new, reform-minded US president is one of the best places to start — and Thiel is involved in Donald Trump’s transitional team.
Here is what Peter Thiel was intelligent enough to see:
[New leaders] are a rare breed, and their efforts always face innumerable challenges, whether from entrenched interests at home or from headwinds in the global economy… The probablility of successful sustained reform is higher under fresh leaders rather than stale leaders, under leaders with a mass base rather than well-credentialed technocrats… __ The Rise and Fall of Nations Chapter 2
The book above goes on to describe how new, reform-minded leaders can often wrench a rut-bound nation out of its mire, and propel it on a new path of prosperity and achievement. And it is certainly true that after 28 years of Clinton-Obama-Bush, the US has a lot of pent-up energy waiting to be released, once the counter-productive governmental and societal shackles have been loosened.
Multiple disruptive innovations are long overdue, once Luddite, die-off style policies of government are overthrown, and a more innovative future-oriented system of incentives is put in place.
A World According to Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel’s world would allow most persons almost innumerable options to discover and fulfill their goals and ambitions, which currently do not exist in the artificially limited, politically correct world of modern times. Thiel is aware that radical reform is necessary to break the stifling webs of control within government, media, academia, and other social institutions. He is likely aware that such a radical revolution of empowerment has to occur largely from the middle class, where most of a society’s talent tends to rest. But he is willing to attempt a top-down impetus in order to get the process rolling.
The tyrannies of Asia, MENA, SSA, and Latin America would feel threatened by a resurgence of US innovation, production, and economic expansion. And the established powers of the international economic order will certainly resist such a transformation to its dying breath. But it is the essence of the world that everything changes. And although humans are somewhat limited in their ability to influence the way the world will change, the ones who are pressing for a more abundant and expansive human future should not be shy about using the influence they may have.
Note: When Putin first gained power in Russia, he was a reform president. His flat income tax of 13% combined with his vital assurances of support for investment and new commerce, reassured foreign and domestic investors and entrepreneurs alike. Investment and prosperity soared for awhile, even before oil & gas prices shot upward. Then after oil & gas prices spiked, the oil curse set in, and despotic corruption came to rule in Moscow. A badly needed new reformer for Russia is unlikely until Putin croaks or a new grand crisis hits the fading bear.