Peter Thiel: We Must Restart Our Technology Engine
Technological innovation is the most important thing that developing countries should focus on, says Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist and PayPal founder. In his most recent Big Think interview, Thiel tells us that greater investment in technology could solve many of the United States’ problems, including the budget deficit. “If you doubled the debt over the next 20 years in the U.S. and the size of the economy doubled because of technological progress and growth, the two would roughly cancel out and it would all be a totally manageable situation,” he says.
But he thinks the U.S. government—and any government, for that matter—does not adequately encourage technological investment. In fact, heavily regulated industries tend to be the least innovative, he says, pointing to transportation, health care, and energy. One possible solution could be a new initiative called Seasteading, which Thiel has backed with a $1 million investment. Seasteading refers to building communities in the middle of the ocean using oil rig technology. These isolated communities would be free to develop their own laws and might be incubators for technological and political innovation, he believes.
Thiel, who is an investor in Big Think, also discusses his controversial program which encourages budding entrepreneurs to “stop out” of college for two years to build a company. “The idea of becoming an entrepreneur is something that is not taught very well in school,” Thiel says. Furthermore, the burden of college debt makes young people less likely to take risks. “Technological innovation requires risk and sacrifice, and it may be very hard to do that if you have this enormous debt burden to try to repay,” he says.
Finally, Thiel commented on “The Social Network,” the much-lauded film about Facebook that hit theaters in October. Thiel, the first outside funder of Facebook, was depicted as something of a villain—cunningly cutting Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin out of the company. But he says the film was a Hollywood “caricature of capitalism.” Saverin was “not remotely doing his job,” says Thiel. And in the end, Saverin ended up doing “extraordinarily well relative to what he had done.”