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."

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice
popular

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less