Where is technology headed?
Peter Thiel is an American entrepreneur, hedge fund manager and venture capitalist. He is Clarium’s President and the Chairman of the firm’s investment committee, which oversees the firm’s research, investment, and trading strategies. Before starting Clarium, Peter served as Chairman and CEO of PayPal, an Internet company he co-founded in December 1998 and was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in October 2002.
Prior to founding PayPal, Peter ran Thiel Capital Management , the predecessor to Clarium, which started with $1 million under management in 1996. Peter began his financial career as a derivatives trader at CS Financial Products, after practicing securities law at Sullivan & Cromwell.
In addition to managing Clarium, Peter is active in a variety of philanthropic and educational pursuits; he sits on the Board of Directors of the Pacific Research Institute, the Board of Visitors of Stanford Law School, and is an adviser to the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Peter received a BA in Philosophy from Stanford University and a JD from Stanford Law School. He is self-described libertarian and a minority investor in Big Think.
Question: Where is technology headed?
Peter Thiel: Well as an investor, I invest mostly in people. I think it’s too hard to figure out big picture fanatic things about what technology is going to be.
Even people who start companies normally don’t know it, and they normally change it in the course of starting these companies.
I had a dinner in Silicon valley a few years ago where I was told I the other person would pay for dinner if I came with five companies where the initial pitch had anything to do with what the company ultimately did. So these things change a lot. And therefore the key thing is still very heavily driven by the engineers and the product people who build these things.
The one overarching theme that I see, it’s not really technology anymore, but it may be more of a theme, is there are elements of artificial intelligence that I think are going to become more real. It’s been something that’s been badly overhyped for many decades; people in the ‘80s and ‘90s; and of course nothing of the sort happened. And I think still nothing of the sort is happening. It’s not going to happen probably for a very long time to come. But I think there certainly are elements of it that are getting better and better.
You have the robotic cars which they now have this contest of cars in Southern California. And they’re able to drive 200 miles across the desert guided by robots. Current trend is within five years they’ll be able to drive on city streets; and maybe 10 years from now it will be possible for people to have a robot drive them around in the car, which would obviously be very liberating for a lot of people who aren’t able to drive for whatever reason.
And so I think there are sort of elements of things that could be loosely grouped under AI that seem to be happening, and that people may be underestimating precisely because it has been overhyped for probably the last half century.
It is probably people’s time horizons are too short, so we’re too much of the incentives are skewed towards consumption and away from savings or investment. People don’t think about the future enough.
And the reality is life is really long, and it’s going to be a lot longer than people think. And the choices that we’re making today are going to be very important in whether these very long lives that we have every reason to look forward to will be, by and large, very happy or less happy.
Recorded on: Sep 05, 2007
Invest in people; it's too hard to figure out big picture thematic things about what technology is going to be.
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