Some iconic tech venture capitalists go with the flow — and then there’s Peter Thiel: In an age when some computer scientists prophesy that AI will soon rise up and destroy mankind, he says no, that’s not happening; the big story is the End of Privacy. He also sees Big Tech innovation as slowing down, in the sense that most Wow!! new developments are successfully hyped riffs on earlier ones.
He goes so far as to say that, contrary to expert views, cryptocurrency is not just a flash in the pan. At Bitcoin 2022, he blasted “Warren Buffett, Jamie Dimon, Larry Fink as ‘finance gerontocracy.’” That is, they are over the hill though not yet under it.
So Thiel is not on those finance gurus’ Santa list this year. But, as a billionaire ($4–5 Billion, est.), he doesn’t need their advice and he generally has shrewd reasons for his dissenting views. Anyway, he is COSM 2022’s keynote luncheon speaker (Wednesday, November 9, 12:10p.m. PST), along with tech philosopher George Gilder.
Part of the background for Thiel’s impatience with the finance gurus is an April crypto conference in Miami at which he predicted the demise of government issued currency:
“We are at the end of the fiat money regime,” he declared. “Central bankers should be grateful to Bitcoin, because it’s the last warning they’re going to get that they’ve chosen to ignore, and they will have to pay the consequences for that in the years ahead.”
Thiel expressed disdain for crypto “enemies,” such as Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, calling him “a sociopathic grandpa from Omaha” and corporate chieftains like JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. Buffett recently called Bitcoin “rat poison.” He considers Buffett and Dimon’s digital currency aversion to be a “deeply political choice.”Michael Butler, “Venture investor guru Peter Thiel rouses crypto crowd at Bitcoin conference” at Miami Herald (updated June 24, 2022)
Thiel’s approach tracks both the U.S. government’s current “green light” to crypto and crypto platform Ethereum’s move this month toward staking rather than mining as a practical means of generating currency. In 2019, Thiel told COSM that crypto like Bitcoin was “It’s sort of the centralized currency that we fantasized about at PayPal, but didn’t quite build.”
Go here to register at the Early Adopter rate for COSM 2022, November 9–11 in Bellevue, Washington, available till September 30.
At Unherd, editor Mary Harrington, who interviewed Thiel in some depth, unpacks some of his thoughts about “progress”:
In his view, much of what passes for “progress” is in truth more like “distraction”. As he puts it, “the iPhone that distracts us from our environment also distracts us from the ways our environment is unchanging and static.” And in this culture, economy and politics of chronic self-deception, as Thiel sees it, we tell ourselves that we’re advancing because “grandma gets an iPhone with a smooth surface,” but meanwhile she “gets to eat cat food because food prices have gone up.”
In this context, Thiel argues, much of what passes as “progress” in economic terms is actually an accounting trick. For example, much of what looks like GDP growth since the Fifties was simply a matter of changing how we measured the value bundled up in family life. If, he points out, “you shift an economy from a single-income household with a homemaker to one with two breadwinners and a third person who’s a child-carer, statistically you have three jobs instead of one and therefore you have more GDP, and you will exaggerate the amount of progress that’s happened”.Mary Harrington, “Peter Thiel on the dangers of progress” at Unherd (July 25, 2022)
Didn’t hear that elsewhere? All the more reason to hear it at COSM!
You may also wish to read: What does super-investor Peter Thiel think you should read? Some books to consider include history as well as business strategy. The two cannot be separated. A book maven tells us what Thiel has recommended, if you are thinking of starting a business — or thinking about life in general.