Posts

Why Does Peter Thiel Support Donald Trump? Because He Wants to Save the World…

election-613132_1920So why does Peter Thiel support Donald Trump?

When I read headlines saying that Silicon Valley is baffled by his actions, I am baffled by their reactions.

It should be clear that there’s more going on here than meets the eye – though sometimes I wonder if Trump knows that…

Peter Thiel, for those of you who don’t know, is a brilliant billionaire tech tycoon who helped found PayPal and Palantir and who has his investment fingers in many other businesses.

As a tech-savvy, forward-thinking gay man – who has some unconventional ideas about technology, capitalism, economics, and the world we live in – he’s one of the last people you’d expect to see speaking in favor of a Trump presidency.

Yet that’s exactly what he did at the RNC, claiming that the economy and the government are “broken” and that he supports “people who are building new things.”

Donald Trump, he says, is a “builder…and it’s time to rebuild America.”

But…come on.

Donald Trump?

Really?

Donald Trump? That Guy?

man-845847_1280Trump openly:

After watching a BBC special pointing out that the USA’s demographics are shifting – and that white people will be a minority in a few decades – I felt that Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” might actually be a subliminal message, “Make America White Again.”

The New York Times came up with a better one: “Make America Hate Again.”

But I’ll try to avoid ranting about Trump.

Critical Thinking About the System

Attacking Trump’s rhetoric is easy and everyone does it.

That is too simple.

It feeds his flames and avoids more important questions that would uncover the machinery underlying the current system, like:

  • Why has a simple-minded salesperson – who simply repeats his target audience’s desires right back to them, like any good salesperson – become so successful financially (despite 4 bankruptcies) and made it this far in the electoral process, and what is it in his rhetoric that resonates with such a large demographic of Americans?
  • Why are we being forced to choose between a salesperson and someone who’s being legally accosted by the FBI right now?
  • Why do people regard him as a “marketing genius,” when in fact he has simply mastered the basics of salesmanship that have been expounded, extrapolated, and explored by great salesmen for the past 100 years?
  • Why does a smart, forward-thinking tech billionaire like Peter Thiel support Trump?

Why Peter Thiel Supports Trump (Take Nothing at Face Value)

chess-433071_1920Peter Thiel is a businessman who thinks strategically about his aims, so there is certainly more to his endorsement than we heard in his RNC speech.

There are a few possible reasons why Thiel might support Trump:

  • Thiel plans to replace Trump with an artificially intelligent, Trump-shaped robot after the election
  • He actually does believe in and support Trump
  • He sees this as an opportunity to take the administrative office from the political families who have been running the office for decades
  • He sees a dire situation, thinks Trump will win, and wants to influence the little guy when he gets into office
  • He wants to run for president in a few years and sees Trump as his best bet for changing and getting into the political game

I could only wish that this last one were true – we would be much better off with a smart “builder” like Thiel than anyone else who has run in a very, very long time. If this were the tech tycoon’s plan, then he’s probably setting himself up now as the rescuer who will fix up the country after Hillary or Donald inevitably make things worse during the next term.

But I doubt Thiel wants to be president (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Although, come to think of it, Mark Cuban, another famous billionaire who made big bucks in the tech industry, had said he’d been open to running for president…

Either Thiel plans to run for president in a few years (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) or…

Thiel Supports Trump Because He Thinks Trump Will Implode the Government, Which Will Make Room for Innovation … And a New Monopoly

gears-1236578_1920That’s pretty similar to what this guy at Business Insider said, but I can’t seem to find that article any more…

To find hints of Thiel’s real thinking, look past his RNC speech:

  • Thiel believes that innovation is driven by monopolistic companies, not by competition. According to Thiel, the ideas we use to discuss capitalism are based on models that are outdated and obsolete. Competitive businesses involve towards static equilibrium, and spend their money trying to outdo one another. They have no cash left over to innovate and create. A monopoly, however, is free to charge what it wants, then use those profits to drive innovation. Google is a perfect example of a monopoly in today’s economy. AT&T used to be one, as did IBM and Microsoft.
  • Innovation is at odds with competition and globalization…or they are at least perpendicular to one another. In one talk, Thiel used Japan as an example to demonstrate the difference between the two: since the time of the Meiji Restoration, the country has globalized but not innovated…that is, Japan copied the rest of the world. As a result, this island nation, which is smaller than California, has become a major world superpower. In the 80s, though, they ran out of stuff to copy and their previously explosive economic growth stagnated.
  • Technology and innovation are, for all intents and purposes, the same. Technology, he says, isn’t just limited to computers and software. This has been the most recent, most explosive area of innovation, in part due to the lack of regulation in this sector, which is a brand new industry. Other types of technology could also innovate and grow, but there are a variety of financial, regulatory, and other hurdles to overcome in those sectors – for instance, Elon Musk went to extreme lengths to overcome institutional, technical, regulatory, financial, and other obstacles in the preexisting aerospace industry in order to innovate with SpaceX. Not to mention Tesla.
  • Thiel runs Palantir, a secretive software company that tells the future. Well, fortune-telling may be a bit of a misnomer, but it does offer big data solutions that are used by big organizations, from governments to spy agencies to big name brands. Palantir is financially backed by the CIA and Thiel’s own venture capital company, among others. Supposedly, Palantir is valued at $20 billion and earned $1.7 billion in revenues in 2015. Some have suggested that Thiel’s support of Trump is a move to secure more government revenue for his company.

So how do all these bullet points apply to the topic at hand?

Many people look at a Trump presidency and see chaos…or worse.

Here are some quotes from a piece in the New Yorker, as quoted by a piece on Slate, written about the ghostwriter of Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal:

The prospect of President Trump terrified him. It wasn’t because of Trump’s ideology—Schwartz doubted that he had one. The problem was Trump’s personality, which he considered pathologically impulsive and self-centered…[Schwartz said,] “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization”…asked what he would call [a new book about Trump], he answered, “The Sociopath.”

Is it really possible that Thiel supports someone like Trump?

Or is the tech tycoon playing a different game?

All Good Monopolies … And Competitions … Come to an End

chess-603624_1920As Thiel has pointed out, competition results in stasis and old monopolies are out-innovated by newer monopolies. Trump, a a simple-minded salesperson, has somehow co-opted the Republican party and the election process.

Perhaps his very presence on the electoral stage signals the obsolescence of an old monopoly?

For instance, AT&T was replaced by a diversity of wireless providers. Microsoft replaced the IBM monopoly, and Microsoft is in turn being replaced by newer, more innovative monopolies.

A businessperson, like Trump or Thiel, might feel that businesses and governments are analogous processes.

Eventually, any monopolistic governmental structure, electoral competition, or economic machinery will become outdated and obsolete.

Then it will become replaced by a newer, more evolved monopoly.

If Trump gets elected, it will result in – at the very least – more division, conflict, and controversy than we are seeing right now.

In other words, Trump could cause so much havoc that we would have to wake up and restructure the system.

This would make room for innovation and growth.

Heck, maybe there is only one way to make the broken governmental engine work again…

Start banging on it with a Trump-shaped hammer and hope the world doesn’t end in nuclear war.

Sexbots, AI, & Androids: Nathan’s Future Predictions, January 2014

When I think of the future’s impending waves of technology, I think of this quote from Mat Honan’s Google Glass piece, “I, Glasshole“:

We need to think about it and be ready for it in a way we weren’t with smartphones. Because while you (and I) may make fun of glassholes today, come tomorrow we’re all going to be right there with them, or at least very close by. Wearables are where we’re going. Let’s be ready.

At the turn of the year, we saw many columnists and writers roll their dice on the table and make predictions about what trends we’ll see this year in technology.

Instead of doing that, I decided to take a look at where the technology industry is headed over the next several decades, so we can truly understand what “be ready” means.

It’s good to know that wearable technology is coming, but what comes with it? And what else is coming alongside wearable tech?

Google Will Build Androids

And all the glasshole Google employees will walk around with pet androids on leashes.

HandroidAmazon already uses robots in its warehouses. Some time in the coming decades the robots will walk among us, they’ll look like us, & they’ll talk like us. At first they’ll probably look like the robot in Robot and Frank, but it won’t be long before they look more and more like us, as seen in Time of Eve.

Ghost in the Shell‘s vision of the future is, in my opinion, probably the most accurate picture of the future. Not so much the robots that talk with little girls’ voices, but the fact that cybernetic augmentation and VR tech will become normal, we’ll be able to access the internet through brain chips, and so forth.

Right now, Google does research into robotics, they bought an army of robots, they are researching AI, and they are building a brain. What do you think they’re aiming for? What happens when you research robotics, AI, and artificial brains?

Androids, obviously. And the androids will all be wearing Google Glass.

Google Glass, Wearable Tech, VR, & Virtual Sex

"If you had all the world's information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you'd be better off." - Sergey Brin, 2004

“If you had all the world’s information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you’d be better off.” – Sergey Brin, 2004

While I semi-satirized this freakish technology in the past, the fact is it will probably change the world. And if it doesn’t, something similar will. You’ll be able to put on wearable tech such as Google Glass and sit down to dinner with someone halfway across the world. You’ll be able to go to virtual nightclubs, virtual business meetings, virtual orgies, play virtual tennis, and go on virtual crime sprees (otherwise known as video games).

Wearable technology, for those of you who don’t know, means smartwatches, smartglasses, and other wearable smart-tech. I wouldn’t be surprised if smart jewelry and smart tattoos come along.

We’ll have virtual reality immersion tech, such as VR helmets and VR suits. You’ll be able to put on some pilot’s helmet and gloves, and enter a virtual world from your bedroom at night while your parents think you’re asleep.

Best scifi book I’ve read in a while.

Eventually we’ll probably have complete VR suits that you can slip inside, as seen in Ready Player One. In order to provide for all bodily functions, the suits will probably have tubes for all your holes, so you don’t have to get out every time you need to take care of said bodily functions.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Google advances chip tech so far that all you have to do is glance to the upper left for a second and then the chip connects your brain directly to the Net.

Until brain chips and super suits hit mainstream, everyone will start getting chips or wearable tech that is unobtrusive. A watch, a pair of smart earrings, a pair of smart contact lenses, smart glove linings that fit inside your black stylish leather ones, some smart undergarments, and even though you’re on a flight from Paris to New York, you can project your Avatar into your family’s bedroom for dinner, while simultaneously attending a friends’ house party in Dublin with a different Avatar.

You’ll Be in Ten Places at Once

When you land, Google’s iChatLocalApp will tell you that there’s a girl downtown who wants to go to that electronic music festival who shares your taste in TV and Mediterranean cuisine, so you AvatarChat for a few minutes while waiting to pick up your luggage, then meet up in real life and make it to your friend’s house party, where you’ve been half-attending with your PartyAvatar#13 all along.

And while riding the taxi to the party you use your LinkedIn Avatar to correspond with some of your business contacts, only half-paying attention to the girl you met, who is also half-somewhere else, half-chatting with someone else behind her Google Lens, probably recording you and having her MyFace friends rate your looks. When you arrive at the party, you have between half-a-dozen and a dozen conversations and content streams whirling about your Lens interface.

So when you’re surfing the content streams and half-chatting with half-a-dozen avatars halfway around the world, where are you really? Your attention will be split and pulled in a million directions by a million signals competing for your time, money, and intellectual resources. Enter Rushkoff’s Present Shock, which points out the fragmenting effect technology has on our consciousness.

Augmented Reality

Present shock becomes even more ominous when you consider that augmented reality will saturate our lives even more than it already does. Now we look at the virtual world through our computers, which have found their way into our pockets as smartphones, but the internet of things will make augmented reality into a permanent stratum of our daily lives.

I used to envision VR as this other world that you just plug into and then come out of and then you’re back in the real world. Like Narnia, VR was something you could turn on and off by going through a doorway. But it’s not shaping up that way.

The evolution of the interface-on-your-face

The interface-in-your-face

Technology is turning out to be a sphere that’s always on, that we can’t seem to unplug from. Again, Ghost in the Shell has the right idea. If you’re wearing Google Contact Lenses, you’ll be able to sit in a recliner in a roach-infested filthy bachelor pad, then open your eyes inside a palace on a distant planet with tons of alien babes crawling all over you. Or you can look out your living room and, instead of seeing a dirty alley wall, gaze at an empty tropical beach, a mountain vista, an alien landscape, or outer space.

While walking down the street you can add dynamic backgrounds that don’t exist in reality. Say you want a more saturated color palette? Done. A flock of birds? Done. Virtual graffiti on those walls? Done. Say you wish your neighbor was your sex toy for the night? Done.

Sexbots

SexbotWith your Google Lenses you can steal images of some hot chick you see on the street then use some pirated software to take that girl’s face and make a sex avatar out of it. When you get home to your android that night, you just have your Google Lenses sync up that girl’s face with your lifelike android’s hot body. And you can do it again and again every day with some other chick. Imagine the virtual harems that creeps will hoard…if they ever leave their basements.

Because, whether we like thinking about it or not, we will build robots and androids that will be our complete slaves. As they should be. They are fucking robots, after all.

As with all new technology, this wave will be a double-edged sword, with the potential to revolutionize the world, while also introducing some darker possibilities.

Horrible Stuff

Robots already exist in the military. Modern day drone pilots bomb the enemy, then go home to their wives for dinner. We have robots outfitted with machine guns and cameras. War could become a video game tournament for rich nations. What happens if Google can create a real army of robots for the US government? What if we had a bunch of android house cleaners and servants and they got hacked by an enemy country or by that kid down the block? Or the NSA decided to make them all pick up weapons?

Weapon-wielding spiderbots, dogbots, hoverbots, and tankbots could roll across the battlefield while we watch through a detached dopamine-addiction in our Google Lenses. Outfitted with human-killing weaponry, they could decimate the opposition without a single homeside casualty.

But…oops…

We forgot about EMPs. Electro-magnetic pulses that can disable all electronics within a several-mile radius.

The electro-magnetic pulse disabled our robot battalion and now the robot tech is in the hands of the enemy. This is why EMPs are illegal.

Probably best to stick to stratosphere-flying drones.

AI

We’ll also have AI, which you can install into that open-source brain you printed from your 3D printer, which you can then install into that new iJeeves bot you printed.

Get Ready by Looking Forward

 

Feel like getting rid of pesky senior citizens? Just pop them inside one of these machines. They take care of all the dirty work & keep them entertained at the same time. Just be careful the machine doesn't turn into a giant robot, like it does in this anime.

Feel like getting rid of pesky senior citizens? Just pop them inside one of these nursing beds.

The nerdiest science fiction has the best predictions of how we’ll interface with technology in the coming decades. Ghost in the Shell, Roujin Z, Ready Player One, the Matrix, Phillip K. Dick fiction, modern day concept art, cyberpunk, and countless others point to the trends that are manifesting in both technology and society.

As Mat Honan said, we need to be ready. Fortunately, science fiction designers design the future constantly, so we can use their predictions and future designs to better prepare for tomorrow.

We can start by looking further than one year at a time.

The Killing Fields, Emergency Sex, & Bed Bugs

IMG_20130927_111330As you enter the Killing Fields you see a tall pagoda-like structure filled with skulls. The skulls of the victims that were exhumed from this site have been examined by forensic professionals from around the world, and some are in displayed the museum, off to the right of the entrance. Small signs behind the skull explain how each one died. Most often it was one of the agricultural tools used by the Khmer for centuries, like a hoe or a hatchet or another blunt instrument.

The site is not that large. Prisoners were brought in by the truckload, stored in a building, and taken a short distance to be executed. Now, there are grass-filled craters where the mass graves used to be. During heavy rains, fragments or teeth will occasionally surface from the mud.

None of the buildings at the site survived. Two large trees stand amidst the excavated graves. The Khmer Rouge would hang a speaker from one of the trees, hook up a loud diesel generator that sounded like a failing truck engine, and blast traditional Khmer music to mask the screams of the dying. When the excavators discovered babies’ corpses by the other tree, they realized that the soldiers had used the tree to smash the babies skulls, using the trunk as a quick and efficient murder weapon.

 

S-21 is the name of a high school that was converted into a prison, where prisoners would watch other prisoners get tortured to death, then become victims themselves. The Khmer Rouge extracted confessions of crimes and denunciations of family and friends before the prisoners died. Of the few who survived, most were artists, kept alive to render portraits. Fifteen or twenty thousand were killed at this prison.

Inside, you can find cells the size of closets, and the metal bed frames that were used as torture racks. On the wall above the bed frame is often a fuzzy black and white photo of a prisoner who was tortured to death, still chained to the bed frame or lying on the floor in their blood. There are other rooms with hundreds of photographs of the prisoners that were killed there, including children.

When I hurried out of S-21, a tuk tuk driver and a maimed beggar came at me at me simultaneously. I was casting about for my driver, and he came up to me and asked, Are you okay?

He gave me some kind of bean cake and took me back to the hotel.

 

IMG_0756A couple days later, when it was raining, a girl came into the hotel with a pair of backpacks on her front and back, both bulging beneath a giant red poncho. She looked like some kind of wild yuppie tourist beast from National Geographic. She was a giant compared to the 13-year-old girl from the country…the one who survived on $.50 per day and who was so malnourished she looked like she was 6.

The traveler asked the owner about a room, then whispered to me anxiously, Is this place any good?

She went upstairs, and a minute later she came rushing downstairs and practically ran over the little Cambodian girl on her way out. She looked positively terrified, so I was sure she had spotted some bed bug poop under the pillows. This hotel is waging an endless war against them.

 

My sombre mood fueled me to get Emergency Sex, which should win a Pulitzer Prize. And while the committee’s at it, they should award one to The U.N. Exposed, a searing expose that makes you wonder if there’s any hope for world peace.

Emergency Sex takes you to the front lines of the worst UN missions in the nineties, beginning with the U.N.’s mission to restore democracy in Cambodia. Twenty years ago, one of the three narrators has divorced her husband of ten years and left her life-crushing ennui to see this after her arrival in Phnom Penh:

 

Entire families pass by on single motor scooters, toddlers standing in the space between the driver’s legs. Live chickens dangle by their legs from a rope tied to the back fender of the bike. Plunk, plunk, plunk goes the one with its head caught in the wheel spokes. A naked baby wanders to the curb to squat and defecate. A pile of squirming worms drops to the gutter, with a few left dangling from his bottom. It looks like spaghetti in curry sauce. A man walking by kicks some dirt over the slithering mass.

 

And it goes on.

Phonm Penh circa 2013

Phonm Penh circa 2013

The book’s three non-fictional narrators meet in Phnom Penh, become friends, and keep in contact over the next decade as they join UN missions in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Rwanda. They witness firsthand the incompetence of the government bureaucracies that end up costing thousands and thousands of lives.

In Somalia in 1993, UN and US troops were on a peacekeeping mission, when a botched secret US military mission left eighteen US rangers dead and many more wounded. Their bodies were dragged through the streets, and, to paraphrase We Did Nothing, Americans who didn’t even know where Somalia was woke up in front of their TV sets.

Public opinion pulled US troops out of Somalia and out of Haiti. Clinton’s policy then became non-intervention, and this mindset prevented an invasion of the war-stricken Rwanda in 1994, where 800,000 people were massacred in three months. The UN instead sent in a mission after the fact to dig up the bodies and try the warlords in an international war crimes court.

In Rwanda:

 

The forensics is clear already. These were unarmed civilians, mostly women and children, almost all of whom died of blunt force or sharp-force trauma. They were hacked or clubbed to death, or both…This is an average massacre by Rwandan standards, unremarkable in scale or circumstance. Several thousand civilians had gathered in the church grounds, promised protection by the Hutu governor…Then the governor fired his weapon in the air as a kill-the-Tutsis signal and young men drunk on banana beer hacked them all to pieces. It’s hard work killing that many people in a confined space with only machetes and clubs, so the killers returned home to their families each night to rest and drink before the next day’s work. It took three days and so far we know of only two survivors.

 

 

Later, listening to the rain in the darkness of my room, I remembered the girl who’d run away from the bed bugs in terror. I wondered if she’d be able to get any sleep that night.

Awakening

Sihanoukville beach. Off-season.

Sihanoukville’s Serendipity Beach. Off-season. Not bad.

My neighbor told me to come visit the bar she owns. She told me to get changed, and was like, You’re wearing those? when she saw my Vibrams. Ride the motorbike with me and my roommate, she said, but I told her I was too scared, and that I would rather walk.

I took a detour along the boardwalk, and saw a bald guy fend off a Cambodian vendor. We’ll call him P.

How often do the taxi drivers offer you weed? I asked him.

Every five seconds, P said. Why? Do you want some? I have a little.

A short chat later, he said, I’m not gay, but I have a balcony, do you want to come up and have a couple beers?

Since that didn’t sound weird or suspicious, I agreed. Once up there, P did indeed have a balcony, and for twenty bucks a night, a gigantic room with fully functioning air conditioning, which is quite the luxury for a budget traveler such as myself.

Out on the balcony I met P’s neighbor, a New Zealand lady who was having a beer on her balcony, separated from P’s by a metal railing. P rummaged around his apartment for a minute, then came out and said, I’m going to nip out for a few minutes, and he disappeared.

A frog smaller than my thumb

A frog smaller than my thumb

The wife and her husband were on vacation, touring SEA and looking for some type of awakening, she told me. Ever since they came to Sihanoukville they had hardly spent any time together, whereas before they had always been at each other’s sides. She didn’t know where he was, and didn’t seem too worried, at least on the surface.

We talked about life, traveling, and the meaning of the universe for about ten minutes. At some point her husband came out and sat on the opposite side of the balcony, popped a beer, lit a smoke, didn’t say a word, and didn’t look at us. She was a good listener and we kept talking.

Meanwhile, P, having discovered that the housecleaner had stolen the weed and coke he’d hidden under his mattress, had gone in search of more.

A taxi driver slash drug dealer carted him off to a place to do the deal.

On the way, he passed a mob of about twenty or so guys beating the shit out of somebody with sticks, feet, and tazers. He was a thief, according to the taxi driver. [I think the article I linked to is the same incident, though my first version of this article was written two days before the incident supposedly occurs. But the town is the same and the dates are so close I’d be surprised if these were different events. Funny that this ended up as national news.]

P was dropped in a dark alley, where he couldn’t help thinking, I’m in a foreign country, in the middle of a dark country lane, waiting on a drug dealer, and nobody knows where I am. His drug deal went down smoothly, however, and he soon rejoined us on the balcony and told us the story.

A completely unrelated stock photo from Thailand because I'm faster at writing these posts than I am at taking pictures.

A completely unrelated stock photo from Thailand because I’m faster at writing these posts than I am at taking pictures. Also, you have to watch your bag more carefully here. I don’t feel like taking my camera out as often.

As he rolled a joint he asked us if we wanted to do a line of coke, but we declined, and P drank a couple beers and I suggested we go down to the beach for a bit.

By the time we got to the beach he was walking very slowly and once we sat on the beachside papasans he was pretty much catatonic. I guessed the two beers finally did him in.

So I abandoned him and walked back to my neighbor’s bar. One of the girls that worked there let me try a tamarind dipped in some homemade garlic chili onion paste sauce and I loved it so much I made her take me to get some more. I ate a whole bag of the stuff while playing Connect Four and learning how to say things in Khmer, like, Hello I Love You, Thank You, No Thank You, Big Butt, Big Boobs, and Big Mouth.

The next day, while working on an article about AT&T getting into the industry of online higher education, I saw the husband from last night pass by, staring into the distance with the look of a man whose worldview had just been changed forever.

Perhaps Sihanoukville’s hooked him, I thought. I’ve met a number of expats that have lived here long time. Once you get past any initial culture shock, because it is kind of seedy, Sihanoukville is a pretty interesting place. Papasans decorate the beach, people from around the world congregate to party and socialize, and Cambodian kids run around and put your sunglasses on and climb in your papasan next to you while trying to sell you a bracelet, and once you actually have a conversation with locals, they are quite, quite friendly.

While I was pondering these things and watching the waves over the edge of my laptop screen, the wife walked past, staring at the ground.