Recently I wrote a post about why Thiel supports Trump.
That was before Trump’s numbers took a nosedive…
In that piece, I suggested that Thiel might want to bang on America’s governmental engine with a Trump-shaped hammer until it started working again. Also, I dropped hints that Thiel might want to become president or use “the little guy” Trump as a tool.
Over at Medium, Samuel Hammond wrote a much more thorough and informed article on the same topic.
Here are some highlights:
- Hammond wrote that “Peter Thiel see’s [sic] a Trump presidency as his pathway to be become the shadow CEO of the United States of America.”
- He quoted from Thiel’s startup lectures: “A startup is basically structured as a monarchy…the truth is that startups and founders lean toward the dictatorial side because that structure works better for startups.”
- And from Thiel’s article, The Education of a Libertarian: “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible. … A better metaphor is that we are in a deadly race between politics and technology…Unlike the world of politics, in the world of technology the choices of individuals may still be paramount. The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.”
- Hammond interprets the above passage to mean that “monarchy is the other meaning of Zero to One.”
Hammond’s insight is in-depth and informed. Very much so. And he’s probably right about Thiel.
Although he had plenty more to say – much of which is beyond the scope of my interest and my lexicon – the third quote above is what bothers me about Thiel’s perspective.
There, Thiel contrasts “the world of politics” and “the world of technology.”
These vague concepts need some serious clarification…
The term “world,” as he’s using it, is hardly scientific or linguistically specific. However, as he said in his essay, he seems to think that humans can escape politics “in all its forms.”
It appears that Thiel thinks technology can free us from politics … as if technology can free us from humans’ physiologically determined psychology and behavior.
Is It Possible for Mortals to Understand Thiel’s Political Views?
In his article, the aforementioned The Education of a Libertarian, he says that in order to escape politics, we must use “some sort of new and hitherto untried process that leads us to some undiscovered country; and for this reason I have focused my efforts on new technologies that may create a new space for freedom.”
Personally, I don’t understand how we can try something new and undiscovered when human psychology, human behavior, and human history repeat themselves endlessly. How does he even define “new”? And how can we escape politics without changing humans’ fundamental psychology?
Perhaps we can use technology or government to force people to behave the way we want…?
He goes on to claim that technology, outer space, and seasteading are three such means of escape.
As I was reading those paragraphs, I was thinking to myself, Great…another technological utopian.
Then, Thiel went on to conclude:
The future of technology is not pre-determined, and we must resist the temptation of technological utopianism — the notion that technology has a momentum or will of its own, that it will guarantee a more free future, and therefore that we can ignore the terrible arc of the political in our world.
Ultimately, Monopoly Cannot Defeat the “Arc of the Political”
Whatever the specific strange views of Thiel may turn out to be, he appears to think that monopoly is a good thing … as if you could end politics altogether through some other form of government, like a technocracy, or by ending politics and government completely by letting a benevolent AI run everything.
But I’m getting tired of trying to figure out Thiel’s way of thinking. I don’t even like politics. At first I thought he was just some eccentric tech visionary, like Musk, but now I’m not so sure.
I get the feeling that, like Trump, he thinks that “he alone” can fix the world, and that he feels he’s above explaining the politics that he aggressively asserts onto the world – and if you tried to enter into a free and open discussion about politics or capitalism, he’d just try to checkmate you with logic that only he understands.
Anyways, here’s why he’s wrong:
Monopoly doesn’t encourage innovation, it discourages diversity and encourages overspecialization.
Overspecialization is a quintessential human trait that causes major, major problems.
- Cause the extinction of countless species
- Reduce the variation of available foods on grocery store shelves
- Replace “low-quality” search results with a tiny handful of corporate-owned sources
- Build massive monopolistic businesses that suppress diversity and small business
- Self-segregate into ethnic groups and nations
I’m sure you can figure out for yourself some of the consequences of these tendencies.
If not, I’ll leave you with this quote:
We are in an age that assumes the narrowing trends of specialization to be logical, natural, and desirable…all the known cases of biological extinction have been caused by overspecialization, whose concentration of only selected genes sacrifices general adaptability…In the meantime, humanity has been deprived of comprehensive understanding. Specialization has bred feelings of isolation, futility, and confusion in individuals. It has also resulted in the individual’s leaving responsibility for thinking and social action to others. Specialization breeds biases that ultimately aggregate as international and ideological discord, which in turn leads to war.
-Buckminster Fuller, Synergetics
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