Libertarian gung-fu computing logician master

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 3:42 pm by George Smith


Cryptome has posted a New Yorker profile of Peter Thiel, one of the crew that includes Elon Musk, the people who made a billion by creating PayPal. And then was one of the first investors in the Z-man of Facebook. (Related: Elon Musk — from the archives.)

Worth quite a lot and convinced of his mastery of everything, Thiel aspired to be one of the financial gurus of the universe. Subsequently, his hedge fund was crushed in 2008.

You have probably read many profiles like his. The characters are always the same, towering figures of wealth and intellect, convinced of their personal talent and magnetic abilities for collaboration with others of the same superiority.

It’s a pity the Silicon Valley hasn’t developed faster-than-light travel.

If it would such people could just get in starships and leave the rest of us models of sloppy thinking behind.

Some quotes are worth excerpting, if only for the capacity to deaden any further interest:

The topics of conversation included evolutionary theory, libertarian philosophy and the anthropic principle … “He [Thiel] would demolish your arguments in five minutes … He would ask questions like, ‘Should there even be a market for nuclear weapons?'”

He sees death as a problem to be solved, the sooner the better.

[Someone Thiel has funded] shows a slide that listed his hobbies and interests: cryonics, in case all else fails; dodgeball, self-improvement, personal digital archivization, super intelligence through a.i. or uploading.

The next stop, in an industrial park, a few miles away, was a company whose goal is to cure all viral diseases, by engineering liquid computers … It consisted of three men and women in their twenties, who were eating sandwiches and grapes … They were rebels from grad school …

Hsu would get a Thiel Fellowship. So would the Stanford sophomore from Minnesota, who had been obsessed with energy and water scarcity, since the age of nine when he tried to build the first every perpetual motion machine. “After two years of being unsuccessful, I realized that even if I solved perpetual motion we wouldn’t use it if it was too expensive”…

Thiel himself, perhaps out of sheer contrarianism, is uncertain about Darwinian evolution. “I think it’s true,” he said, “but it’s also possible it’s missing a lot of things, and it’s possible it’s not the most important thing.” Global warming is also “probably true” …

He is spending his time “building the machinery of freedom …”

Guaranteed pleasant dining company. I read it so you don’t have to.

For a publication that prides itself on being ever so smart, New Yorker editors must surely know how repetitive many of the inane idiosyncrasies found in the profile of Peter Thiel are.

It’s very Alvin Tofflerian and all the bad things that suggests.

There’s the usual obsession with living forever, seemingly always entertained by people who either have never seen someone dieing of cancer or some other singularly unpleasant or disfiguring disease up close (or who simply turn away from it).

You also find the standard yearning for one’s own no-rules-but-yours private principality — either offshore or perhaps on some orbital platform, free of taxation and the sight of the rest of the shit-stained world outside the environs of Palo Alto.

(It’s a requirement for such types. The founder of American Eagle, the small publishing house for computer virus books — as well as mine — was staunchly libertarian and keen on the idea of an island micro-nation. This could not be easily managed so he left the tyranny of the United States for Belize.)

Returning to living forever, one can gobble pills like Ray Kurzweil and embrace the Eighties-Nineties sci-fi annoying computer geek beliefs that advances in molecular science will eliminate all disease and that superhuman intelligence rendering one omnipotent will eventually arise through massive ubiquitous computing.

If you’re one of these computing masters the evening news must be an endlessly irritating experience. And so it is with Peter Thiel, according to the New Yorker’s piece.

The rest of the world outside the Silicon Valley, the US in particular, is so stubbornly unable to advance to technological heaven despite all the wonderful commercials on the power of smart-phones and the million or so apps one can have on them. Perhaps the bankrolling of rebel young people who brainstorm perpetual motion machinery or storing themselves cryonically when they are no longer fit enough to play dodgeball will help.

Paradoxically, the transforming achievement of the man “building the machinery of freedom” — PayPal — well, that agency, eight years after he sold it was one of the first to ban donations to WikiLeaks. How’s that for the machinery of freedom?

A fairly random selection of articles on Thiel (relying only on Google Instant, honest) — all show a startling number of ways to be repugnant.

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  1. Christoph Hechl said,

    December 7, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Some time ago i mentioned a certain state of mind, that manifests in the belief in “the big one” the one chance to get everything right and so on. This i think is what happens to a person who has that kind of mental disorder, once “the big one” really happens at pretty much the first try.
    Everything they ever thought of becomes realistic and therefore everything they ever did was valuable.
    This of course is only a theory, but at least it helps me to understand how anybody can say such a nonsense. Doesn’t apply for the journalist though.
    I bet the “perpetuum mobile” was one of the typical constructions with an assymetrical rotor, where you try to compensate friction with gravitational force. Since the latter is constantly introduced into the system from outside it is of course never a real perpetuum mobile.

  2. George Smith said,

    December 7, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Another way of saying it is the belief, very strong in this country, that once you’re rich you’re wonderful at everything. Reinforced by the American high businessman’s taste for coteries of yes-men. Socially, this was reinforced in all corners of American life and now you have what we have now.

    There are exceptions. Bill Gates would seem to have accumulated some currency as an effective philanthropist simply through helping in the purchase of mosquito netting and anti-malarials in Africa.

    However, when all of a sudden a computer programmer gets the belief that he can dabble in biology and hire a small handful of people to cure all viral diseases, that’s just silly.

  3. mark said,

    December 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Thiel is one of the reasons I don’t want a Fakebook account.

    And Thiel is on the steering committee of the infamous Bilderberg meetings, which has such nice people as David Rockefeller, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle among its attendees.

    Gates is also pushing nuclear reactors for China, supposedly of safer designs. One hopes they won’t be using Windoze to control the boiling of water with slow motion nuke explosions … the blue screen of death comes to mind.

    I hope that future generations looking back are able to understand why we chose collapse over cooperation.

  4. postgygaxian said,

    December 8, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    You know who else demanded to live in a “no-rules-but-yours” community?

    George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson

  5. DD said,

    December 9, 2011 at 8:29 am

    And they had wooden teeth, too. I see your mind has been tossing upon the ocean.