Conversations with Tyler — Peter Thiel

On: Stagnation, Innovation, and What Not to Call your Company

Episode: 1

Date: April 2015

Background: Founder of PayPal, author of “Zero to One“, etc.

Key Subjects:

  • Innovation issue: stagnation in the world of atoms, not bits:
    • Atoms are more regulated than bits.
      • New drug development slow, software development okay.
    • Innovation requires coordination across domains.
      • Gov’t today less efficient in driving this.
    • Environment is more opaque.
      • Specialization has increased the power of self-reinforcing expert communities.
    • Science increasingly politicized.
      • Less room for eccentric professor types.
  • Progress pushed by people that take risk despite discouragements of society and social conventions.
    • Entrepreneurs sometimes more oblivious to these deterrents.
    • Some have mild form of Aspergers.
    • [Put differently, they are more willing to accept likely individual negative outcomes of risk-taking behavior; the type of behavior that benefits society as whole, but not always the individual.]
  • Political and economic systems changed by non-conformists with strong convictions.
  • Benefit of combining apparent opposites:
    • Idiosyncratic individuals with original ideas that are also able to function socially and execute.
  • Decline of globalization since 2007.
    • Globalization is about horizontal progress (copying).
      • Maybe running out of things to copy.
    • Technology is about vertical progress (new things).
      • Much less of it today.
      • Requires looking at: what is no one else doing that you are good at and passionate about.
  • NGOs: have a counterfactual sense of mission: if you are not doing it, no one else will.
  • Democracy and capitalism:
    • Power of representation moderated by judicial system and unelected institutions.
    • Increasingly, decisions made by judiciary and technocratic agencies.
    • Elected officials not necessarily better at making decisions (limited capabilities).

Key Takeaways:

  • Pursue something that you are passionate about and that what not happen if you would not do it.

Worth Listening:

This type of interview (short, specific questions) works well to bring out Thiel’s typical contrarian and non-conformist perspective on a wide range of topics.


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