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Peter Thiel, Paypal’s founding CEO and the first outside investor in Facebook, is set to make multiple billions in the upcoming Facebook IPO. By some accounts, he may be the most successful technology investor of all-time. But, Thiel is deeply pessimistic about the future of Western civilization. In an October 2011 essay entitled “The End of the Future,” Thiel argues that America has failed to make significant economic progress in the past four decades due to a lack of revolutionary scientific breakthroughs. This slowdown, he says, “threatens not just our financial markets, but the entire modern political order, which is predicated on easy and relentless growth.”
What can be done to restart innovation? How should government be involved in the economy? Is education the answer? Thiel makes several suggestions:
Higher education is a bubble that needs bursting. He believes that college is a waste for many young people who would be better served learning in the real world. He has since created a fund that gives $100,000 grants for aspiring entrepreneurs to drop out of college and start a business.
America cannot rely on government stimulus to solve our depression. He argues that fiscal stimulus is a fraud which will end inevitably in fiscal austerity. Governments should focus instead on fostering fundamentals for growth, funneling money to new frontiers of research, and discarding the unproductive cultural politics of the left.
New communities must be created that go beyond traditional politics. Our democracy in its current form is not the solution. Thiel argues that the internet, outer space, and the unclaimed reaches of the ocean are new zones of freedom where societies can prosper.
Weigh in: Do you agree with Thiel that slowing scientific innovation is our most pressing issue? Are Thiel’s solutions going to lead to progress and the reclamation of “the future?”