Peter Thiel tends to be best known as an investor and entrepreneur. He is a co-founder of PayPal and the first investor in Facebook, both of which have made him wealthy and well-known.
I tend to be more interested in Peter Thiel for his regular and careful analysis of economic and technology trends. Though Thiel is a self-described conservative libertarian and Ron Paul supporter, his analysis tends to be more nuanced and thoughtful than a lot of people give it credit for.
Two weeks ago he gave a fascinating talk at the DLD 2013 Conference entitled “Developing the Developed World”. Thiel’s analysis mostly centers on the prospects for economic growth in the foreseeable future. His analysis takes into account both the instability related to our recent economic crisis, as well as the prospect that much of the growth that previously drove our economy may have been an historical anomaly.
Growth from Globalization or Technology Innovation?
Thiel’s primary thesis categorizes the two driving factors of the future of our economy as globalization and technological innovation. In Thiel’s view, globalization is the economic growth from copying existing technologies and models from the developed world to the developing world. Technological innovation, on the other hand, is growth derived from the creation of new things. Thiel’s conclusion is that sustainable growth requires strategies to pursue both.
In Thiel’s view, four things are likely to happen to the current group of developed countries. Growth and innovation can continue at a decelerating rate, they can enter a cyclical pattern of growth and collapse, completely collapse, or continue to accelerate. In the end, of course, the only acceptable option in his view is accelerated growth.
Exponential Technology Growth: The Singularity
Since Thiel’s prescription emphasizes the need for innovation growth to accelerate, rather than stagnate, Thiel focuses on the potential for continued exponential growth in computing power and software. Thiel is a well-known supporter of singularity studies, the prediction that exponential technological progress will lead to a point in the near future where artificial intelligence outpaces collective human intelligence and leads to a new era of rapid progress. In the DLD speech, Thiel notes the continued importance of Moore’s Law and accelerating innovation growth as a potential driver of economic recovery. He cites examples such as the future of self-driving cars, and bioinformatics as possible technologies to lead this growth.
This is fun stuff to think about.
I’m excited see if some of these themes are given more depth in Peter Thiel’s up-coming book “The Blueprint: Reviving Innovation, Rediscovering Risk, and Rescuing the Free Market”
You can watch Peter Thiel’s entire 50-minute talk at the DLD Conference is here: