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Peter Thiel at the Singularity Summit 2011
Nov 4, 2011
(Psst— Click around.
Click the notes below to skip to the good parts.)
(Background on Peter.)
No longer much public discussion about the future.
People think this "Singularity thing" is strange.
Decline in science fiction. Cites Neal Stephenson essay: http://www.worldpolicy.org/journal/fall2011/innovation-starvation
"Star Trek" versus "The Next Generation": Spock always trying to be more scientific; Data trying to become more emotional
Globalization versus Technology. Globalization copies things that work. Technology -- new innovation -- is a lesser priority today.
You need to make a choice between the two.
There's anxiety that science/technology are a "trap" humans have created.
Globalization without technology doesn't work: leads to conflict over resources.
e.g., events of Middle East possibly instigated by food price instability.
We have to keep going.
Tremendous number of problems we can solve.
Who will do it? You. This room.
Need a balance of optimism and pessimism.
Ask what you can do to bring about the Singularity.
Question: What can be done by small startup companies?
When you start a company think about how you will get Person #20 to join.
Your company should have a compelling mission/story: "If we don't do this, no one will."
If technology is hard/unique, and viable: phenomenal business model.
Question: Is our capitalist system anti-technology?
Gov't can't play a big role in Singularity because so few believe in it.
In the 50s/60s, tax rates were much higher, and much less regulation. You had more innovation
Question: What does the Singularity really mean for entrepreneurship? How quickly can things really go? (e.g., Groupon)
How can we say things aren't going fast enough given examples like Groupon.
Certain business models can grow very fast.
But tech breakthroughs are just as hard as ever.
Question: What is the best motive for starting a company? Profit or technology interest?
"Trying to solve important problems."
Interest in tech itself can veer into "pure science" without impact. Profit can lead to selling company as soon as you get paid.
Facebook decision to turn down Yahoo's $1B offer wasn't motivated by money or by an abstract social networking science project.
Question: Should we create businesses that protect privacy? What does that even mean now?
We can't just shut everything down. Need a more tolerant society in conjunction with less privacy.
Question: What are your thoughts on alternative energy and politics surrounding?
Try to link it to 'how do you make things better in society.'
Wonders why "Clean Tech" has been a catastrophic failure the past decade.
Until it's cheaper it won't work. Amazon example: books at twice the price but subsidized by the gov't would not have gotten investment.
Question: What's the main thing holding us back?
We aren't out of ideas. Need to encourage people to dig into science.
Need compelling narratives about creating specific technologies.
Question: Why is there no technology around implicit health monitoring at home? (Toilets perform stool samples; mirrors identify melanoma; etc.)
"People have made their peace with death" and accepted it. Psychologically disturbing to have to address it.
If we have neither optimism nor pessimism about the future then you have little incentive to change anything.
Question: What do you do personally to stay healthy?
Nutrition most important.
Tremendous value in getting a good doctor... and taking responsibility for one's own health.
Question: Is the change in what web companies IPO related to science/globalization issue?
Big shift: IPO threshold demands much larger companies.
If companies are too incremental, too small: not valuable
Not enough people are looking in other verticals.
How can you say the public distrusts technology when Apple's iPhone/iPad sales are "off the chart?"
Jobs would say iPhone is more important than Apollo space program.
But the problem with Apple: a large part is designing its technology so as to hide the technology.
A negative undercurrent that Jobs was the only person in society inventing things.
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