Some points from Peter Thiel (?)

Second-hand reporting, to be clear, here is the tweet storm from Peter’s latest talk.

And from Bonnie Kavoussi here are systematic notes on the talk, recommended.


A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, particularly when combined with a massive ego...

(aka Dunning-Kruger on steroids)

All we need to know is which laws Thiel doesn't like and will not enforce. Most of us have better uses (massive quantities of beer would be better than his bullshit) for our time than listening to crap about Star Trek or sci. fi.

Look America! I amassed billions dollars selling my tech firms to Wall Street and hedge funds.

Bow down and I will run your lives!

The owner of multiple global surveillance companies making accusations against another global surveillance company. Let's haul all of them to Congress, then pass me the popcorn.

Somebody leaked Palantir's User Manual for law enforcement. You might be for this style of policing, I'm not, but consider that databases run by cities are relatively easy to hack due to skill mismatches between foreign adversaries and understaffed, underbudgeted cities.

Ah, but Palantir offers a lot of knowledge - 'Palantir is one of the most significant and secretive companies in big data analysis. The company acts as an information management service for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, corporations like JP Morgan and Airbus, and dozens of other local, state, and federal agencies. It’s been described by scholars as a “secondary surveillance network,” since it extensively catalogs and maps interpersonal relationships between individuals, even those who aren't suspected of a crime. ....

The Palantir guide shows that this data is pulled from several different management systems at once. For instance, a Palantir screenshot included in the guide show that the NCRIC lets police pull from the record management systems of the San Mateo and Palo Alto Police Departments. This exemplifies Palantir's selling point: the system can synthesize enormous amounts of data from various sources. Palantir can also make connections across that data, making it accessible for users in a way that would be extremely time-intensive to do manually. '

B-B is truly providing us a golden age for privacy.

You can criticize Peter Thiel on some aspects. But at each of his conference, he always unveils one or two deep truths.

I counted four, maybe five. And at least one was pretty deep. Another was not deep at all, though that it takes a shaman to even utter it, essentially makes it a transmission to the future, not a warning to anyone alive.

Can you say what the "deep truths" were? They all sounded either obvious, trite or silly. In other words, nothing new.

Odd how in an age where tech dominates, and privacy is of no apparent concern, that it is not possible to see the actual talk.

Essentially, there is no reason for second-hand reporting in the age of B-B's bounty.

This, for example, is a fine example of not needing to look at second hand reports at all - And of course, you can also read the filmed man's response -

"Then he talks about the fear mongering surrounding automation. He does not believe that automation is a threat to replace jobs, but that those jobs that are subject to be replaced have already been replaced, and the risk is that automation wont replace more jobs."

I code to improve our company's analysis and business process. No one in the team is fired because software make us more productive. People is replaced by automation because we are growing without hiring.

Productivity increase is capitalism at work, a great thing. I don't understand why Mr. Thiel sugar coats the story. He's powerful enough to speak the truth without consequences. Thus, why lie?

You're telling me that a guy who made his fortune using the technology of automation is saying there's little to no downside and that jobs fears are overblown?

haha of course, common sense tells the reason to lie is to protect his business. But, is that all? Money is a powerful reason, but most of time is not enough to explain human behavior.

There is always some technological frontier where jobs are being replaced by automation. The questions are about how those particular workers fare, and who benefits from a general higher productivity.

How any one group of particular workers fare is unimportant to the big picture. What is important is that throughout history time and time again displaced workers found other jobs. Particularly in this economy, another job is available if one is motivated to look. If the workers are unable to compete because their particular skill sets were specific to only a certain position, then they needed more training and education anyway.

To legislate that jobs remain in existence by stifling innovation and productivity with new laws and regulations - or worse, putting those displaced workers on the dole, is entirely short sighted.

"How any one group of particular workers fare is unimportant to the big picture."

Say what? What is the big picture that is more important than people? Treating workers as cannon fodder is not part of the best practices to increase productivity.

Where you stand depends on where you sit. John Barnes noted sometime back that the normal scifi nerd interpretation of the Luddites is a little unfair. We stand looking from the vantage point of a society that has prospered because they lost and productivity gains were allowed to continue. But if you're the guy at ground zero who is about to lose his livelihood, all the talk about future productivity gains and prosperity a hundred years hence might ring a bit hollow. You're trying to feed your kids in the here-and-now, of course.

OTOH, unless I'm directly threatened by such a thing, as a rational person *not* in the cross-hairs, I'll tend to think in more positive terms about productivity gains. This is part and parcel of the human condition.

We forget how brutal the repression of the Luddites was. Smashing a loom became a capital offense, and the British had more soldiers fighting them than Napoleon.

There are two things that have changed the employment picture. One is automation. The gains from production move from labor to capital and the people who design, produce and maintain the automated processes.

The second is low cost off shored labor. Essentially labor intensive tasks where cheap, very cheap labor can stitch together shoes or put together wiring harnesses.

But there is a third factor. There are automated and offshored. There isn't much labor, almost no low cost labor involved. The cost savings come from two places: regulation and project turn around, where an idea to production takes years less than it would in the US or Canada, with far fewer fees and complex regulatory structures to navigate. And second the higher cost labor is cheaper because they don't come with $100k in student debt and the accompanied wage expectations.

The third situation is simply dead weight loss of an noncompetitive environment caused almost entirely be ridiculous policy implementations.

We are living this timeline in part because displaced workers feel "economic anxiety."

Now, xenophobia (especially southward facing) is a very poor to automation and largely Asian outsourcing.

But there is something real there, and as I've been say since the Obama years, a low but broad tariff on all imported goods might be a good answer.

Sadly we went a bit nuts, and are mired in nonsolutions.

A broad tariff on all imported goods...?

So just enough to lower the living standards of the middle class for no reason whatsoever.

Why have a tariff at all then? The alternative to hitting yourself in the head with a hammer isn’t to hit yourself a bit less in the head with a hammer....

It’s to not do it at all.

You know, when I talked about low but broad tariffs (in the 3-5% range) people did shout "protectionism!"

But now we've got what, in the 10-25% range?

Maybe you should have taken my moderate advice then.

The average tariff rate for imported goods in the US is....


Sure, this would level it out and nudge it up a bit.

And of course the reason to have it is that we tax domestic producers. Without an adjusting tariff that alone can make an otherwise equal cost foreign good preferable.

When you put your whole price-of-goods tax burden on domestic manufacturing, what happens?

The biggest tax on domestic producers is our out-of-control health care cost disease.

When free trade was advanced a few decades ago it was good because it challenged the existing stagnant industries with new and better products. Still the case.

There were some policy adjustments to advantage exporters as well, but limited. In Canada the GST replaced a series of manufacturing taxes that were complex to administer.

But beyond that there has not been a recognition in policy circles that Canadian and American workers are now in competition with a billion Chinese, a billion Indians and another few hundred thousand Africans willing to work harder for quite a bit less. The limits of taxation were reached a couple decades ago, so to fund and implement the desired changes regulations were written that imposed costs upon businesses. The businesses with open borders could move production and not face those costs, so all the costs were born either directly or indirectly by the workers.

It is almost impossible to roll back or rationalize the costs of regulation. So the only tool at the disposal of someone who wants to change that situation is to tighten the border.

There are always two versions of free, free as in beer, and free as in speech.

You can have a low tariff, with no intervention whatsoever in terms of with whom and why you trade. I think that is hella lot more free than surprise and punitive tariffs interfering with commmerce.

By the way, that "tighten the border" punchline was droll.

>When free trade was advanced a few decades ago

More like freer trade. The basic bargain struck in GATT et al. to trade better IP protection for access to the U.S. market. Significantly, access to the foreign markets was a low priority on the U.S. side.

In was a great deal if you were in the music/movie business. It was distinctly bad if you were in the manufacturing business.

"is a very poor [answer] to automation"

"If the workers are unable to compete because their particular skill sets were specific to only a certain position, then they needed more training and education anyway."

And of course, they can take out non-dischargable student loans at a 5% interest rate every ten years once their skills go out of date! Not to mention spend their free time in school rather than making money, having a family life, exercising, or making friends! Got to keep the machine going! Infinite growth so that those future generations in 200 years have a good life! Thanks Tyler!

I don't like to be that cynic, but....yes, those are the alternatives. When out of work, get a loan for retraining. Make sure you're not scammed, otherwise you got no useful training, you're now in debt and still jobless.

And then start over as an entry level employee. Unfortunately, it's a huge drop in salary from a "Senior XYZ" position.

Not to mention, you don't have as long to recoup that initial investment. And, open age discrimination in many fields e.g., STEM.

"What is important is that throughout history time and time again displaced workers found other jobs. "

Maybe in the aggregate. But w.r.t. individuals? Of course not. The specific displaced workers have suffered greatly. Best case is greatly reduced income, unwanted cross country moves, etc. Others never recover.

"How any one group of particular workers fare is unimportant to the big picture. "

It is if you want a just society.

Thiel is pissed that Libra is getting shot down by Congress and Trump. The FBI and CIA should investigate Facebook, where Thiel is board member and major shareholder, for their dual use technology and ties to China as well. Palantir, another Thiel company, needs to be hauled to Congress for running a spying operation on the American people. I don't consider Thiel a libertarian anymore. He seems quite cozy running around with the big government elites. Especially when they pay Anduril, another Thiel company, good taxpayer money to play defense contractor.

Dome now, Thiel is the sort of libertarian that provides second hand funding (and a chance to look at the proposals to see where profit can be extracted) for the moonshots of fellow thinking libertarians. You know, the type that favor increased defense (research) spending as a way to foster economic growth.

Who knows, maybe such a libertarian will be writing a new love letter to America's misunderstood military-industrial complex anti-hero.

Well, come, not dome.

Yeah, Thiel's company Facebook was the punching bag of this year and last. He wants the heat on someone else.

There is something off with each of his points. Did he mention the Great Firewall of China? If Trump can tear down that wall, then American tech companies can compete fairly in China. Calling for the investigation of Google for Chinese infiltration on hearsay seems like something the old Hoover FBI would do, not something a self-professed libertarian should advocate for. He says universities are no good even the brand name ones for STEM. So what is his solution? His "20 under 20" program to pay kids to dropout of college is not only not scalable but was a failure.

We expect full self-determination for ourselves in the United States. Free tade is absolutely compatible with that. But "tearing down walls" to get things our way somewhere else .. that might be "self-determination for us, but not for you."

Personally I think free trade in the sense of our ports being open to ship to anywhere, receive from anywhere, is both moral and economically efficient.

It's a big world. We don't need to force anyone, or make government to government "deals."

In other words, not free trade in the sense of Opium Wars

Of course there's something wrong in all of his points: But if you compare his narrative to the typical modern conservative narrative, it's still better.

The Warren criticism is pretty sensible, for instance: American politicians are very afraid of inflicting pain on their own, and a university that chooses to rid people with tens, if not hundreds of dollars in debt, in exchange for something that they know is not all that valuable needs some skin in the game. Someone learning CS from the 200th best university in America is still getting a sensible deal, even when they pay the tuition in full. Someone studying history in the 200th best university is just getting debt.

" Someone studying history in the 200th best university is just getting debt."

No, that person won't be too bad off. The person studying history in the 20th best university is probably far more for the same degree.

"Basically all STEM fields except for petroleum engineer and computer science have been a "cul de sac" -- a bad career move. So universities have not been doing a good job, except via sorting"

If the economy is unable to make use of the real skills cultivated in a STEM degree then the whole of society, not just the universities, deserve the blame. STEM is not a signaling degree but one that provides hard skills. Corporations need to redevelop their R&D departments and not treat it as a line item to cut nor as a marketing stunt. Public funding of science research needs to be expanded. Venture capital firms need to fund ideas that have longer time horizons and not just go unicorn-hunting. The Federal government should also make it easier for skilled immigrants to come into the country instead of the current disaster we have today.

Maybe there aren't real skills in a STEM degree, and maybe if there are the process of developing them is too expensive.

Or we've sent all those jobs out of the country too.

The irony is that America needs a skilled middle class but the managerial class does not want their employees to be too skilled or their labor will cost too much. This will have real world consequences not just in the checkbook. For example, if America fails to pump out enough cybersecurity experts, then the digital infrastructure of the country is ripe for easy pickings by anybody with an internet connection. They may be expensive but what is more expensive is having the systems you rely on get ransomware'd by some bored teenager in Macedonia.

I wonder why we don't have a Bell Labs or a Xerox anymore.

Any thoughts on this?

I don't know about Xerox, but T.C. linked to an American Conservative (!) piece just the other day about why we don't have Bell Labs anymore. I readied myself to follow a complicated trail of events. Now, I don't know that it was a complete tale, but ... the story it told was not actually very complicated; in fact, it was pretty indistinguishable from the story told about the decline of an American business about as different as it's possible to imagine, in "Glass House" by Brian Alexander, who seems to be a standard-issue man of the left.

We should stop using STEM as a meaningful term. It's far too broad. There is a huge difference in job prospects and salary between say, petroleum engineering and environmental science. Graduates in botany make on average about 1/3 of the salary of petroleum or chemical engineers. There's almost nothing in common between computer science and biology.

Talking about 'STEM' in the aggregate is pretty much meaningless. The high salaries of 'STEM' grads are dominated by engineering, physics and applied math. All of these programs are extremely hard and you need to have well above average intelligence and work ethic to get through them.

Taking a degree in ecology or sociology may be 'STEM', but the jobs available are likely to make less money than many jobs that don't require a degree at all, and aren't even in the same ballpark as top engineering fields.

Realistically, we should be breaking 'STEM' down into multiple categories: Engineering, 'Hard' sciences like physics, chemistry and mathematics, and 'soft' sciences. Extract engineering, physics, math and computing science from 'STEM', and the high average value of a STEM degree will vanish.

>Extract engineering, physics, math and computing science from 'STEM', and the high average value of a STEM degree will vanish.

Even there, I suspect it's a bit of survivorship bias. For example, low/mid level programmers got rocked by India/China.

Cowen's fellow-gnostic was having an exceptionally good/bad day. Anyway, pretty negative stuff from Thiel. His comment about money center banks got my attention. He says they are our enemies because they prosper when America suffers (i.e., when there's a current account deficit), and that another financial crisis looms if America's trade deficit is reduced (because the banks will suffer if they can't sell the bonds to fund the current account deficit). My interpretation of this remark is that bond prices, and asset prices generally, will collapse if the demand for bonds falls, which confirms the point I make often: reliance on rising asset prices for prosperity is doomed to failure.

It's interesting that Thiel blames both the left and the right for America's decline (a pox on both their houses!), the left for PC Culture and the right for American Exceptionalism. He thanks Trump (isn't MAGA American Exceptionalism?) for keeping America out of pesky little foreign wars, omitting that Trump is busy fomenting domestic wars while threatening massive world wars. Anyway, Thiel received "massive applause" for his criticism of America at the National Conservative conference. Does this set up Thiel as Trump's successor, Trump having been elected president by virtue of his criticism of America. He might run but he can't take office since he is an American citizen by naturalization (he is a German citizen by birth).

MAGA is about giving a sh*t about the middle class (RIP), the Constitution (unlike that hero of the left RBG), the rule of law, and protecting our borders and sovereignty.

MAGA and is opposed to all things PC, post modern BS, open borders, free stuff for people who are "unwilling to work", destructive virtue signalling by our elite overlords, and the mercantile sellout of the American people.

" Trump is busy fomenting domestic wars"

rayward, you are suffering from TDS. Trump is not busy "fomenting domestic wars".

'Trump is not busy "fomenting domestic wars".'

No, he is just telling American citizens elected to the House of Representatives to leave the nation of their birth and go back 'home.'

No modern president has ever thought saying something along those lines was acceptable, particularly in light of their oath of office. There have been some 20th Century German leaders (after all, there was more than one totalitarian system obsessed with hunting down enemies of the people) who would be fully on board with the tactic of accusing their opponents of being aliens out to destroy a nation they could never be a part of.

It is frankly disgusting, though sadly unsurprising that Trump has finally been able to move beyond buffoonery. Still easy to laugh at his antics, except for the silence of the Republican Party in reaction.

At least Richard Spencer probably feels a bit more justified in hailing his leader these days.

(The truly sad thing is that Europeans, with centuries of bloody experience involving this style of rhetoric, instantly recognize something that they never expected to see come from the president of the U.S.)

So, Trump == Nazi

Yes more TDS, though admittedly a little less delusional than rayward's commentary. Godwin's Law in action.

Is there anything Nazi-ish Trump could say that we're allowed to call him on, without being accused of TDS? Isn't this last bit getting close?

See that's the rub. If his behavior was truly that bad you wouldn't need to make the comparison. But it's not, so the Left has to manufacture a crisis.

It's always amusing that if the Left just allowed Trump enough rope, he'd probably hang himself. Instead the Left takes Trump's outrageous statements and makes even more outrageous statements.

What does your rope metaphor mean specifically? They should stop complaining when he says stupid/racist/toxic nativist shit?

As long as you keep your complaints factual and proportional it's fine.

But when CNN leads with "Trump's racist tweet" headlines and spends hours talking about it and every major Democrat jumps on the "racist tweet" bandwagon, then you've forgone facts. At that point it's two sides calling each other poopy heads.

What's the rope metaphor about? Don't push back on him at all?

And weren't these recent tweets pretty racist/bigoted? The CNN headline seems reasonable.

"What does your rope metaphor mean specifically?"

It means if you respond to Trumps outrageous tweets with logic and poise you win. He would hang himself with his own verbiage.

And no the comment wasn't racist. To be racist Trump would have to discriminate on the basis of race. Trump says mean & outrageous things about everyone. Just because this time the targets weren't white doesn't make them racist.

The comment was a classic "Love America or Leave it" comment. There are substantial logical rebuttals to that kind of argument. Particularly when 3 of the 4 women are native Americans. Instead of taking the high road, the Left (led by CNN) played the racist card.

Once again it looks as if Trump snookered them. Pelosi was isolating the specific group to regain control of Congressional Democrats and to ensure that her authority was unchallenged. And she was clearly winning that fight. However, Trump jumped in with a single tweet and put the public eye right back on the Democratic malcontents and ensured that that fissure in the caucus would remain and probably grow.

I'm never sure if Trump is way smarter than he appears or if he's an idiot with a streak of gold instinct. However, it's impossible to put this chain of events down to pure randomness. The timing was too perfect. Friday the headlines were about Pelosi getting her caucus in line, Monday morning the headlines were about Pelosi defending the very people refusing to toe the line.

The racism was not about skin color per se. The tweet's racism was about assuming anyone of color or Muslim must be from other countries, and not 'real Americans'. This is indisputably the mindset of a large swath of the Republican party, and pretty much every one of Trump's supporters.

It's not even about these 4 Democrats, right now the two sides hate each other and barely consider the other side 'real' Americans worthy of respect. Trump is making that worse with every tweet.

Trump definitely has excellent political instincts to go with his amoral narcissism, and that tweet may be driven partly by that. But let's not get carried away, the dynamic you are describing is very inside baseball and 99% of the country doesn't notice. In a week the headlines will be on to something else.

Thiel is also a recent citizen of New Zealand. He has too many passports and national allegiances to run for office.

we're entering a new age says 100-years-young author, james lovelock :

He makes great points about the university system and debt! That is for sure. Doubling down on the US governments involvement in that system seems insane and revoking their tax exempt status seems like a good idea.

As for everything else, that’s not something I feel comfortable saying yay or nay on.

'that’s not something I feel comfortable saying yay or nay on'

Don't worry, Thiel is the sort of libertarian B-B visionary that has no problem making up your mind for you, so everything will be all right, your struggle will be finished, and you will win victory over yourself.

Exactly!!! Brazil's President Captain has officially ordered slashing edicational expenses and said he will be priorize STEM courses.

I just finished reading Ryan Holliday's Conspiracy and I came away having both a higher and lower regard for him on certain matters.

I don't trust Thiel but I like that he's asking questions that others in power aren't openly considering.. I think it is, frankly, stunning how much of a consensus regarding orthodoxy that elites hold in this country hold. I think that is very dangerous for our country's long term prospects.

The problem is when he insinuates that the Neo-Nazism and race hate of his daddy is the answer. Smart people whip themselves up into contrarianism because hating consensus is clever, but sometimes they forget not to let the poor die.

The difference between Internet technologies and nuclear ones was that Internet ones are being developed by civilian companies for civilian, commercial use, while they might have some ancillary military uses. Nuclear technology was developed by scientists on the government's payroll for the purpose of having a bomb, and the civilian uses came along later. It would massively retard technological growth if companies had to vet their technologies that they are developing for civilian purposes with the government merely because they might have some military application, as nearly all new technologies could have some military application.

I'm also not sure what Thiel means about Google working with the Chinese government but not the US government. I remember there was a controversy a while ago when Google decided to make a censored search engine that they could use in China while refusing to develop technologies for the DOD as a client. Assuming that's what Thiel's talking about, these things are totally different--making a civilian product to comply with local regulations versus being a defense contractor. I haven't heard of Google accepting military contracts for the Chinese military. I think it is a good when tech companies won't be military contractors--if nothing else, becoming military contractors seems like it might be bad business because that'll strengthen the arguments that their technologies are "dual use" and should be controlled by the government.

You think there is a meaningful difference between working for the Chinese government on a 'civilian' project vs working for the Chinese military? China's new Panopticon surveillance system, built with the help of western tech companies (and with stolen western technology) is a totalitarian nightmare.

In our brave new world you don't need tanks in a square to oppress the people - you just need 'big data', lots of cameras and other surveillance, and the willingness to use it to 'improve' the public by controlling what they say and do.

All the more miraculous the protests in HK, China's own backyard. Now I know why heroes have to wear masks and costumes.

Typical Thiel:

"[Thiel] does not believe that automation is a threat to replace jobs, but that those jobs that are subject to be replaced have already been replaced, and the risk is that automation wont replace more jobs"

Obviously 100% wrong but thinks he sounds profound saying something contrarian - again.

Yep he's very wrong on this point

If you take him literally that 'all' the jobs that can be automated are already automated, then yes he's clearly wrong. But the larger point, which is that automation is no threat to general employment and that automating even more is a good thing, is correct.

We have been replacing jobs with mechanization and automation for centuries, and we currently have full employment. Just in the last few decades there have been entire industries wiped out by automation. Tens of millions of farm workers lost their jobs in the 20th century due to the mechanization of agriculture. We no longer have entire job categories like draftsmen, typesetters and switchboard operators. They are all extinct. Railroads employ a fraction of the people they used to due to automated switching, the elimination of cabooses and firebox men, etc.

And yet, here we are at full employment - not despite automation, but because of it. The increases in productivity due to automation have created entirely new industries that employ even more people.

The advocates of the 'automation apocalypse' theory of the future have the burden of proof. You need to explain why this time it's different, why future automation will have labor effects that previous rounds of automation did not.

But I don't see how Thiel meant this by what he said.

Why wouldn't he just say there will be many jobs replaced by automation but at the same time there will be new jobs so that the U.S. (the world) will remain at full unemployment?

I don't know. I wasn't at the talk, and we don't have a complete transcript. I think we're working off of someone else's notes, right? Perhaps they got it wrong?

No one with the knowledge of Peter Thiel would ever say and literally mean that no more jobs will be lost to automation. That's crazy. Jobs are lost to automation every day. It's just that more jobs are created to take up the unemployed. That's been the pattern since the start of the industrial revolution.

But Thiel was making a point that the conventonal wisdom among economists is wrong. Thiel says many things 95% of economists would disagree with.

If his point is that a certain amount of increased automation is built into the American economy, then yes, he's trivially correct. But so what. The fear is that 3.5 million truck drivers will be put out of work over a decade (along with numerous other positions).

Thiel says that all the jobs that can be replaced have been already replaced. Your example shows that isn't correct.

I agree, but I gave him the charitable (and probably correct) reading, that he meant that a certain increase in automation is already built in. Thiel is clearly smart enough to know that automation is ongoing.

There is a decent argument to make that that the automation revolution proponents (myself included) are wrong, and that we won't see a drastic change in the labor picture.

Thiel: " but that those jobs that are subject to be replaced have already been replaced."

Truck drivers are subject to be replaced, right? Not one has been replaced yet, right? Over time, they will all be replaced.

This isn't that hard.

I believe that truck drivers will be replaced. He's saying No, they will not be. To be fair, it's not a given.

The category won't be replaced it will be minimized. Instead of 100 drivers, you have 10. This is the story of American manufacturing. More output than ever but fewer share in the rewards.

That's not the way to look at it. A better way is that automation frees people up from repetitive tasks and low value tasks for a human, allowing them to move on to higher value tasks.

As an example, take trucking itself. When Amazon destroyed jobs in retail through automation and centralization, it actually created demand for more truck drivers. So people who were working in crap jobs in local, inefficient stores lost their jobs, but more jobs were created in the relatively high paying trucking industry.

Similarly, the people working in relatively low paying typesetting jobs lost their jobs to desktop publishing, but that revolution not only required people with more skills at higher pay, but the reduction in cost in offices due to desktop publishing created new jobs as well. And now those minimum wage typesetters might be working as higher paid web designers. And so it goes.

Truckers will be with us for a long, long time. What automation will do for them is improve their efficiency. If an autopilot can take over for a long freeway leg, perhaps two drivers won't be needed on long haul routes. But that will make trucking cheaper, which might mean we use more of it. So the same number of people might be employed, but now they are more productive and can earn more money.

Be careful. Your post reads like the "American Exceptionalism" that Thiel excoriates. The American people don't buy that rhetoric anymore. If I lose my truck driving job today, there isn't a higher paying trucking job (made more productive with AI autopilot!) just waiting for me. When something gets automated, the labor required is deskilled. Short order cooks with actual skill and know-how lose out when McDonald's built an automated system so easy even a teenager could do it. I'm a libertarian and pro-automation by the way but I'm also a realist.

"Truckers will be with us for a long, long time. What automation will do for them is improve their efficiency."

This exactly right. Trucker will be around for ten years, then gone - not before.

"The category won't be replaced it will be minimized. Instead of 100 drivers, you have 10. "

That's probably correct but also irrelevant. American manufacturing automation has generally been slow enough that workers largely kept their jobs as the facility expanded.

The important question is: Will the automation occur over the next 10-20 years or take 40-50?

From my newsfeed about Peter Thiel.

Exactly. Mr. Thiel is a notorious homossexual. Famous Soviet spy Guy Burgess was homossexual, too. Glenn Greenwald, famous anti-Brazilian militant, is homossexual, too.

I'm not sure why we're supposed to listen to him besides the fact that he's gay."

Do you really think he is the first rich person whose rants are listened tpwith much more attention than they deserve? Domyou really think being gay is the important factor here?

He’s right about political correctness and right about Google and China (investigation needed). I thought he was correct before I knew anything about his sexual preferences, which mean little to me.

Why isn't an investigation into Facebook warranted? Zuck and Facebook have courted China and its elites, have relations with the CCP, Zuck's wife is Chinese, etc.

I don't think a straight version of Thiel would be able to have mainstream respectability while promoting fascism. And by "fascism" I don't mean the way SJWs use it, I mean actual fascism - illiberal, anti-democratic politics coupled with a dirigiste political economy.

Really? Protectionism and illiberalism can only be achieve mainstream respsctability by being promoted by gays?

It even depends of what "mainstream" means. Politics? Have you noticed who the president is? Universities and the press. They don't mean he is so hot intellectually speaking.

He is somewhat charismatic and has been successful at money-making.
He is more like a Steve Jobs who likes to rant about Gnosticism and trade instead of Microsoft and operational systems.

I don't really understand his criticism on trade. A current account deficit reflects net investment inflows into the USA. Obviously, US banks make less money when people want to invest less in the USA, and reasons why people might want to invest less in the USA are that the USA is a recession or that the Fed has lowered its relative interest rates vs the world to stimulate low growth.

It seems almost tautological to say that banks do more poorly when there are net investment outflows to the USA, which is also when the economy as a whole does more poorly (either because the CA surplus is being encouraged by weak growth or because there is less investment capital to support growth). And I mean tautological to read banal/misguided, not simply stated wisdom.

The left and right in America agree on one thing today: low interest rates. But for different reasons: The left because low interest rates support higher wages for the American worker, the right because low interest rates support rising asset prices. And never the twain shall meet. One can see the dilemma: as long as asset prices are rising the owners of capital have no incentive to invest in productive capital (the returns from rising asset prices are higher, much higher) which is essential for higher wages, but if asset prices collapse as the result of an increase in interest rates, widespread panic would cause a recession or worse. I've been patiently waiting for an economist to suggest a path out of the dilemma, but my patience is wearing thin. I infer from Thiel's comments that we should bite the bullet: let asset prices fall, then pick up the pieces. This would be the . . . . Austrian solution. Would it be the final solution? If the Fed lets asset prices fall, inequality would fall too (because the wealthy own most of the assets), which would go a long way to solving the secular stagnation dilemma. But isn't this the very definition of depression economics? No pain, no gain. Thiel, who is in excellent physical condition, understands that.

World debt has exploded since we entered the low interest rate regime. This was always the downside to 'stimulus' by lowering rates. We wanted people to borrow and spend, so we incentivized it. So now everyone from governments to corporations to individuals have taken on record debt.

This is an economic 'coffin corner'. Central banks will soon be unable to raise interest rates at all without bankrupting everyone. Every percentage point increase in U.S. debt interest will cost the government about $220 billion dollars in increased debt servicing costs. But leaving interest rates abnormally low will continue to cause malinvestments and even greater debt problems in the future.

I don't know how we get out of this. And it was totally caused by all the 'smart' people advocating for short-term fixes without considering the long run consequences. I guess Keynes would be proud of them, if the long run hadn't gotten him first.

I've had those same thoughts. I haven't read what the experts think is the likely path forward.

Who am I kidding of course you could, you're rayward:

" If the Fed lets asset prices fall, inequality would fall too (because the wealthy own most of the assets), which would go a long way to solving the secular stagnation dilemma"

How would a crash in asset prices solve that 'dilemma'? Did the 2008 crash do so?

The Fed intervened and stopped the fall in asset prices and then re-inflated asset prices. Duh. Am I in favor of depression economics? No. I am waiting, patiently, for some economist, somewhere, to offer something practical for a change, such as how do we escape this trap without resulting in economic armageddon.

I asked, how does falling asset prices "go a long way to solving the secular stagnation dilemma"?

And what's the trap? Asset prices (equity like real estate and company values) rise over time, because they represent the value of assets that are rising in value over time. Sometimes there's a period where prices fall. Then they stop falling and start rising again, because the economy is growing again. How is this a trap?

But I can't believe it's what you meant. Are you saying asset prices need to fall and then stay down for good? I can't think of a single reason why that would be a good thing or make any sense.

I think most of the comments here completely miss the reason why Thiel is interesting.

Thiel is not afraid to take contrarian stances and he's very smart. So when he speaks, he sounds crazy but provides a lot of value.

As Sam Altman put it: "Usually mainstream ideas are right and heterodox ideas are wrong, but the true and unpopular ideas are what drive the world forward."

Thiel understand this (as is demonstrated in his famous interview question "What important truth do very few people agree with you on?") He probably intentionally concentrates on contrarian views in his speeches precisely because that is where the value is to those who listen to him.

There's value in that as long as he maintains a decent track record, but it only takes one pretentious over the top prediction to cast doubt on everything you say going forward. For example, Paul Krugman's infamous prediction after Donald Trump won the election, devalued Krugman's credibility.

Is Thiel maintaining a decent signal to noise ratio?

Krugman and Thiel aren't the same thing at all.

Thiel is a contrarian. Krugman's a standard partisan (predicting bad things when your side loses happens every single election).

Think of it this way:

Suppose you could count how many ideas you've heard that are correct and call it your correct-ideas-count.

If you read Krugman's thoughts, you don't add to your correct-ideas-count because you've already heard those 'pinions on Slate or Vox.

If you listen to Thiel, even if he's wrong most of the time, he throws out new ideas and some are good. So your correct-ideas-count goes up.

This holds even if Krugman is correct more often than Thiel and even if most of Thiel's ideas are bad.

Thiel can have more than one "pretentious over the top prediction" and he's still worth listening to, so long as he has enough big hits.

+1, yes I think you are correct

Policy is not venture capitalism. If you get it wrong a little nine times, you have just killed a few thousand people, while the one good time might just make some dude really rich.

This is an extremely conservative take. If you never try new ideas because they could be wrong in politics, not only would the New Deal never had happened, but America wouldn't exist: literally a nation founded by wealthy businessmen-cum-thinkers-cum-politicians that wanted to try out a bunch of new ideas.

He probably intentionally concentrates on heterodox views because he believes his freedom is incompatible with our democracy. He wants to convince people to cede their freedoms, and clear the tech field for, my God, Facebook.

"J. R. R. Tolkien's works, stating as an adult that he had read The Lord of the Rings over ten times during his childhood."

Interesting to me since I have nothing in common with Thiel, but "Lord of the Rings" was the first fiction of any can kind that mattered to me. It was in a so-called bullshit class on Science Fiction at my high school, and I also read Dune, Slaughterhouse Five, and an anthology called The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, with some great stories, including one called The Arena. I think I read LOTR three times over a couple of years. I have to admit feeling a kind of kinship for people who grew up loving this book.

The rhetoric of hate. No ideas except making one man richer - him. And protecting another man - his daddy Trump.

Oh come on! You gotta give us more than just that!

Is Peter's goal in life to become the evil floating eye in The Lord of the Rings? He's doing a good job of that.

TC, I know you aren't objective on this one, but maybe reconsider your idols and mentors once in awhile.

"One of the signature achievements of the Trump presidency has been to not get us into these insane foreign entanglements."


Yeah tried to sneak in an Obama jab in there with the university.

It's Obama's fault that the US is still fighting endstateless, indefinite omni-belligerence especially in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen. I thought it wasn't about Al Qaeda or "Al Qaeda" derivatives but "Great Power Competition" now anyways.

What a hypocritical clown considering he is part of the Silicon Valley, the surveillance state, the MIC, and speaking to people that are abhorred by his Northern Californian lifestyle.

>It's Obama's fault that the US is still fighting endstateless, indefinite omni-belligerence especially in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen.

I agree.

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