It isn’t easy to pin-point exactly what Peter Thiel is most famous for. His interests range from the mundane (online payments) to the fringes of scientific thought (immortality and floating cities).
He’s a libertarian. But he has also funded the secretive data-mining company Palantir, which works for the FBI and the CIA.
He co-founded PayPal and acted as its CEO before the company sold to eBay for $US1.5 billion in 2002.
Since then he launched the global hedge-fund Clarium Capital and the Founders Fund, a venture capital firm. He was Facebook’s first outside investor, making him a billionaire when the company went public.
He supports the Methuselah Foundation, whose goal is to reverse human ageing, and the SeaSteading Institute, a libertarian group founded to create independent floating cities in international waters.
He is one of the most original, controversial thinkers in tech today.
On living: 'Your mind is software. Program it. Your body is a shell. Change it. Death is a disease. Cure it. Extinction is approaching. Fight it.'
On higher education: 'University administrators are the equivalent of subprime mortgage brokers selling you a story that you should go into debt massively, that it's not a consumption decision, it's an investment decision. Actually, no, it's a bad consumption decision. Most colleges are four-year parties.'
On responses to his '20 Under 20' Thiel Foundation drop-outs: 'Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It's like telling the world there's no Santa Claus.'
On the future: 'Yes, a robotics revolution would basically have the effect of people losing their jobs, as you need fewer workers to do the same things, but it would have the benefit of freeing people up to do many other things.'
On ideas: 'There are still many large white spaces on the map of human knowledge. You can go discover them. So do it. Get out there and fill in the blank spaces. Every single moment is a possibility to go to these new places and explore them.'
On success: 'The most successful businesses have an idea for the future that's very different from the present.'
On where we're going: 'It seems like we've not been thinking about the right issues for a long time. I actually think it is a big step just to ask the question 'What does one need to do to make the U.S. a better place?''
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