Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The world according to Thiel

David B. sent me several interesting videos including some interviews with Peter Thiel. Exactly half a year ago, he participated at this Hoover Institution event:
The World According to Thiel
His are great ideas and I agree with virtually everything in this video, except for some comments (including some in between the lines) closer to the end. Concerning China, something we solve intensely these days because Mike Pompeo visited the EU capital Pilsen (I was 3 meters away from him) and he added a less important city named Prague today, and will continue to Poland, Slovenia, and Austria, Thiel said that China is a non-democratic mostly capitalist mixed system and it can survive in this way or it may change. We don't know.

Is China ahead of the West? It often enforces two totally contradictory opinions on the Westerners at the same moment: China is superstrong and ahead; China is superweak and stuck in the Middle Ages. These claims disagree with each other but they're used psychologically to double the impact on the typical listener (the goal is for everyone else to give up). I agree it's all irrational. China is something in between and it will almost certainly be "comparable" to the U.S. for quite some time. It has made a big economic progress but it's equally amazing how poor they still are. They are 1.4 billion people whose average IQ is above the average American IQ but they still have just the GDP similar to the 330 million Americans. A sign that something is still very wrong about the system.

Here and elsewhere, he discussed the education bubble. The education system has made the smallest progress among all industries. It has actually made a huge negative progress. People learn much less even though the tuition is vastly higher than it used to be many decades ago – and much more money is going into this industry. Universities have simply found out that they may charge an increasing amount of money and they face no pressure. So they're doing less and less useful stuff, especially less and less of good teaching, and they're increasingly dominated by bureaucracy, conformity, and very low-IQ ideology.

How is it possible that this system continues? It continues because the universities play a similar role as the Catholic Church 500 years ago and the university diplomas are on par with the indulgences. You just need this stuff, the bulk of nations mindlessly think and repeat, so they pay the increasing price for the decreasingly valuable product or services. At some moment, it is not just an inefficient system but an outright racket because professors know that they're educating graduate students most of which won't be able to make living out of the things that they have learned in the graduate school although this basic fact is being denied.

He mentions that the system might be self-correcting but a mechanism would have to be more just: universities should be responsible for the personal bankruptcies of the alumni etc. because those bankruptcies are at least statistical evidence that the universities didn't do the job correctly. Of course, this is unlikely to happen peacefully, I would add, because the universities and their "believers" won't allow their God to be punished in this way.

California used to be 50-50 Democratic-Republican, Silicon Valley was the libertarian paradise and no one doubted that everyone should have individual freedoms, but both became deranged in recent years. It could be an interesting debate whether Silicon Valley became more unhinged than e.g. Harvard or vice versa. ;-) Nontrivially, Thiel says that the percentage of the people who work in truly innovative, and therefore smaller, companies (startup) has decreased. Most people belong to the large, slow, political, no longer innovative huge companies and dinosaurs. Of course, an important question is whether this slowdown or bureaucratization is caused by some objective depletion of feasiable and safe enough advances waiting to be invented; or whether it is purely due to the political changes of the industry and society (in which case a fix would be possible).

For us in Europe, Thiel gives us three wonderful futures to choose from: the Great EU Islamic State with the Sharia Law; the plagiarized Chinese system with the AI monitoring everyone; and the Green Paradise where Oma can no longer ride her motorbike in the henhouse and cook the steak. Thanks for the wonderful selection, Peter! ;-) Europe is a continent of strength in diversity so we may have all these three wonderful things at the same moment. I am actually an optimist and I believe that from the center, we will make sure that none of these things will materialize.

Thiel inserted Israel instead of the U.K. and next to the U.S. in a discussion of promising places. The U.K. is just something in between the (better) America and (worse) Europe. Well, that's a great example of American patriotism but as I watch it now, America has a much "better" potential to deteriorate really quickly than Europe, and the U.K. might be even worse than America or a better (the U.K. surely had the most shocking GDP drop in Q2 of 2020, over 20 percent, it's really stunning for a nation of Boris who considered the Swedish approach to Covid because he became a despicable Coronazi snowflake who devastated his nation's economy; and the Islamic and green pathologies may be even worse and more fanatical in the U.K. than they are in continental Europe, too).

In somewhat normal circumstances, the Biden-Harris administration wouldn't be a problem. But America isn't in a normal shape and I think that a hypothetical Biden-Harris victory, something we can't quite exclude although I consider it very unlikely, would mean the end of the U.S. as we have known it. For a few months or years, the collapsed superpower led by these puppets who cover the real nutcase with the real power would try to preserve its global influence but the rest of the world would probably team up and liquidate this shockingly dangerous tumor. I think that blinded by the myths about the American exceptionalism, Thiel refuses a priori the scenario that the U.S. won't be a top 2 power in the world in 2030. But other countries driven by uncontrolled propaganda outlaw such possibilities as well; they're not actually impossible. Thiel seemed like someone who was firmly "inside the box" of the American exceptionalist propaganda.

The scenario with the second Trump term is a much better one (for the U.S. and for the world) but Trump only holds a part of the de facto power, maybe a smaller part than the media-university-Silicon-Valley-etc. unhinged complex. And what about 2024? It seems that America will be at risk of switching to a truly lethal reincarnation of Marxism for a very long time.

Around 30:00, he discussed exceptionalism that is often a demagogic word. Well, it's surely used irrationally for the U.S. The U.S. may be exceptionally bad, in opium addiction and other things that Thiel mentioned. But another thing that he has failed to mention is that in most things, the U.S. isn't exceptional either in the positive sense or in the negative sense. It's the average country when it comes to lots of intensive properties!

Also, he discussed the exceptionalism of string theory and cancer research and some other fields. They're not even great because they're not making exceptional progress. I think it's obvious that string theory hasn't been making exceptional progress for a decade or two; and the same is arguably true for cancer research and many other things. But it's still true that the dynamics of cancer is most properly understood by the insights known by the best cancer scientists; and the most fundamental layer of the laws of Nature that mankind may be mostly sure about is string theory. You may call it "non great", Peter, but denying those facts would amount to being just an IQ-80 crackpot.

The real problem with the universities and research and innovative industries is that they lost the ability to properly allocate the resources to those who do some progress and they became welfare centers feeding the crooks, parasites, and mediocre people who are basically on welfare (often a highly-paid welfare). But if the correction were made, be sure that people in the computer-like industries would still be using some silicon in their devices, the best fundamental physicists would be doing string theory, and the best cancer researchers would still accept the existence of the DNA and many other concepts. Just because you're grumpy about the speed of progress of a field in the real world doesn't mean that you have a sensible argument against the basic insights of some fields. That's not how science, meritocracy, or rational thinking works. Stalin had all the power in the Soviet Union but he couldn't make Lysenko right and genetics wrong. He could only suppress the truth about foundations of biology and slow down the research (the same is true about Hitler and relativity etc.). It's not too easy to do stuff when you're threatened for your research or even for very knowing that Lysenko was a complete crackpot. In the same way, when the left-wing-media-plus-billionaires complex funds a whole army of aggressive crackpots denying string theory, good people won't work on this whole portion of fundamental physics and you will slow down the progress. That's where we are. The contribution of such "sponsors" to science is analogous to Stalin's or Hitler's.

Around 33:00, he said that Libertarianism contradicted some extreme optimism and extreme pessimism and I agree with that. But what the normal respect to freedom also contradicts is some ever greater demands for "progress". I think that Thiel often sounds as "just another progressive" in the sense that he assumes what the rate of progress in some field should be, he says that he is entitled to that rate that he simply made up, and when this expectation disagrees with reality, it proves that any alternative idea he invents is right. No, that doesn't work like that. Almost all things have to change quickly and all the time, as in Trotsky's permanent revolution. But in reality, the progress is whatever it is, there is nothing unavoidably wrong about the situation in which something changes more slowly than what someone "thinks" to be the right rate (and other things are completely fixed for decades, centuries, or forever), and if you make an incorrect prediction about the rate of progress (or just change) of anything, Peter, it is primarily your failure, not your success or a justification for your increased power. And yes, participants of summits believing in the "singularity" have always been childish. If you think that you can make a faster progress in cancer research of fundamental forces, just do it, instead of inventing demagogic and illogical connections between facts, emotions, and wishes that have no logical relationship.

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