Thiel to WSJ: Seasteads Can Help Spur Innovation

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 The Wall Street Journal‘s executive online editor Alan Murray recently sat down with Paypal founder and Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel and asked the question, "How Can Government Help Spur Innovation?"

In the interview, Thiel remarks on the difficulty of actuating change at the political level, and opts not to pontificate on the hypothetical question of what policies he would implement as a head-of-state. "Practically," says Thiel, "you would be spending all your time kissing babies and trying to get re-elected, and there is an incredible difference between the practical and theoretical answers." It doesn’t take long for the interviewer to steer the conversation towards the attention-grabbing subject of brand new governments on the high seas. Although seasteading may seem like a theoretical project to some, Thiel highlights it as a practical and viable way to produce more competition among governments, and in turn, increase innovation. "I do think the question of whether things can be done differently is a very important political question to ask, and if you were designing a society from scratch, it would not be like the state of California, it would not be like the U.S.," Thiel continues, "You would be designing it from something completely new."

Thiel became widely known for his early investing role in Facebook, which earned him his second fortune (after Paypal), as well as a portrayal in the 2010 movie The Social Network. Lately, however, he has become increasingly recognized for his iconoclastic philanthropic endeavors (including his generous support of the Institute) which aim to jump-start stagnating innovation.

Click the image to watch the interview:

2 comments

  1. i_is_j_smith 8:52 pm

    I love when multi-billionares talk about cutting funding to medicare and other parts of the social safety net that keeps millions of poverty stricken Americans from dying.  John Stewart said it best:

    "This is the problem with entitlements. They’re really only entitlements when they’re something other people want. When it’s something you want, they’re a hallmark of a civilized society, the foundation of a great people."

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-august-11-2011/lactate-intolerance

    I’m sick of listening to these insanely rich people crying. And if seasteading is "a practical and viable way to produce more competition among governments, and in turn, increase innovation."  then when can I expect Mr. Thiel to build his first experiment in new government?  Next week?  Guess the U.S. can’t be all that bad if he isn’t scrambling to build a new country for himself…

  2. Joep 3:07 am

    Hi i_is_j_smith,

    I think you stopped listening the moment Thiel talked about what government should do if Obama would listen to him. He may not like Medicare, but that’s not his point. Medicare and other "safety nets" is not what he wants to talk about or cares about. He wants to enable new societies. It’s the difference between a City counsil saying "we want diapers to be cheaper so we need a law for that" and a counsil saying "What the heck, may be Old John’s Warehouse shouldn’t be the only shop in town, let’s allow new shops to be opened". He wants the latter, being convinced that if more shops open, no politician would have to think about diapers.

    Mr. Thiel’s investments in experimental governments aren’t starting next week, he already started back in 2008 by providing enough funding to set up The Seasteading Institute. Which was done voluntarily I might add. And which is to the greater good I might add. And his direct return on investment was, is and will be zero I might add. One might even call it altruism. But it’s also the very reason real start-ups are taking place right now. Millions of people have heard of the idea and many of them will understand that the notion of a fixed number of nation states is pretty dumb and a 19th century thing. He may have thought that enabling thousands of countries to choose from would suit him better than setting up his own. Or may be he just wanted to be one of people mentioned in the "End of Nation States" chapter in future history books.

    Maybe he did throw away a huge amount of money at a crazy idea, but may be this crazy idea resembles other crazy ideas like PayPal. Probably this meta-level of thinking is what made him rich and you jealous.

    -Joep

     

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