The fact that Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal and VC fund Founders Fund, and an early investor in companies like Facebook, SpaceX, and Lyft, is supporting Donald Trump’s candidacy for the US presidency perplexed a lot of people in the tech sector and beyond. I was one of them.
Thiel recently gave a speech endorsing Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), and I listened to it to see if I could find clues about his rationale for supporting a candidate whose most views, like Trump’s positions on protectionism against free trade, immigration, and minorities, seem to conflict with Thiel’s libertarian views.
After listening to the speech and thinking about the rationale behind the apparent contradiction, here’s the conclusion I came to.
Thiel has many unconventional views in areas like technology (see this post in which I covered the podcasts of Thiel’s VC fund, Founders Fund, in which they share their thoughts in areas like nuclear energy, biological engineering, robotics, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality) and education (the Thiel Fellowship gives $100K to young people who want to build a company rather than go to college) and it will be easier to bring these views to life by supporting and perhaps even working together with the unconventional Trump than the establishment candidate Hillary Clinton.
As I wrote in the post covering Founders Fund’s views on potentially ground-breaking but also risky technologies, “the adoption of these technologies each represents a big change from our current status quo.” And, because of his unconventional stance on many issues and the limited political network he has to choose his team from in the case that he wins the election, Trump gives Thiel a greater chance of changing the status quo than Clinton does.
The problem is that, if Trump is elected, it’s not just the status quo in technology that might change. The status quo in so many other areas, many of which make the US the country that it is, will be at risk.