PayPal co-founder: When it comes to tech, U.S. federal government is in the ‘Middle Ages’

“Investor Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies Inc., said the U.S. government is ‘in the Middle Ages’ when it comes to technology and science, impeding progress in Silicon Valley,” Greg Bensinger reports for The Wall Street Journal. “‘There’s an enormous gulf between Silicon Valley and Washington,’ said Mr. Thiel, speaking at the WSJD Live Global Technology Conference. ‘D.C. is dominated by law, by process and Silicon Valley is dominated by engineering and substance.'”

“According to Mr. Thiel, fewer than 35 of 535 members of Congress have backgrounds in science or technology,” Bensinger reports. “‘It’s very hard to get reasonable science, reasonable technology policy,’ he said. ‘The rest don’t understand that windmills don’t work when the wind isn’t blowing or that solar panels don’t work at night–they’re sort of in the Middle Ages.'”

“In a wide-ranging interview, Mr. Thiel touched on companies’ use of cash, the potential presidential candidacy of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and the running feud between ride-sharing companies Lyft Inc., in which he’s an investor, and Uber Technologies Inc.,” Bensinger reports. “Mr. Thiel said he supports some of Mr. Paul’s policies, but hadn’t yet decided whether to support the Kentucky Republican… On the Lyft-Uber feud, Mr. Thiel called Uber ‘the most ethically challenged company in the Valley.’ The company has been accused of wooing Lyft drivers and sending Lyft cars on sham calls. He said Uber’s $18 billion valuation is too high and doesn’t account for the obstacles it will face down the road.”

Read more in the full article here.

24 Comments

    1. He hasn’t worked on PayPal for many years. Originally PayPal was a good solution and addressed real problems.

      The fact that it has stagnated since then is neither Peter Theil or Elon Musks fault.

  1. “[DC doesn’t] understand that windmills don’t work when the wind isn’t blowing or that solar panels don’t work at night–they’re sort of in the Middle Ages.’

    That explains our green energy policy. Great!

    I work for a German company in the US and the joke here, when we see how the German’s do things, is: “and you wonder why they lost the war?”

    The joke in the US will be the same (or maybe it already is).

    1. Well the Germans certainly understand that concept.

      Their green energy policy is founded on ramping *up* coal use (building new coal-fired generation plants) to provide the base-load capacity required to underpin wind and solar generation.

      1. Right. Germany’s “green energy” policies have resulted in the highest electricity costs in Europe. And yes, they’re going more toward coal, and not just because wind and solar can’t provide “baseline” power.

        Germany decided it would shutter all its nuclear plants, even the newer ones because of what happened in a Japanese plant (Fukushima) based on old technology. So how will Germany fill its energy gap? By shifting (back) to coal, and by buying surplus power from neighboring countries, much of it generated by … nuclear power!

    2. I think one can over egg the so called superiority of German technology. Yep great in many ways but many Germans are suspicious of innovative technology, for many years they hated to even use cash machines, and much of their tech is about well made and reliable rather than cutting edge or stylish for the most part. Indeed most of the innovation that shapes the modern world did not originate in Germany though to get around certain restrictions on war production they did push some of them earlier and harder. But apart from swept wing tech years ahead of the competition I can’t think of one technology they actually invented in that period or after the war indeed though Im sure I must be missing something. But Computers, TV, Radar & related microwave technology, Sonar, Jet engines, Micro circuits, Transverse engines, were all invented on the other side in that War if not initially as well exploited in some cases. Not only that but German companies have progressively taken on the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ style of business practices in recent years. The Germans are excellent at long term planning and exploiting technology in their products but don’t lets get lost in some mythical devotion to technical superiority. After all F1 is the forefront of land based technology they excel in yet though it may be called Mercedes nearly of what goes into creating their world beating car was designed and built in the UK.

    1. It would be not necessary good for business as among GOP many are science deniers — nearly all scientists agree on climate change, but few Koch-brothers-funded lead GOP to wrong direction. GOP’s head of science committee does not believe either in climate change nor even evolution, which is amazing — you could not imagine such thing in any country, maybe except for crazy third world countries where governments believe and witches (yes, there are still such governments).

      1. Your religion, Anthropogenic Global Warming, has driven you at least as insane as Islam has driven its foaming-at-the-mouth extremists.

        Even though, due to your deluded fervor, you likely cannot listen to or comprehend reason, I offer you some anyway in the vague hope that it may bring you back to some semblance of reality:

        2014 Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change:

        • There is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change.
        • Future warming due to human greenhouse gases will likely be much less than IPCC forecasts.
        • Carbon dioxide has not caused weather to become more extreme, polar ice and sea ice to melt, or sea level rise to accelerate. These were all false alarms.
        • The likely benefits of man-made global warming exceed the likely costs.
        • Global warming is not a crisis. The threat was exaggerated.
        • There is no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and no point in attempting to do so.
        • It’s time to repeal unnecessary and expensive policies.
        • Future policies should aim at fostering economic growth to adapt to natural climate change.

        Source: Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC)

        Drill, baby, drill!

        1. Lol, nice trolling. The NIPCC most definitely does not say:
          * There is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change.
          * The likely benefits of man-made global warming exceed the likely costs.

          Those are not mistakes you would be likely to make from ignorance.

          Also, Exxon, BP and other top oil producers officially recognize global warming and ocean acidification as problems and rising carbon dioxide as the cause.

          The oil companies are also well aware that oil is an economic necessity for the world economy and virtually every citizen on the planet, for the time being. It is easy to demonize companies associated with a problem if you forget that they are providing vital, if imperfect, solutions. The real source of the problem is that alternate energy technology is not yet up to the task of replacing oil, and will only be able to do so incrementally for a long time. There is no alternative to oil until renewable technologies are ready to scale up.

          But expect more brain damaged drivel from 2014-2016.

      2. “Climate change.” What a wonderful straw man for your proposition. Because anyone who doesn’t believe the climate changes must be a complete imbecile right? I mean, they’d have to be because it has changed since the planet first formed. Don’t you really mean “global warming”? So say it!!!

        When it comes to global warming significantly less than the purported 97% of scientists and engineers believe it has been happening in the last decade and fewer than that believe man has had a significant effect on the climate one way or the other. Sure, man does affect the climate. So does a butterfly flapping its wings.

        I grant you that some of the GOP folk are a bit whacky when it comes to science (I’m mostly referring to the religious right). But many of the Dems are equally whacky, pushing scientifically absurd policies in Washington DC in the name of climate change (oops, I meant global warming). And while they would deny it (ooh that word “deny”), their behavior is not dissimilar to those who preach religious views.

        Both parties have their share of whackos. The moral of this story: Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t be throwing stones. By the way, please stop calling everyone who doesn’t share your beliefs on global warming “deniers.” It’s comes across as arrogant and stupid.

        1. Climate change is likely real, unless you have a source with more credentials than the members of the International Panel on Climate Change and the majority of climate scientists in the world.

          Those who flatly state it is not real, but don’t have any scientific credibility themselves are either simply ignoring science completely, or just cherry picking. A thoughtful person who sees reason to doubt climate change will still acknowledge that its not the scientific consensus.

          But we can both agree that politicians of both parties will make a mess instead of helping. To politicians, problems are just poker chips for vote pandering. The bigger the problem, the more of a mess they can make of it.

          1. Did you even read my post? You should try that before responding. I never said climate change wasn’t real. I never said humans didn’t have an impact (I did imply that it was inconsequential). I took issue with substituting “climate change” for “global warming.” The two are distinctly different.

            The bulk of IPCC AR5 is much more nuanced about its conclusions (never mind the summary for policy makers, which is a purely political document).

            With regard to the oft quoted 97% consensus, that revolved around the question, does human activity have an impact on the climate. Answer: Yes. Put that way, I fully agree with the consensus. But that consensus breaks down when you start discussing the type of impact or its severity.

            I’ll remind you that the work of science has nothing to do with consensus. Science is about demonstrating empirical and reproducible results. I suspect that those who continue to quote it do not have a scientific or technical background because in the world of science it doesn’t mean squat. It only means something from a political perspective. History has repeatedly shown that science does not operate by consensus. With so many poorly understood variables, gathering empirical data that clearly shows that human activity is severely impacting the climate has proven to be a very difficult task in the climate science community. Many of the submissions to AR5 say as much.

  2. The First 2014 denier with his right wing funded climate denier site.. has to answer one question.. if 97% of engineers say a bridge will collapse and 3% say it is fine.. WILL YOU DRIVE YOUR 8000 pound gas guzzler over the bridge? Because that is the exact issue in climate science.. your 3% seem to be driving your BELIEF in science. rather than the 97% that agree on it. SO.. will you drive over the bridge?

    1. You are asking a good question, but expect down votes, not thoughtful balanced answers from most of those who disagree.

      Every scientific consensus is worth questioning, because scientific conclusions should be continuously challenged. But as you point out, a strong consensus is rarely wrong, and only quacks and the ignorant will dismiss it.

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