There is no beginning or end. We increasingly believe that progress is inevitable. He cofounded PayPal, led it as CEO, and took it public; he made the first outside investment in Facebook, where he serves as a director; and he cofounded Palantir Technologies, where he serves as chairman. By September 2009, the total assets under management had fallen from a peak of $7.8 billion to a mere $850 million, most of which was Thiel’s personal capital. Bad imitators follow the crowd and mirror false idols, while good imitators copy a transcendent goal or figure. His book, The City of God, was the first full-blown philosophy of world history. Perfect competition is the default state in Economics 101. Dams would drain water from north to south and convert the Bay from saltwater to freshwater. Buildings, too. Here’s how Thiel would respond to my imitative instincts: Be careful who you copy. Thiel proclaims that 40 percent of railroads involve the transport of coal, so Buffett’s investment will do especially well if the travel and energy consumption patterns of the 21st century look like the past. As the Gospel of John says: “It is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed… They hated me for no reason.”. Here’s Peter Thiel: “Compare [the airlines] to Google, which creates less value but captures far more. But in 2012, when the average airfare each way was $178, the airlines made only 37 cents per passenger trip. His $500,000 investment was partially informed by Mimetic Theory because he saw Girard’s ideas validated by social media. Peter Thiel, in full Peter Andreas Thiel, (born October 11, 1967, Frankfurt am Main, West Germany), German American entrepreneur and business executive who helped found PayPal, an e-commerce company, and Palantir Technologies, a software firm involved … It shook the entire world. Until Facebook, social networks mostly helped people become virtual cats and dogs. But his beliefs are “somewhat heterodox.” In a profile in the New Yorker, Thiel said: “I believe Christianity to be true. Thomas Hobbes wrote that “if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their End… endeavor to destroy, or subdue one another.“. I’m writing during a five-hour layover on my way from New York to Los Angeles. They're comfortable with the uncomfortable. Each year, U.S airlines serve millions of passengers and create hundreds of billions of dollars in consumer value. God is an all-encompassing term for things we don’t understand. The first commandment says that we should only look to God. For example, Western Civilization divides time into two periods: before and after Jesus Christ. PayPal was started by two groups of friends. I suspect Thiel holds this philosophy. Others engaged in small acts of sabotage against their coworkers. “Enter through the narrow gate. God is the central character in the story. At the time, Americans were producing fewer than 1,000 planes per year. And according to Girard, this is the essence of biblical revelation. People perform ritual sacrifices together, and when a priest is appointed to kill a victim, he kills the victim in the name of the whole community. Thiel fanatics will say I’ve only scratched the surface. To test the plan, the Army Corps of Engineers built a 1.5-acre scale model of the proposed design. If you agree with everything in this essay, I haven’t challenged you enough. BNSF Railway, where Buffett recently invested $44 billion is the largest non-financial company in the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio. Thiel recommends one book: Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World by Rene Girard. The future won’t look like the present. The more optionality, the better. Then, you have to understand it at an emotional one. To me, they’re like a brick: heavy enough to make me careful, but light enough to add other ones to my mental backpack. It demands responsibility. For the first three years, during the initial fundraising process, investors turned their cheeks. Instead, we say “Let’s improve the economy” or “promote information.” We doubt the potential of grand plans. Rather than focusing on Thiel’s actions, I’ve chosen to focus on his ideas. Here, he counters the secular and Eastern philosophy. If so, the cure is nested inside the disease. When I first read about Mimetic Theory, I was skeptical. All human societies are built around religion because it’s the only way to peacefully work with the scapegoat mechanism. We’ve shifted away from funding transformational companies and toward companies that solve incremental problems, and sometimes even fake ones. The death of Jesus, like a scapegoat ritual, is a collective and community murder. One of my friends works for a California-based investment firm which manages $6 billion in investment assets. Human culture began with a murder. Imitation draws people together. As Girard once said: “There are fundamentally only two ways of looking at religion: as superfluous, added on—or as the origin of everything.” If there can be no in-between, I suspect that like Girard, Thiel sees religion as the origin of everything. “Peter is of two minds on everything. When in doubt, follow the Ten Commandments. By playing both sides of the board with the rigor of a Dostoyevsky novel, he sees what others miss with crystal clarity. But after a recent change of heart, I’m on a quest to develop my own conclusions about religion. Side effects of slow growth plague the economy. “The big secret is that there are many secrets left to uncover. My body screams for sleep, my mind shouts for productivity, and thankfully, due to the triple-shot cappuccino on the table in front of me, I’ll meet my writing quota today. Instead, we’ll end up in copycat rivalries where we claw and fight with each other like crabs in a bucket. Just prior to 1990, Thiel was finishing a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Stanford University. Like a boiling kettle, we have to let out steam somewhere. Definite Optimism is withering. This Japanese commitment to maintenance allows it to sustain structures and rituals for millennia. Transportation stopped improving. Like two children who fight for a toy, the more you fight somebody, the more you resemble your enemy. When he speaks, he skips between perspectives faster than a game of hopscotch. Babies’ interest in a particular toy has less to do with the toy itself and more to do with the fact that the other babies desire the toy. In war, victory requires that the enemy is crippled or destroyed. We cannot resist Mimetic contagion, and that will never change. In the 1940s a San Francisco-based teacher and amateur theater producer devised a plan to reconstruct the San Francisco Bay Area. Lesson No. Relationships were shattered by sour resentment. When two people want the same scarce object, they fight. Employees were evaluated on one single criterion, and no two employees had the same one. In his reading of history, the non-violence of Jesus is the antidote to Mimetic conflict. “The Christian statesman or stateswoman knows that the modern age will not be permanent, and ultimately will give way to something very different. Astronauts with stomachs of steel traveled the impossible distances of space. Win the decade, not the day. Thiel’s companies are governed by Girard’s wisdom. Roosevelt spoke to 132 million Americans. Thiel provided the first outside money into Facebook and still serves on the company board. Thiel offers an alternative to perfect competition: monopoly. The second study would measure the relationship between urban life and farm life. Our Mimetic nature is simultaneously our biggest strength and biggest weakness. Great people trade the temptations of today for the trophies of tomorrow. Peter Thiel. The forces of globalization and technology may have abolished the boundaries of violence. He told Carlson: ‘I think the US is still better at innovation and starting things, but it certainly can be copied, and replicated. This essay is an introduction to his ideas, but it’s not just about Thiel. With Jesus as its savior, Christianity is the only religion that sees a human as the Son of God. Remember, you’re not trying to win arguments (“be right”), rather, you’re trying to find the best path forward (“get it right”). Congress explored the project. People in the West see progress, evolution, and innovation as synonyms. The Apollo 8 mission required superhuman precision, equivalent in scale to throwing a dart at a peach from a distance of 28 feet, and grazing the top of the fuzz without touching the fruit’s skin. If you were able to open his skull, you would see a number of Mexican standoffs between powerful antagonistic ideas you wouldn’t think could be safely housed in the same brain.”. We’ll return to old books like The Bible, old ideas like sacrifice, and old writers like Shakespeare, and see why this ancient wisdom holds clues for modern life. Perhaps Thiel sees Facebook as a place to contain unbounded Mimetic violence. They bicker over trivial details and compete for a limited set of status-based titles. Newspaper boards across California endorsed it. Make sure that the things you’re pursuing are weird things that you want to pursue, not whatever the standard path is. 2. To build the plant, builders moved 650,000 cubic yards of dirt and laid 58 miles of grain tile underground. Jim told me he liked his job because it taught him how to “collaborate” and “work with people.” His words sounded like they were parroted from the company’s Human Resources department. Imitation is not the childish, low-level form of behavior that many people think it is. Thiel’s Christianity-inspired worldview lines up with Michael Porter’s philosophy of business strategy. I wrote this essay because I’m fascinated by Christianity and impressed with Thiel. “Try hards” were mocked and made-fun-of, and nobody had a vision for their future. The less the world changes, the more Buffett succeeds. Most importantly, in a world of perfect competition, no company will make an economic profit in the long run. Inevitably, some of it is wrong. Instead of focusing on meaningless scandals, endless political dramas, or the limitless accumulation of wealth, we should focus on the impending catastrophe at the end of the road. That way, they would only be shared with a small, select group of people. To Thiel, The Book of Revelation is more than a metaphor. For example, people still talk about Google as a search engine and Facebook as a social networking site. We see it in the statistics and feel it in our politics. In one of his talks, he spoke about the human transition from hope to optimism. Deferring to luck is counter-productive. A quick browse through the history books shows that Americans, and especially the government, used to make big plans and live with Definite Optimism. Two of America’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin operated with a similar progress-inspired philosophy. Sacrifice is a social event. Girard ranges over everything: every book, every myth, every culture - and he always argues boldly. Beginning with the Greeks and accelerated by the Christian writers such as St. Augustine, Western philosophy is defined by the march towards heavenly perfection. We assume that increased freedom and knowledge is limited only by the passage of time and an active commitment to creating a better future. Modern presidents no longer inspire Americans with positive visions of the future. But over time, it leads to envy, violence, and the apocalypse. True to Mimetic Theory, the last commandment focuses on the neighbor instead of the object of desire because all objects are desirable when they belong to your neighbor. Google brought in $50 billion in 2012 (versus $160 billion for the airlines), but it kept 21% of those revenues as profits—more than 100 times the airline industry’s profit margin that year. Modern society suffers from temporal exhaustion. Smaller ones hang in firetruck-red socks over the living room fireplace. We no longer trust amateurs with vast imaginations, and we no longer challenge people to imagine futures that look radically different from the present. I can relate. But this is the wrong way to think about competition. Harvard anthropologist Joseph Henrich found empirical evidence for Girard’s observations about children and toys. Then, twice a month, I meet with a personal coach to make sure my short-term actions sync up with my long-term goals. Our beliefs about the future impact our thoughts about the present. That culture was fueled by rage and rivalry, which led to violence. According to Girard, the more differentiated a society, the more stable it is. I re-write my 25-year vision multiple times per year. In contrast, business travelers don’t have as much flexibility. His writing was obscure because he hid truths behind a curtain of mystery. Your wisdom and feedback is invaluable to me, and I’m grateful for our friendship. If your dreams are apparent to you, pursue them. Throughout my childhood, I remember coming home to my parents to ask for new toys. Picking a path reduces optionality, so people stay in limbo and don’t make commitments. But to others, religion is the foundation of human culture. Think bigger than that. Initially, Cain admires Abel. Every single moment is a possibility to go to these new places and explore them.”. Everybody condemns hate-fueled online speech. The airline industry suffers from near-perfect competition. Thiel speaks with a religious reverence for Girard’s theory: “[Girard’s ideas are] a portal onto the past, onto human origins, and our history. And in my first month of college in North Carolina, I demanded the same “Nantucket Red” Vineyard Vines pants as my fraternity brothers. If we don’t have a positive vision for our future, we become slaves to the desires of the present day and crumble under the suffering of daily life. Managing that violence is the secret reason for all religious and political institutions. Technological progress has stagnated since the 1970s, which contributes to the vile political atmosphere and the pessimism of modern Westerners. Treating people and events like lottery tickets makes us doubt our agency. None of these desires were my own. It helps the master temple builder train the next generation and injects participants with a long-time horizon. Instead of looking to the people around you for answers, find models that you cannot compete with. Peter Thiel: I first read “Things Hidden” when I was an undergraduate at Stanford. And today, we’re no longer pushing the limits of height and speed. He was ranked No. Under the secular mindset, there is no transcendent future after death. When two people are different and far away from each other, the tension will stay calm. It felt as if the goal of life wasn’t to improve the world, but to win awards and build an impressive resume. With modern technology, a tiny number of people are capable of inflicting unprecedented levels of damage and death with the push of a single button. When we pursue optionality, we avoid bold decisions. Some are small and incremental. It moves away from the Garden of Eden, and toward a day of judgement, justice, and the establishment of a divine, peace-filled kingdom. Having no plan is chaotic. They’re cultural. First, we’ll explore the principles of Peter Thiel’s worldview. Western civilization is built on these ideals. Peter Thiel. Girard said “sacrificial systems contain violence.” His message has two meanings. Others will say I’ve gone too deep. Even at a young age, and especially in moments of confusion, they emulate people around them. They shouted that the future could be meaningfully better than the past. Look up, not around. It comes from Matthew 13:35, which reads: “I will proclaim what has been hidden [since] the foundation of the world.”. His verbal tendencies double as a mirror into his mind. Guided by the Cain and Abel story, remember the danger of imitating the wrong person. In their early years, babies depend on elders to navigate the world and outsource their decisions to them. 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