Who is Peter Thiel, the "villain" of Silicon Valley

Who is Peter Thiel, the villain of Silicon Valley

Who is Peter Thiel

“I no longer believe that democracy is compatible with freedom”. "The only real inequality I can think of is that between who is alive and who is dead". "Show me a person who knows how to lose well and I'll point you to a loser." Some of his best-known quotes, scattered over the years, already give an idea of ​​why - when Silicon Valley was still cloaked in the myth of "making the world a better place" and the saving properties of technologies - Peter Thiel was instead already considered the "heart of darkness" of the digital world.

Childhood and studies Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1967, his father Klaus moved to the United States (to be precise in Cleveland, Ohio) already the following year. The first years of life, however, are characterized by a continuous wandering following the professional commitments of his father engineer: during the elementary years, Peter lives in South Africa, Namibia and elsewhere, before finally arriving in Foster City: a Californian city halfway between San Francisco and San Jose. In the center of Silicon Valley.

It is here that he first studies philosophy and then law at the prestigious Stanford University (forge of techno-entrepreneurs), also proving to be a math prodigy and a state-level chess player. But above all, it was in these years that his political thought was formed: in a university dominated by left-wing progressivism, in which only 2% of teachers declared themselves to be "right-wing", Thiel instead came into contact with Ayn's extreme liberalism Rand, a leading thinker of the ultra-libertarian and right-wing anti-state world.

While Silicon Valley leans towards a vague left-wing libertarianism (therefore characterized by a great attention to civil rights and individual freedoms), Peter Thiel matures different convictions: for him the enemy are taxes, the government , any form of state aid. The world, in his view, is a jungle where only the strongest survive. However, this macroscopic difference with the environment in which he grew up and formed did not hinder his entrepreneurial goals, which have led him today to possess an estimated assets of 4.8 billion dollars.

The tandem with Musk and the beginnings of Facebook Although his notoriety is a crumb of that of Elon Musk, the entrepreneurial adventure of Peter Thiel takes off in the company of the richest man in the world today. In 1998, the two founded PayPal, which four years later will be sold to eBay for $ 1.5 billion. From the sale, Peter Thiel gets $ 55 million. A small part of this money, 500 thousand dollars, decides to invest it in a small company that, after the foundation in a Harvard dormitory in 2004, set up tents in Menlo Park: Facebook.

Those 500 thousand dollars yes have transformed, following the sale of most of its shares after Facebook's stock exchange in 2012, into over 600 million dollars. Furthermore, up to February 2022, Thiel was part of the board of directors of the company in the meantime renamed Meta, becoming one of Mark Zuckerberg's longest-lived and trusted advisors.

Palantir surveillance In the same years in invested in Facebook, Thiel also gave life to the entrepreneurial adventure that, in many respects, has most characterized his career: Palantir, a big data analysis company whose name is inspired by the Lord of the Rings and which over the years has become a of the most well-known, feared and controversial surveillance firms, whose contracts with the US military have played a fundamental part in conquering a market capitalization of 22 billion dollars.

What is a libertarian like Peter doing? Thiel in the mass surveillance industry? On closer inspection, it is not even the greatest of the many contradictions of this character, who in 2016 became one of the very few billionaires in Silicon Valley (if not the only one) to support Donald Trump already from the elections and then for the entire term: conservative reactionary, defender of "traditional values" and close to white supremacism. A figure that on paper seems very far from Peter Thiel, who is among other things an openly gay man.

Even today, Peter Thiel financially supports, with tens of millions of euros, the race for the Senate of two ultra-Trumpians like Blake Masters (Arizona) and JD Vance (Ohio). But perhaps it makes little sense to seek consistency in a character whose bizarre beliefs led him to buy a 193-hectare estate in New Zealand (which he also literally bought citizenship of), which he considered the safest nation in case of climatic catastrophe.

Another characteristic of Thiel that, in conclusion, it is impossible not to mention is that of being so terrified of death that he has invested a considerable part of his economic resources to support the many companies that are studying how to delay the aging as possible, including Aubrey De Gray's Sens Research, Unity Biotechnology or Stemcentrx.

Considering its political support for candidates very close to climate denial, it cannot be ruled out that the future Peter Thiel imagines for himself to be one of the most dystopian you can think of: a very long life lived in an ultra-luxury bunker in New Zealand while the rest of the world is on fire. Happy him…

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