Peter Thiel on Tech Community Politics: Crypto Is Libertarian and AI is Communist
Crypto Is Libertarian and AI is Communist, Affirms Peter Thiel
People from the cryptocurrency industry are generally known for their strong affirmations. Sometimes, their claims are simply ludicrous, but some other times, they actually make a lot of sense. Recently, it was Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman, two original members of the PayPal Mafia, has have made some very memorable allegations during a debate at the Stanford University.
During the debate, which was moderated by Niall Ferguson, the two executives discussed politics. This recent discussion was based on centralized and decentralized technologies like AI and cryptocurrencies and how their technical frameworks are implemented via different “political regimes”.
Thiel, the former CEO of Paypal, is a big supporter of the tech sector, just as the former CEO of LinkedIn, Hoffman, but they have very different political views. Thiel supported Donald Trump during the 2016 election and Hoffman, like many others in the industry, has supported Hillary Clinton. In fact, he even worked as her advisor during the campaign.
The two, when asked whether the debate will still be right-left in the future, or authoritarian vs democratic, establishment vs populist, etc, responded that things aren’t so simple. Thiel noted that technologies are hard to predict and that the future of tech and politics is intertwined. In fact, he was curious about the centralization vs decentralization debate.
Crypto and AI, Decentralized vs Centralized
The movement between decentralization and centralization can be represented by two areas that have grown in popularity in the Silicon Valley: cryptocurrencies and artificial intelligence (AI). As the cryptocurrency industry generally looks for decentralization, AI has extremely centralizing tendencies, on the other hand.
Peter Thiel has actually gone to the length of affirming that “crypto is libertarian, AI is communist”, comparing two extremely different political ideological ends to two extremes of the technology. It was an exaggeration, surely, but Thiel had a point.
Unlike centralized entities, cryptocurrencies are generally open source and have communities in which anyone can contribute to the code and become a member. Even if you do not like the direction of the community, you can, for instance, create a hard fork. Bitcoin Cash is a fork from Bitcoin core and Ethereum Classic is a fork from the original Ethereum.
Also, no one is able to confiscate tokens unless they have access to the private keys of the owner, which was something that was originally created to bypass regulations and governmental control. People still use cryptocurrencies in China, for example, even after the country has banned them.
Artificial Intelligence, however, depends on big data. It is hard to gather without a large centralized entity like Google, for instance because you need to leverage off machine learning as there is a very high amount of content and data that you have to use to train your algorithm well. Therefore, the nature of AI is very centralized.
The Relation Between Technologies and Politics
According to Thiel, these trends mirror politics. China, for instance, and other communist and communist-influenced nations like the Soviet Union, always seek to create very centralized economies.
Technically, you could use AI to assist the state by predicting growth and how to use the resources of the country. According to Thiel, it is no surprise that China hates crypto and loves AI as these countries love control.
While Hoffman agrees with Thiel, to him, the metaphor is another one. Cryptos would be “anarchy” while AI would be the “rule of law”. This contraposes Thiel’s vision with a more positive tone. Hoffman noted that companies like Airbnb have enabled people to become micro entrepreneurs and provided them with good opportunities.
However, he also stated that we should all remember Spíder-man’s ethics: with great power, comes great responsibility. Because of this, you have to use the technology well and for the good of mankind.