Peter Thiel/​Eric Weinstein Transcript on Growth, Violence, and Stories

I’ve re­cently been through a spate of listen­ing to pod­casts. When I listened to the first ninety min­utes of a three-hour con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Eric We­in­stein and Peter Thiel, I was sur­prised to hear echoed a lot of ideas we’ve dis­cussed on LessWrong about stag­na­tion in academia and sci­en­tific dis­course more gen­er­ally (e.g. here and here). I re­al­ised there was no good on­line tran­script for peo­ple to read, dis­cuss, and link to, so in my off-work hours as a hope­fully use­ful pub­lic ser­vice, I thought I’d try my hand at mak­ing one, and used a for­mat in­spired by other pod­casts who do the same (in this case, the of­ten brilli­ant 80,000 Hours Pod­cast).

I’ve split it into five posts for read­abil­ity. (Fur­ther notes on edit­ing are in this com­ment.) I’ll post them ev­ery cou­ple of days for the next week or so. The posts are: this in­tro­duc­tion, Sto­ries About Academia, Sto­ries About Ed­u­ca­tion, Poli­ti­cal Violence and Dis­trac­tion The­o­ries, and Sto­ries About Progress.

I’ve finished listen­ing to the pod­cast, and found it to con­tain a very in­ter­est­ing al­ter­na­tive wor­ld­view, that I’ve since come back to many times in con­ver­sa­tion.

So with­out fur­ther ado.

Some of the top­ics discussed

  • What sto­ries in­sti­tu­tions tell when growth has stopped.

  • The ar­gu­ment that the physics com­mu­nity is the most im­por­tant com­mu­nity on Earth.

  • Why we’re los­ing poly­maths.

  • Why it can be bad to train too many peo­ple.

  • The re­la­tion­ship be­tween au­toma­tion and re­dis­tri­bu­tion.

  • The the­ory that a great deal of poli­ti­cal dis­course is a dis­trac­tion from not hav­ing solu­tions to the lack of in­no­va­tion/​growth.

  • How the the­o­ries of Rene Girard are an an­ti­dote to strong liber­tar­ian im­pulses.

  • The im­por­tance of a so­ciety not dis­illu­sioned about growth, but ex­cited about growth.

  • Whether sci­en­tific progress can be a mo­ti­vat­ing story for so­ciety.

Highlights

Peter Thiel: The di­rect sci­en­tific ques­tions, I think, are very hard to get a han­dle on. And the rea­son for this is that in late moder­nity, which we are liv­ing in, there’s sim­ply too much knowl­edge for any in­di­vi­d­ual hu­man to un­der­stand all of it. And so in this world of ex­treme hy­per spe­cial­iza­tion, where it’s nar­rower and nar­rower sub­sets of ex­perts polic­ing them­selves and talk­ing about how great they are, the string the­o­rists talk­ing about how great string the­ory is, the can­cer re­searchers talk­ing about how they’re just about to cure can­cer, the quan­tum com­puter re­searchers are just about to build a quan­tum com­puter, there’ll be a mas­sive break­through. And then if you were to say that all these fields, not much is hap­pen­ing, peo­ple just don’t have the au­thor­ity for this. And this is some­how a very differ­ent feel for sci­ence or knowl­edge than you would’ve had in 1800 or even in 1900. In 1800, Goethe could still un­der­stand just about ev­ery­thing. 1900, Hilbert could still un­der­stand just about all of math­e­mat­ics and so this sort of spe­cial­iza­tion, I think, has made it a much harder ques­tion to get a han­dle on.
Peter Thiel: The poli­ti­cal cut I have on the spe­cial­iza­tion is always that if you an­a­lyze the poli­tics of sci­ence, the spe­cial­iza­tions should make you sus­pi­cious, be­cause if it’s got­ten harder to eval­u­ate what’s go­ing on, then it’s pre­sum­ably got­ten eas­ier for peo­ple to lie and to ex­ag­ger­ate, and then one should be a lit­tle bit sus­pi­cious. And that’s sort of my start­ing bias.

Eric We­in­stein: So, let me fo­cus you on two sub­jects that are im­por­tant for try­ing to figure out the econ­omy go­ing for­ward. I’m very fond of per­haps over-claiming, but mak­ing a strong claim for physics. That physics gave us atomic de­vices and nu­clear power, and it ended World War II defini­tively. It gave us the semi­con­duc­tor, the wor­ld­wide web, the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cists in­vented molec­u­lar biol­ogy, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions rev­olu­tion. All of these things came out of physics, and you could make the ar­gu­ment that physics has been re­ally un­der­rated as pow­er­ing the world econ­omy.
Eric We­in­stein: On the other hand, it’s very strange to me that we had the three-di­men­sional struc­ture of DNA in ’53, we had the ge­netic code 10 years later, and we’ve had very lit­tle in the way of, let’s say, gene ther­apy to show for all of our newfound knowl­edge. Now, I have no doubt that we are learn­ing all sorts of new things—to your point about spe­cial­iza­tion—in biol­ogy, but the trans­la­tion hasn’t been any­thing like what I would have imag­ined for physics.
Eric We­in­stein: So, it feels like some­how we’re in a new or­chard, and we’re spend­ing a lot of time ex­plor­ing it, but we haven’t found the low hang­ing fruit in biol­ogy, and we’ve kind of ex­hausted the physics or­chard, be­cause what we’ve found is so ex­otic that, you know, whether it’s two black holes col­lid­ing, or a third gen­er­a­tion of mat­ter, or quark sub­struc­ture, we haven’t been able to use these things. Are we some­how be­tween rev­olu­tions?

On in­creas­ing the num­ber of stu­dents with a higher ed­u­ca­tion:

Peter Thiel: One of my friends is a pro­fes­sor in the Stan­ford eco­nomics de­part­ment, and the way he de­scribes it to me is they have about 30 grad­u­ate stu­dents start­ing PhDs in eco­nomics at Stan­ford ev­ery year. It’s six to eight years to get a PhD. At the end of the first year, the fac­ulty has an im­plicit rank­ing of the stu­dents, where they’ve sort of agreed who the top three or four are. The rank­ing never changes. The top three or four have, are able to get a good po­si­tion in academia, the oth­ers not so much.
Peter Thiel: And, you know, we’re pre­tend­ing to be kind to peo­ple, and we’re ac­tu­ally be­ing cruel.

Peter Thiel: Ama­zon is the most threat­en­ing of the big tech com­pa­nies in that it’s threat­en­ing a lot of other com­pa­nies el­se­where in the in­dus­try and dis­rupt­ing them and mak­ing things more effi­cient, but prob­a­bly with a lot of sheer forces at work in that pro­cess. So, I agree that that’s a can­di­date for au­toma­tion or pro­duc­tivity im­prove­ments or things like that. I’m still not con­vinced that it’s in the ag­gre­gate shift­ing things that much, and then you can go through all sorts of in­di­vi­d­ual job de­scrip­tions where peo­ple used to have sec­re­taries be­cause typ­ing was a skill, and with a word pro­ces­sor you don’t quite need this. You can do short emails. You don’t quite need a sec­re­tary. Peo­ple still have ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tants that sort of some­how do slightly differ­ent set of re­spon­si­bil­ities, but it’s not clear we have fewer ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tants than we used to have sec­re­taries.
Peter Thiel: So, when one ac­tu­ally con­cretizes it, it’s not quite clear how dis­rup­tive the au­toma­tion that’s hap­pen­ing re­ally is. Again, it’s a ver­sion of the tech stag­na­tion thing. It’s always the last 40, 50 years, things have been slow. We’re always told it’s about to ac­cel­er­ate like crazy. That may be true. In some ways, I hope that’s true, but if one was sim­ply ex­trap­o­lat­ing from the last 40 to 50 years, per­haps the de­fault is that we should be more wor­ried about the lack of au­toma­tion than ex­cess au­toma­tion.

Eric We­in­stein: Some­thing that sort of fits in here is that, in part I’ve learned from you, and you can tell me whether you rec­og­nize this for­mu­la­tion or not, is start with any ap­peal­ing so­cial idea. That’s step one. Step two, ask what is the ab­solute min­i­mal level of vi­o­lence and co­er­cion that would be nec­es­sary to ac­com­plish that idea. Now add that to the origi­nal idea. Do you still find your origi­nal idea at­trac­tive? This flips many of these propo­si­tions into ter­ri­tory where I sud­denly re­al­ized that some­thing that peo­ple see as be­ing very at­trac­tive ac­tu­ally can only be ac­com­plished with so much mis­ery, even if it’s done max­i­mally effi­ciently, that it’s no longer a good idea. This has been very in­fluen­tial in my think­ing.

Peter Thiel: Well, I think that it’s very hard to see how any­thing like the kinds of so­cieties we have in Western Europe, the United States, could func­tion with­out growth. I think the way sort of a par­li­a­men­tary re­pub­li­can democ­racy works is you have a group of peo­ple sit­ting around the table, they craft com­pli­cated leg­is­la­tion, and there’s a lot of horse trad­ing, and as long as the pie’s grow­ing, you can give some­thing to ev­ery­body. When the pie stops grow­ing, it be­comes a zero sum dy­namic, and the leg­is­la­tive pro­cess does not work. So, the sort of demo­cratic types of par­li­a­men­tary sys­tems we’ve had for the last 200, 250 years have mapped on to this pe­riod of rapid growth. We had sort of a very bad ex­per­i­ment in the 1930s where the growth stopped, at least from the eco­nomic sense, and the sys­tems be­came fas­cist or com­mu­nist. It doesn’t ac­tu­ally work.
Peter Thiel: So, I sus­pect that if we’re in for a pe­riod of long growth [Ben: I think Peter here means “a pe­riod where growth is a long way away”], I don’t think our kind of gov­ern­ment can work. I think there is a prospect of all sorts of forms of vi­o­lence, more vi­o­lence by the state against its cit­i­zens. There may be more zero sum wars globally, or there may be other ways things are su­per de­formed to pacify peo­ple. So, maybe ev­ery­one just smokes mar­ijuana all day, but that’s also kind of de­formed. But I think a world with­out growth is ei­ther go­ing to be a much more vi­o­lent or a much more de­formed world. And again, it’s not the case that growth sim­ply solves all prob­lems. So, you can have very rapid growth, and you can still have the prob­lem of vi­o­lence. You can still have bad things that can hap­pen, but that’s our only chance. Without growth, I think it’s very hard to see how you have a good fu­ture.

Eric We­in­stein: Let me take a slightly differ­ent tack. Two state­ments that I found later in life un­for­tu­nately, but have both been mean­ingful to me. One is We­ber’s defi­ni­tion that a gov­ern­ment is a monopoly on vi­o­lence. And the other one, it’s a guy I can never re­mem­ber who said, I think it was a French poli­ti­cal philoso­pher who said, “A na­tion is a group of peo­ple who have agreed to for­get some­thing in com­mon.” If you put these things to­gether, if you imag­ine that some­how we’ve now gone in for the be­lief that trans­parency is al­most always a good thing and that what we need is greater trans­parency to con­trol the bad­ness in our so­ciety, we prob­a­bly won’t be able to for­get any­thing in com­mon. There­fore, we may not be able to have a na­tion, and there­fore the na­tion may not be able to mo­nop­o­lize vi­o­lence, which is a very dis­turb­ing but in­ter­est­ing causal chain. Can we ex­plore the idea of trans­parency, given that peo­ple seem to now as­so­ci­ate cer­tain words with pos­i­tivity, even though nor­mally we would have thought about pri­vacy, trans­parency, trade-offs, let’s say?

Eric We­in­stein: It’s in­ter­est­ing, in a mo­ment where I wanted to make sure that my son didn’t mis­be­have, I toured him around our neigh­bor­hood and pointed out all of the cam­eras that would track any­body on the street where we live. I had never no­ticed them be­fore, but sure enough there they were in ev­ery nook and cranny that we don’t re­al­ize that if it has to be stitched to­gether, there’s an in­cred­ible web of surveillance tools that are sur­round­ing us at all time.

Peter Thiel: It strikes me that there are ways we don’t want to wake up. We don’t want to wake up in a way where it de-en­er­gizes us and de­mo­ti­vates. I think one of the ways I think these in­sti­tu­tions worked was they took care of peo­ple, but it was also mo­ti­va­tional. You study. You get good grades. You’ll suc­ceed in our sys­tem. One way, when you de­con­struct these in­sti­tu­tions, there’s one di­rec­tion that I think is always very dan­ger­ous, that it just shifts peo­ple into a much more nihilis­tic, very low en­ergy mode where it’s just, “Well, there’s no point. Noth­ing can be done.” That’s the way that I defini­tively do not want to wake peo­ple up.

Links to Things Dis­cussed in the Podcast

Links not ex­plic­itly referred to but that (I think) give strong ar­gu­ments for po­si­tions dis­cussed and are per­haps im­plic­itly referred to:

Other Dis­cus­sion on the Web

(Let me know about more, ei­ther in the com­ments or via PM.)

Interview

Introduction

Eric We­in­stein: Hello and wel­come to The Por­tal’s first epi­sode. To­day, I’ll be sit­ting down with Peter Thiel. Now, if you’ve been fol­low­ing me on Twit­ter, or per­haps as a pod­cast guest on other pod­casts, you may know that I work for Thiel Cap­i­tal. But one of the things that peo­ple ask me most fre­quently is, given that you are so differ­ent than your boss and friend Peter Thiel, how is it the two of you get along? What is it that you talk about? Where do you agree and dis­agree? Now, oddly, Peter and I both do a fair amount of pub­lic speak­ing. But I don’t be­lieve that we’ve ever ap­peared in pub­lic to­gether and very few peo­ple have heard our con­ver­sa­tions. What’s more, he al­most never men­tions me, and I al­most never men­tioned him in our pub­lic lives.

Eric We­in­stein: So hope­fully this pod­cast will give some in­di­ca­tion of what a con­ver­sa­tion is like with some­body who I find one of the most in­ter­est­ing and in­fluen­tial teach­ers of our time; some­body who has in­fluenced all sorts of peo­ple in Sili­con Valley in­volved with tech­nol­ogy and in­vent­ing to­mor­row, and who is of­ten not seen ac­cu­rately, in my opinion, by the com­men­tariat and the reg­u­lar peo­ple who opine as pun­dits in the world of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy.

Eric We­in­stein: I hope you’ll find Peter as fas­ci­nat­ing as I do. Without fur­ther ado, this is the first epi­sode of The Por­tal. Thanks for join­ing us.

Per­sonal Backgrounds

Eric We­in­stein: Hello and wel­come. You found The Por­tal. I’m your host, Eric We­in­stein, and I think this is our first in­ter­view show to de­but, and I’m here with my good friend and em­ployer, Mr. Peter Thiel. Peter, wel­come to The Por­tal.

Peter Thiel: Well, Eric, thanks for hav­ing me on your pro­gram.

Eric We­in­stein: No, this is a great honor. One of the things I think is kind of odd is that lots of peo­ple know that I work for you and many peo­ple know that we’re friends, but even though we both do a fair amount of pub­lic speak­ing, I don’t think we’ve ever ap­peared any place in pub­lic to­gether. Is that your rec­ol­lec­tion as well?

Peter Thiel: I can’t think of a sin­gle oc­ca­sion. So this proves we’re not the same per­son.

Eric We­in­stein: We’re not the same per­son, yeah. You are not my al­ter ego. But on that front, I think it is kind of an odd thing for me. I mean, we met each other, I think when I was in my late 40s, and if you’d ever told me that the per­son who would be most likely to com­plete my thoughts ac­cu­rately would be you, I never would have be­lieved it, never hav­ing met you. We have some­what op­po­site poli­tics. We have very differ­ent life his­to­ries. How do you think it is that we’ve come to share such a lot of think­ing? I mean, I have to say that a lot of my ideas are cross pol­li­nated with yours. So you oc­cur in a lot of my stan­dard riffs. How do you think it is that we came to differ­ent con­clu­sions, but share so much of a body of thought?

Peter Thiel: So I’m always hard pressed to an­swer that, since the con­clu­sions all seem cor­rect to me. And it’s always mys­te­ri­ous why it feels like we’re the out­liers and we’re among the very few peo­ple that reach some of these con­clu­sions about the rel­a­tive stag­na­tion in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, the ways in which this is de­rang­ing or cul­ture, our poli­tics, our so­ciety, and then how we need to try to find some bold ways out; some bold ways to find a new por­tal to a differ­ent world.

Peter Thiel: And I think there are differ­ent ways the two of us came at this. I feel like you got to some of these per­spec­tives at a very early point, sort of the mid 1980s, that some­thing was in­cred­ibly off. I prob­a­bly got there in the early, mid-90s, when I was from this track law firm job in New York city. And some­how ev­ery­thing felt like it was more like a Ponzi scheme. It wasn’t re­ally go­ing to­wards the fu­ture ev­ery­one had promised you, in the elite un­der­grad­u­ate and law school ed­u­ca­tion I had gone through.

Peter Thiel: And so, yeah. So I think there was sort of a point, we got to these in­sights. But it’s still strik­ing how out of sync they feel with so much of our so­ciety, even in 2019.

Eric We­in­stein: Yeah, I mean, that’s a very strik­ing thing for me. And it’s also some­thing that’s frus­trated me. Some­times, when I look for­ward to you be­ing in­ter­viewed, it of­ten feels to me that so much time is spent on the ini­tial ques­tion,”Are we some­what stag­nat­ing in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy,” that rather than as­sum­ing that as a con­clu­sion—which I think we can make a pretty con­vinc­ing ar­gu­ment that there has been a lot of stag­na­tion—it seems to me that a lot of these con­ver­sa­tions hang at an ear­lier level. And so one of the things that I was hop­ing to do in this, which is, I think, your sec­ond long form pod­cast. You did Dave Ru­bin’s show some­time ago … Is to sort of pre­sup­pose some of the ba­sics that peo­ple will be fa­mil­iar with who’ve been fol­low­ing ei­ther one of us, or both of us, and to get to the part of the con­ver­sa­tion that I think never gets ex­plained and dis­cussed, be­cause peo­ple are always so hung up at the ini­tial frame is­sue.

What is the dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive?

Eric We­in­stein: So with your in­dul­gence, let’s talk a lit­tle bit about what you and I see, and any differ­ences that we might have, about this pe­riod of time that we find our­selves in, in 2019. What would you say is the dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive be­fore we get to what might be our shared counter nar­ra­tive?

Peter Thiel: Well, you know, the dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive is prob­a­bly fray­ing and has been fray­ing for some time, but it is some­thing like we’re in a world of gen­er­ally fast sci­en­tific and tech­nolog­i­cal progress. Things are get­ting bet­ter all the time. There’s some im­bal­ances that maybe need to be smoothed out. There’s some cor­ner case prob­lems. Maybe there’s some dystopian risks, be­cause the tech­nol­ogy is so fast and so scary that it might be de­struc­tive. But it’s a gen­er­ally ac­cel­er­a­tionist story. And then there’s some sort of micro-ad­just­ments within that, that one would have to make.

Peter Thiel: There’s are all sorts of ways that I think it’s fray­ing. I think 2008 was a big wa­ter­shed mo­ment, but that still what’s largely been hold­ing to­gether. And then there’s sort of differ­ent in­sti­tu­tions. You can look at the uni­ver­si­ties where there’s a tracked thing. It’s cost­ing more ev­ery year, but it’s still worth it. It’s still an in­vest­ment in the fu­ture. And this was prob­a­bly already ques­tion­able in the 1980s, 1990s. Col­lege debt in the United States in 2000 was $300 billion. Now it’s around in $1.6 trillion, $1.7 trillion. And so there’s a way in which the story was shaky 20 years ago and to­day is much shak­ier. It’s still sort of hold­ing to­gether some­how.

Eric We­in­stein: So in this story, in essence, the great dream is that your chil­dren will be­come ed­u­cated, they will re­ceive a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion, they will find ca­reers. And in this bright and dy­namic so­ciety, they can look for­ward to a fu­ture that is brighter than the fu­ture that pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions look for­ward to.

Peter Thiel: Yeah, so I think … Now again, I think peo­ple are hes­i­tant to ac­tu­ally ar­tic­u­late it quite that way, be­cause that already sounds not quite true to-

Eric We­in­stein: Well, to your point, they’ve been adding epicy­cles for some time.

Peter Thiel: And so it’s a … Maybe it’s a bright fu­ture, but it’s re­ally differ­ent from the par­ents, be­cause we can’t quite know. And they have all these new de­vices. They have an iPhone and they can text re­ally fast on the iPhone. We can’t even un­der­stand what the younger gen­er­a­tion is do­ing. So maybe it’s bet­ter on … But “bet­ter” has sort of an ob­jec­tive scale. Maybe it’s just differ­ent and un­mea­surable, but bet­ter in sort of an un­mea­surable way.

Peter Thiel: So there sort of are ways it’s got­ten mod­ified but, that would still be a very pow­er­fully in­tact nar­ra­tive. And then that there are sort of straight for­ward things we can be do­ing. The sys­tem’s ba­si­cally work­ing, and it’s ba­si­cally go­ing to con­tinue to work. And they’re sort of a global ver­sion of this. There’s a US ver­sion. There’s an up­per mid­dle class US ver­sion. There’s a lot of differ­ent vari­a­tions on this.

Eric We­in­stein: So it always strikes me that one of the things that you do very well is that you’re will­ing—and you know, you’re fa­mously a chess player—you’re will­ing to make cer­tain sac­ri­fices in or­der to ad­vance a point. And in this case, I think you and I would both agree that there’s cer­tain ar­eas that have con­tinued to fol­low the growth story more than the gen­eral econ­omy, and that you have to kind of give those sto­ries their due be­fore you get to see this new pic­ture. Where do you think the fu­ture has been rel­a­tively more bright in re­cent years?

Peter Thiel: Well, again I sort of date this era of rel­a­tive stag­na­tion and slowed progress all the way back to the 1970s, so I think it’s been close to half a cen­tury that we’ve been in this era of se­ri­ously slowed progress. Ob­vi­ously, a very big ex­cep­tion to this has been the world of bits: Com­put­ers, in­ter­net, mo­bile in­ter­net, soft­ware. And so Sili­con Valley has some­how been this dra­matic ex­cep­tion. Whereas the world of atoms has been much slower for some­thing like 50 years.

Peter Thiel: And you know, when I was an un­der­grad­u­ate at Stan­ford in the late 1980s, al­most all en­g­ineer­ing dis­ci­plines, in ret­ro­spect, were re­ally bad fields to go into. Peo­ple already knew, at the time, you shouldn’t go into nu­clear en­g­ineer­ing. AeroAstro was a bad idea. but you know, chem­i­cal en­g­ineer­ing, me­chan­i­cal en­g­ineer­ing, all these things were bad fields. Com­puter sci­ence would’ve been a very good field to go into. And that’s been sort of an area where there’s been tremen­dous growth.

Peter Thiel: So that’s sort of the sig­na­ture one that I would cite. There are ques­tions about how healthy it is, at this point, even within that field. So, you know, the iPhone is now look­ing the same as it did seven, eight years ago. So that’s the iconic in­ven­tion. Not quite so sure. And so there’s been sort of a definitely a change in the tone even within Sili­con Valley in the last five, six years on this. But that had been one that was very, very de­cou­pled.

Peter Thiel: The de­cou­pling it­self had some odd effects, where if you have sort of a nar­row cone of progress around this world of bits, then the peo­ple who are in those parts of the econ­omy that have more to do with atoms will feel like they’re be­ing left be­hind. And so there was some­thing, there was some­thing about the tech nar­ra­tive that had this very … Didn’t nec­es­sar­ily feel in­clu­sive, didn’t feel like ev­ery­body was get­ting ahead. And one of the ways I’ve de­scribed it is that we live in a world where we’ve been work­ing on the Star Trek com­puter in Sili­con Valley, but we don’t have any­thing else from Star Trek. We don’t have the warp drive, we don’t have the trans­porter, we can’t re-en­g­ineer mat­ter in sort of this cor­nu­copian world where there is no scarcity. And how good is a so­ciety where you have a well-func­tion­ing Star Trek com­puter, but noth­ing else from Star Trek?

Eric We­in­stein: Yeah, that’s in­cred­ibly juicy. I mean, one of the ways that I at­tempted to en­code some­thing, which, in part I got from you, was to say, “Of course your iPhone is amaz­ing. It’s all that’s left of your once limitless fu­ture,” be­cause it’s the col­li­sion of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions and the semi­con­duc­tor rev­olu­tions that did seem to con­tinue. And I date the sort of break in the econ­omy to some­thing like 1972, ’73, ’74. It’s re­ally quite sharp in my mind. Is it that way in yours?

Peter Thiel: Yes. I’d say 1968, peo­ple still … The nar­ra­tive progress seemed in­tact. By ’73, it was some­how over. So some­where in that five-year pe­riod. The 1969 ver­sion was we landed on the moon in July of 1969 and you know, Wood­stock starts three weeks later. And maybe that’s one way you could de­scribe the cul­tural shift. You can de­scribe it in terms of the oil shocks in 1973 at the back end. With the benefit of hind­sight, there were things that were already fray­ing by the late 1960s, so the en­vi­ron­ment was get­ting dra­mat­i­cally worse.

Eric We­in­stein: Right.

Peter Thiel: You have the grad­u­ate movies, you should go into plas­tics. I think that was 1968 or ’69. So there were sort of things where the story was fray­ing, but I think it was still broadly in­tact in 1968, and some­how seemed very off by ’73.