(See Woz and Salman Khan for examples of education reformers who seem to have education reform as their actual #1 goal.)
edit: Of course, as full disclosure I'm in academia, so perhaps have my own ulterior motives. =] But honestly I think Salman Khan's approach is a bigger threat to the higher-education status quo than Thiel's is, mainly because it's much more scalable. So from a pure self-interest point of view I ought to dislike that one more!
Topics which were not raised, at all, not even in the slightest: Universities having a left-wing influence.
I'm genuinely shocked at the amount of vitriol and conspiracy-theorizing which Peter Thiel is getting over this.
People who engage in standard trendy forms of "nonconformity" that everyone immediately recognizes as "nonconformist" are called "dangerous" or "edgy" or "innovative". People who lack the imitation gene are called "weird" or "crazy".
That's probably not exactly the way Peter Thiel would phrase it - I'm uncomfortable speaking for others - but I don't think he'd disagree.
In order to eliminate aging and death, you must have an educated and ambitious populace who can mobilize resources to wage war on mortality.
Yes, he's a techno-libertarian, but like all great techno-libertarians he's interested in killing what kill human beings and crystallizing human potential. Aubrey de Grey even mention libertarians as one of the group that is most supportive of his work.
Why libertarianism and anti-aging/anti-death and technology in general goes together? I have no idea.
He may not have put 2 and 2 together there yet.
Ridiculous. Anybody who professes commitment to "eliminating death" is hiding a tax-shelter.
This is a pointless exercise that is doomed to failure. Sure, we may be able to extend a person's life to 200 or 300 years. But will we be able to cure all future diseases (for the next million years), eliminate accidents, natural disasters, and sudden body failure? What about when the sun burns out in a few billion years? Will we be able to successfully colonize another planet while keeping the same safety precautions for human life?
Death is as much a part of life as birth. It will not be eliminated unless you eliminate life. To think otherwise is a denial of reality.
Same thing with death. We should lower the possibility that you will die within in the next 5, 25, 100, and thousand of years, or even million.
The immortal Turritopsis nutricula jellyfish would beg to differ.
Regarding his politics, he's given multiple accomodating interviews to National Review, the founding conservative magazine in the US. And you can just look at his public donation record -- it's more than a quarter of a million dollars -- 100% Republican.
Of course he won't come out and say, "I'm trying to dismantle higher education as part of a larger political agenda", but at least to some (including myself), the evidence is striking.
I wouldn't even call Thiel's goals fundamentally political; he's trying to shape society and throws money at things that he believes will bend it more to his liking. I don't think he gives two shits about the survival of either of the dominant American political parties.
Most of his donations were the maximum allowed by US law.
I wouldn't even call Thiel's goals fundamentally political
You don't work with the National Review, the Cato Institute, and consistently donate (and to only one political party) if its not fundamentally political.
he's trying to shape society and throws money at things that he believes will bend it more to his liking.
Umm, yeah, that's what all politicians are doing. My point is is that he's working through and with the conservative political system to make this happen, as their goals are aligned.
Take someone like Salman Khan, OTOH, who is also trying to make a big change, but seems to be taking a much less political approach.
Second, I think I'm using the word political here to talk about ideological interests, rather than self-interested ones.
But let me presume that link was about the actual company donating to the democrats. Setting aside the issue of Thiel, because I don't know much about him, I think its harder to classify businesses as 'fundamentally political' because of their more singular motive of profit. Businesses, at least those on a massive scale like Google, have a clear goal in mind when donating to candidates: procuring legislation in favor of themselves. Thus, their choice doesn't seem 'political' because it can be boiled down to self-interest. If they were giving lots of money to democrats, it could probably be explained by the democrats being more easily 'bought' on something Google wanted. I wouldn't say that an oil company is 'political' for giving money to republicans instead of environmentally conscious democrats--that's just self-interest to me.
Meanwhile, I think a person donating is much more likely to be doing so because of ideological reasons. However, the greater a person's stake in the outcome of legislation, the more likely their motive is not 'political'. For example, if billionaires don't want a crackdown on tax havens, its probably because of self-interest rather than some ideological commitment that taxation is unjust. Given this, Thiel's donation record alone could just be evidence of self-interest. However, as per the posts around this discussion, frequent interviews with the National Review, Cato, etc., plus the fact that I think its much more probable that individuals are political than companies, makes me think that the Google/Thiel comparison is inaccurate.
It's not one thing, but its the combination of his apparent agenda coupled with his background.
With that said, if Google decided to promote planned parenthood links and hid southern baptist links, then I'd probably believe that politics might have something to do with it.
Everyone has a bias. But its important that you be able to see through their front to see what might be their actual end goal that's consistent with their bias.
I.e., don't you think it's possible that his individualist, pro-free thinker views inform both his libertarian political views and also his views that our rigid college-based gatekeeping system is unnecessary?
Probably not since one doesn't naturally flow from the other. Especially since he creates and participates in a several other gatekeeping systems.
Peter Thiel as a libertarian is depressed simply because, despte being white and rich, he can't find a way to deprive other groups of some basic civil rights. What freedom do you have if you can't deprive others of theirs? Indeed Mr. Thiel.
If you are making statements like this, you clearly know nothing about either libertarianism or Peter Thiel.
Some nice quotes from Thiel:
“I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”
“Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women—two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians—have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron,”
And a quote from the article:
"The public, he [Thiel] says, doesn’t support unregulated, winner-take-all capitalism, and so he won’t support the public any longer. "
"Thiel is the lead backer of Sea-steading, a movement to create law-free floating communes and explore space, with the avowed aim of creating new POLITICAL structures even farther offshore. "
I don't see how its not obvious that Thiel's motives have an extreme conservative ideological bent. "The extension of the franchise to women" -- WTF?!
And I should have looked on Wikipedia earlier "he founded The Stanford Review, now the university's main conservative/libertarian newspaper".
What else do you need?
You're conflating a whole mess of things: "conservative", "Republican" and "Libertarian" are all different. The only one of those three that can Thiel can be meaningfully labeled is libertarian. He's a couple orders of magnitude further away from Republicans than most Democrats. His political views are radical and outspoken, but "Republican" they are not.
Second, it's silly to assume that someone as prolific as Thiel does everything for an ulterior political motive (investing in Facebook, Zynga, life extension, running a hedge fund?) or that even those that do conform to some pre-fabricated ideology. His views are sufficiently distant from the norm that I find it overwhelmingly clear that he thinks independently on separate issues. If you want to label the lump sum of a person's ideals "political", then sure, they're "political", but that definition isn't particularly useful. The more conventional definition of "political" would be "having to do with governmental politics", and if anything his ideology is anti-political.
Your comment was ad hominem -- you made no attempt to actually draw a connection between this program and his purported political agenda and instead chose to go after the fact that he donated to republicans and gave interviews to the Cato Institute. That's what was disingenuous. That he's a libertarian is obvious; that this act was part of some effort to undermine the universities because of his "conservatism" is not.
Unfortunately you missed the complete premise of my position. His act, the creation of his fund, is inherently conservative. And furthermore, it's something I had long predicted as part of the conservative movement (with ample help from those in the movement saying they were planning on doing such a thing).
I didn't work from Thiel's ideologoy forward. I heard about the act and my first thought, before even originally knowing who did it was that it would be a prominent conservative. I was not shocked to see it was Mr. Thiel. At that point the rest of the pieces fit together perfectly.
You can attempt to downplay Thiel's ideological motivation, but only the most diehard conservatives (of which there are plenty on HN) will disagree.
_Delirium, could you please provide a citation both where Thiel openly stated that he wants to destroy universities, and that he wants to destroy them because they "promote politics he dislikes"? Thanks in advance.
Genuinely curious about your experience!
I hope you're not implying that the point of the Fellowship is to destroy academia.
The point, however, is silly. Cherrypick the twenty brightest students you can find, give 'em a bunch of money and all the connections that come from having Peter Thiel invested in your success, and I'm sure that a lot of 'em will do well. But that doesn't scale.
Thiel is definitely pro "different" from the current system.
I think the idea of promoting more entrepreneurial activities earlier is great, but it seems very anti-university/higher ed in his vision rather than as an alternative path.
You use the word "destroy". Thiel doesn't want to destroy universities. He thinks their product is overvalued and that the price should be lower. One reality where the price of college was revalued would be one where a whole lot less people go to college, unless supply and demand becomes even more borked.