Peter Thiel on ‘Totalitarian Place’ Silicon Valley: ‘Somehow We’ve Gotten to a Point Where Perhaps the Negatives Are Greater Than the Positives’

Friday in an appearance on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria,” PayPal co-founder and Founders Fund venture capitalist Peter Thiel explained his decision to relocate his business from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles.

Thiel attributed the decision to the groupthink phenomenon that plagues Silicon Valley and described it as “totalitarian.”

Partial transcript as follows:

BARTIROMO: You spent almost your entire life in Silicon Valley, and you’ve decided recently to leave Silicon Valley — take your investment firm as well, and open up shop in Los Angeles. Why is this? What caused this?

THIEL: Well, it’s a decision that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time. On the technology side, I think that Silicon Valley will continue producing great companies, but perhaps not quite as many. You know for the last 20 years, you had this strange dynamic where Silicon Valley was the only place for innovation in the United States really happened. Even though the Internet was supposed to eliminate the tyranny of place, you somehow had all the internet companies happening in one particular place. I think my judgment is that this will be much more distributed in the future, much more outside of Silicon Valley. There are certain pluses and minuses to Silicon Valley. The big advantage is that you have all the talent, all the capital in one place and so you have these extraordinary network effects. And that’s been a motor of Silicon Valley for a long time. But there’s a point where network effects go very wrong and where sort of the network effect, the fact that everyone’s super-connected, everyone knows what everyone’s thinking, everyone ends up thinking the same thing. It shifts over into the madness of crowds. And I think that’s — that somehow we’ve gotten to the point where perhaps the negatives are greater than the positives.

BARTIROMO: Well, look — I mean, there are a lot of ideologies, and it’s sort of one ideology. You backed President Trump in a big and Silicon Valley’s very liberal. Do you get heat for that? Did you get heat for that?

THIEL: Of course, I got heat. I don’t want to exaggerate the importance. I don’t think it’s okay to be in a place where most people are liberal, or most people have views different from my own. I do think there’s something different when it goes from a large majority having one way to it being almost unanimous, where — because thinks are never unanimous. So, when people are unanimously on one side, that tells you not that they’ve all figured out the truth but that they’re in a totalitarian place, that they’re in a one-party state where they’re not allowed to have dissenting views. I think Silicon Valley shifted from being quite liberal to being a one-party state. Those are two different things.

BARTIROMO: What can we do about this? You look at universities. They push back on any conservative thinking. You could pick up and move and take your business with you. But what is the country supposed to do when there’s a pushback of a diversity of ideas?

THIEL: I’ve often said that our greatest political problem is the problem of political correctness, you know, properly understood. Because that’s how we limit the debate, how we aren’t allowed to consider all the possibilities and certainly I think the universities share a lot of blame for this. The education system shares a lot of blame. But I think the pushback is you have to try to push back in every specific context where you find it and say the real debate is not this super-narrow debate. There’s a much broader range of possibilities we should be considering.

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor


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