Of all Mr. Thiel's social-engineering enthusiasms, one I would have most loved to see play out is Seasteading, an initiative to create libertarian utopias on artificial islands in the middle of oceans. In 2008 Mr. Thiel and the activist Patri Friedman founded the Seasteading Institute, with the goal of building these communities. Seasteading, Mr. Thiel wrote, could "create a new space for freedom" where entrepreneurial leaders, working beyond the reach of governments and their pesky laws, could take society forward.
Recently Mr. Thiel suggested that he'd gone cold on Seasteading, because of cost and practicality. Unmentioned was the possibility that the experiment would have come to an ideologically inconvenient conclusion: that a small island -- whether created by nature or man -- would be an astonishingly bad place to live without rules. [no shit, Sherlock; and my emphasis, natch]
The wonderful aspect of the article is, of course, that the author agrees with me on the salient point: all this talk of innovation being antagonistic to conventional academics is based on a warped notion of innovation. Most of this innovation of the last couple of decades is a continuing replay of infotainment software, Just today, we get more such data.
A majority -- 55 percent -- of employers considered smartphones to be the biggest killers of workplace productivity. That's hardly surprising given that more than eight in 10 workers (83 percent) own the devices and 82 percent keep them within eye contact while at work.
It all started with the GUI wordprocessor (I'm snarking at you Word), which enticed folks into spending their time worrying about the sizzle rather than the steak.
So, back to the Thiel takedown:
We don't have enough of the desperately needed inventions -- nuclear fusion energy or cancer cures -- that emerge when credentialed scientists tinker away for years on expensive machines that have nothing to do with Snapchat. Of course, this sort of tinkering most often happens in the academic institutions that Mr. Thiel reviles, despite their role in the foundational breakthroughs -- such as the internet -- that enabled Mr. Thiel to build his $2.7 billion fortune.
Alas, you can't really eat the sizzle.