Peter Thiel: Social Contract vs Scapegoating

if you go to the anthropological
myth of the Enlightenment it’s the myth
of the social contract so what happens
when everybody is that everybody’s
else’s throat what the Enlightenment
says is everybody in the middle of the
crisis sits down and has a nice legal
chat and draws up a social contract and
that’s maybe maybe that’s the founding
myth the central lie of the
Enlightenment if you will and what
Girard says something very different
must have happened and when everybody’s
at everybody’s throat the violence
doesn’t just resolve itself and maybe it
gets channeled against a a specific
scapegoat where the war of all against
all becomes a war can of all against one
and then somehow gets resolved but in a
in a very violent way and so I think you
know what what Girard and Schmidt or
Machiavelli or you know the
judeo-christian inspiration all have in
common is this idea that human nature is
problematic its violent it’s um you know
it’s it’s it’s it’s it’s it’s not
straightforward at all what what you do
with this on it’s not sort of simply
utopian or where we can say that
everybody’s not fundamentally good where
someone like Gerard and Schmidt very
much disagree is that Gerard believes
that once you describe this it has this
dissolving effect so scapegoating
violence only works if you don’t
understand what you’re doing and so if
we say well we have we have a crisis in
our village and we’re gonna have a
so that everybody can you know get out
all their negative energy and you know
will target this one elderly woman that
only works if you don’t think of it as a
fake psychosocial thing right once you
think of it in those terms it stops to
work and so there’s sort of a there is
the sense of late modernity where this
unraveling has been for Girard an
ambiguous thing
it’s both a bad thing because they’re
these cultural institutions that were
the only way we had ever had of working
and they’re there unraveling

but it’s also inevitable we can’t
somehow put the genie back into the


Mimetic Desire: A Valuable Theory

You don’t have to believe in everything Peter Thiel says to take interest in René Girard’s mimetic theory, which argues that what we desire what we percieve others desire.

Mimetic Desire in Children

If 3 three-year-olds are in a room full of toys and one child grabs a toy, which toy do the other 2 children want?

The Answer: the toy the first child grabbed.

Why: They want it because the first child wants it.

This obviously leads to conflict, so there must be something more going on.

Girard’s answer is that we unconsciously redirect our conflicts to an external scapegoat, who distracts us from our immediate conflicts.


About René Girard:

Peter Thiel on being a contrarian

you think they’re going to go well it’s
been a it’s been an incredible success I
would I would never bet against a long
in anything so I think that’s sort of
you know hard hard rule number one um
it’s probably you know if you sort of
ask what is it that the innovation
what’s what’s been the innovation in
SpaceX or Tesla on the many different
forms innovation takes the most common
one we’re used to is sort of you launch
something and then you iteratively
improve it sort of this continuous
improvement model we occasionally have a
modality of innovation we have a big
brilliant breakthrough like maybe
Bitcoin where Sony who worked on it in a
closet for 10 years and then release
this amazing discovery to the world but
I think there’s another modality of
innovation that’s that’s very underrated
is what I described is complex
coordination where you just take a lot
of different pieces and the innovation
is to combine them in a new way so if
you ask what is new about SpaceX rockets
or Tesla cars you know all the
components already existed at least in
the initial designs and the critical
thing was to pull them all together in a
in a new form and and that sort of
vertical integration on you know is
somewhat capital intensive which is why
it’s quite hard to get it financed but
it’s done very little and and so and
then once it’s done it’s something that
tends to get underrated I think Apple
Apple’s iPhone the first smartphone that
really worked is another example of
complex coordination and when
people as you know people write
biographies on jobs it’s like well he
was a jerk and that’s that’s the most
interesting thing and what would really
is interesting is how was he able to
motivate all these people to build this
completely new product and it was that
you could you could do something
incredible not by inventing any specific
thing that was new but bringing all the
pieces together in just the right way
and that’s that’s what the iPhone
that’s what Tesla represents with cars
or or SpaceX with rockets and what is
the no pun intended the trajectory of
SpaceX do you think because he’s now
gotten you know to space many times
gotten to the space station many times
and he’s almost landed the reusable
rocket he’s tried twice and it’s it’s
what it’s apparent he’s going to get it
and that’s truly innovative yes well I
think I think I think having built this
vertically integrated rocket company
it’s now possible to innovate on that in
ways that we much harder if you had this
super complicated subcontract or sub
subcontractor system where all the
components are bespoke and you can’t
innovate on the whole thing so having
integrated all the pieces you can
innovate if they if they get to

Peter Thiel and Andy Kessler on the state of technology and innovation

This week on Uncommon Knowledge, host Peter Robinson mediates a discussion between PayPal founder and Stanford Professor Peter Thiel and Velocity Capital Management founder and journalist Andy Kessler on the state of technology and innovation in the United States over the past four decades. Thiel argues that, outside of computers, there has been very little innovation in the past forty years, and the rate of technological change has significantly decreased when compared to the first half of the 20th century. In contrast, Kessler asserts that innovation comes in waves, and we are on the verge of another burst of technological breakthroughs. Industries covered include education, medicine and biotechnology, as well as robots and high tech.

Into the night with Garry Kasparov and Peter Thiel

World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov and billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel discuss technology, chess, Russian and American politics as well as human rights and prospects for the world economy.

Garry Kasparov

The youngest world chess champion in history at 22 in 1985, Kasparov remained the top-rated player in the world for 20 years, until his retirement in 2005. He then became a leader of the Russian pro-democracy movement against Vladimir Putin and is currently the chairman of the NY-based Human Rights Foundation. The Kasparov Chess Foundation promotes chess in education around the world with centers in the US, Europe, and Africa with more soon to come. Kasparov speaks and writes frequently on technology, decision-making, and risk. His book, “How Life Imitates Chess,” has been published in more than 20 languages.

Peter Thiel


(45 min)  Warren Buffet, America’s richest man in, does not invest in technology.