Science

Peter Thiel, the lonely Silicon Valley pilot

Peter Thiel, in Tokyo, in November 2019.

Peter Thiel says it often: competition is for losers. And Thiel obviously doesn’t fall into the category of losers. Long live the monopolies and hegemonies. Co-founder of PayPal, investor in Facebook at the beginning of the social network, the black prince of Silicon Valley, 54, has accumulated in twenty years about 4,000 million dollars (3,500 million euros). A fortune enough to place him in the pantheon of the lords of Silicon Valley, although, to this day, the divorce of his peers is quite consummated.

After denouncing the “unique thinking” of the Valley and siding with Donald Trump, in 2016, the troublemaker preferred to go into exile in Los Angeles in 2018. Two years later, he moved to Miami (Florida), the new technology center, in the antipodes of democratic California, after a stopover in his bunker in New Zealand, an anti-apocalyptic refuge, which has also become antipanddemic for the occasion.

Away from the collectivist herds

Peter Thiel is a contrary, explains his biographer, Max Chafkin, author of the book The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power, published on September 21 in the United States by Penguin Press. Or a man whose identity was built in opposition, in the opposite direction, around a desire for uniqueness, away from the collectivist herds of society.

Peter Thiel doesn’t follow anyone, not even on Twitter. Disdainful of his contemporaries (well, most of them), he would not appear in a novel by Ayn Rand (1905-1982), the muse of libertarian individualists in anti-state America. On November 4, he was also a guest of honor at the Atlas Society gala, the circle founded in honor of the author, in 1957, of Atlas Shrugged (La Grève, Les Belles Lettres, 2011), the libertarian reference manual. Dinner was in California (in Malibu), even opponents sometimes get engaged.

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Unlike his peers, Thiel is an intellectual. On January 19, 2016, at the Memorial Church, Stanford University’s Byzantine-style chapel with its pediment of mosaics imported from Italy, a tribute was paid to René Girard, the French academic who died there on November 4, 2015. He taught for over thirty years. . The speaker after the organ piece is Peter Thiel. At Stanford he was a student of the anthropologist, whose theory he admired about the mimetic character of desire.

For years, he has financed Imitatio, a research institute on Girardian thought. His baritone voice, one would swear adorned with a slight memory of Germany, transcends the candles. “René Girard taught me that true education begins when you start to criticize it,” he says.

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