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Category Archives: Seasteading

The aftermath of Palantir’s culture-war IPO – Quartz

Posted: October 7, 2020 at 8:52 am

What is a company for? Ostensibly, to make products for customers and profits for investors. The digital economy is different. Google makes products out of its customers. For most of its existence, Amazon has not been profitable. And then there is the imperative to change the world.

Palantir, which became a publicly-traded company this week, is not merely a purveyor of data management software, initially to military and intelligence agencies and now global corporations, capable of funneling disparate data sets into user-friendly interfaces and visualizations said to help with everything from military strikes to building jets.

Judging by the letter accompanying its prospectus, authored by CEO Alex Karp, it is also an ideological project. To dispel fears about a company that can inspire images of Minority Report, he decries the abuse of personal data by many giants of the digital economy, and answers our first question: Companies ought to act in the public interest; after all, the privilege to engage in private enterpriseis a product of the state and would not exist without it.

Public interest takes different forms. Some engineers at digital firms like Google, Facebook, and even Palantir itself have seen it as their duty to publicly protest how government agencies use their products to enable the killing of civilians in military strikes, the spread of election disinformation, and the abuse of illegal immigrants. Some companies backed off; Palantir took a different approach.

Our society has effectively outsourced the building of software that makes our world possible to a small group of engineers in an isolated corner of the country, Karp, who recently moved Palantirs corporate headquarters from Palo Alto to Denver, Colorado, writes. The question is whether we also want to outsource the adjudication of some of the most consequential moral and philosophical questions of our time. The engineering elite of Silicon Valley may know more than most about building software. But they do not know more about how society should be organized or what justice requires.

Set aside that Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel has dedicated his career to reorganizing society, from seasteading and ending college to promoting monopolies and president Donald Trump. What Palantir offers is not so much a nuanced theory of justice as a singular focus on product-market fit: The government wants the best technology, at a time when many of the best technologists are having second thoughts about how their tools are used. Palantir, like a traditional defense contractor, wont waste time worrying about what justice requires.

Striking a blow in the culture war is more than a lubricant for the companys business model; it may have helped its stock price as rampant retail stock trading draws buyers to businesses with powerful, if not often accurate, stories to tell.

Im contractually obligated to mention here that Palantirs name is a reference to magical stones in the novels of JRR Tolkien, which allow users to peer through time and across realms. Less often mentioned is that when Tolkiens characters use the Palantir stones, they are typically deceived by what they see (pdf).

Ideology aside, Palantirs financial prospects are hardly golden. Before the listing, valuations were expected in the $20 to $40 billion range; about half way through the second day of trading, investors valued the firm at $21 billion. Thats about 20 times the companys forecast 2020 revenue.

Palantir wants to be valued like a software as a service (SaaS) companythe darlings of investors, these firms build a software product which can then be used by a functionally infinite set of users. Think Zooms video-conferencing software, or Microsofts Office apps: it takes money up front to build the software, but much, much less to acquire new users. Palantirs two data management platforms, Gotham and Foundry, are marketed this way.

The issue, however, is that both platforms appear to require significant customization and engineering support for users. Palantir brags that its engineers are on the front lines in places like Afghanistan alongside its users, which sounds badass, and is also very expensive to scale. The companys prospectus says it is not throwing people at problems, and it predicts that the costs of its services will continue to fall, particularly as revenue from on-going customers continues to grow.

Palantir has spent $1.5 billion on its platform thus far, engineering that may set it apart from potential competitors. However, in attempting to win market share in industries ranging from finance to aerospace engineering (current customers include Credit Suisse and Airbus), it may find itself competing with internal solutions developed and marketed by specialists. SpaceX developed a novel systems engineering and integration platform to build its rockets, while asset management giant Blackrock built Aladdin, an investment management platform now used by Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet.

Consider the numbers: Public SaaScompanies have traded at valuations averaging 16 times their previous twelve months of revenuebut these firms are generally growing fast, with revenue increasing at 50% or more year over year, and are profitable. Palantir has averaged 20% annual growth over the last five years and never been in the black.

Palantir is part of a relatively young class of venture-backed companies seeking to make a business out of working for the US government, alongside SpaceX and Anduril, a national-security company founded in part by former Palantir employees, if you couldnt guess from yet another Tolkien allusion.

These companies share something in common, according to Katherine Boyle, a partner at the venture fund General Catalyst, and Anduril board member. Traditional government contracts state both the problem and the requirements for the solution, which newer firms with Silicon Valley mindsets often see as inhibiting innovation. But trying to convince the government to change how it writes contracts often leads to conflict, as traditional contractors with significant political influence fight to preserve traditional methods.

Palantir and SpaceX have both fought for contracts that emphasize commercial buying, with fixed prices and limited requirement-setting. It has been contentious: SpaceX sued the US Air Force in 2014 to compete for rocket contracts, eventually winning billions in launch business.

In 2016, Palantir sued the US Army over a contract to provide battle management software. Palantir won the right to compete, a victory the companys prospectus suggests will significantly increase the amount of government contracts it can win.

One of the first outside investors in Palantir, back in 2006, was a little shop called In-Q-Tel. Its not your typical fund: Its non-profit, and it was founded by the CIA. (And yes, the Q is for James Bonds Q.)

The US intelligence agency, once responsible for creating spy satellites and supersonic planes, felt it was losing its high-tech touch in the nineties as information technology became dominated by the private sector. Venture capital was where the tech was, and the CIA decided to go there, launching a fund led at first by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine.

At the beginning of 2018, the most recent year it has publicly reported data, In-Q-Tel reported about $450 million in investments; the fund appears to aim mainly at seed and early-stage investment rounds in companies that manage big data, launch satellite sensors, develop nanotechnology, and organize geospatial imagery.

We have a board observer position, and we are able to influence where it goes with its product, an early In-Q-Tel leader said. There is the aspect that at the end of the day, we want the technology, obviously. Thats sort of our, for a lack of a better term, our special sauce, if you will, of getting in there with that venture relationship.

For young companies daunted by federal procurement rules, the CIA venture fund was a key way to develop the understanding needed to compete for government contracts. The imprimatur of the spy agency also gives these firms a sexy gloss that helps them raise new money from traditional private investors.

Palantir, explicitly founded to work with US intelligence agencies, was an obvious candidate for In-Q-Tels investment. Its fascinating, then, that Palantirs relationship with US spy agencies appears to have soured in recent years: Its not clear either the CIA or the National Security Agency is using the companys platforms.

Palantirs greatest successand the one most reflective of the Silicon Valley ethos the company may or may not be abandoningwas in how it got the military to buy its platform.

As the lawsuit story above highlights, going through the front door wasnt exactly an easy option. But successful startups find a way in, and one move was providing free training and software to soldiers. Palantirs Gotham platform was used in Afghanistan by soldiers combining maps, intelligence reports, and records of roadside bombings to plan their missions.

This helped win over the rank and file, who appreciated the more intuitive tools and support offered by Palantirs engineers. Its not unlike how instant messaging platform Slack spread initially, winning over individual teams rather than corporate IT departments. Senior Army officials were perturbed because the freebies likely violated government contract rulesbut they wound up putting Palantir on a small contract to solve the problem, effectively paying for the companys marketing.

The act-first, ask-questions-later approach offers shades of Uber selling rides without regulatory approval in cities, then using its customer base as leverage to win the right to operate. For Palantir, getting troops in the field to use its platform paid off when Army officials saw that their troops were more comfortable with it, compared to a kludgier product delivered by traditional military contractors.

I walked away convinced that Palantir is much easier to use, Heidi Shyu, the Pentagon official in charge of buying gear for the military between 2011 and 2016, told New York Magazine.

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The aftermath of Palantir's culture-war IPO - Quartz

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Ephemerisle is Burning Man on boats in the Sacramento River Delta – San Francisco Chronicle

Posted: July 5, 2020 at 10:00 am

Id just finished chopping up a watermelon with a dull hatchet on the wing of a floating platform called Siren Island when a party boat named The Entanglement motored over to offload a group of half-naked passengers.

Guests of Siren Island, a two-tiered wooden isle affixed with four spindly maple tree branches, were relaxing in the late-afternoon sun on the calm waters of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. They took turns plunging their hands into a steel basin of black lagoon mud then spreading it on one anothers skin limbs, torsos and faces. The dozen or so passengers aboard The Entanglement had spotted the action from across the channel and were eager to indulge themselves.

Permission to come aboard? one hollered.

It was about 5 p.m. on a cloudless day at the height of summer one of the last days of the annual weeklong floating festival known as Ephemerisle. The event, which just concluded its tenth year, draws a menagerie of watercraft and makeshift rafts to a remote corner of the delta for what is, depending on whom you ask, a weeklong art party, a spiritual retreat from earthbound society, a social experiment in self-governance or all of the above.

One longtime Ephemerisle-goer, Adam Katz, described it in an email: The gathering is all of the inconvenience of Burning Man, plus the risk of drowning.

At the center of Ephemerisle (pronounced eh-FEM-er-ile) was a one-of-a-kind craft, planned on land then assembled on the water and housing dozens of grungy delta campers. It was the multilevel island called Elysium, a compendium of barges, docks, platforms and pontoons all anchored and lashed together into a 3,000-square-foot Frankenmarvel of aquatic engineering. Among its amenities were an outdoor kitchen with gas grills and running water, a living room area replete with fireplace and antler mount, sleeping platforms loaded with camping tents and, to one side in a neat row, four orange portable toilets.

Off one end of Elysium, across a 20-yard floating plywood track, was a massive black tugboat covered in camping tents, the sides of its hull draped with tractor-size rubber tires. Another short dock led to a row of boats tethered in a solid floating block. There were smaller, independent islands of various forms with fun names like the Washed Up Yacht Club, DIYsland and Siren. But Elysium was the event hub, the sun around which the Ephemerisle solar system orbited.

There is no central leadership at Ephemerisle, no entry fee or sign-up sheet, and no admission tickets.

Theres this roll-up-your-sleeves, were-just-gonna-build-it attitude that shines through here, said Tom W. Bell, a law professor at Chapman University in Orange County and author who attended Ephemerisle the past two years. Its a very Silicon Valley ethos: Were just gonna do this. Its everywhere here.

The people who put together the islands arent just building a temporary respite. Many Ephemerisle participants view the event as an evolving experiment in competitive governments that could serve as proof of concept for a future in which human civilization migrates into the ocean. To them, each gathering represents an opportunity to inch toward a new vision of society.

The island of Elysium at Ephemerisle in 2019.

Early on, I was informed that the founding principles of Ephemerisle were long lost, and the only surviving rule from the events first years is the most important: No Dying.

The area of the delta where the event takes place is overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard and San Joaquin County Sheriffs Office and patrolled by local police boats. For several years including this year authorities have been called to respond to medical emergencies (in my reporting, I didnt hear about any deaths at the event), but by and large, the floating colony has maintained a strong measure of self-reliance, a trait hardcoded into the events DNA.

Ephemerisle was founded in 2009, the brainchild of an ex-Google engineer named Patri Friedman (grandson of the late Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman), as a small-scale trial run of a concept called seasteading. A year earlier, with funding from tech mogul Peter Thiel, Friedman had founded the Seasteading Institute, an advocacy and research group that consults with governments around the world on creating new jurisdictions.

Imagine a future of floating man-made island-states, each independently governed and economically self-sustained. A person could select from a range of options on where to pledge citizenship, based on their taste for that colonys philosophy and lifestyle. That was the genesis of Ephemerisle.

The original intention was: Hey, we want to make new countries on the ocean, Friedman said. That sounds really hard. What if we can find an incremental path? What if we start a festival on the ocean where people get together for a week and live under different systems?

But launching full-fledged atolls on the rollicking Pacific would have demanded a level of engineering savvy and, in Ephemerisle parlance, saltiness that participants just didnt have. So Friedman and a large group of friends settled on an out-of-the-way estuary a short drive from San Francisco where currents are chill, access is easy and boat traffic is minimal. Then they started building.

Seren JV Elston (top) and two friends aboard Siren Island at Ephemerisle in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Seren JV Elston (top) and two friends aboard Siren Island at Ephemerisle in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Seren JV Elston (top) and two friends aboard Siren Island at Ephemerisle in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Seren JV Elston (top) and two friends aboard Siren Island at Ephemerisle in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Ephemerisle festival is Burning Man on boats in the Sacramento River Delta

The learning curve was steep that first year, Friedman said. He built a small wooden pyramid out of hardware-store materials, buoyed it with empty water jugs, stuck a motor on one side, strapped on a life jacket and set sail. But there was so much drag that the thing barely moved. After a while puttering along, he got bored, tried climbing one of the pyramid pillars and flipped over.

I swam to the shore, Friedman said. I had my cell phone in a waterproof bag and called for rescue and they brought me in.

Other participants fared better, and Friedman spent the week on a houseboat. In a short video documentary of that first year, you can see glimmers of unique crafts and a community spirit taking shape. Still, the end result a collection of houseboats and some rickety wood structures was a far cry from the grandiose ideal of a floating libertarian Waterworld.

I am not entirely certain I can see the throughline between this and the ultimate end seasteading goal of independent freeholds out in international waters, Brian Doherty, an early Ephemerisle participant, said in the documentary. Seasteading, to be viable moving forward, has to have all of the aspects of a human civilization. The most important aspect of which is it has to be productive, not merely consumptive.

Friedman officially gave up on the event a year later to focus on the Seasteading Institute. But the seed had been planted, and Ephemerisle has carried on without Friedman at the helm. (He has attended for fun several times since then.)

The gathering has shape-shifted each year since, depending on who shows up and what creations they bring.

Ephemerisle founder Patri Friedman floats on a homemade pyramid raft at the inaugural Ephemerisle event in 2009.

Dubbing the event Burning Man on water wouldnt be quite fair, although there is crossover between the two communities, a similar bohemian aesthetic and a certain appeal among alternative thinkers and audacious engineers. Its less a gathering of seasoned sailors (though there are some delta rats) than a weeklong DIY raft-up of free-spirited city dwellers in funky outfits. Self-expression and its accoutrements are rampant.

Toward the end of the festival in July, I spent a day exploring the gathering on a Jet Ski. It takes place at the tip of Mandeville Point, about 15 minutes (give or take) from Korths Pirates Lair Marina, south of Isleton. Unlike the setting at Burning Man, Ephemerisle is within easy reach of civilization. While launching my boat, I spotted festivalgoers loading up on water jugs and bags of ice at a local shop. More waited for a ferry pickup from a person at the event. A small group loaded a barge with art supplies and building materials, including a small maple tree in a wooden planter box. One woman in the group planned to install it in a buoy and set it free on the delta.

Bounding through the channels, the gathering wasnt hard to spot. I throttled down to cut my wake and take in the scene.

On one motor yacht, people took turns diving off the high bulwark. A man in a small skiff cruised the channel on a gust of wind. Someone had fashioned an old RV shell into a small houseboat. On the black tugboat, a man in a Speedo played what sounded like a recorder while a shipmate on deck behind him fumbled around in a VR headset, arms outstretched. Sunbathers lazed about. Many people were napping in houseboats or below decks, avoiding the sun and recovering from the previous nights party. A long black craft called Venom Sound Ship made endless loops through the fractured colony of boats, spouting dance music.

Several people I spoke to heard about the event through the Burning Man community. Some, like Tom W. Bell, are compelled by the seasteading element. Others, like Venom Sound Ship captain Scott Rizzo, regularly appear at maritime events around California. A few stumbled upon it and were intrigued enough to stick around.

Martha Esch, a tan woman moored on the shore of the channel in her cabin cruiser, first attended Ephemerisle three years ago after learning about the gathering while attending a nearby Fourth of July fireworks show. Several young people from the Bay Area I spoke to learned about Ephemerisle via Facebook.

One foursome on a houseboat had never heard of the event but happened upon it during their vacation in the delta and wound up hanging around for the spectacle.

We have binoculars, so weve been keeping ourselves busy, said Sandy Carter, calling across the water from the rear deck of the boat, where she and three friends were sipping cocktails and playing cards. Someone had motored over to them when they arrived and explained the gist of the gathering. Most of us dont know what Burning Man means but well go home and look it up on our phones, Carter said.

About 50 yards away, a couple dove off the rear of a boat and began swimming across the channel to Elysium, where an ad hoc presentation forum was getting under way. A handful of people busied themselves preparing Siren Island to receive guests while an enormous freighter coasted across the channel just south of the gathering.

Overall, the attitude was live and let live. Some people had been living the life all week, others were new arrivals, just in time for the closing party. Boaters helped each other with building projects and resupplies and were generous with invitations to host visitors. Katz, the longtime festivalgoer, summed up the vibe to me in an email: If they came for Ephemerisle, theyre part of Ephemerisle.

Ephemerisle founder Patri Friedman.

The event in July would have felt fractured and unmoored if not for the gravitational pull of Elysium, the big island at the center of the gathering.

While most boats at the festival kept their captains and maybe a small handful of guests, Elysium was responsible for boarding and feeding dozens of campers for as long as a week. That kind of operation doesnt come together without careful planning and, above all, rules. For that, the island represented the closest embodiment of the seasteading ideal upon which Ephemerisle was founded.

To me, rules are to Ephemerisle what art is to Burning Man, Friedman said. He called the process of forming cohesive group identities and drawing parameters around acceptable conduct and behavior Ephemerisles artistic spirit.

All of those challenges thats the heart of the festival, Friedman said. Some people will get it and be enthusiastic, and some people will ignore it and party.

Tom W. Bell is the former. His book, Your Next Government?,is an account of how special jurisdictions may come to replace nation states. He has consulted on seasteading proposals in French Polynesia and elsewhere. I want to be involved in this experiment in governance, Bell said. I want to see how it happens in this highly decentralized, truly voluntary environment.

He signed up to work as a guide on Elysium at night, during party time. The basic job description: patrol the island, hand out flashlights and whistles to guests who may need them, and make sure no one hurts themselves. Its risk mitigation, he said.

Bell worked in tandem with a greeter, who walked new arrivals through initiation and presented them with documents to sign which focus in part on the importance of enthusiastic consent among people on the island and handed them a wrist band. Its really border control, Bell said. We have to protect our boundaries so no one comes and hurts the people we have there.

(I couldnt get a firmer read on the inner workings of Elysium because of one of the islands core principles: No Media.)

Previously, the area where the greeter met new arrivals was called the immigration station. Some people were questioned about consent in a way that felt like interrogation, Katz wrote in an email. It broadened the divide between islands and made some people feel very unwelcome. Elysium later dropped the immigration station name. Arrivals this year were greeted at a welcoming station.

At one point during his stay this year, Bell encountered a greeter in what looked to be a heated exchange over the islands documentation with a woman whod just arrived. He sat down to help ease the tension, patting the greeter on the back. I want them to see he has people on his side, and I say to him, Youre doing right here. Youre protecting the people who are taking the huge risks to put this place together, Bell said. After that, the woman and her partner signed the paperwork.

I dont know if that helped. But I think thats how governance works here, Bell said. Its not about goose-stepping these people off the barge. Lets do this in a gentle, sociable way."

One of the things I love about this is it plays out, on a very small scale, the issues we deal with on a national scale, Bell said. Who does government perfectly? No one. If humans are involved, its going to be a mess.

The floating festival of Ephemerisle takes place each year at Mandeville Point near Isleton in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The festival in 2019.

A stream of dance beats flowed over the warm delta channel as The Entanglement, loaded with passengers and outfitted with a makeshift DJ booth, made its way toward Siren Island.

Boaters are taught to dock by lining up their bow parallel to the docking platform, approaching slowly, then swinging in their stern. But The Entanglement approached the low bow of Siren Island head-on, landing with a hard thud and crunch of party-boat metal grating against the islands redwood planks.

Hey! Serena JV Elston, Siren's creator, hollered at The Entanglement. She turned to me. This is the s I hate.

In no time, the boatload of partiers had hopped onto the islands flat nose, straining the ballast of the pontoons supporting Siren and causing the island to pitch and yaw. The islands wings began taking on water, house music from The Entanglement playing over the commotion.

Elston, a woman with wild wavy brown hair and wearing a blue bathing suit, turned to the small crowd, instructing them to spread out and distribute their weight. The Entanglement shifted into reverse, ripping a plank off the island with a loud crack.

OK, time for you to leave! Elston yelled to the skipper, a blond man with headphones around his neck. You dont even have bumpers, dude!

Many, if not most, Ephemerislers live full-time on land, so inter-vessel visitations can have a bumper-boats quality. Making human life happen on the water is a fundamental challenge of the event, and without proper instruction, Ephemerisle participants muddle through on messy experience.

In hosting visitors to Siren Island nonstop, Elston was keenly aware of that knowledge gap. She pointed to a cleat at my feet tangled in a thin silver chain that a visitor had attached with a small combination lock to secure his kayak. This is exactly what Im talking about, Elston said. What the f is that?

A man with curly hair named Adam replied: Its people bringing their terrestrial s with them.

People build Siren Island at Ephemerisle in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta while a cargo ship passes in the background.

Whether Ephemerisle is growing or shrinking is tough to say. There are no ticket sales or census numbers, and while longtimers say there was a big drop-off several years ago when the local houseboat rental industry folded, numbers appear to have bounced back a bit. Best guess? Its roughly stable, with at least a few hundred participants each year.

In many ways, it has come to inhabit the purpose assigned by its creator: a hodgepodge of flotsam and philosophy that amasses at the same time and place each summer, with certain communities gaining strength and stability while neglected ones atrophy. It draws people who are curious and audacious enough to give themselves over to a communal experience with no central leadership. Your safety net is your neighbors.

Yes, there are glow sticks, tents, onesies, didjeridoos, psychedelics, dubstep, mohawks, fishnets, tattoo stickers, cuddle puddles, pirate flags, dreadlocks, gurus, Buddhists, DJs, Buddhist-DJs and armchair libertarians galore. Why wouldnt there be?

Theres also live improvisational music sets, collaborative art projects, ad hoc engineering solutions, presentation forums, deep conversations, communal sunset howlings, bonds forged and a constant swirl of innovative ideas and institutional wisdom.

Some people I interviewed think the spirit of Ephemerisle is dead or irrelevant, the core principles rendered moot, the excitement of venturing into unchartered waters neutralized. To others, its alive and intact, buzzing with activity and brimming with potential. But cultural phenomena are fluid and amorphous, and a persons perspective on their potency and authenticity depends on the timing and circumstances of an individuals point of entry. Whats clear is that the experience is special to everyone who goes whether thats to party or to dabble in low-level world-building.

In my short time there, I found that I was most happy when I was contributing. Hacking away at the watermelon under the warm sun on Siren Island, ferrying a friendly stranger over to Elysium, sharing information about the event with the people I encountered. Everyone had an opinion, everyone was trying to figure Ephemerisle out what it was, what it is, and what it could one day become.

***

Early on my first day at Ephemerisle, before the snafu with The Entanglement, I jet-skied over to Siren Island to say hello to Elston. Reclining on the bow was a pale, naked woman with long wavy ginger hair and gray eyes Botticellis Venus, I thought. My approach was too fast and before I could maneuver Id set the nose of my boat on a collision course with one of Sirens wings.

Thump.

A few strangers on the island shot dirty looks my way. Heat flashed into my cheeks and a pang of embarrassment wrenched my stomach. I was so clearly a newb, a kook, a landlubber so obviously not salty dead weight at an event that needs all the buoyancy it can get.

I stammered out a few quick apologies. At the bow, Venus seemed unfazed.

Eh, she shrugged. You live, you learn.

Gregory Thomas is Travel Editor at The Chronicle. Email: gthomas@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @GregRThomas.

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Ephemerisle is Burning Man on boats in the Sacramento River Delta - San Francisco Chronicle

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Seasteading a vanity project for the rich or the future of humanity? – The Guardian

Posted: June 24, 2020 at 10:53 pm

A white steel pole rises out of the sea off the Caribbean coast of Panama, poking above the waves like the funnel of a sunken steamship. Launched into the water last month, this is no shipwreck, but the base of what will soon become a floating home and, in the eyes of its makers, the first step towards building a brave new post-Covid-19 society, out on the open ocean.

Coronavirus is an opportunity to show the world that what were building is actually going to be very useful in the future, says Chad Elwartowski, in a recent video post from his beachside base in Panama. The Michigan-born software engineer turned bitcoin trader is a leading figure in the seasteading movement, a libertarian group dedicated to building independent floating cities on the high seas. Along with the bunker builders and survivalist preppers, their long-held ambitions have been bolstered by the current global pandemic. No matter if youre scared of the virus or the reaction to the virus, he adds, living out on the ocean will be helpful for these situations.

It is not the first time Elwartowski has attempted to realise his dream of a floating future. In April last year, he and his Thai partner Supranee Thepdet (aka Nadia Summergirl), were forced to flee their first floating home off the coast of Thailand, just moments before it was raided by the Thai navy. They had constructed what they declared to be the first seastead 12 nautical miles from Phuket, but the authorities decided that the six metre-wide fibreglass cabin, perched on top of a floating pole, posed a threat to Thailands sovereignty. It was an offence punishable by life imprisonment or even the death penalty. The couple announced on social media declaring their autonomy beyond the jurisdiction of any courts or law of any countries, including Thailand, said Rear Admiral Vithanarat Kochaseni, adding that they had invited others to join them. We see such action as deteriorating Thailands independence.

After a few weeks on the run, dodging Thai patrol boats and eventually making their way to Singapore, the couple moved to Panama to relaunch their company, Ocean Builders with the financial backer of the project, Rdiger Koch, a retired German aerospace engineer. This event has doubled down our efforts, the group said in a statement, following the Thai ordeal. We can all clearly see that seasteading needs to happen now as tyranny creeps ever more deeply into our governments to the point that they are willing to hunt down a couple of residents residing in a floating house in middle of nowhere.

The coronavirus pandemic has given fringe libertarian groups around the world renewed vigour to pursue their dreams of building autonomous new societies. Government-enforced lockdowns and increased digital surveillance have added fuel to their suspicions of state control, while the suspension of day-to-day norms and the spectre of an economic meltdown have amplified their calls to rethink society. When youre not sure which virus is more contagious, says the slogan of a recent meme made by Americans for Liberty, shared on Elwartowskis Facebook page. Covid-19, or those fine with complete government control.

The sentiment lies at the core of the seasteading community, a disparate group that has grown since 2008, when the Seasteading Institute was founded in San Francisco by Patri Friedman. The self-styled anarcho-capitalist (and grandson of Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman) was working as a Google software engineer when he managed to attract funding from PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel to set up the institute. In a founding statement, they described its goal as being to establish permanent, autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems. Thiel was nothing if not confident: The nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level, he proclaimed.

A new kind of government arises, born in Earths last free places, fated to advance the human frontier

Seasteading represents the ultimate Silicon Valley approach to governance, conceiving society as a technology that can be hacked and innovated upon as simply as an operating system. It is predicated on the idea that government regulation stifles innovation, and therefore the route to a better world can only be found by unleashing a new generation of start-up societies that are forced to compete for citizens in a free market of ideologies. Dont like the rules of your current micro-nation? Simply move to another one. We will give people the freedom to choose the government they want, said Friedman, instead of being stuck with the government they get. Its boosters see it as the route to salvation; its critics say it would lead to an apartheid of the worst kind.

Progress has been bumpy. Thiels donations soon dried up, and Friedmans plans never got much further than launching Ephemerisle a waterborne version of the Burning Man festival, staged in the Sacramento River delta near San Francisco, where rival floating pontoons compete for the attention of soggy partygoers. He has since moved his focus away from the water, recently launching a company to develop experimental cities on dry land instead. But the Seasteading Institute continues without him, headed by author and self-appointed seavangelist, Joe Quirk.

Nearly half of the worlds surface is unclaimed, says Quirk, who published a book on seasteading in 2017, with the ambitious subtitle: How floating nations will restore the environment, enrich the poor, cure the sick, and liberate humanity from politicians. In an introductory video, he describes the planets oceans as a sort of research and development zone where we could discover better means of governance, and says that seasteading could provide the technology for thousands of people to start their own nano-nation on the high seas, giving people opportunities to peacefully test new ideas about living together. The most successful seasteads, he says, will become thriving new societies, inspiring change around the world.

So far, his own attempts dont bode particularly well for the future of floating utopias. In January 2017, after years of technical feasibility studies and political negotiations, the Seasteading Institute signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of French Polynesia to build the first seasteads in its territorial waters. The designs, developed by Dutch architects Blue21, looked like a high-end resort in the Maldives, depicting a series of villas linked by an undulating green landscape. It was all to be magicked from the waters by an initial coin offering, a form of crowdfunding through selling tokens of a new cryptocurrency, all the rage among the tech community in 2017. Were going to draw a new map of the world with French Polynesia at the centre of the aquatic age, Quirk declared.

The choice of location was strategic. Comprised of almost 120 dispersed low-lying islands and atolls, French Polynesia is at severe risk of suffering devastating consequences from even the slightest rise in sea level. It also happens to boast the worlds largest exclusive economic zone, an area of sea that can stretch for 200 nautical miles from a territorys coastline, over which it can claim exclusive economic rights. At five million square kilometres, French Polynesian waters span an area as large as the landmass of the entire European Union, making it an ideal place to experiment with novel forms of aquatic jurisdiction. In theory.

We explained to the Polynesians how having a quasi-autonomous area nearby was a good thing, says Tom W Bell, professor of law at Chapman University in Orange County, California, who drew up the legal agreement for the project. Look at Monaco, or Hong Kong or Singapore special jurisdictions create a lot of growth outside their borders. In his book, Your Next Government? From the Nation State to Stateless Nations, Bell traces the projected evolution of a seastead. It would begin like a coral polyp, he writes, protected by a countrys territorial waters, where it would start to generate economic activity, enriching its environment and attracting still more life, before breaking free to start a new autonomous life on the open ocean. Ultimately, he imagines seasteads nurtured by different host nations congregating in mid-ocean gyres, sheltered within floating breakwaters. A new kind of government arises, he writes, born in Earths last free places, fated to advance the human frontier.

The reality didnt quite pan out that way in the South Pacific. There wasnt a perfect alignment of interests, says Marc Collins Chen, former minister of tourism of French Polynesia, who co-founded the company Blue Frontiers with Quirk to realise the project. The government was looking for something to address sea level rise and environmental degradation, whereas the Seasteading Institute was more about autonomy. He says that the prospect of a tax-free enclave held little appeal for the locals, given that Polynesians dont pay income tax anyway. One Tahitian TV host compared the situation to the evil Galactic Empire in Star Wars imposing on the innocent Ewoks, while secretly building the Death Star. The libertarian position didnt help either. As Collins Chen puts it: Its very difficult to ask for government support when your narrative is that you want to get rid of politicians. In retrospect, Bell agrees: They already had a beautiful paradise in French Polynesia. The local community wasnt very enthusiastic about the project, and I get it. They didnt need strangers coming in and ruining their view.

Over the next 40 years, the world is expected to build 230bn square metres in new construction. This could be a way to accommodate that growth

Collins Chen has since moved to New York, where he has established a new company to develop further plans for floating cities, this time stripped of any libertarian tax-dodging ideology. I realised that the real future for these sorts of projects has to be closer to cities, he says. They have to be an extension of an existing citys infrastructure, they need to be run by the mayor, and they have to pay their taxes as opposed to being enclaves for the wealthy.

His plan, titled Oceanix City, has been designed in slick Ted Talk style by Bjarke Ingels, the Danish architect beloved of Silicon Valley tech companies. His twinkling animations depict a floating world of interlocking hexagonal islands, where power is harvested from waves and the sun, where residents live on a diet of seaweed and fish, and where marine life is regenerated by artificial reefs. If this floating city flourishes, said Ingels in a presentation, it can then grow like a culture in a petri dish. On a screen behind him, the floating hexagons multiplied until they took up an area more than three times the size of Manhattan, a vision of low-density suburbia sprawling virulently across the sea.

Over the next 40 years, the world is expected to build 230bn square metres in new construction, says Collins Chen, the equivalent of adding one New York City every month. This could be a way to accommodate that growth, without the devastating effects of land reclamation or deforestation. He says part of the appeal is the ability to reconfigure the urban form according to changing needs, in a process of drag-and-drop city building. You could literally float one a city block away and put a different one in its place, when the need for a new school, hospital or university arose.

Remarkably, their sci-fi scheme has won the support of the United Nations sustainable development arm, UN-Habitat, which hosted a round table discussion for the project in April 2019. As global heating accelerates, sea levels rise and more people crowd into urban slums, floating cities is one of the possible solutions, said UN-Habitats executive director, Maimunah Mohd Sharif.

Back in Panama, the notion that floating habitats could be an inclusive solution to global housing need seems a long way off, to put it mildly. Despite the countrys coronavirus lockdown, the Ocean Builders team has been at work throughout, laying the foundations for a factory that will soon house the largest 3D printer in Central America, ready to produce what their website touts as the worlds first 3D-printed, smart floating home with an underwater room wrapped in an eco restorative 3D-printed coral reef yours for between $200,000 to $800,000 (160,000 to 640,000).

In light of the global pandemic, were really focusing on making the homes feel like a kind of lifeboat, says the companys CEO, Grant Romundt, who worked on the Freedom Ship project in Florida in the 1990s, an aborted plan to build a mile-long cruise ship for 40,000 people, topped with a runway. They should be a safe place to escape to and be totally energy independent, with solar panels on the roof, water desalination on board, waste collection by drone, and aeroponic systems to grow your own food.

Designed by Koen Olthuis of Dutch architecture practice Waterstudio, the plans for the luxury SeaPods look like a row of gigantic motorbike helmets on poles, sticking up out of the sea in pearlescent shades of blue, green and grey. We wanted to have something that was very futuristic looking, very clean and flowing, says Romundt. I didnt want to have a 90-degree corner anywhere in the house. I think thats bad feng shui. The interiors recall supersized sanitaryware, envisaged as white, wipe-clean worlds of free-flowing surfaces, echoing retro-futuristic visions of streamlined space capsules. The similarity is no accident: for company founder, Rdiger Koch, seasteading is merely a stepping stone for trialling exploits in space. He has long harboured plans to build a cable launch loop to propel payloads into space without rockets, and he sees the ocean as the perfect launchpad. There are almost only large open spaces at sea, he told German regional newspaper, Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, and you need them to make sure that nothing goes wrong and nobody is hit by possible flying parts.

Romundt insists that the company is merely building floating holiday homes, which will be registered as boats under the Panama flag for legal purposes, and likely operate on a timeshare basis. That would give you the slow adjustment period, he says, then more of an economy would start to build as more people come requiring more services, and it would start to self-perpetuate and grow.

For Bell, the ultimate goal is to see such floating communities raise their own flags in the open ocean. Right now, a self-flagged seastead would have effectively no status at all in international law, he says. The coast guard would show up, assume you were either a pirate or a floating meth lab, and tow you right back in to shore. But if seasteaders can say they have enough people and a big enough territory, and start flagging themselves, thats when things will start to get interesting.

And if they fail? Thats the marvellous thing about seasteads, says Quirk. If a government fails, theres nothing much the people who live there can do about it, but if seasteads fail, they simply disassemble and go away seeing all those bitcoin dollars sink into the sea just as quickly as they were conjured.

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John Bolton’s explosive new book, COVID-19 spikes in these three states and meet Kim Jong Un’s enforcer – NBC News

Posted: at 10:53 pm

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Former national security adviser John Bolton's scathing new book raises a slew of new allegations against President Donald Trump, including a claim that he employs "obstruction of justice as a way of life." As the book got into the hands of reporters, the Justice Department asked a judge to immediately block its publication.

Here's what we're watching this Thursday morning.

President Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to agree to trade policies that would help with his re-election in November, according to Bolton's new memoir.

The much-anticipated, 494-page book paints in copious detail a devastating portrait of an erratic, ill-informed president who sees the Justice Department as his personal tool, prioritizes his own interests above all else, including the country, and myopically processes every decision through the lens of how it might affect his re-election chances.

Multiple tell-all books have emerged from the Trump White House, but this one has a different heft.

Bolton is a known bureaucratic infighter who worked for four Republican presidents, has been a Fox News contributor and a fixture in hawkish GOP foreign policy doctrine for decades. He also spent 519 days inside the Trump White House.

Trump has already called the allegations lies and accused Bolton of publishing classified information in the book, which is due out Tuesday.

On Wednesday night, the Justice Department pulled out all the stops to prevent its publication.

The DOJ filed an emergency application for a temporary restraining order and a motion for an injunction to prevent publication. The department is asking for a hearing Friday, just days ahead of the scheduled release.

The former Atlanta police officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant has been charged with felony murder, the district attorney's office announced Wednesday.

The man, Garrett Rolfe, who was fired by the Atlanta Police Department after the June 12 shooting, faces 11 total counts, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said at a news conference.

Howard said that after the shooting, Rolfe said, "I got him." A second officer stood on Brooks' body as he was lying on the ground and Rolfe kicked him, according to the district attorney.

Florida, Texas and Arizona set records for new COVID-19 cases, and more than a dozen other states are also reporting big jumps in the number of cases as much of the country reopens after months of quarantine.

Are the governors in the worst-hit states considering another shutdown? Not a chance, if you ask them.

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

"No, were not shutting down, you know, were going to go forward," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday. "You have to have society function."

The map of America's coronavirus outbreak looks very different now than it did in May.

Cases have declined in 22 states over the last two weeks, particularly in some areas that were hard-hit this spring, such as New York and New Jersey.

But at least 20 states in the southern and western United States have seen case counts soar.

Check out our map that tracks case counts state-by-state.

Wait til you meet his enforcer, his kid sister.

Kim Jong Un's little sister, who called South Koreans "human scum" last week, is taking a more public and bellicose role in North Korea's leadership.

U.S. intelligence officials and other North Korea-watchers are scrambling to learn more about Kim Yo-jong as they assess her recent rise to prominence amid the collapse of the Trump administration's North Korea diplomatic gambit.

Meet "Karen" in this THINK video. Her viral rants aren't just cringeworthy. They're dangerous.

The GOLO Diet: What it is and can it help you lose weight?

Looking for a home security system? Here are the best ones, according to experts.

"Seasteaders" are having a moment.

The seasteading community has for years pushed the futuristic idea that living in independent, human-made communities on the ocean is the way to move society forward. And what better time than during a pandemic.

If we lived under water in isolation or in our small groups, and were down there for extended periods of time, we wouldnt have to worry about the coronavirus, Adam Jewell, co-host of the Colonize the Ocean podcast, said on a recent episode.

Some seasteaders advocate for building underneath the water, while others go for above.

Wacky or innovative? You decide!

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

If you have any comments likes, dislikes drop me an email at: petra@nbcuni.com

If you'd like to receive this newsletter in your inbox Monday to Friday, sign-up here.

Thanks, Petra

Petra Cahill is a senior editor and writer for NBC News Digital. She writes NBC News' Morning Rundown newsletter.

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Seasteading | Ocean Builders

Posted: December 24, 2019 at 10:47 am

Seasteadingis the concept of creating permanent dwellings at sea, called seasteads, outside the territory claimed by any government. The term is a combination of the wordsseaand homesteading.

Modern seasteading began around 2008 when Patri Friedman began highlighting his idea in Silicon Valley to build seastead communities where you could essentially vote with your home. This would allow for more experimentation in governance structures and advance governance in the same way that cell phones progress due to consumers having the ability to choose their cell phone.

Initially Patri teamed up with Peter Thiel to found The Seasteading Institute (TSI). With Mr. Thiels initial donation TSI began exploring ways to make seasteading happen. They did many studies, held contests for various designs and branched off different projects. The plans have usually revolved around building large cities which were very costly and were never able to obtain the financing necessary to get off the ground.

Early designs mainly used oil rigs as inspiration working toward building structures high above the waves. Then around 2012 the idea was put forward to do a phased approach of building in a protected waterway of a host nation under a special economic zone as a Phase 1 approach. This would be followed by Phase 2 where the seastead is moved 12 nautical miles out into the ocean where the seastead could enjoy relative sovereignty (barring oil and mineral rights). The third and final phase would be to move out into the open ocean 200 nm out to sea in international waters.

The phased approach would take decades and is currently being pursued by Blue Frontiers. They are working on getting permission from French Polynesia and have several other countries in the works.

We are taking a different approach with the spar design, taking our inspiration from oil rigs, pursuing the initial idea of being able to vote with your house.

There have been many people working in many different ways to get seasteading moving forward and we hope to include as many people in this wonderful endeavor as possible. It is our hope that our first seastead sends a message to the rest of the world that seasteading is finally happening and that they should come to our seastead to put their ideas into action.

I know that by now you are probably wondering about the waves. You really want to know about the waves right? If so, then move along to the next section to find out how we plan to deal with the waves.

What about the waves!?!

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Seasteading | Ocean Builders

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Future ahoy: Are you ready to live in a floating city? – San Francisco Chronicle

Posted: October 7, 2019 at 7:52 pm

When the ice caps melt, covering the earth with water, and Kevin Costner sails the seas alone, wearing a set of fish gills and a hardened scowl, the rest of us will be happily content, living comfortably on fancy floating city-states. No fighting cigarette-crazed pirates on greasy Jet Skis, just lazing like frogs on teched-out lily pads.

Why, you ask? Its simple, really. Subsections of humanity will have made the migration from terra firma to the mighty oceans decades earlier. The transition will come partially as an urgent response to our worsening climate crisis and partially as an extreme outgrowth of free market economics.

Thats the theory of Patri Friedman, co-founder and board member of the Seasteading Institute in San Francisco, who happens to be the grandson of the highly influential Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. His ultimate goal is to facilitate a situation in which governments overtly compete for inhabitants on an open market.

To me, hell is one-world government, Friedman told me earlier this year. Even if (the law) had whatever the closest to what everyone in the world would together choose to me thats hell because its vulnerable.

The engine of Friedmans mission is seasteading (think homesteading), which involves creating city-scale offshore habitats for self-sustaining communities of intrepid humans. Securing your plot on one would be as simple as joining a new gym but, you know, as a full-time citizen.

Friedman, who consults on seasteading projects around the world, isnt the only one who sees this vision. Blue Frontiers, a company founded in 2017 by the former executive director of the Seasteading Institute, Joe Quirk, has been trying to jump-start a project to save French Polynesia from the rising Pacific.

Our ambition is to build the worlds first sustainable floating islands, said Marc Collins, managing director of Blue Frontiers and former minister of French Polynesia at a United Nations hearing in 2017. What our country needs and what a lot of the island-nations specifically in the Pacific need are mitigation strategies for sea level rise.

The fact that seasteading sounds like the utopian basis of pulp sci-fi hasnt stopped countries and groups around the world from expressing interest. Proposals have gained traction with varying degrees of failure so far in Thailand and elsewhere. Soon enough, believers say, the first permanent seastead will launch, the floodgates will open, and civilization may find itself hopping aboard a flotilla of giant Petri dishes.

As the oceans stretch and grow, seasteaders will already be in great shape. I do like to joke, Friedman wrote in an email, that the higher the seas, the better for seasteads!

Gregory Thomas is The Chronicle travel editor. Email: gthomas@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @GregRThomas

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The Seasteading Institute – Home | Facebook

Posted: August 16, 2017 at 6:07 pm

"In the Netherlands, we are fucked. Architect Bart Roeffens company Blue21/DeltaSync will build our Floating Islands in French Polynesia. "This story seems like science fiction, but we've already started. We are building floating structures in the Netherlands as a first step towards future floating developments, maybe one day out in the ocean. We started a pilot project in Rotterdam. We built and and towed it across the river to its final destination. This one project gener...ated so much interest, its a magnet for students that gather around it, for powerful brands that are presenting new efficient sustainable ways of transporting. This is BMW... "Five years ago, we got into contact with The Seasteading Institute, and we were really happy to find another community that had ideas that are probably crazier than oursWhat could be the first step to make this a reality? Together we thought of a strategy... "We want to come up with architecture that actually does justice to the mana, the local system, something that is humble, that is not screaming in your face like a modern structure, but something that is a mokulana, a sacred floating island."

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Peter Thiel – Wikipedia

Posted: July 28, 2017 at 7:07 pm

Peter Andreas Thiel (; born October 11, 1967) is an American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, philanthropist, political activist, and author. He was ranked No. 4 on the Forbes Midas List of 2014, with a net worth of $2.2 billion, and No. 246 on the Forbes 400 in 2016, with a net worth of $2.7 billion.[1][2][3]

Thiel was born in Frankfurt, and holds German citizenship. He moved with his family to the United States as an infant, and spent a portion of his upbringing in Africa before returning to the U.S.. He studied philosophy at Stanford University, graduating with a B.A. in 1989. He then went on to the Stanford Law School, and received his J.D. in 1992. After graduation, he worked as a judicial clerk for Judge James Larry Edmondson, a securities lawyer for Sullivan & Cromwell, a speechwriter for former-U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett and as a derivatives trader at Credit Suisse prior to founding Thiel Capital in 1996. He then co-founded PayPal in 1999, and served as chief executive officer until its sale to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion.

After the sale of PayPal, he founded Clarium Capital, a global macro hedge fund. He launched Palantir Technologies, an analytical software company, in 2004 and continues to serve as its chairman as of 2017. His Founders Fund, a venture capital firm, was launched in 2005 along with PayPal partners Ken Howery and Luke Nosek. Earlier, Thiel became Facebook's first outside investor when he acquired a 10.2% stake for $500,000 in August 2004. He sold the majority of his shares in Facebook for over $1 billion in 2012, but remains on the board of directors. He also co-founded Valar Ventures in 2010 and operates as its chairman, co-founded Mithril Capital, of which he is investment committee chair, in 2012, and has served as a partner at Y Combinator since 2015.[4][5][6]

Thiel is involved with a variety of philanthropic and political pursuits. Through the Thiel Foundation, he governs the grant-making bodies Breakout Labs and Thiel Fellowship, and supports life extension, seasteading and other speculative research. A founder of The Stanford Review, he is a conservative libertarian who is critical of excessive government spending, high debt levels, and foreign wars. He has donated to numerous political figures, and provided financial support to Hulk Hogan in Bollea v. Gawker.

Peter Andreas Thiel was born in Frankfurt am Main, West Germany on October 11, 1967 to Susanne and Klaus Friedrich Thiel.[7][8][9] The family migrated to the United States when Peter was aged one and lived in Cleveland, where Klaus worked as a chemical engineer. Klaus then worked for various mining companies, which caused an itinerant upbringing for Thiel and his younger brother, Patrick Michael Thiel.[10][11] Thiel's mother naturalized as a U.S. citizen but his father did not.[9]

Before settling in Foster City, California in 1977, the Thiels had lived in South Africa and South-West Africa, and Peter had been forced to change elementary schools seven times. One of Peter's elementary schools, a strict establishment in Swakopmund, required students to wear uniforms and utilized corporal punishment, such as striking students' hands with a ruler for mistakes. This experience instilled a distaste for uniformity and regimentation later reflected in Thiel's support for individualism and libertarianism as an adult.[12][13]

In his youth, Thiel played Dungeons & Dragons, was an avid reader of science fiction, with Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein among his favorite authors, and a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien's works, stating as an adult that he had read The Lord of the Rings over ten times during his childhood.[14] He has since founded 6 firms (Palantir Technologies, Valar Ventures, Mithril Capital, Lembas LLC, Rivendell LLC and Arda Capital) whose names originate from Tolkien.[15]

In school, Thiel excelled in mathematics, and scored first in a California-wide mathematics competition while attending middle school in San Mateo.[16] At the San Mateo High School, he read Ayn Rand, admired the optimism and anti-communism of then-President Ronald Reagan, and was valedictorian of his graduating class in 1985.[16][17]

After graduating from San Mateo High School, Thiel went on to study philosophy at Stanford University. During Thiel's time at Stanford, debates on identity politics and political correctness were ongoing at the university and a "Western Culture" program, which was criticized by The Rainbow Agenda because of a perceived over-representation of the achievements made by European men, was replaced with a "Culture, Ideas and Values" course, which instead pushed diversity and multiculturalism. This replacement provoked controversy on the campus, and led to Thiel founding The Stanford Review, a paper for conservative and libertarian viewpoints, in 1987, through the funding of Irving Kristol.[18]

Thiel served as The Stanford Review's first editor-in-chief and remained in that post until he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1989, at which point his friend David O. Sacks became the new editor-in-chief.[19] Thiel then continued on to the Stanford Law School and acquired his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1992.[20]

While at Stanford, Thiel encountered Ren Girard, whose mimetic theory influenced him.[21] Mimetic theory posits that human behavior is based upon mimesis, and that imitation can engender pointless conflict. Girard notes the productive potential of competition: "It is because of this unprecedented capacity to promote competition within limits that always remain socially, if not individually, acceptable that we have all the amazing achievements of the modern world," but states that competition stifles progress once it becomes an end in itself: "rivals are more apt to forget about whatever objects are the cause of the rivalry and instead become more fascinated with one another."[22] Thiel applied this theory to his personal life and business ventures, stating: "The big problem with competition is that it focuses us on the people around us, and while we get better at the things we're competing on, we lose sight of anything that's important, or transcendent, or truly meaningful in our world."[23][24]

After graduating from the Stanford Law School, Thiel had interviews with Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy.[25] After not being hired, he instead took up a post as a judicial clerk for Judge James Larry Edmondson of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, but soon moved to New York to work as a securities lawyer for Sullivan & Cromwell. After seven months and three days, he left the law firm citing a lack of transcendental value in his work.[26] He then took a job as a derivatives trader in currency options at Credit Suisse, working there from 1993 on while also operating as a speechwriter for former-United States Secretary of Education William Bennett, before again feeling as though his work lacked meaningful value and returning to California in 1996.[27]

Upon returning to the Bay Area, Thiel noticed that the development of the internet and personal computer had already altered the economic landscape and the dot-com boom was well underway. With financial support from friends and family, he was able to raise $1 million toward the establishment of Thiel Capital Management and embark on his venture capital career. Early on, he experienced a setback after investing $100,000 in his friend Luke Nosek's unsuccessful web-based calendar project. However, his luck changed when Max Levchin, a friend of Nosek's, introduced him to his cryptography-related company idea, which later became their first venture called Confinity in 1998.

With Confinity, Thiel realized they could develop a software to solve a gap in making online payments. Although the use of credit cards and expanding automated teller machine networks provided consumers with more available payment options, not all merchants could gain the necessary hardware to accept credit cards. Thus, consumers were often left with little choice and instead had to pay with exact cash or personal checks. Thiel wanted to create a type of digital wallet in the hopes of ensuring more consumer convenience and security by encrypting data on digital devices, and in 1999 Confinity launched PayPal.

PayPal promised to open up new possibilities for handling money, and according to Eric M. Jackson's account in his book The PayPal Wars, Thiel viewed PayPal's mission as liberating people throughout the world from the erosion of the value of their currencies due to inflation. Jackson recalls an inspirational speech by Thiel in 1999:

We're definitely onto something big. The need PayPal answers is monumental. Everyone in the world needs money to get paid, to trade, to live. Paper money is an ancient technology and an inconvenient means of payment. You can run out of it. It wears out. It can get lost or stolen. In the twenty-first century, people need a form of money that's more convenient and secure, something that can be accessed from anywhere with a PDA or an Internet connection. Of course, what we're calling 'convenient' for American users will be revolutionary for the developing world. Many of these countries' governments play fast and loose with their currencies. They use inflation and sometimes wholesale currency devaluations, like we saw in Russia and several Southeast Asian countries last year [referring to the 1998 Russian and 1997 Asian financial crisis], to take wealth away from their citizens. Most of the ordinary people there never have an opportunity to open an offshore account or to get their hands on more than a few bills of a stable currency like U.S. dollars. Eventually PayPal will be able to change this. In the future, when we make our service available outside the U.S. and as Internet penetration continues to expand to all economic tiers of people, PayPal will give citizens worldwide more direct control over their currencies than they ever had before. It will be nearly impossible for corrupt governments to steal wealth from their people through their old means because if they try the people will switch to dollars or Pounds or Yen, in effect dumping the worthless local currency for something more secure.[28]

When PayPal launched at a successful press conference in 1999, representatives from Nokia and Deutsche Bank sent $3 million in venture funding to Thiel using PayPal on their PalmPilots. PayPal then continued to grow through mergers with Elon Musks financial services company, X.com, and with Pixo, a company specializing in mobile commerce, in 2000. These mergers allowed PayPal to expand into the wireless phone market, and transformed it into a safer and more user-friendly tool by enabling users to transfer money via a free online registration and email rather than by exchanging bank account information. By 2001, PayPal served over 6.5 million customers and had expanded its services to private consumers and businesses in twenty-six countries.

PayPal went public on February 15, 2002 and was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion in October of that year.[29] Thiel's 3.7% stake was worth $55 million at the time of the acquisition.[30]

Following PayPal's sale to eBay in 2002, Thiel devoted $10 million of his proceeds to establish Clarium Capital Management, a global macro hedge fund focusing on directional and liquid instruments in currencies, interest rates, commodities, and equities. Thiel stated that "the big, macroeconomic idea that we had at Clariumthe ide fixewas the peak-oil theory, which was basically that the world was running out of oil, and that there were no easy alternatives."

In 2003, Clarium Capital reflected a return of 65.6% as Thiel successfully bet that the United States dollar would weaken. In 2004, Thiel spoke of the dot-com bubble having migrated, in effect, into a growing bubble in the financial sector, and specified General Electric and Walmart as vulnerable. In 2005, Clarium saw a 57.1% return as Thiel predicted that the dollar would rally. This success saw Clarium honored as global macro hedge fund of the year by MARHedge and Absolute Return + Alpha.

However, Clarium's faltered in 2006 with a 7.8% loss. During this time, the firm sought to profit in the long-term from its petrodollar analysis, which foresaw the impending decline in oil supplies and the unsustainable bubble growing in the U.S. housing market. Clarium's assets under management indeed, after achieving a 40.3% return in 2007, grew to over $7 billion by 2008, but plummeted as financial markets collapsed near the start of 2009. By 2011, after missing out on the economic rebound, many key investors pulled out, causing Clarium's assets to be valued at $350 million, over half of which was Thiel's own money.[31]

In May 2003, Thiel incorporated Palantir Technologies, a big data analysis company named after the Tolkien artifact, and continues to serves as its chairman as of 2016. Thiel stated that the idea for the company was based on the realization that "the approaches that PayPal had used to fight fraud could be extended into other contexts, like fighting terrorism." He also stated that, after the September 11 attacks, the debate in the United States was "will we have more security with less privacy, or less security with more privacy?" and saw Palantir as being able to provide data mining services to government intelligence agencies which were maximally unintrusive and traceable.[32][33]

At first, Palantir's only backers was the Central Intelligence Agency's venture capital arm In-Q-Tel, but the company steadily grew and in 2015 was valued at $20 billion, with Thiel being the company's largest shareholder.[34][35]

In August 2004, Thiel made a $500,000 angel investment in Facebook for a 10.2% stake in the company and joined Facebook's board. This was the first outside investment in Facebook, and put the valuation of the company at $4.9 million.[36][37] As a board member, Thiel was not actively involved in Facebook's day-to-day running. However, he did provide help with timing the various rounds of funding and Zuckerberg credited Thiel with helping him time Facebook's 2007 Series D to close before the 2008 financial crisis.[38]

In his book The Facebook Effect, David Kirkpatrick outlines how Thiel came to make this investment: Napster co-founder Sean Parker, who at the time had assumed the title of "President" of Facebook, was seeking investors for Facebook. Parker approached Reid Hoffman, the CEO of work-based social network LinkedIn. Hoffman liked Facebook but declined to be the lead investor because of the potential for conflict of interest with his duties as LinkedIn CEO. Thus, Hoffman directed Parker to Thiel, whom he knew from their PayPal days. Thiel met Parker and Mark Zuckerberg, the Harvard student who had founded Facebook. Thiel and Zuckerberg got along well and Thiel agreed to lead Facebook's seed round with $500,000 for 10.2% of the company. The investment was originally in the form of a convertible note, to be converted to equity if Facebook reached 1.5 million users by the end of 2004. Although Facebook narrowly missed the target, Thiel allowed the loan to be converted to equity anyway.[39] Thiel said of his investment:

I was comfortable with them pursuing their original vision. And it was a very reasonable valuation. I thought it was going to be a pretty safe investment.[39]

In September 2010, Thiel, while expressing skepticism about the potential for growth in the consumer Internet sector, argued that relative to other Internet companies, Facebook (which then had a secondary market valuation of $30 billion) was comparatively undervalued.[40]

Facebook's initial public offering was in May 2012, with a market cap of nearly $100 billion ($38 a share), at which time Thiel sold 16.8 million shares for $638 million.[41] In August 2012, immediately upon the conclusion of the early investor lock out period, Thiel sold almost all of his remaining stake for between $19.27 and $20.69 per share, or $395.8 million, for a total of more than $1 billion.[42] He still retained 5 million shares (worth approximately $600 million as of December 2016) and a seat on the board of directors.[43]

In 2005, Thiel created Founders Fund, a San Francisco-based venture capital fund. Other partners in the fund include Sean Parker, Ken Howery, and Luke Nosek.

In addition to Facebook, Thiel has made early-stage investments in numerous startups (personally or through his venture capital fund), including Booktrack, Slide, LinkedIn, Friendster, Rapleaf, Geni.com, Yammer, Yelp Inc., Powerset, Practice Fusion, MetaMed, Vator, Palantir Technologies, IronPort, Votizen, Asana, Big Think, Caplinked, Quora, Nanotronics Imaging, Rypple, TransferWise, and Stripe. Slide, LinkedIn, Geni.com, and Yammer were founded by Thiel's former colleagues at PayPal: Slide by Max Levchin, Linkedin by Reid Hoffman, Yelp by Jeremy Stoppelman, and Geni.com and Yammer by David O. Sacks. Fortune magazine reports that PayPal alumni have founded or invested in dozens of startups with an aggregate value of around $30 billion. In Silicon Valley circles, Thiel is colloquially referred to as the "Don of the PayPal Mafia", as noted in the Fortune magazine article.[44]

Through Valar Ventures, an internationally focused venture firm he cofounded with Andrew McCormack and James Fitzgerald,[45] Thiel was also an early investor in Xero, a software firm headquartered in New Zealand.[46]

In June 2012, Peter Thiel launched Mithril Capital Management, named after the fictitious metal in The Lord of the Rings, with Jim O'Neill and Ajay Royan. Unlike Clarium Capital, Mithril Capital, a fund with $402 million at the time of launch, targets companies that are beyond the startup stage and ready to scale up.[47][48]

In March 2015, it was announced that Thiel joined Y Combinator as one of 10 part-time partners.[49]

Thiel carries out most of his philanthropic activities through a nonprofit foundation created by him called the Thiel Foundation.[50]

Thiel devotes much of his philanthropic efforts to potential breakthrough technologies. In November 2010, Thiel organized a Breakthrough Philanthropy conference that showcased eight nonprofits that he believed were working on radical new ideas in technology, government, and human affairs.[51] A similar conference was organized in December 2011 with the name "Fast Forward".[52]

Thiel believes in the importance and desirability of a technological singularity.[53] In February 2006, Thiel provided $100,000 of matching funds to back the Singularity Challenge donation drive of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (then known as the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence). Additionally, he joined the Institute's advisory board and participated in the May 2006 Singularity Summit at Stanford as well as at the 2011 Summit held in New York City.

In May 2007, Thiel provided half of the $400,000 matching funds for the annual Singularity Challenge donation drive.

In December 2015 it was announced that Thiel is one of the financial backers of OpenAI, a non-profit company aimed at the safe development of artificial general intelligence.[54]

When asked What is the biggest achievement that you havent achieved yet? by the moderator of a discussion panel at the Venture Alpha West 2014 conference, Thiel replied, Certainly, the area that Im very passionate about is trying to do something to really get some progress on the anti-aging and longevity front, describing it as a massively under-studied, under-invested phenomena [sic].[55]

In September 2006, Thiel announced that he would donate $3.5 million to foster anti-aging research through the Methuselah Mouse Prize foundation.[56] He gave the following reasons for his pledge: "Rapid advances in biological science foretell of a treasure trove of discoveries this century, including dramatically improved health and longevity for all. Im backing Dr. [Aubrey] de Grey, because I believe that his revolutionary approach to aging research will accelerate this process, allowing many people alive today to enjoy radically longer and healthier lives for themselves and their loved ones."

The Thiel Foundation supports the research of the SENS Research Foundation, headed by Dr. de Grey, that is working to achieve the reversal of biological aging. The Thiel Foundation also supports the work of anti-aging researcher Cynthia Kenyon.

Thiel said that he registered to be cryonically preserved, meaning that he would be subject to low-temperature preservation in case of his legal death in hopes that he might be successfully revived by future medical technology.[14]

On April 15, 2008, Thiel pledged $500,000 to the new Seasteading Institute, directed by Patri Friedman, whose mission is "to establish permanent, autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems".[57] This was followed in February 2010 by a subsequent grant of $250,000, and an additional $100,000 in matching funds.[58]

In a talk at the Seasteading Institute conference in November 2009, Thiel explained why he believed that seasteading was necessary for the future of humanity.[59]

In 2011, Thiel was reported as having given a total of $1.25 million to the Seasteading Institute.[60] According to the Daily Mail, he was inspired to do so by Ayn Rand's philosophical novel Atlas Shrugged.[61]

On September 29, 2010, Thiel created the Thiel Fellowship, which annually awards $100,000 to 20 people under the age of 20 in order to spur them to drop out of college and create their own ventures.[62][63] According to Thiel, for many young people, college is the path to take when they have no idea what to do with their lives:

I feel I was personally very guilty of this; you dont know what to do with your life, so you get a college degree; you dont know what youre going to do with your college degree, so you get a graduate degree. In my case it was law school, which is the classic thing one does when one has no idea what else to do. I dont have any big regrets, but if I had to do it over I would try to think more about the future than I did at the time ... You cannot get out of student debt even if you personally go bankrupt, it's a form of almost like indentured servitude, it's attached to your physical person for the rest of your life.[14]

In October 2011, the Thiel Foundation announced the creation of Breakout Labs, a grant-making program intended to fund early-stage scientific research that may be too radical for traditional scientific funding bodies but also too long-term and speculative for venture investors.[64] In April 2012, Breakout Labs announced its first set of grantees.[65]

The Thiel Foundation is also a supporter of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which promotes the right of journalists to report the news freely without fear of reprisal,[66] and the Human Rights Foundation, which organizes the Oslo Freedom Forum.[67]

In 2011, Thiel made a NZ$1 million donation to an appeal fund for the casualties of the Christchurch earthquake.[68]

In May 2016, Thiel confirmed in an interview with The New York Times that he had paid $10 million in legal expenses to finance several lawsuits brought by others, including a lawsuit by Terry Bollea ("Hulk Hogan") against Gawker Media for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and infringement of personality rights after Gawker made public sections of a sex tape involving Bollea.[69] The jury awarded Bollea $140 million, and Gawker announced it was permanently shutting its doors due to the lawsuit in August 2016.[70] Thiel referred to his financial support of Bollea's case as one of the "greater philanthropic things that I've done."[71]

Thiel said he was motivated to sue Gawker after they published a 2007 article publicly outing him, which concluded with the statement "Peter Thiel, the smartest VC in the world, is gay. More power to him." Thiel and the author of the article agreed that he was already openly gay, but Thiel stated that Gawker articles about others, including his friends, had "ruined people's lives for no reason," and said, "It's less about revenge and more about specific deterrence."[71]

In response to criticism that his funding of lawsuits against Gawker would restrict the freedom of the press, Thiel cited his donations to the Committee to Protect Journalists and stated, "I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations. I think much more highly of journalists than that. It's precisely because I respect journalists that I do not believe they are endangered by fighting back against Gawker."[71]

On August 15, 2016, Thiel published an opinion piece in The New York Times in which he argued that his defense of online privacy went beyond Gawker.[72] He highlighted his support for the Intimate Privacy Protection Act, and asserted that athletes and business executives have the right to stay in the closet as long as they want to.[72]

A devoted libertarian,[73] Thiel expounded his views on the future of both the libertarian movement and politics in the United States in general in an article published by Cato Unbound on April 13, 2009, stating:

I remain committed to the faith of my teenage years: to authentic human freedom as a precondition for the highest good. I stand against confiscatory taxes, totalitarian collectives, and the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual. For all these reasons, I still call myself "libertarian."

But I must confess that over the last two decades, I have changed radically on the question of how to achieve these goals. Most importantly, I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible ... The 1920s were the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics. 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.[74]

On September 22, 2010, Thiel said at a 2010 fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights:

Gay marriage cant be a partisan issue because as long as there are partisan issues or cultural issues in this country, youll have trench warfare like on the western front in World War I. Youll have lots of carnage and no progress.[75]

In 2011, he wrote an editorial in National Review on the slowdown of technological progress and the state of modern Western civilization:

Most of our political leaders are not engineers or scientists and do not listen to engineers or scientists. Today a letter from Einstein would get lost in the White House mail room, and the Manhattan Project would not even get started; it certainly could never be completed in three years. I am not aware of a single political leader in the U.S., either Democrat or Republican, who would cut health-care spending in order to free up money for biotechnology research or, more generally, who would make serious cuts to the welfare state in order to free up serious money for major engineering projects...

Men reached the moon in July 1969, and Woodstock began three weeks later. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that this was when the hippies took over the country, and when the true cultural war over Progress was lost. Today's aged hippies no longer understand that there is a difference between the election of a black president and the creation of cheap solar energy; in their minds, the movement towards greater civil rights parallels general progress everywhere. Because of these ideological conflations and commitments, the 1960s Progressive Left cannot ask whether things actually might be getting worse.[76]

In a 2014 episode of "Conversations with Bill Kristol," Thiel spoke at length on what he sees to be a crisis in American higher education:

The university system in 2014, it's like the Catholic Church circa 1514. ... You have this priestly class of professors that doesn't do very much work; people are buying indulgences in the form of amassing enormous debt for the sort of the secular salvation that a diploma represents. And what I think is also similar to the 16th century is that the Reformation will come largely from the outside.[77]

Thiel is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group, a private, annual gathering of intellectual figures, political leaders and business executives.[78]

Thiel, who himself is gay,[79][80] has supported gay rights causes such as the American Foundation for Equal Rights and GOProud.[81] He invited conservative columnist Ann Coulter, who is a friend of his, to Homocon 2010 as a guest speaker.[82][83][84] Coulter later dedicated her 2011 book, Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America, to Thiel.[85] Thiel is also mentioned in the acknowledgments of Coulter's Adios, America!: The Left's Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole.[86] In 2012, Thiel donated $10,000 to Minnesotans United for All Families, in order to fight Minnesota Amendment 1.[87]

In 2009, it was reported that Thiel helped fund college student James O'Keefe's "Taxpayers Clearing House" video a satirical look at the Wall Street bailout.[88] O'Keefe went on to produce the ACORN undercover sting videos but, through a spokesperson, Thiel denied involvement in the ACORN sting.[88]

In July 2012, Thiel made a $1 million donation to the Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative 501(c)4, becoming the group's largest contributor.[89]

A member of the Libertarian Party until 2016,[90][91] Thiel contributes to Libertarian and Republican candidates and causes.[92]

In December 2007, Thiel endorsed Ron Paul for President.[93] After Paul failed to secure the Republican nomination, Thiel contributed to the John McCain campaign.[94]

In 2010, Thiel supported Meg Whitman in her unsuccessful bid for the governorship of California. He contributed the maximum allowable $25,900 to the Whitman campaign.[95]

In 2012, Thiel, along with Luke Nosek and Scott Banister, put their support behind the Endorse Liberty Super PAC. Collectively Thiel et al. gave $3.9 million to Endorse Liberty, whose purpose was to promote Ron Paul for president in 2012. As of January 31, 2012, Endorse Liberty reported spending about $3.3 million promoting Paul by setting up two YouTube channels, buying ads from Google, Facebook and StumbleUpon, and building a presence on the Web.[96] At the 2012 Republican National Convention, Thiel held a private meeting with Rand Paul and Ron Paul's presidential delegates to discuss "the future of the Liberty Movement."[97] After Ron Paul again failed to secure the Republican nomination for president, Thiel contributed to the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan presidential ticket of 2012.[94]

Thiel initially supported Carly Fiorina campaign during the 2016 GOP presidential primary elections.[98] After Fiorina dropped out, Thiel supported Donald Trump and became one of the pledged California delegates for Trump's nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention. He was also a headline speaker during the convention, during which he announced that he was "proud to be gay".[99][100] On October 15, 2016, Thiel announced a $1.25 million donation in support of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.[101] Thiel stated to The New York Times: "I didnt give him any money for a long time because I didnt think it mattered, and then the campaign asked me to."[102] After Trump's victory, Thiel was named to the executive committee of the President-elect's transition team.[103]

Other politicians Thiel has contributed donations to include:[94]

A German citizen by birth and an American citizen by naturalization, Thiel became a New Zealand citizen in 2011 and owns a 193 hectare (477 acre) estate near Lake Wanaka.[104] In January 2017, questions were raised in the New Zealand media about the decision to grant him New Zealand citizenship.[105] Thiel was given a special fast track to citizenship by the then government minister, under a clause in the relevant legislation, despite having visited the country on only four occasions prior to his application.[106] When he applied, he stated he had no intention of living in New Zealand.[107]

Thiel is a self-described Christian and a promoter of Ren Girard's Christian anthropology.[108] He grew up in an evangelical household but, as of 2011, describes his religious beliefs as "somewhat heterodox," and stated: "I believe Christianity is true but I don't sort of feel a compelling need to convince other people of that."[31]

During his time at Stanford University, Thiel attended a lecture given by Ren Girard. Girard, a Catholic, explained the role of sacrifice and the scapegoat mechanism in resolving social conflict, which appealed to Thiel as it offered a basis for his Christian faith without the fundamentalism of his parents.[109]

A former chess prodigy,[112][113] Thiel began playing chess at the age of 6, and in 1979 was ranked the seventh strongest U.S. chess player in the under-13 category.[16] According to ChessBase, he also was "one of the highest ranked under-21 players in the country" at one period of time.[114] He reached a peak USCF rating of 2342 in 1992, and holds the title of Life Master.[111] His FIDE rating is 2199 as of 2017, though he no longer participates in tournaments.[110]

On November 30, 2016, Thiel made the ceremonial first move in the tie-break game of the World Chess Championship 2016 between Sergey Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen.[113][115]

Thiel is an occasional commentator on CNBC, having appeared on both Closing Bell with Kelly Evans, and Squawk Box with Becky Quick.[116] He has been interviewed twice by Charlie Rose on PBS.[117] He has also contributed articles to The Wall Street Journal, First Things, Forbes, and Policy Review, a journal formerly published by the Hoover Institution, on whose board he sits.

In The Social Network, Thiel was portrayed by Wallace Langham.[118] He described the film as "wrong on many levels".[119]

Thiel was the inspiration for the Peter Gregory character on HBO's Silicon Valley.[120] Thiel said of Gregory, "I liked him. ... I think eccentric is always better than evil".[121]

Jonas Lscher stated in an interview with Basellandschaftliche Zeitung that he based the character Tobias Erkner in his novel Kraft ("Force") on Thiel.[122]

Thiel received a co-producer credit for Thank You for Smoking, a 2005 feature film based on Christopher Buckley's 1994 novel of the same name.[123]

In 2006, Thiel won the Herman Lay Award for Entrepreneurship.[124]

In 2007, he was honored as a Young Global leader by the World Economic Forum as one of the 250 most distinguished leaders age 40 and under.[125]

On November 7, 2009, Thiel was awarded an honorary degree from Universidad Francisco Marroquin.[126]

In 2012, Students For Liberty, an organization dedicated to spreading libertarian ideals on college campuses, awarded Thiel its "Alumnus of the Year" award.[127]

In February 2013, Thiel received a TechCrunch Crunchie Award for Venture Capitalist of the Year.[128]

In 1995, the Independent Institute published The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford, which Thiel co-authored along with David O. Sacks, and with a foreword by the late Emory University historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese.[129] The book is critical of political correctness and multiculturalism in higher education and the consequent dilution of academic rigor. Thiel and Sacks' writings drew criticism from then-Stanford Provost (and later President George W. Bush's National Security Advisor) Condoleezza Rice, with Rice joining then-Stanford President Gerhard Casper in describing Thiel and Sacks' view of Stanford as "a cartoon, not a description of our freshman curriculum"[130] and their commentary as "demagoguery, pure and simple."[131]

In 2016, Thiel apologized for two statements he made in the book: 1) "The purpose of the rape crisis movement seems as much about vilifying men as about raising 'awareness'" and 2) "But since a multicultural rape charge may indicate nothing more than belated regret, a woman might 'realize' that she had been 'raped' the next day or even many days later." He stated: "More than two decades ago, I co-wrote a book with several insensitive, crudely argued statements. As Ive said before, I wish Id never written those things. Im sorry for it. Rape in all forms is a crime. I regret writing passages that have been taken to suggest otherwise."[132]

In Spring 2012, Thiel taught CS 183: Startup at Stanford University.[133] Notes for the course, taken by student Blake Masters, led to a book titled Zero to One by Thiel and Masters, which was released in September 2014.[134][135][136]

Derek Thompson, writing for The Atlantic, stated Zero to One "might be the best business book I've read". He described it as a "self-help book for entrepreneurs, bursting with bromides" but also as a "lucid and profound articulation of capitalism and success in the 21st century economy."[137]

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Floating City Project Wants To Make A "Deregulated" Hub Of Scientific Research – IFLScience

Posted: at 7:07 pm

In the hopes of rising above the laws and regulations of terrestrial nations, a group has bold plans to build a floating city in Tahiti, French Polynesia. It might sound a bit like the start of a sci-fi dystopia (in fact, this is the basic premise behind the video game Bioshock), but the brains behind the project say their techno-libertarian community could become a paradise for technological entrepreneurship and scientific innovation.

The Seasteading Institute was set up in 2008 by software engineer, poker player, and political economic theorist Patri Friedman, withfunding from billionaire PayPal founder Peter Thiel. Both ardent libertarians, their wide-eyed mission is to establish permanent, autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems."

Seasteading will create unique opportunities for aquaculture, vertical farming, and scientific and engineering research into ecology, wave energy, medicine, nanotechnology, computer science, marine structures, biofuels, etc, their website reads.

Their vision consists of multiple reinforced concrete platforms, approximately 50-by-50 meters (164-by-164 feet) in size each, out at sea. The platforms will be able to sustain three-story buildings, along with parks, offices, and apartments for people to live in. For starters, it will be home to at least 250 residents. Ideally, the whole settlement will also be powered by renewable energy too.

The settlement will still need to follow international laws, but the institute hope to have minimal governmental regulations, meaning scientific research and entrepreneurship arenot hindered byred tape.

Accelerating innovation is rapidly transforming the world: The Seasteading Institute will help bring more of that innovation to the public sector, where its vitally needed, Thiel boldly said in astatement.

Decades from now, those looking back at the start of the century will understand that Seasteading was an obvious step towards encouraging the development of more efficient, practical public-sector models around the world."

The Seasteading Institute has already set up an agreement (PDF) with the French Polynesian government. By the end of this year, they have to provide the government with studies on the environment and economic considerations of the city, from which the government will reply with the appropriate legislative framework. Eventually, they will act as a host nation to the city.

Even those working on the project say this is technically possible, although currently expensive and dauntingly difficult. Like many of these ambitious futuristic plans that come with dozens of impressiveartist's impressions, the whole thing could easily just remain a pipe dream.

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"Unregulated scientific innovation on an isolated island? Sounds like a very bad thing" – Dezeen

Posted: July 26, 2017 at 1:10 am

A proposal to construct self-sufficient cities that would operate outside of national borders sparked a discussion between readers around governance and regulation in this weeks comments update.

Utopia:The Seasteading Institute's plans to offer deregulatedinnovation infloating "start-up countries" were met with a combined response of concern and praise by commenters.

Geofbob was less than optimistic about a future drafted by Silicon Valley: "So, the foolhardy (or simply foolish) now have an intriguing choice settling on Mars with Elon Musk or on a floating city off Tahiti with Peter Thiel."

But Matt welcomed the forward-thinking project: "I'm not sure why so many have bashed this concept. It takes an incredible amount of thought, talks and engineering, which we should be encouraging. If someone wants to be the guinea pig, it should be their choice."

"This is the future. There are many highly intelligent and trained people innovating for this industry," agreed RuckusAmsel.

Ck was uncertain about the intentions of Peter Theil, co-founder of The Seasteading Institute and Paypal: "Unregulated scientific 'innovation' on an isolated island not subject to the laws of any country funded by a tech billionaire? This sounds like a very bad thing."

"Also sounds like many a James Bond film!" repliedGeofbob.

One reader was reminded of the setting for a gaming classic:

Would you leave your life behind to live on the Floating City Project? Have your say in thecomments section

Low grade: agraduate project aiming to tackle London's housing crisis, withlong cantilevered structures on undeveloped brownfield sites,stirred up a discussion about the quality of teaching in architecture.

"I believe technical knowledge should be improved dramatically in architecture schools. As we can see in this proposal, the student has no clue about how the structure that he is suggesting would work," pointed out Mp.

Rogan Joshsuggested it wasn't the student's fault. "Beautiful drawings. Probably left little time to develop depth of thought and realism in the ideas proposed... this isn't a personal problem, rather a symptom of our architectural education," he said.

"Not sure this makes any sense as an affordable housing solution, which is as much the professor's fault as the student's," agreed HeywoodFloyd, before adding:"But this is far from the most offensive project we've seen coming out of RCA or Bartlett recently."

Jeroen van Lith was more worried about the issue at hand: "Seeing these kinds of artistic solutions to such a serious problem, I am only convinced a much more scientific approach is needed."

Not everyone harboured such negative feelings, however:

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School of knocks:aconcept construction system designed to create low-cost modular apartments by Bartlett graduate Julia Baltsavia also came under scrutiny from readers this week.

"As with other modular apartment proposals, what about water, gas and electricity and waste? How are they planned and coordinated if each flat is custom and self-built?" quizzed Geofbob.

"Details, details, details... such things hamper creativity," answered apsco radialesdevilishly.

ABruce felt the proposal revealed a deeper issue. "I'm not as concerned about the planning/zoning issues as much as the fact that we are pumping out 'architects' without a faint understanding of reality."

HeywoodFloyd made a joke out of the other readers' comments:

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Bin it:Loughborough University graduate Benjamin Cullis Watson fared better with Dezeen readers, who embraced his smell-free rubbish bin that can quickly compost waste from the kitchen.

Thepixinator was impressed by the cleanliness of the design: "The giant bin/worms/turning mess has always turned me off composting. This is brilliant."

"I also love how easy the whole system seems, that integrated watering can is a great idea. A lot of good thinking here, I'd love to have one" said Andre C, joining in with the high praise.

And this reader nearly ran out of compliments for the student's work:

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