Of course, that comment predictably received plenty of criticism.
In Thiel’s defense, he was using a technique he calls “Pyrrhonian skepticism,” flipping conventional wisdom to examine if it’s wrong. It’s a useful exercise, but the danger is it can encourage you to embrace some wacky conclusions just because they’re contrarian.
But there was another section in the interview that really caught my attention. It was was when asked if he thought Donald Trump and Elon Musk are similar.
“I’m going to get in trouble, but they are, actually,” he said. “They’re both grandmaster-level salespeople and these very much larger-than-life figures.”
He recalls a story from his and Mr. Musk’s PayPal days, when Mr. Musk joined the engineering team’s poker game and bet everything on every hand, admitting only afterward that it was his first time playing poker. Then there was the time they were driving in Mr. Musk’s McLaren F1 car, “the fastest car in the world.” It hit an embankment, achieved liftoff, made a 360-degree horizontal turn, crashed and was destroyed.
“It was a miracle neither of us were hurt,” Mr. Thiel says. “I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, which is not advisable. Elon’s first comment was, ‘Wow, Peter, that was really intense.’ And then it was: ‘You know, I had read all these stories about people who made money and bought sports cars and crashed them. But I knew it would never happen to me, so I didn’t get any insurance.’”
This section made me think two things:
- For someone obsessed with achieving immortality, not wearing a seatbelt in the world’s fastest car seems like a carelessly stupid thing to do.
- This all seems like a metaphor.