Peter Thiel: The ‘Libertarian Crypto vs. Communist AI’ Dichotomy

It is easy to regard Bitcoin just as another form of currency; but the truth is that it’s so much more than merely a medium of exchange, for which there are many reasons. One way to think about it is to envisage a future completely bereft of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, and imagine what sorts of alternatives there are.

One who lays out such hypothetical juxtaposition is the legendary billionaire, entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

In a recent interview with the Rubin Report, which revolved around multiple issues from many areas of life, Thiel also elaborated on cryptocurrency – and more specifically, on the crypto-king, Bitcoin – and fascinatingly portrayed it more as an important political ideology.

Here’s a clean transcript of the relevant segments from the interview (full video available below):

If crypto is libertarian then AI is communist. Everyone thinks of crypto is libertarian because you have all these ideas about decentralizing money and things like this; nobody says AI is communist and that’s because we’re sort of more conscious of people with different views like libertarian and we’re less conscious of people with collectivist views because that’s sort of the that’s more the zeitgeist. But yes, I think ‘crypto versus AI’ dichotomy goes to the sort of question about what’s the future of the computer age going to look like, and is it going to be more centralized or more decentralized.

You think about the history we’ve had these – very different pictures. In the late 60’s, the early Star Trek episodes you had, maybe it was one planet they got to where there was one big computer that ran the whole planet, had been running it for 8,000 years and the people didn’t have any thoughts. They were all sort of docile kind of happy; nothing ever happened and that was what people thought the future would be in the late 60’s. When we centralized big computers the late 90’s, it was going to be crypto, it was going to be decentralized, the internet was going to split up all these sort of structures. If that was like 1998, let’s say, so let’s see 68 was centralized 98 was decentralized. 2018, in some ways, the pendulum has swung back to centralized: this big governments, big databases that can monitor and survey people and know more about you, than you know about yourself, or think things like that sort of creepy Big Brother type thing. I think since the pendulum has swung back and forth so much over the last 50 years, there’s no reason that that’s the future, and it’s actually a choice. Do we want it to be centralized? Do we want it to be decentralized?

And I think, again – AI can mean many different things, but if it means that you have law databases that are controlled by, let’s say, a large government that can monitor people more effectively, it’s something that could make communism maybe more effective, certainly more scary, more totalitarian than it ever was in the 20th century. And I do think, it’s not a coincidence along these lines that the Chinese Communist Party hates crypto. They mean something a little bit different what it means in a Silicon Valley context: Where in Silicon Valley it often just means a super smart computer that will leave all the humans behind, in China it means a really smart computer that helps a few humans control the rest.

It almost seems like we’re going splinter off into two versions of this, where we’ll have these two tracks that’ll be side by side. Half the people are really going to be into this sort of centralized idea of things and the ease that AI will allow you to get products or whatever else it is; and then you’ll have this other group of people who maybe are into all the crypto currencies and who are just sort of operating outside of the system.

[…]

Ultimately, the future can be more decentralized or more centralized, to be more capitalist, more communist, more libertarian, more totalitarian. I think it can go a lot of different ways and this is why these debates are important because it’s up to us to decide which technologies do we push and [with] which ones we are maybe going to be a little bit more careful.

Here’s the full video (starting at 1:53:29, when Thiel begins discussing the ‘crypto versus AI’ dichotomy):