Peter Thiel “might be the most successful technology investor in the world,” said George Packer in The New Yorker. The 44-year-old former math and chess prodigy co-founded PayPal and made the first outside investment in Facebook. Yet Thiel, a libertarian known as much for his philosophical bent as for his business prowess, is disappointed by the information age that reaped him billions. Thiel thinks Americans have “forgotten how expansive technological change can be.” We have had “dizzying change” over the past few decades, he says, but no progress. That’s why his elite venture-capital fund, Founders Fund, pours money into audacious projects with utopian aims, including space exploration, nanotech, and robotics. The fund’s credo: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”
Convinced that higher education saddles graduates with burdensome debt and stifles their creativity, Thiel launched another audacious effort earlier this year: paying students to drop out, said Megan McArdle in The Atlantic. This year, Thiel awarded two dozen young people $100,000 each, no strings attached, to skip college and try to start a business. “It’s best for people to actually try to think about the future and not default to education,” he says.