It is true that you can say that death is natural, but it is also natural to fight death. But if you stand up and say this is a big problem, we should do something about this, that makes people very uncomfortable, because they've made their peace with death.
There have been a lot of critiques of the finance industry's having possibly foisted subprime mortgages on unknowing buyers, and a lot of those kinds of arguments are even more powerful when used against college administrators who are probably in some ways engaged in equally misleading advertising.
I think people in Europe are generally pessimistic about the future. They have low expectations; they're not working hard to change things. When you're a slacker with a pessimistic view of the future, you're likely to meet those expectations.
People don't want to believe that technology is broken. Pharmaceuticals, robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology - all these areas where the progress has been a lot more limited than people think. And the question is why.
It's good to test yourself and develop your talents and ambitions as fully as you can and achieve greater success; but I think success is the feeling you get from a job well done, and the key thing is to do the work.
If I had known how hard it would be to do something new, particularly in the payments industry, I would never have started PayPal. That's why nobody with long experience in banking had done it. You needed to be naive enough to think that new things could be done.
Men and machines are good at different things. People form plans and make decisions in complicated situations. We are less good at making sense of enormous amounts of data. Computers are exactly the opposite: they excel at efficient data processing but struggle to make basic judgments that would be simple for any human.
There is a sort of genre of optimistic science fiction that I like, and I don't think there is enough of. One of my favourites is a short story by Arthur C. Clarke, 'The City and the Stars.' It's set in this far future on Earth in this somewhat static society and trying to break out.
One of my friends started a company in 1997, seven years before Facebook, called SocialNet. And they had all these ideas, and you could be, like, a cat, and I'd be a dog on the Internet, and we'd have this virtual reality, and we would just not be ourselves. That didn't work because reality always works better than any fake version of it.
I think competition can make people stronger at whatever it is they're competing on. If we're competing in some athletic event for competitive swimmers, really intensely competing, it's likely that both of us will become better, but it's also quite possible we'll lose sight of what's truly valuable.
From my perspective, I think the question of how we build a better future is an extremely important overarching question, and I think it's become obscured from us because we no longer think it's possible to have a meaningful conversation about the future.
Americans mythologize competition and credit it with saving us from socialist bread lines. Actually, capitalism and competition are opposites. Capitalism is premised on the accumulation of capital, but under perfect competition, all profits get competed away.
The best start-ups might be considered slightly less extreme kinds of cults. The biggest difference is that cults tend to be fanatically wrong about something important. People at a successful start-up are fanatically right about something those outside it have missed.
I think anything that requires real global breakthroughs requires a degree of intensity and sustained effort that cannot be done part time, so it's something you have to do around the clock, and that doesn't compute with our existing educational system.
The optimism that many felt in the 1960s over labour-saving technology is giving way to a fearful question: 'Will your labour be good for anything in the future? Or will you be replaced by a machine?'
Technologies like PayPal foster competition because they enable people to shift their funds from one jurisdiction to another, and I think that ultimately will lead to a world in which there's less government power and therefore more individual control.
As an undergraduate at Stanford, I started 'The Stanford Review,' which ended up being very engaged in the hot debates of the time: campus speech codes, questions about diversity on campus, all sorts of debates like that.
Whereas a competitive firm must sell at the market price, a monopoly owns its market, so it can set its own prices. Since it has no competition, it produces at the quantity and price combination that maximizes its profits.
University administrators are the equivalent of subprime mortgage brokers selling you a story that you should go into debt massively, that it's not a consumption decision, it's an investment decision. Actually, no, it's a bad consumption decision. Most colleges are four-year parties.
American government is not dominated by engineers, it is dominated by lawyers. Engineers are interested in substance and building things; lawyers are interested in process and rights and getting the ideology correctly blended. And so there is sort of no really concrete plan for the future.
People working on bigger ideas on a more protracted timeline will be more on the stealth side. They aren't releasing new PR announcements every day. The bigger the secret and the likelier it is that you alone have it, the more time you have to execute. There may be far more people going after hard secrets than we think.
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.
Consider the trivial but revealing hallmarks of urban hipsterdom: faux vintage photography, the handlebar mustache, and vinyl record players all hark back to an earlier time when people were still optimistic about the future. If everything worth doing has already been done, you may as well feign an allergy to achievement and become a barista.
There are still many large white spaces on the map of human knowledge. You can go discover them. So do it. Get out there and fill in the blank spaces. Every single moment is a possibility to go to these new places and explore them.
Distribution may not matter in fictional worlds, but it matters in most. The Field of Dreams conceit is especially popular in Silicon Valley, where engineers are biased toward building cool stuff rather than selling it. But customers will not come just because you build it. You have to make this happen, and it's harder than it looks.
The zero-sum world [the movie The Social Network] portrayed has nothing in common with the Silicon Valley I know, but I suspect it's a pretty accurate portrayal of the dysfunctional relationships that dominate Hollywood.
Higher education is the place where people who had big plans in high school get stuck in fierce rivalries with equally smart peers over conventional careers like management consulting and investment banking. For the privilege of being turned into conformists, students (or their families) pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in skyrocketing tuition that continues to outpace inflation. Why are we doing this to ourselves?
There's a wide range of sales ability: there are many gradations between novices, experts, and masters. There are even sales grandmasters. If you don't know any grandmasters, it's not because you haven't encountered them, but rather because their art is hidden in plain sight.
Every tech story is different. Every moment in history happens only once. All successful companies are successful in their own unique way. It's your task to figure out what that future history will be.
A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed. Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It's like telling the world there's no Santa Claus.
The debt austerity would not be problems if we had technological progress. If you doubled the debt in the U.S., and the size of the economy doubled because of technological progress and growth, the two would roughly cancel out and it would all be a totally manageable situation.
I'm in favor of free trade, but I think if you had to make a choice between having technological progress versus free trade, you had one or the other, you should always pick technological progress. I think it's an incredibly important variable for creating more prosperity.
If you have technological progress, that will encourage more capitalist system. On the other hand, if you don't, if things are stalled, you end up with much more of a zero sum type thing, where there's no progress and basically everybody's gain is somebody else's loss.
Whenever I talk to people who founded a company, I often like to ask the prehistory questions 'When did you meet? How long have you been working before you started the company?' A bad answer is, 'We met at a networking event a week ago, and we started a company because we both want to be entrepreneurs.'
It is sort of a bit of a caricature of capitalism, that it's always this zero-sum game where you have winners and losers. Silicon Valley, the technology industry at its best, creates a situation where everybody can be a winner.
Investors are always biased to invest in things they themselves understand. So venture capitalists like Uber because they like driving in black town cars. They don't like Airbnb because they like staying in five-star hotels, not sleeping on people's couches.
The next Bill Gates will not start an operating system. The next Larry Page won't start a search engine. The next Mark Zuckerberg won't start a social network company. If you are copying these people, you are not learning from them.