Peter Thiel Scolds Hollywood for Its Negative Portrayal of Technology

Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel
 Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Silicon Valley entrepreneur-investor Peter Thiel scolded Hollywood for making movies that portray technology as bad and dangerous.

Thiel, who made billions as a co-founder of PayPal and as an early investor in Facebook, told a standing-room only audience Monday that the high-tech industry is in "deceleration" due in no small part to movies like Avatar and The Matrix that make technological innovation seem "destructive and dysfunctional."

Hollywood keeps making movies where "technology is going to kill you," Thiel complained at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills. He said the "Star Trek retread movies" are an exception.

Thiel said other factors -- like government regulation and a "risk-averse" business culture -- also are hampering the tech industry, but it will be a "very good sign" when Hollywood stops making movies about scary new technologies.

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As evidence of a deceleration in tech, he said that Amazon.com and Google together have a larger market capitalization than the combined market caps of every tech company founded since the year 2000.

He also took a shot at California in general, noting that in Grapes of Wrath Oklahomans moved to the state in droves, but now it's the opposite: Californians are moving to Oklahoma, and elsewhere, in search of economic opportunity.

The movie and aviation industries were built in California, and now some people think it's up to the tech industry to save it from economic peril, he said. Technology, though, is only "about enough to bail out the government workers union in San Francisco," Thiel said.

He said the promise of technology "hasn't quite delivered the goods" or "filtered down" to many Americans. "We've been talked in to believing that throwing angry bids at pigs is the best we can do," he joked.

Thiel's pessimism was countered on the same stage by some optimism from fellow billionaire investor Marc Andreessen, a co-founder of Netscape.

Andreessen said many huge technological advances aren't fully appreciated in their time, and he compared some digital companies to the invention of the "horseless carriage," which was not only derided at first by consumers but also by government regulators.

Andreessen also praised Star Trek, though the TV series from the 1960s, and he noted that the communicators and tablets used by the characters in that old show about the distant future are already a reality.

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Twitter, said Andreessen, isn't even fully appreciated despite its popularity.

"It's instant, global, public messaging for free," he said. "It's a really big deal."

Andreessen also took a few minutes to chide the New York Times, which he said employed a reporter to write a story a week that bashed the Internet during the 1990s. It gives him pleasure, Andreessen acknowledged, to see the Times going through tough economic times due to the Internet's affect on its business model.

Thiel then chimed in, noting that Twitter is valued at about $10 billion, which seems reasonable to him, and he predicted that the 1,000 people Twitter employs will have better job security over the next decade than workers at the Times.

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