Pay Pal co-founder and hedge fund manager Peter Thiel, whom I previously discussed in this post, asks some important questions in the cover piece “Swift Blind Horsemen” in the October 3 edition of National Review. Specifically, is the rate of progress slowing, what are the consequences, and what can be done about it?
[T]here is no law that the exceptional rise of the West must continue. So we could do worse than to inquire into the widely held opinion that America is on the wrong track…to wonder whether Progress is not doing as well as advertised, and perhaps to take exceptional measures to arrest and reverse any decline.
He goes on to make a strong case that progress has slowed, but why does that matter?
The technology slowdown threatens not just our financial markets, but the entire modern political order, which is predicated on easy and relentless growth. The give-and-take of Western democracies depends on the idea that we can craft political solutions that enable most people to win most of the time. But in a world without growth, we can expect a loser for every winner.
He wraps it up with musings on what can be done, including the ability of government to jump start innovation, as has been done in the past. Of course, that’s what we hope to inspire through In the Shadow of Ares, and the forthcoming sequels, and it seems it is needed now more than ever:
Science fiction has collapsed as a literary genre. Men reached the moon in July 1969, and Woodstock began three weeks later. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that this was when the hippies took over the country, and when the true cultural war over Progress was lost.
Mr. Thiel proposes that the Progressive Left is incapable of recognizing that things are getting worse. Personally, I think it’s more serious than that, in that many in that grouping would openly celebrate a tech slowdown as a good thing.