Google: the non-technology company

The debate between Peter Thiel and Eric Schmidt is summarized over at Marginal Revolution. Alex’s conclusion is that Google’s cash hording is the best evidence there is for The Great Stagnation. I see it as more as evidence that Google has no faith in the stability of the global economy–it’s best to hoard cash if you think the deluge is almost upon us….

Money quote:

PETER THIEL: …Google is a great company.  It has 30,000 people, or 20,000, whatever the number is.  They have pretty safe jobs.  On the other hand, Google also has 30, 40, 50 billion in cash.  It has no idea how to invest that money in technology effectively.  So, it prefers getting zero percent interest from Mr. Bernanke, effectively the cash sort of gets burned away over time through inflation, because there are no ideas that Google has how to spend money.

HHMI’s President Robert Tjian on supporting life science in these times…

His open letter is here. I think Peter Thiel would be glad to see HHMI out there supporting life sciences…even as things get difficult.

Tjian makes the point that HHMI has agility and independence going for it. To that I would also add they also have a very strong dose of meritocracy.

Supporting the very best scientists is the key thing. Note how different that is from trying to forecast programmatic scientific success.

Francis Fukuyama interviews Peter Thiel

In The American Interest, here. One of the best long-form journalism pieces I’ve read in a very long time. It touches on so many of the significant issues of our time (from neurobiology to energy policy) that it’s very difficult to blog about–Advanced Studies tends towards short-form pieces.

Ultimately, it’s a conversation between two extraordinarily bright people about where America is, one decade into the 21st century. You may not agree with either of them on much, but the issues discussed are central to our current problems.

So do read it.

Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal on the fix we are in

A dark view of where we are these days….it’s here.

Money quote:

Most of our political leaders are not engineers or scientists and do not listen to engineers or scientists. Today a letter from Einstein would get lost in the White House mail room, and the Manhattan Project would not even get started; it certainly could never be completed in three years. I am not aware of a single political leader in the U.S., either Democrat or Republican, who would cut health-care spending in order to free up money for biotechnology research — or, more generally, who would make serious cuts to the welfare state in order to free up serious money for major engineering projects. Robert Moses, the great builder of New York City in the 1950s and 1960s, or Oscar Niemeyer, the great architect of Brasilia, belong to a past when people still had concrete ideas about the future. Voters today prefer Victorian houses.