Sign up FAST! Login

Peter Thiel gives new class of students $100K to forgo college | Hacker News

Stashed in: Peter Thiel, Hacker News!

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

confluence 8 hours ago | link

Reminds me of that great quote I heard about Rhodes Scholars:

A Rhodes Scholar: someone with a great future behind him.

The same type of lax logic can be observed in the world's infatuation with the dramatic rise of Japan in the 80s, dubbed the "Japanese Miracle". This logic can be seen, repeatedly, throughout human history, with more recent examples being Communism in the 60s, the "Asian Tigers" of the 90s, and the "New Economy" babble of pretty much every single human period. Indeed, I'm seeing the same kind of statements about China and India as the "New World Powers".

Here's the reasoning (if you want to call it that):

Look at that growth rate! If this keeps up - sooner or later they'll be stronger than America!


Start low enough (19 year olds anyone?), and any growth will look enormous (startups; this applies to you too). If they kept at the growth rate you claim we'd end up with India and China being greater in size and scope than the entire universe.

Look everyone! This kid got into MIT at 14 years old! Extrapolate that out a few years - he'll clearly be too awesome for us mere mortals to even comprehend!

I mean really, that's honestly how people think. They never check back on said prodigy 10 years later, who has become, just as one would expect, a moderately accomplished human being (reversion to the mean). Indeed many just plain flame out and disappear from sight (a sad fact).

Woo extrapolation! It works right? Come on, I mean it's not like these systems are complex at all!

Statistics guy just shakes his head in complete disgust


kkowalczyk 7 hours ago | link

I find strawmen highly curious.

I re-read the article to see where it claims that those kids will grown into super-human geniuses that would make Einstein feel small.

It turns out: nowhere. You've debunked a "faulty reasoning" that you yourself fabricated.


confluence 7 hours ago | link

Feeling was implied I just gave it a cynical twist, and I quote:

Ritik Malhotra (19, San Jose, CA) Ritik began programming at age 8; started a popular web forum at the age of 12 that grew to over 32,000 members; and ran a web hosting and software consultancy business at the age of 13, garnering over a 600x return on his initial investment.

I wonder what he started with - $10?

Taylor Wilson (18, Texarkana, AR) became the youngest person in history to create nuclear fusion. Since then, he has produced the lowest-cost and lowest-dose active interrogation system for the detection of enriched uranium ever developed. As a Thiel Fellow, Taylor will focus on both counter-terrorism and the production of medical isotopes for use in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

I ... no ... I can't even address this.

Omar Rizwan (18, East Hanover, NJ) wants to change the world through the control and analysis of information.

Nothing big there. Just changing the world. Don't mind me.

Jimmy Koppel (20, St. Louis, MO) has a passion for software engineering – and a plan to make it much more efficient. Modifying software today often involves hundreds of thousands of small, similar adjustments that require a great deal of time and money. James will fix that problem by developing new tools to automate the process.

It's almost like software engineering is real work.

But hey, this kid is going to "automate the process".

Yoonseo Kang (18, Mississauga, ON, Canada) recognizes that society’s potential for innovation and abundance can only be achieved if knowledge and the factors of production are accessible for everyone.

Yeah, what's the deal with all these governments.

Who needs clean water, affordable food, stable electricity load, good laws, sewerage, and a safety net. People just need open hardware, and crowd sourced community blah blah blah - that'll solve all our problems. Right? RIGHT!

Noor Siddiqui (17, Clifton, VA) is inspired to galvanize people for the good of others. As a Thiel Fellow, she will work to give students across the globe access to upward mobility – and industries access to an untapped work force – with the goal of mobilizing one billion people in the next decade.

That's like MBA speak meets HR meets a Dilbert comic.

You can't make this stuff up. It's insane.

Clearly humble there. I mean, of course, no claims, apart from the MOBILISING ONE BILLION PEOPLE. But hey, that's just me little old me. What would I know?

revolutionize our country’s antiquated system using technology. As a Thiel Fellow, he will focus on Flashcards

There's a Youtube hit in that sentence somewhere.

And here it is: .

Ilya Vakhutinsky (20, Fair Lawn, NJ) wants to revolutionize the way the technology and health care communities work together.

Indeed, because a poor person's biggest problem with health care is how he will access his patient data. Money? What's that?

When a person's age is next to their name, preceding all actual data, you just know some real _A class bullshit_ is coming your way. And hey, it holds true!

Removed Einstein reference just to make you happy :D.


rfrey 2 hours ago | link

I agree with your points in the large, but don't fault the kids. Youthful hubris, especially on the scale you've highlighted here, is ridiculous, hopelessly naive, indescribably arrogant, and... breathtakingly wonderful. That ill-founded self confidence will fail every single time - except when it doesn't, in which case the results are magnificent.

My own optimism is nearly spent, which often leads me to hopelessness. That's held at bay by listening to these kinds of kids talk about their ambitions. Don't worry, they'll figure out it's hard, and in a few years some of them will laugh at their former innocence (or blush at their swagger). In the meantime they'll have swung a hammer a few times at the infinite brick wall. Please don't wish them away.


confluence 2 hours ago | link

I don't want to crush dreams.

But these kids are being set up to fail. They cannot, and will not, live up to these expectations.

Honestly, it feels like putting kids in a zoo and seeing what happens. It's a spectacle, and I'm sure some enjoy it, but it looks somewhat exploitative (like some aspects of Hollywood :).

When you state that sometimes > the results are really magnificent < you mean that hedgehogs (from are usually wrong, but when they are right - they are really right (computers/transistors/radio/internet/space/AI).

I agree. But usually they are very, very wrong. I, like you, want to be proven wrong (I practice double think - I like being a hedgehog too!)


tensor 7 hours ago | link

Most of this is just bold claims without any backing. Every kid thinks they are the next Einstein, Jobs, or Gates. For the more technically oriented people, university provides the best environment for access to scientific papers and domain experts around. Hell, Thiel's own startup Palantir hires people "preferably with phd's." It's not the degree that matters, but what you learn during it.

Thiel has some form of political agenda and this is just a stunt to try and further it. I do not claim to know what his agenda is, but if I had to guess, I'd say his aim is to promote his libertarianism ideals.


GuiA 7 hours ago | link

This is a startup blog. Their goal is to make everything feel amazing, so that more people become fascinated with "entrepreneurship", so that they can get more readers.

A few months ago, one of my colleague remarked that the main thing that tech blogs and new-gen incubators (ie ycombinator, thiel fellowship, etc.) did was make entrepreneurs out of people who wouldn't have created a company otherwise. I feel that there's some truth to that.

Offtopic: confluence, I'd like to get in touch with you, btw. Feel free to reach out through contact info in my profile :)


jeffchuber 6 hours ago | link

ironically Peter Thiel has quoted that quote about Rhodes scholars in the class he is teaching at stanford.


confluence 6 hours ago | link

I had no idea :D.

Do you have a link or can you quote in context. I may have more in common with Peter Thiel than I first thought - or not :D.


dirtyaura 4 hours ago | link

Class 4:


mjwalshe 2 hours ago | link

Well seeing as that 3 US presidents (aproximatly 6% of them) have been Rhodes Scollars he might want to re think that :-)


confluence 1 hour ago | link states that only Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar. Who are the other two?


planetguy 50 minutes ago | link

I think you're right, it was just Clinton. Mind you there's only 1794 living Rhodes scholars in the United States and one of them is a former President, so it increases your chance of becoming PoTuS from one in eighty million to one in 1794, and that's not bad.

Anyway, the point of all this isn't to pick on Rhodes Scholars but to point out the unreliability of child prodigies. In fact, Rhodes Scholars tend not to be the child-prodigy types at all. The selection process includes not just academics but also sport, social service and character requirements, completely inaccessible to the kid who has spent his entire childhood locked in a room being drilled on calculus. Rhodes Scholars tend to be smart but well-rounded, sociable and a bit conformist, exactly the sort of people who grow up to be politicians.

A Rhodes scholarship is no guarantee of success, but if I could buy shares in someone's life I'd put my money into Rhodes scholars rather than teenage prodigies.


confluence 34 minutes ago | link

Some faulty statistical reasoning there but I do agree with your sentiment that childhood precocity is a poor indicator of future performance.


confluencesucks 14 minutes ago | link

confluence was probably some MIT grad in like 2005 who still cant find a job



I know some of the previous fellows, and I think the world of them. They're the kind of people I'd love to have attended high school or college with; however, the dialogue (read: back and forth) in this Hacker News post is outrageously funny.

They can still go to college later, right?

They're just skipping college for now so they can work on something potentially world-changing.

At least, that's my understanding.

I believe so, yes. To be honest, they're probably getting the social & educational value of college with their fellowship.

I have friends who are Rhodes scholars (I'm sure well do); but too young to know if that quote is accurate or not.

I think my sense of humor might be odd. :)

Everything is over-hyped these days on the internet; and I think the commenter might be poking fun of that larger trend. It made me smile. But, it's all about #slow-mo-flow right?

You May Also Like: