Venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and co-founder of PayPal Peter Thiel has an idea about why high-tech investment seems to come and go as bubbles. Instead of tech innovations continuing to grow as the world’s moneymakers, he’s pinpointing the blame on movies.
During an appearance at the Milken Institute Global Conference, Thiel told the audience that the biggest factor holding back the growth of the tech industry isn’t government regulation. While it’s logical to assume that boom-and-bust cycles suggest that tech isn’t the most stable investment, Thiel says movies repeatedly portray new technologies as “destructive and dysfunctional.”
Admitting that the promise of technology has yet to “filter down” to most Americans, he argued that this inherent promise is constantly being undercut by a movie industry obsessed with films where “technology is going to kill you.”
The irony of his saying this ahead of the U.S. release of Marvel’s Iron Man 3 is worth noting. After all, while it’s true that Hollywood has offered up its fair share of “technology fear”-esque movies, like his suggested Avatar and The Matrix trilogy, it’s unfair to say that the majority of Hollywood’s blockbuster output is centered around a fear or distrust of technology.
Think about various movies where technology is used to find the bad guy, or undo whatever nefarious plans he has under way. And it’s not just Iron Man (a hero whose entire thing is an embrace of technology!), but more down-to-earth blockbusters like G.I. Joe or James Bond movies, which are filled with tech gadgets. Think about pure science-fiction movies like Star Trek or Transformers where technology is essential to the world our heroes rely on, and provide inspiration for real life gadgets we have today. In the example of Transformers, technology literally is what our heroes are. Lastly, think about a movie where something like social media or telecommunication factors heavily bring people together or save the day, whether raised and dramatic or small and personal. Despite our culture’s obsession, tech can provide positive engagement.
Movies reflect society and the things that we’re interested in, for better or worse; But it seems naive to suggest that Hollywood has an agenda against technology, especially in a world where new 3D, projection, and audio technology are being actively courted, and new computer technology used to make the films everyone watches.
Thiel may see the movie industry not fully embracing all tech on offer, but that’s a completely different thing from trying to scare people away from it. Trying to suppress its growth by making this claim, he’s ironically hurting the credibility of the industry he’s trying to champion.