他对高等教育批判的原话是，“It’s something about the scarcity and the status. In education your value depends on other people failing.”（高等教育是关于稀缺和身份，在这样的教育中你的价值是源于他人的失败。）大概的意思是，我们在市场上特别看重名校出身，比如哈佛耶鲁清华北大，并不是因为他们在大学四年到底受到了什么教育，而是因为他们在入学时打败了其他人，赢得了名校的标签。
为了打破他认定的高等教育泡沫，财大气粗的彼得创立了泰尔奖学金（Thiel Fellowship），原名叫20 under 20，意思是每年挑选20名左右20岁以下的年轻人，为他们提供为期两年一共10万美金的创业基金。选择标准有三个：必须辍学，必须表现出对科技强烈的热情，同时必须有动力在未来的几年努力中去实现这种想法。
Thank you so much forthe kind introduction. It’s a tremendous honor to be here.
Like most graduation speakers my main qualification would seem to be that I am one of the few people who are even more clueless about what is going on in your lives than your parents and your professors.
Most of you are about 21 or 22 years old. You’re about to begin working. I haven’t worked for anybodyfor 21 years. But if I try to give a reason for why it makes sense for me tospeak here today, I would say it’s because thinking about the future is what Ido for a living. And this is a commencement. It’s a new beginning. As a technology investor, I invest in new beginnings. I believe in what hasn’t yet been seen or been done.
This is not what I set out to do when I began my career. When I was sitting where you are, back in 1989, I would’ve told you that I wanted to be a lawyer. I didn’t really know what lawyers do all day, but I knew they first had to go to law school, and school was familiar to me.
I had been competitively tracked from middle school to high school to college, and by going straight to law school, I knew I would be competing at the same kinds of tests I’d been taking ever since I was a kid, but I could tell everyone that I was now doing it for the sake of becoming a professional adult.
I did well enough in law school to be hired by a big New York law firm, but it turned out to be a very strange place. From the outside, everybody wanted to get in, and from theinside, everybody wanted to get out.
When I left the firm, after seven months and three days, my coworkers were surprised. One of them told me that he hadn’t known it was possible to escape from Alcatraz. Now that might sound odd, because all you had to do to escape was walk through the front door and not come back. But people really did find it very hard to leave, because so much of their identity was wrapped up in having won the competitionsto get there in the first place.
Just as I was leaving the law firm, I got an interview for a Supreme Court clerkship. This is sort ofthe top prize you can get as a lawyer. It was the absolute last stage of the competition. But I lost. At the time I was totally devastated. It seemed just like the end of the world.
About a decade later, I ran into an old friend -- someone who had helped me prepare for the Supreme Court interview, whom I hadn’t seen in years. His first words to me were not,you know, 'Hi Peter' or 'How are you doing?' but rather, 'So, aren’t you glad youdidn’t get that clerkship?' Because if I hadn’t lost that last competition, weboth knew that I never would have left the track laid down since middle school,I wouldn’t have moved to California and co-founded a startup, I wouldn’t have done anything new.
Looking back at my ambition to become a lawyer, it looks less like a plan for the future and morelike an alibi for the present. It was a way to explain to anyone who would ask-- to my parents, to my peers and most of all to myself -- that there was no need to worry. I was perfectly on track. But it turned out in retrospect that my biggest problem was taking the track without thinking really hard about where it was going.
When I co-founded atechnology startup, we took the opposite approach. We consciously set out tochange the direction of the world: very definite, very big plans. Our goal wasnothing less than to replace the U.S. dollar by creating a new digital currency.
We had a young team.When we started, I was the only person over 23 years old. When we released ourfirst product, the first users were simply the 24 people who worked at ourcompany. Outside, there were millions of people working in the global financialindustry, and when we told some of them about our plans we noticed a clear pattern:the more experience someone had in banking, the more certain they were that ourventure could never succeed.
They were wrong.People around the world now rely on PayPal to move more than $200 billion everyyear. We did fail at our greater goal. The dollar’s still dominant. We didn’tsucceed in taking over the whole world, but we did create a successful companyin the process. And more importantly, we learned that while doing new things isdifficult, it is far from impossible.
At this moment in yourlife you know fewer limits, fewer taboos and fewer fears than you will ever in the future. So do not squander your ignorance. Go out and do what your teachersand parents thought could not be done -- and what they never thought of doing.
Now this is not to say that we should assume there is no value in teaching and tradition. And here wecan take inspiration from a graduate of Hamilton College, the illustrious Ezra Pound, class of 1905. Pound was a poet, and he was also a prophet of sorts, andhe announced his mission in three words: 'Make it new.' When Pound said 'makeit new,' he was talking about the old. He wanted to recover what was best intradition -- and render it fresh.
Here at Hamilton, in America and that part of the world called the West, we are all part of anunusual kind of tradition. The tradition we’ve inherited is itself about doingnew things. The new science of Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton discovered truthsthat had never been written down in books. Our whole continent is a new world.The founders of this country set out to create what they called 'a new orderfor the ages.' America is the frontier country. We are not true to our own tradition unless we seek what is new.
So how are we doing?How much is new today? It is a cliché to say that we are living through a timeof rapid change, but it is an open secret that the truth is closer tostagnation. Computers are getting faster and smartphones are somewhat new. Buton the other hand, jets are slower, trains are breaking down, houses are expensiveand incomes are flat.
Today the word technology means information technology. The so-called tech industry buildscomputers and software. But in the 1960s, technology had a more expansivemeaning and meant not just computers, but also airplanes, medicines,fertilizers, materials, space travel -- all sorts of things. Technology wasadvancing on every front and leading to a world of underwater cities, vacationson the moon and energy too cheap to meter.
We’ve all heardAmerica described as a 'developed country,' setting it apart from countriesthat are still developing. This description pretends to be neutral. But I findit far from neutral. Because it suggests that our tradition of making newthings is over. When we say we are developed, we’re saying, 'that’s it.' Thatfor us, history is over. We are saying that everything there is to do hasalready been done, and now the only thing left is for others in the world tocatch up. And in this view, the 1960s vision of a fantastic and far betterfuture was just a mistake.
I think we shouldstrongly refuse this temptation to assume that our history is over. Of course,if we choose to believe that we’re powerless to do anything that is notfamiliar, we will be right, but only in a sort of self-fulfilling way. Weshould not, however, blame nature. It will only be our own fault.
Familiar tracks andtraditions are like clichés -- they are everywhere, they may sometimes becorrect, but often they are justified by nothing except constant repetition.Let me end today by questioning two clichés in particular:
The first comes fromShakespeare, who wrote this well-known piece of advice: 'To thine own self betrue.' Now Shakespeare wrote that, but he didn’t say it. He put it in the mouthof a character named Polonius, who Hamlet accurately describes as a tedious oldfool, even though Polonius was senior counselor to the King of Denmark.
And so, in reality,Shakespeare is telling us two things. First, do not be true to yourself. How doyou know you even have such a thing as a self? Your self might be motivated bycompetition with others, like I was. You need to discipline your self, to cultivateit and care for it. Not to follow it blindly. Second, Shakespeare’s saying thatyou should be skeptical of advice, even from your elders. Polonius is a fatherspeaking to his daughter, but his advice is terrible. Here Shakespeare’s afaithful example of our western tradition, which does not honor what is merely inherited.
The other cliché goes like this: 'Live each day as if it were your last.' The best way to take thisas advice is to do exactly the opposite. Live each day as if you will liveforever. That means, first and foremost, that you should treat the peoplearound you as if they too will be around for a very long time to come. Thechoices that you make today matter, because their consequences will grow greater and greater.
That is what Einstein was getting at when he supposedly said that compound interest is the mostpowerful force in the universe. This isn’t just about finance or money, butit’s about the idea that you’ll get the best returns in life from investingyour time in building durable friendships and long-lasting relationships.
In one sense, all ofyou are here today because you were approved by the admissions office ofHamilton to pursue a course of study, which is now over. In another sense, youare here because you found a group of friends to sustain you along the way, andthose friendships will continue. If you take care of them, they will compoundin the years ahead.
Everything that youhave done so far has had some kind of formal ending, some kind of graduation.You should, and I hope that you will, take time today to celebrate all thatyou’ve achieved so far. But remember that today’s commencement is not thebeginning of one more thing that will end. It is the beginning of forever. AndI won’t delay you any further in getting on with it. Thank you.
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