Peter Thiel has a horrible case of RBF – reclusive billionaire face. I’m not being intentionally mean-spirited, simply stating the undeniable fact that the tech entrepreneur, a co-founder of PayPal, doesn’t precisely give off feel-good vibes. There’s a cause why just about each point out of Thiel tends to be peppered with adjectives akin to “secretive”, “distant” and “haughty”. He has cultivated an air of malevolent mystique. It’s all too simple to think about him sitting in a futuristic panopticon, torturing kittens and plotting methods to overthrow democracy.
It’s all too simple to think about that situation as a result of (other than the torturing kittens half, clearly), that’s mainly how the 54-year-old billionaire already spends his days. Thiel was famously one in all Donald Trump’s largest donors in 2016; this yr, he is among the largest particular person donors to Republican politics. Whereas it’s hardly uncommon for a billionaire to throw cash at conservative politicians, Thiel is notable for expressing disdain for democracy, and funding far-right candidates who’ve peddled Trump’s harmful lie that the election was stolen from him. Because the New York Instances warned in a latest profile: “Thiel’s wealth might speed up the shift of views as soon as thought-about fringe to the mainstream – whereas making him a brand new energy dealer on the precise.”
When he isn’t pumping cash into far-right politicians, Thiel is busy accelerating the surveillance state. In 2004, the web entrepreneur based a data-analytics firm referred to as Palantir Applied sciences (after the “seeing stones” utilized in The Lord of the Rings), which has been backed by the enterprise capital arm of the CIA. What darkish magic Palantir does with information is a little bit of a thriller nevertheless it has its fingers in loads of pies: it has labored with F1 racing, offered know-how to the navy, partnered with Area Power and developed predictive policing systems. And whereas nobody is totally certain in regards to the extent of the whole lot Palantir does, the final consensus appears to be that it has entry to an enormous quantity of knowledge. As one Bloomberg headline put it: “Palantir is aware of the whole lot about you.”
Quickly it’d know much more. The Monetary Instances recently reported that Palantir is “gearing up” to develop into the underlying information working system for the NHS. In latest months it has poached two prime executives from the NHS, together with the previous head of artificial intelligence, and it’s angling to get a five-year, £360m contract to handle the non-public well being information of tens of millions of sufferers. There are worries that the corporate will then entrench itself additional into the well being system. “As soon as Palantir is in, how are you going to take away them?” one supply with information of the matter instructed the FT.
How frightened ought to we be about all this? Effectively, in response to one faculty of thought, consternation in regards to the potential partnership is misplaced. There’s a line of argument that it’s only a boring IT deal that individuals are getting labored up over as a result of they don’t like the truth that Thiel gave a bunch of cash to Trump. And to be honest, even in case you assume Thiel is a creepy dude with creepy beliefs, it is very important observe that he’s not the one man in control of Palantir: the corporate was co-founded in 2003 by Alex Karp, who remains to be the CEO; he voted for Hillary Clinton and has described himself as a progressive (though, contemplating his affinity for the navy, he actually has a unique view of progress than I do).
My faculty of thought, in the meantime, is finest summarised as: yikes. Anybody who has had any expertise of the abysmal US healthcare system ought to be leery of personal American corporations worming their manner into the NHS. Notably when the present UK authorities would privatise its personal grandmother if the value was proper. I don’t know precisely what Palantir needs with the NHS however I do realize it’s value maintaining a tally of it. It’s actually maintaining a tally of you.
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