Paypal Co-Founder Says Movies Like James Cameron’s Avatar Hurt The Tech Industry

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NeytiriCinema can often be a reflection of society. It can inform audiences of the troubles, pitfalls, and social issues in contemporary history in an entertaining and thoughtful way. Cinema can also be a vision of the future. Well-made science fiction movies can offer audiences both conceits. Films like The Matrix and Avatar can serve as warnings to humanity that we may become too dependent on technology, whereas movies like Star Trek can expand the role of technology in society.

Co-founder of PayPal, Facebook early investor, and billionaire Peter Thiel has denounced Hollywood for making movies that subscribe to the idea of technology as evil and dangerous. As reported in THR, Thiel told a sold-out audience at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills that sci-fi movies like The Matrix and Avatar contribute to the high-tech industry’s “deceleration” and make technological innovation seem “destructive and dysfunctional.” He added that it will be a “very good sign” when Hollywood stops making movies about horrifying and alarming new technologies.

Thiel praised Star Trek for the role of technology in its vision of the future, stating that “communicators and tablets used by the characters in that old show about the distant future are already a reality.” But The Matrix didn’t hamper technological innovation, but rather embodies it. The filmmaking technology the Wachowskis used in 1999 to make The Matrix was used in countless films thereafter. Ten years later, James Cameron revolutionized science fiction again with Avatar in 2009. In fact, most of Cameron’s films have pushed technological boundaries forward, especially his films in the last two decades or so.

Where movies like The Matrix or Avatar portray the dangers of unchecked technological innovation, it’s because those issues are complex and do have a negative potential as well as a positive one. Thiel’s comments just seem like a cheap shot.


  • zirtoc

    The movie Gremlins made mogwai seen “destructive and dysfunctional.” I mean, how many mogwai have been purchased since the release of that movie? 0? Wait…how many computers, video game consoles, cell phones, and myriad other tech gadgets have been purchased since Avatar? Mr. Thiel’s argument MIGHT be as much fantasy as the movies he’s attacking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeffbedrick Jeff Bedrick

    They say that money is the root of all evil, but that’s not true. It’s assholes with money. Same goes for technology.

  • Nack

    since when was avatar about the dangers of technology? I thought it was more a moral lesson about the arrogance of dismissing foreign cultures and civilizations as less important then your own. Its a really obnoxiously obvious metaphor for the destruction of the Native Americans by Europeans colonists who imposed their ideology and way of life on them without regard to their own culture or beliefs, or any other indigenous peoples that have been crushed by colonialism. The fact that one side is more technologically advanced is purely consequential If anything technology is proved to be less of a threat as it is beaten back by the natives who are shown as genetically and biologically superior (make of that last part what you will). The movie itself is technological improvement within the movie industry for its time, even if the narrative is far from original.

    That being said, technologically instigated dystopias have been part of cinematic tradition since the 1950s, where they often embodied the growing fears of nuclear destruction Technology is dangerous and it makes sense to be weary of our own inventions and how people might misuse them. You wouldn’t intentionally put explosives and firearms in the hands of incarcerated serial killers now would you? Franchises like star trek serve their role too, encouraging us to find new ways to better ourselves with technological discovery, but it should never be approached without at least a degree of caution.

  • David VIlla

    I’m surprised this early investor in a corporation undertaking the most voluminous personal information gathering in history didn’t also criticize The Jungle for its negative effect on the meat packing industry, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for its depiction of the medically advanced lobotomy and psychoactive therapy, and 1984 for its unnecessarily harsh image of government surveillance and censorship.

  • Tim

    Avatar simply MIRRORS the history of humans COVETING something they deem valuable, at the same time devaluing human life to aquire it………..example? the american experience with Native Indians, and GOLD….history is fat with such examples….no cheap shot here, just read your history……its too bad, that mans humanity never grows as fast as his ambitions and his covetous lusts for power and control…………..