Sam Altman Is an Idiot

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It’s not news that Sam Altman likes to say controversial things. The 32-year-old president of the very successful startup incubator Y Combinator attracted disdain for supporting Peter Thiel even after the billionaire’s donations to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign won widespread criticism. Now, Altman is pitching an idea pulled straight from the White House’s talking points: Political correctness is bad for America. This is an idiotic point of view, often put forth by idiots who struggle with the challenges of progress. Sam Altman is one of those idiots.


Altman took his stand against a politically correct United States in a recent blog post hubristically titled “E Pur Si Muove.” That Italian phrase is a reference to something Galileo Galilei supposedly said while on house arrest for claiming that the Sun was the center of the universe. “And yet it moves” is the translation, and yes, it was a controversial theory during Galileo’s time. Because he seems to fancy himself a philosopher and history-maker as well, Altman appears to be comparing the state of affairs in San Francisco to Europe on the eve of the Enlightenment. Except San Francisco might never see its great awakening because everybody is so super scared of saying something controversial!

Here’s Altman, the idiot:

This is uncomfortable, but it’s possible we have to allow people to say disparaging things about gay people if we want them to be able to say novel things about physics. [1] Of course we can and should say that ideas are mistaken, but we can’t just call the person a heretic. We need to debate the actual idea.

Well yes, that statement is uncomfortable, and the idea behind it is so poorly expressed that Altman, who is gay, had to add a footnote in order to clarify it. (That’s what the “[1]” is for.) Here’s part of the footnote which is also idiotic:

[1] I am less worried that letting some people on the internet say things like “gay people are evil” is going to convince reasonable people that such a statement is true than I fear losing the opposite—we needed people to be free to say “gay people are ok” to make the progress we’ve made, even though it was not a generally acceptable thought several decades ago.

This is like saying we need people who think white supremacists are cool, because they give us the opportunity to say that white supremacy is bad. It’s also not far off from Thiel, who secretly bankrolled a lawsuit against Gizmodo’s former owner Gawker Media, resulting in the company’s bankruptcy, saying, “A free press is vital for a public debate,” in the same column where he explains why he sued Gawker out of existence.

When Altman tried to say that political correctness was stifling American innovation, I can’t say I believe he did so with any malicious intent. I actually believe that he just didn’t think it through. Or, to give him the benefit of the doubt, Altman failed to communicate a complex argument in a casual blog post. The example about disparaging gay people reads like an endorsement of homophobia, and the explanation of that example simply reiterates how offensive it is. Even the Galileo reference is misplaced. As we now know, Galileo’s ideas started the scientific revolution. He was hardly silenced.


There’s some history to back up the claim that Sam Altman is idiot, too. And when I say the word “idiot,” I don’t mean to imply that Altman is actually a stupid person. He went to Stanford, dropped out, started a company that later failed, and then went back and taught at Stanford. He can’t be dumb. Altman does have a history of saying or doing dumb things, though. He caught some side-eye last year after getting kicked out of the Ritz for wearing sneakers and then complaining about it on Twitter. Altman also said all kinds of ill-advised things surrounding the Thiel-Trump drama earlier this year, both by denouncing Trump and refusing to denounce Thiel for helping Trump get elected. Last month, Y Combinator finally severed ties with Thiel, news that Y Combinator shared not by writing a new announcement but by updating the old blog post welcoming Thiel with a line that said Thiel was “no longer affiliated.” This is the same Altman who now argues that Americans aren’t able to say controversial things enough.

The one redeeming detail about Altman is that he’s easy to ignore. Sure, his company does have great power over the startup world, and the ability to turn ideas into multi-billion-dollar companies. But his actions probably don’t impact your daily life as, say, Donald Trump’s now do. Based on what I know from his half-baked blog, though, I wouldn’t give the guy a nickel. He seems like a real idiot who loves to advertise his bad ideas in public forums and ignore the advice of wiser people. I can understand why he’s so popular in Silicon Valley.




This PC debate is just so out of hand. PC basically means don’t be a d*ck, and if you are, people will call you out on it. Anti-PC people want to be a d*ck without reproach. They’re response to reproach is to get very offended at the fact that you took offense to their d*ckishness. They also don’t seem to realize that there are times when one must behave professionally, and using those occasions to tell people how much you hate gays or whatever is not going to end well for you.

Now quick, someone clutch their pearls and call me a snowflake without the slightest sense of irony.