Palantir Has Only Unicorn Scorn for Fellow Travelers

September 7, 2020

It is a time of change for Palantir, a software company that proudly serves the US intelligence community. The firm is both going public and planning to move away from Silicon Valley to Denver, Colorado. CEO Alex Karp took the opportunity to engage in some situational signaling. CNBC describes how “Palantir CEO Rips Silicon Valley in Letter to Investors.” Writer Ari Levy shares some excerpts:

“‘Software projects with our nation’s defense and intelligence agencies, whose missions are to keep us safe, have become controversial, while companies built on advertising dollars are commonplace. For many consumer internet companies, our thoughts and inclinations, behaviors and browsing habits, are the product for sale. The slogans and marketing of many of the Valley’s largest technology firms attempt to obscure this simple fact.’ Although he did not name any such companies specifically, Facebook fits the description—an ironic touch given that [Palantir cofounder Peter] Thiel was an early investor in that company and remains on its board of directors. Karp said in the letter that government agencies have been hamstrung, in part by failed tech infrastructure and that Palantir’s mission is to help. ‘Our software is used to target terrorists and to keep soldiers safe,’ he wrote. ‘If we are going to ask someone to put themselves in harm’s way, we believe that we have a duty to give them what they need to do their job.’”

That is some wordsmithing. Levy notes one risk factor acknowledged in Palantir’s paperwork—its strident refusal to work with China, despite that country’s rank as the world’s second-largest economy. The potential hit to the company’s growth is no match for its distain of the Chinese communist party, apparently. Count another virtue signaled. Surprisingly, Google’s alleged work with China did not make it directly into the letter, but the write-up reminds us:

“Thiel has accused the company of ‘seemingly treasonous’ behavior for allegedly helping the Chinese government while backing down from a contract with the U.S. government after facing employee criticism. Here’s how Karp addressed the matter: ‘We have chosen sides, and we know that our partners value our commitment. We stand by them when it is convenient, and when it is not.’”

The article reproduces the letter in full at the bottom, so navigate there to read the entire composition. Yes, perhaps it is high time this righteous company said goodbye to famously progressive Silicon Valley. Will Karp miss Philz Coffee as much as his former compatriots? Will interested individuals believe this restatement of reality from a fan of the ANB file format?

Cynthia Murrell, September 7, 2020


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