Was Palantir's Alex Karp Correct About Nuclear War Threats?
Alex Karp, on the recent Q1 2022 Palantir Earnings call, mentioned that the media was understating the risk of a nuclear war.
The statement itself was fascinating given how explicit he was about it. Karp has constantly warned of assuming a world will be peaceful and stable, as he did in his January 2022 interview, primarily because he sees the world as chaotic.
Three weeks after that interview, an entire war broke out in Russia and Ukraine. Karp has repeatedly said that Palantir as a company was meant for situations when things go wrong.
During the pandemic, Palantir stepped up and was able to help numerous governments with their vaccine distributions. When the Russia/Ukraine war broke out, Palantir was able to offer services to countries like the UK, Lithuania, Poland, and more on integrating the data needed to launch a full scale refugee mission for Ukrainians fleeing their homes.
So, the company has proved that when bad or random things happen in the world that fundamentally disrupt the current paradigms that exist - they are there to solve and mitigate those problems. As a result, there is massive financial upside for them being one of the only companies in the world to help in those situations.
Nuclear War Though?
At first, I thought this was fear-mongering. To claim that a nuclear war is more likely than ever seemed weird to me given the nature of mutually assured destruction, or MAD. The concept has always been universal: if one country strikes first with a nuke, another country will do it back, and then the world explodes.
This is why we haven't had one yet.
So Karp mentioning this before an earnings call where the company likely knew the numbers, in this macroeconomy, we're not going to be enough to good enough to help the stock felt a little weird. I couldn't get my mind across why he was so blatant about how a nuclear war could just happen and the media was ignoring it all together.
But then, I did some digging. First, I do trust Karp when he speaks about geopolitical issues given the information this man has seen over the past 17 years is likely more confidential than information you or I will ever have access to. It's probably why he's not tweeting all day like Elon Musk even though one could argue that he is more philosophical: what he says really, really matters.
The DOD and multiple US and international government agencies trust him when they sign deals and contracts with Palantir. His words matter, so I began to think maybe the nuclear war stuff wasn't just fluff.
Then, I found this article.
The author writes,
Vladimir Putin could view the prospect of defeat in Ukraine as an existential threat to his regime, potentially triggering his resort to using a nuclear weapon, the top US intelligence official has warned.
The warning on Tuesday came in an assessment from intelligence chiefs briefing the Senate on worldwide threats. The prediction for Ukraine was a long, gruelling war of attrition, which could lead to increasingly volatile acts of escalation from Putin, including full mobilisation, the imposition of martial law, and – if the Russian leader felt the war was going against him, endangering his position in Moscow – even the use of a nuclear warhead.
The director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, told the Senate armed services committee that Putin would continue to brandish Russia’s nuclear arsenal in an attempt to deter the US and its allies from further support for Ukraine. The shift of focus to the east and the south are most likely a temporary tactic rather than a permanent scaling back of war aims, she said.
“We do think that [Putin’s perception of an existential threat] could be the case in the event that he perceives that he is losing the war in Ukraine, and that Nato in effect is either intervening or about to intervene in that context, which would obviously contribute to a perception that he is about to lose the war in Ukraine,” Haines told the committee hearing.
So, Maybe Karp Wasn't Wrong...
Look, I don't think a nuclear war is happening soon. But to deny the idea that it could happen would be the same as denying that Putin would never launch a full scale invasion.
A bet on Palantir is a bet that things will likely continue to happen, because to assume the world will be perfect would assume a utopia. If there is any software or technology company that could actually deal with the rising existential threats to our humanity, it would be Palantir.
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