Gideon: What? What did he mean by that anyway?
Lauren: Yes, that’s a good question. I mean here is just an example. One of the things he immediately said to me was that he believes that in just 30 years we will all be part of cyborgs – that we will pay for things through some kind of chip in our bodies.
Max (audio clip): Something like contacts enhanced with electronics beyond the base optics, um, which you can actually take out and ditch the enhancements if you want it to be pure human again.
Lauren: And do you know that humans are on the precipice of a great global advance brought about by technology.
Gideon: So we’re all going to be part human, part machine, sort of Six million dollar man kind of thing.
Archive audio clip: Gentlemen, we can rebuild. We have the technology.
Lauren: Yes, exactly. Between that and a combination of AI, it was just that we as humans will be totally automated. And Levchin, by the way, conceded that this is an ethically complicated vision, but at the same time, right now, that kind of enthusiastic prediction feels like it’s coming from, I don’t know, the 2010s.
Gideon: I think more from the 1970s.
[Six Million Dollar Man theme song]
Lauren: Right, right, to stay with that Six million dollar man Theme. And so, in the context of “buy now, pay later,” perhaps unsurprisingly, he touts Affirm, his company, as some kind of tech solution for credit cards. Have you ever used a buy now, pay later service?
Gideon: I actually never.
Lauren: So I have, twice. They are basically short-term loans with a fixed number of payments.
Gideon: Isn’t that a credit card?
Lauren: Yes, but differently, because with a credit card you can take the balance with you from month to month, and the interest tends to be higher. Affirm is different because they say most of their loans actually have no fees or interest rates, but they also encourage you to pay something back in, say, four installments over six weeks.
Gideon: How do they earn their money?
Lauren: Ah, that’s a good question. They’re servicing some longer-term loans, and they’re going to have interest attached to them. But they are also paid by the merchants they work with. So let’s say you buy a Peloton from Affirm. Peloton pays Affirm a fee for providing this loan.
Gideon: Okay, so it’s in Affirm’s interest that you just buy stuff?
Lauren: Yes, and I’ve asked Max before, and asked him again in this podcast, what society will be like in the future when his fever dream of “buy now, pay later” comes true and people start buying now, pay later—not only for things like pelotons, right, but also for things like groceries or gas.