Gideon: What? What did he even mean by that?
Lauren: Yeah, it’s a good question. I mean, here’s just one example. One of the things he said to me right out the gate was that he thinks in just 30 years we’ll all be part cyborg—that we’re gonna be paying for things through some kind of chip in our body.
Max (audioclip): Something like contacts that have been enhanced with electronics beyond kind of the basic optic value, um, that you can actually take out and rid yourself of the, uh, of the enhancements if you, if you want it to be a pure human again.
Lauren: And that, you know, humans are on the precipice of some great global advancement brought about by tech.
Gideon: So we’re all going to be part human, part machine, kind of Six Million Dollar Man type of thing.
Archival audioclip: Gentlemen, we can rebuild. We have the technology.
Lauren: Yeah, exactly. Between that and a combination of AI, it was just, we’re gonna be totally automated as human beings. And Levchin acknowledged, by the way, that this is an ethically complicated vision, but at the same time, this kind of enthused prediction feels right now, like it’s from, I don’t know, the 2010s.
Gideon: I think more like from the 1970s.
[Six Million Dollar Man theme song]
Lauren: Right, right, to keep with the Six Million Dollar Man theme. And so in the context of buy now, pay later, it’s maybe not so surprising that he’s pitching Affirm, his company as a kind of tech solution to credit cards. Have you ever used a buy now, pay later service?
Gideon: I actually never have.
Lauren: So I have, twice. They’re basically short-term loans with a fixed number of payments.
Gideon: Isn’t that what a credit card is?
Lauren: Yes, but different, because with a credit card you can just kind of carry that balance from month to month, and there tend to be higher interest rates. Affirm is different because they say most of their loans have actually no fees or interest rates, but also they’re encouraging you to pay something off in, like, let’s say, four payments over six weeks.
Gideon: So how do they make their money?
Lauren: Ah, that’s a good question. They do service some longer-term loans, and those will have some interest attached. But also they get paid by the merchants that they work with. So let’s say you buy a Peloton off of Affirm. Peloton pays Affirm a fee for basically providing that loan.
Gideon: OK, so it’s in Affirm’s interest for you to just buy things?
Lauren: Yes, and I’ve asked Max before and asked him again on this podcast what society looks like in the future if his, you know, buy now, pay later fever dream comes true, and people start using buy now, pay later—not just for things like Pelotons, right, but things like groceries or gas.