Peter Thiel famously asks in interviews: “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”
The question asks for a belief going against overwhelming popular consensus – for example, Galileo’s support for the Copernican heliocentric universe.
How do you answer if you’re not Galileo?
An unscientific response to the question would take the opposite side of a truth that one wishes to be false, whether it be global warming, the efficacy of masks during a respiratory pandemic, or the results of the 2020 election. If those denialisms become overwhelming popular beliefs, it will be far easier to find an answer to Thiel’s question. All you’ll have to do is maintain the truth being repressed or erased from memory.
Everyone who volunteers for the military could provide a good answer: “Most people believe that their lives are more important than their values, and I do not.”
Tyrants invert this formulation: “Most people believe that their lives are more important than my values; I say otherwise.”
Zero to One was not as awful as I had expected. The tone in the book is thoughtful and reasoned, in contrast to a public persona that seems shocking and often cruel. I liked the character in the book much better. And I say this even after reading how I’m going about life all wrong.
Thiel advises that you develop skills and capabilities through “intentional unions” rather than “indefinite intersections.” In other words, don’t just learn a bunch of separate things and hope that it all somehow gels together.
But what about the famous Steve Jobs calligraphy class? Who would have thought computers + calligraphy? Sometimes you just need to trust the indeterminate unpredictability of thought.
I believe that I am living a good life, making the right choices for me and my loved ones.
Had I taken a value-maximizing approach, I might be working as a database analyst or a number cruncher at an investor-owned electric utility or an airline or a bank, something that maximizes expected profit. At various points, I sacrificed those possible lucrative futures in favor of a more roundabout path.
My important truth: A good life is all about the indefinite intersection.
Very few people agree with me on this.
Eppur si muove.