Peter Thiel appears in a Veritas Forum moderated by Ross Douthat: What is the Hope for Humanity? A discussion of technology, politics, and theology. A sharp insight from Thiel near the end:
There are all sorts of contexts where one has a very different perspective… I think when one sees things as an outsider, there’s a sort of way you see a consensus that exists where everyone simply is in agreement on things, and you can sort of question that a little bit more, or relativize it, or ask is this really the truth, or is this sort of just a psycho-social phenomenon at work here.
There is certainly an aspect of Silicon Valley, and I think maybe true of many areas of innovation, where people position themselves as very innovative, very brilliant, very original and very creative, but all the fashionable people wear the same black clothes and they all have this sort of lemming-like, sheep-like, ape-like behavior. So I do think that sort of outsider perspective is quite critical. It’s always sort of granular in how you instantiate that in different contexts. …
One of my rules of thumb is that whenever everyone agrees on something, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong, but it almost certainly means that nobody’s thought about it.
“One of my rules of thumb is that whenever everyone agrees on something, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong, but it almost certainly means that nobody’s thought about it.”
Consensus doesn’t simply have to relate to controversial subjects. Consensus can be about how we think about planes as the fastest way to travel. We might all agree on that, but because it’s become to true that “nobody’s thought about it,” it took Elon Musk thinking through the Hyperloop for us to realize airlines are a comparably worse solution.
I think Thiel’s point is a great because it illuminates the fact that on most consensus opinions (controversial or not, objectively true or false), most individual opinion-holders who form part of the consensus will probably lack a granular understanding of the claim they’re supporting.
On a side note, I came across this Veritas Forum discussion thanks to a retweet from Marc Andreessen. Testament to the way that Twitter is both ephemeral (a constant stream) and meaningful, in the sense that a single tweet led me to spend ~90 minutes watching/listening to this interview.