“What important truth do very few people agree with me on?”

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I had heard a lot about Peter Thiel’s book,  Zero to One, and I found a copy at my friend’s house. I started reading it and the books open with a question that Mr. Thiel says he likes to ask interviewees: “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”

And then he goes on to give some examples of what he thinks are bad examples such as “education is broken” or “there’s no God” because he says those are rather generic statements that many people still agree with. The view have to be truly contrarian and yet something that not many people agree with.

I was intrigued by the question and am taking a shot at answering the question myself. So here are some important truths that I think not many people agree with.

  • Educational systems across the world in general are broken, especially so in India. But importantly, they don’t just need reforms, they need a revolution. Recruiters should stop looking for degrees but should recruit on the basis on skills & suitability. Education should focus on both competence as well as character rather than on just competence, that too in a very limited sense.  Universities, if still needed, should admit students based again on skills and suitability rather than their marks. Schools should facilitate students working on live projects. No one should have to learn quadratic equations just because it’s the syllabus but they should learn it when they come across problem in the projects that they are doing which requires them to apply quadratic equations. A lot more detailing of this truth needs to be done – but this is the broad idea for now.
  • Change for the sake of it may not make sense, however, there’s always significant resistance to change and the way to make change is not to wait for the right time and place, but to make it happen today and now, even if it’s not perfect, even if the outcomes are by no means certain. That choice of which change to make is a matter of skilled decision making combined with the hope that things go as well as expected.
  • Atheists and rationalists should stop trying to educate people that there exists no god but rather they should focus on the truth that it’s impossible to find evidence of god doing good for the individual or the world around us. It’s enough to get to a point where rather than disputing the existence of a supreme power, there’s a consensus on the lack of impact and in general ineffectiveness of the god(s) that people believe in. The resistance to this approach would be much lesser than the dispute over the non-existence of god and will probably yield the same results in the long run (next point).
  • At some point of time in the future, religion and god as we know them today will be relics from the past.
  • It is possible for everyone to think critically and make their own decisions if they are given the right exposure to the world and they are helped to think critically despite the so many biases that we have in thinking.
  • Human evolution has been historically a slow process and our bodies and our thoughts processes have done better to adapt to our progress in the past than in the present day where the pace of change in lifestyle due to technology and globalization is making it very difficult for humans to adapt to those changes “naturally”. Therefore we are unable to see the importance of exercise, or we don’t naturally know how to eat right, or we are unable to temper the amount of social media that we consume. We need to understand our evolutionary biases to be able to make changes in the way we live and think.
  • All the technological and economic progress won’t be enough if governance across the world doesn’t improve. And conversely all the technological and political progress is going to be unstable in terms of long term peace if economic progress isn’t made to a large extent.
  • The only way to improve governance and the state of the world is through politics, which requires educated liberals with great organization skills and a massive like-minded team with the right values and attitudes – especially in the Indian context.
  • Correlation is not causation: Homeopathy seems to be bunkum despite the many anecdotes that people have about it’s efficacy. Of course my understandings stems from the many rational thinkers who have claimed that the so many rigorous scientific studies have all proven the ineffectiveness of the homeopathic drugs (the impact of the drugs as a placebo along with the healing that occurs as a result of being listened as homeopathic doctors do is a matter that we don’t understanding).

Those are a few that I can think of. And when I checked how Mr. Thiel answers this question, there seems to be a similarity between my answers and his. The relevant ones are here:

Most people think the future of the world will be defined by globalization, but the truth is that technology matters more.

It is better to risk boldness than triviality.

A bad plan is better than no plan.

Amen to that as far as I am concerned. I have of course also written my own set of predictions for the future – many (or may be all of those) are contrarian views.

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