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Peter Thiel on the dangers of progress The tech billionaire discusses Silicon Valley, Christianity and apocalypse

Do we need to be more Christian? Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Do we need to be more Christian? Stephanie Keith/Getty Images


December 30, 2022   13 mins

You can tell a bit about someone based on their preconceptions about Peter Thiel. Whether the reflexive response to the name is “malign far-Right plutocrat”, “philanthropic saviour of all that is good” or “who?” is a reasonably reliable guide to where that person otherwise sits in the great online psychodrama we now call “the culture wars”.

When he’s not serving as the object of fantastical (and sometimes James Bond-themed) progressive demonology, Thiel is a Silicon Valley legend. He co-founded PayPal, and was the first outside investor in Facebook, on whose board he sat from 2005 until this year. He invests in new enterprises via the Founders Fund. He started the big data firm Palantir, which successfully sued the US Army in 2016 over an intelligence analysis system procurement process, and subsequently won the contract to deliver that system. He is worth an estimated $4.9 billion.

He’s also, famously (or notoriously, depending on your political priors) interested in culture and politics. As such, in our emerging post-liberal world of lords and princes, Thiel is a prime mover across many fields, and his interests and priorities affect a great many people. And this is perhaps the trait that, above all else, invites parallels to premodern figures such as Lorenzo De’ Medici, the Florentine statesman and banker who was also his era’s foremost patron of the arts.

For Thiel, this extends to personal as well as financial interventions, and I met him in such a context. We were both on the teaching faculty for a week-long seminar at Stanford in Palo Alto, with the magnificent title “The Machine Has No Tradition: a seminar on technology, revolution and apocalypse”. We sat down together after a day spent with Stanford grad students, Silicon Valley whizzkids and young DC politicos, wrestling with the question of what technology is. Thiel had just led a four-hour session on the French thinker René Girard.

The grand themes of technology, revolution and apocalypse hung in the air. So, too, did the parallel facts of my having enough common intellectual preoccupations with Thiel to land us both on the same academic roster, while remaining separated from him by an incommensurably vast power asymmetry. Against that backdrop, I wanted to understand the interests and priorities of this sociopolitical titan, on his own terms. More plainly: how does Peter Thiel view his own project?

The overarching answer seems to be: real as opposed to illusory progress. Post-liberal thinkers such as Patrick Deneen, author of the bestselling 2018 book Why Liberalism Failed, argue that many contemporary social ills are an effect of the way the liberal project cannibalises social goods, such as family life or religious faith, in order to pursue narrow metrics such as (on the Left) personal freedom or (on the Right) economic growth. Thiel sees many of the same ills as Deneen, but offers a strikingly different framing: we’re consuming ourselves not because the fixation on progress is inevitably self-destructive beyond a certain threshold, but because material progress has objectively stalled while we remain collectively in denial about this fact.

In Thiel’s view, this has been the case since the mid-20th century, except in digital technologies. “We’ve had continued progress in the world of computers, bits, internet, mobile internet, but it’s a narrow zone of progress. And it’s been more interior, atomising and inward-focused.” Over the same period, he tells me, “there’s been limited progress in the world of atoms”.

Thiel characterises this stagnation as a long, slow victory of the Club of Rome, a nonprofit founded in 1968 to drive political change premised on the belief that infinite growth is impossible. As Thiel sees it, this tacit postwar abandonment of the growth aspiration has resulted in “something like a societal and cultural lockdown; not just the last two years but in many ways the last 40 or 50”. There’s “a cultural version, a demographic version, and a technological version of this stagnant or decadent society,” he suggests. And the upshot of this paralysis has been “a world of technological stagnation and demographic collapse”, along with “sclerosis in government and banal repetition in culture”.

He’s been making the case for real-terms tech stagnation for 15 years now, he tells me, against a mainstream Left and Right that doesn’t want to know: “it was always striking how much it went against the stated ideology of the regime.” Perpetuating the fantasy of progress, against a backdrop of its actual stagnation, is at the heart of delusions on both Left and Right, he argues: “the Silicon Valley liberals don’t like it, because they think they’re driving this great engine of progress”, while social conservatives “have conceded the ground to the liberals, because they believe the Left-wing propaganda about how much science and technology are progressing”. And against this backdrop of cross-party denial, institutions and the wider culture are increasingly shaped by real-terms stagnation.

In his view, much of what passes for “progress” is in truth more like “distraction”. As he puts it, “the iPhone that distracts us from our environment also distracts us from the ways our environment is unchanging and static.” And in this culture, economy and politics of chronic self-deception, as Thiel sees it, we tell ourselves that we’re advancing because “grandma gets an iPhone with a smooth surface,” but meanwhile she “gets to eat cat food because food prices have gone up.”

In this context, Thiel argues, much of what passes as “progress” in economic terms is actually an accounting trick. For example, much of what looks like GDP growth since the Fifties was simply a matter of changing how we measured the value bundled up in family life. If, he points out, “you shift an economy from a single-income household with a homemaker to one with two breadwinners and a third person who’s a child-carer, statistically you have three jobs instead of one and therefore you have more GDP, and you will exaggerate the amount of progress that’s happened”.

That is: if what you’re calling “progress” is not so much a change in the activities taking place, but rather a change in how you’re measuring those activities, in what sense has anything really changed, let alone improved? After all, he points out, between 1880 and 1960 automation so far reduced working hours that analysts predicted by the year 2000 the average family would subsist happily on the wage of one worker putting in seven hours a day, four days a week, with 13 weeks’ paid holiday. But then “it somehow went really into reverse”.

Since then, many goods once common to America’s middle class have been cannibalised to preserve the illusion of progress. “We are much less of a middle-class society,” he points out, in the sense of “people who think their children will do better than themselves”. And this growing scarcity, coupled with denial of that scarcity, has profoundly corrupted once-trusted institutions. Even the Club of Rome was, in his view, “not pessimistic enough about how badly a zero-growth world would work, and how much it would derange our institutions”. For most of our institutions “depend on growth; and when the growth stops, they lie and they become sociopathic”.

In this context, what Thiel dismissively refers to as “the woke religion” is less a driving force in contemporary politics than part of this vast collective displacement activity. Notably, it’s often a delivery mechanism for resource competition, for example in universities where student numbers are ever-rising even as paid positions shrink, a pinch that “brings out the worst in people”. So much of what looks like an unhinged new ideology is actually the brutal office politics pursued by too many academics competing for too few paid positions? “Yes,” he says, “and maybe there’s some way to get people to be nicer to one another in a world of limited resources. But we never seem to be even able to talk about that.”

If, he suggests, it were more obvious to people that we now live in a stagnant world, more might be said and done to address it. But the key reason this isn’t happening is “that we’ve been distracted from the lack of progress” by “the shift from exteriority, from measurable things” such as “faster speeds, supersonic airplanes or longer life expectancies” and re-oriented on “the interior world of yoga, meditation, psychology, parapsychology, psychopharmacology, psychedelic drugs, video games, the internet et cetera”.

The governing thread in Thiel’s interventions in culture and politics, then, seems to be re-orienting the wider direction of travel away from what he views as displacement activities, back toward more concrete forms of progress of the sort that might translate into a return to this kind of widespread optimism. This includes a streak of political philanthropy that has recently leaned toward supporting candidates who campaign on the material interests of America’s languishing middle class.

Blake Masters, who co-wrote Thiel’s bestseller Zero to One, is now running for the Senate in Arizona with Thiel’s support; recent polling has Masters as the frontrunner in the Republican primary. Another politician with Thiel support is Hillbilly Elegy author JD Vance, who received a $10 million Thiel donation that some credit with bumping Vance to victory in May’s primary for the US Senate in Ohio. Both Masters and Vance make the increasingly bleak state of America’s once thriving and prosperous middle class a central part of their campaigning platform. One Masters campaigning video takes as its central premise the argument that it should be possible to support a family on a single income — something that, for a growing swathe of the middle sort, hasn’t been the case for decades.

Importantly, though, he doesn’t see restoring middle-class aspiration as a matter of returning to the past, but of seeking new real-world advances in science and technology. Along with Thiel’s own investments, which include many futuristic projects such as biotech and space exploration, the principal vehicle for his efforts to drive this change is the nonprofit Thiel Foundation, which promotes science and innovation. Its programmes include the Thiel Fellowship, which gives 20-30 young people aged 22 or under $100,000 each, every year, to drop out of college and work on an urgent idea. Graduates include Austin Russell, who founded Luminar and is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, and Vitalik Buterin, who co-founded the cryptocurrency Ethereum.

Those among us temperamentally sceptical of never-ending progress and growth may be shifting nervously in our seats by this point. Thiel seems unfazed by the idea that technology may infringe on what’s “natural”. How do we prevent runaway tech changes dragging us into some monstrously inhuman dystopia? Can we retain our humanity, I ask Thiel, in the context of just how transformative technology can be?

He seems to view this as a largely academic question, and not really in keeping with his understanding of Christian civilisation as fundamentally oriented toward the future. “I think of Christianity as deeply historical. Some sense of a certain type of progress of history is a deep part of Christianity.” And from this perspective, the notion that there exists an unchanging human nature doesn’t really fit with the Christian outlook, but belongs — as he puts it — more “in the classical than the Christian tradition”.

“The word ‘nature’ does not occur once in the Old Testament,” he tells me, while “the concept of ‘nature’ as something that’s eternal and unchanging” isn’t a Christian one either. “It seems to me that the Christian concepts are more things like grace or original sin.” From this perspective, Thiel argues, the problem with transhumanism isn’t that it seeks to remake humanity, but that it isn’t ambitious enough in this regard: “the Christian critique of transhumanism should be that it’s not radical enough, because it’s only seeking to transform our bodies and not our souls.” It appears, in other words, that while Thiel is unflinchingly realistic about what’s immediately achievable, he doesn’t see any given or self-evident limits to what we could set our sights on.

What if the Club of Rome is right, though, and we really have reached the limits to material growth? I put to him for a number of reasons — culturally and materially — it seems more than possible that we’ve irretrievably passed the point of Peak Progress. If this is so, he tells me, the first response should be frank realism. We should, he suggests, “at least be able to talk about it, and figure out ways to make our society work in a low-growth world”. But he sees this attitude less as realism than a cop-out: “I think that sounds like a lazy excuse of people who don’t want to work very hard. It sounds too much like an excuse.” Far from being a matter of humans bumping up against natural limits, he argues, “I want to blame it on cultural changes, rather than on us running out of ideas”.

What, then, does he see as driving the cultural side of stagnation? Thiel thinks the decline of Christianity is a major factor. To him “a more naturally Christian world” was “an expanding world, a progressing world” that hit its apogee in late Victorian Britain. “It felt very expansive, both in terms of the literal empire and also in terms of the progress of knowledge, of science, of technology, and somehow that was naturally consonant with a certain Christian eschatology — a Christian vision of history. Then somehow the stagnant ecological world that we’re in is one in which there’s been a collapse of religious belief. I want to say they’re somehow sociologically linked.”

I put it to him that many historians date the slow implosion of Christianity from the emergence of just the kind of scientific enquiry Thiel wants to encourage in the name of a Christian-inflected tech progressivism. Was it ever plausible, I ask him, that we could hold the worlds of faith and of science and technology in equilibrium? He appears to view this, once again, as a largely irrelevant academic question; the real implosion of mass religiosity in Britain, he suggests, coincided with the end of the British Empire.

“If you had an expansive view and you were going to make disciples of all nations, and send missionaries to the world, and somehow that project no longer made sense, then would this somehow also lead to a collapse within your own society. I think my sense is that Britain was still very Christian in the Fifties, then it had somehow completely collapsed by 1980. So it maps onto the end of colonisation.”

He sees a parallel process at work in the stalling and retreat of American empire: “I would map America in 2000 onto Britain in 1950, and America in 2020 onto somewhere like Britain in 1975 or 1980, where somehow the expansionary part of America has very much faded.” America has abandoned its mission of imperial evangelism: “in 1999 or 2005 there was still this sense that you were proselytising the world, and I think that has strangely collapsed. I’m not sure what the causation is, but there’s some way that the growth of Christianity was linked to it and when it stops expanding it’s in very serious trouble.”

What’s missing from the world now is a clear vision of the future — or even any vision. Reviving Christian faith might help, he thinks: “if we were more Christian, we would also have more hope for the future, and if we’re less Christian we’re going to have less hope. And there’s probably less action.” Failing this, any vision of the future at all would help, especially if it’s an optimistic one. Though he doesn’t particularly like science fiction, he says, more upbeat stories on this front might help: “If one could produce science fiction that were less uniformly bleak that might help on a literary level.”

Failing other options, Thiel thinks even bleak or apocalyptic visions are better than no vision at all. The picture of European climate catastrophe associated with Greta Thunberg is, as he sees it, one of only three realistic European futures; the other two are “Islamic sharia law”, and “Chinese Communist AI”. He views the social-democratic models typical of contemporary European politics as variations on the theme of stagnation: “a sort of eternal Groundhog Day”. And while Greta’s vision is “in some ways too apocalyptic, in some ways not apocalyptic enough”, it is at least “a very concrete picture”, and represents the least worst of the three alternatives to stagnation.

Failing a mass revival of Christianity, what political or material levers does Thiel think we should pull to restart some kind of future? “Zoning laws and the FDA,” he tells me. One of the biggest issues is housing, which he notes “is linked to family formation” — and, he suggests, another field in which scarcity and resource competition is fanning the flames of political derangement. “Real estate prices doubled and people got a lot crazier.” Fixing this would be a good route into addressing our sclerosis, because “it’s not pure technology. You’d think it would be easy to change the zoning laws, but in practice it’s extremely hard to do.”

As for the FDA, Thiel points out that even the pessimists in the Club of Rome thought healthcare could go on advancing. And again, as with zoning laws, he argues that if we’re stuck on this front it’s not because we’re running out of resources. “I’ve done some investing in biotech over the last 15-20 years. It’s very strange; my sense for the science is that we could be making a lot more progress, and then in practice it’s extraordinarily difficult because of regulatory constraints and other things. So biotech is an area where I think it’s not quite resource-constraints; my read on it is that’s more cultural than natural. Again: we don’t have to talk about limitless human life, but just: can we have a cure for dementia? Is that absolutely impossible? I would claim we don’t know enough about science to know that’s absolutely impossible.”

He acknowledges that there are implicit risks in forging ahead with new discoveries. “I think there are dangers to science and technology, but there are also great dangers in stagnation,” he tells me. In his view, though, the only way out is through: the fantasy of returning to some form of vanished past is just that, a fantasy. “We can’t go back to the Paleolithic era, we can’t go back to an agrarian economy, we can’t even go back to a 19th century industrial economy. And then it seems to me that we don’t know how to make a zero-growth society work.”

In that context, we need to base our vision of the future on something: “And maybe science and technology aren’t that much, but I would say if we stop believing in the teleology of science and technology it’s not that we go back to some Thomistic or medieval concept of teleology. We become fully epicurean.”

Is Thiel an uncompromising materialist and realist, or a visionary idealist? It’s hard to say, and what I say would make little difference anyway. “Speaking truth to power” has always been, ambivalently at least, a fantasy of print-era writers; less acknowledged, though, is the fact that such pugnacious independence was always premised on the writers themselves being able to make a living direct from a paying audience. And in the digital era of information super-abundance and flimsy copyright, this is a luxury available to an ever-shrinking roster.

In almost all other contexts, the lot of writers is once again shaped by the intellectual and political preoccupations of the 21st century’s lords and princes. It would be absurd to pretend that I could force an account of the Thiel worldview according to the print-era fantasies of writerly independence, or even to hold him to some “objective” discursive standard (a conceit which all sides treat in any case as increasingly outmoded). Rather, like Lorenzo de’ Medici, Thiel reorders the cultural world around himself, like iron filings responding to magnetism.

And in this, if little else, he represents a return to tradition. Those still committed to the democratic vision of politics may be tempted to treat figures such as Soros or Thiel as exemplars of dangerously untrammelled power, exerting a malign influence over a political process otherwise characterised by democratic checks and balances. But I’ve come to think that this has it backwards. To my eye, Peter Thiel isn’t an aberration in an otherwise seamless march of democratic progress, but a reversion to the historic norm. Or to put it another way: I’m coming to suspect the democratic era was a flash in the pan, and what’s now emerging is a 21st century variation on an ancient form of power, more monarchic or feudal in character than “populist”, let alone democratic.

And as I’ve argued, the alternative to such figures may not be democracy but governance by a decentralised post-democratic swarm (analogous, perhaps, to what Thiel calls “Chinese Communist AI”). Given these options, we may yet conclude that the political return of human lords and princes — however unnervingly untrammelled their power, or remorselessly tech-optimist their worldview — is far from the worst option currently on the table. The premodern world of aristocratic patronage was far from being a cultural desert, an achievement that contrasts sharply with the militantly anti-aesthetic (and anti-human) character of post-democratic swarm politics. If I’m right about the prognosis for liberal democracy in the digital age, the available options for our future may be culturally vibrant human-led neo-feudalism, or aggressively anti-cultural swarm governance. And in this case, even those of us who mourn the passing of the liberal world may yet find ourselves, however ambivalently, on the side of Caesar.

***

This article was first published on 25 July 2022.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

I watched a recent interview with Thiel on YouTube and he really didn’t live up to the hype. He seems given to making sweeping statements which don’t survive much scrutiny. An example (among others): he claimed that our understanding of cancer had not really advanced much for decades, which is just plain wrong. In the wise words of Tina Turner: “We don’t need another hero”.

Selwyn Jones
Selwyn Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Quite so. His remarks with regard to Christianity, for example, are fairly wide of the mark, for a belief in “common humanity”, whilst undoubtedly “classical”, has been absorbed by the church and grounds much of its moral teaching – witness Pope Benedict’s attitude to questions of marriage. On the other hand, if Mr Thiel annoys the neo-Maoists currently running (and ruining) the western show, good for him. Embattled sanity needs all the friends it can get…

Selwyn Jones
Selwyn Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Quite so. His remarks with regard to Christianity, for example, are fairly wide of the mark, for a belief in “common humanity”, whilst undoubtedly “classical”, has been absorbed by the church and grounds much of its moral teaching – witness Pope Benedict’s attitude to questions of marriage. On the other hand, if Mr Thiel annoys the neo-Maoists currently running (and ruining) the western show, good for him. Embattled sanity needs all the friends it can get…

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

I watched a recent interview with Thiel on YouTube and he really didn’t live up to the hype. He seems given to making sweeping statements which don’t survive much scrutiny. An example (among others): he claimed that our understanding of cancer had not really advanced much for decades, which is just plain wrong. In the wise words of Tina Turner: “We don’t need another hero”.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 year ago

It is a fact that global population growth due to birth rate has stopped. Population growth today comes from increased longevity. That phenomenon will eventually end when the potential for increased average age hits the buffers – as it certainly will. Therefore the view of humanity as a global plague that will inevitably destroy nature ( including itself) is incorrect. Population growth is set to go into reverse. This fact combined with human ingenuity, inventiveness and thirst for knowledge, makes it possible to adopt a more positive and uplifting view of the potential prospects for our species than the depressing nihilism of the likes of Ms Thunberg. If their views prevail of course growth will be reversed and the present, let alone the future, will indeed be dark and depressing. It is therefore important that the incorrect world view of the terrified eco extremists is calmly but resolutely challenged (for their own sakes as much as ours) and not allowed to prevail. I am not sure I fully understand from this essay on which side Mr Thiel stands but I do very much hope it’s not with the eco extremists.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 year ago

It is a fact that global population growth due to birth rate has stopped. Population growth today comes from increased longevity. That phenomenon will eventually end when the potential for increased average age hits the buffers – as it certainly will. Therefore the view of humanity as a global plague that will inevitably destroy nature ( including itself) is incorrect. Population growth is set to go into reverse. This fact combined with human ingenuity, inventiveness and thirst for knowledge, makes it possible to adopt a more positive and uplifting view of the potential prospects for our species than the depressing nihilism of the likes of Ms Thunberg. If their views prevail of course growth will be reversed and the present, let alone the future, will indeed be dark and depressing. It is therefore important that the incorrect world view of the terrified eco extremists is calmly but resolutely challenged (for their own sakes as much as ours) and not allowed to prevail. I am not sure I fully understand from this essay on which side Mr Thiel stands but I do very much hope it’s not with the eco extremists.

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
1 year ago

Interesting article and I find myself agreeing strongly with half the facts, diagnoses and analyses, but I fear I fundamentally disagree with the other half.
Yes, I agree with are in a crisis of “progress”, and both the notions of “progress” and of “crisis” are themselves part of the problem – a crisis which, incidentally, would immediately go away if we all indeed became “fully Epicurean” [why is this not capitalised in in the text?], and focused on a life of modest contentment and minding our own business.
It is ironic to compare this article, with its panegyric on the Victorians, with the hand-wringing self-criticism regarding the guilty pleasure of enjoying Flashman, that arch-Victorian, which appeared in Unherd just a few days ago.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

Long live Flashy, by God!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Hear hear!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Hear hear!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

Why is it ‘ironic’ in any sense of the word? Two articles on UnHerd by two authors with different points of view and focus?! What a shock! But you present in any case a complete caricature of the Flashman article, which was far more complex.

Ken Shersley
Ken Shersley
1 year ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

d

Last edited 1 year ago by Ken Shersley
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

Long live Flashy, by God!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

Why is it ‘ironic’ in any sense of the word? Two articles on UnHerd by two authors with different points of view and focus?! What a shock! But you present in any case a complete caricature of the Flashman article, which was far more complex.

Ken Shersley
Ken Shersley
1 year ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

d

Last edited 1 year ago by Ken Shersley
Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
1 year ago

Interesting article and I find myself agreeing strongly with half the facts, diagnoses and analyses, but I fear I fundamentally disagree with the other half.
Yes, I agree with are in a crisis of “progress”, and both the notions of “progress” and of “crisis” are themselves part of the problem – a crisis which, incidentally, would immediately go away if we all indeed became “fully Epicurean” [why is this not capitalised in in the text?], and focused on a life of modest contentment and minding our own business.
It is ironic to compare this article, with its panegyric on the Victorians, with the hand-wringing self-criticism regarding the guilty pleasure of enjoying Flashman, that arch-Victorian, which appeared in Unherd just a few days ago.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago

I can’t stand the phrase ‘speaking truth to power’ made famous by Meghan Markle who initially had a lot of power and spoke very little truth. Her power has waned without a corresponding increase in truth. To me, it seems incredibly arrogant believing one is in possession of the truth, but then I was raised to believe truth is an aspect of God and have read Dante who has the arrogant punished by blindness. The arrogant have closed minds as do those who believe they know the truth.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Meghan Markle is only famous for making herself infamous. Speaking truth to power was quite literally the creation of the Quakers, who wrote a pamphlet about it in 1955.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago

Thank you, I didn’t know that. The woke have laid claim to it. It has become a rallying call for SJWs. Maybe the Quakers did have some access to truth. It is possible some were not driven by envy, greed, resentment or suffering from prelest and were willing to make sacrifices. The truth in the NT is generally acknowledged by spiritual leaders of all denominations.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

She’s also famous for being “economical with the actualite” as Alan Clarke once put it.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago

Thank you, I didn’t know that. The woke have laid claim to it. It has become a rallying call for SJWs. Maybe the Quakers did have some access to truth. It is possible some were not driven by envy, greed, resentment or suffering from prelest and were willing to make sacrifices. The truth in the NT is generally acknowledged by spiritual leaders of all denominations.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

She’s also famous for being “economical with the actualite” as Alan Clarke once put it.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Meghan Markle is only famous for making herself infamous. Speaking truth to power was quite literally the creation of the Quakers, who wrote a pamphlet about it in 1955.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago

I can’t stand the phrase ‘speaking truth to power’ made famous by Meghan Markle who initially had a lot of power and spoke very little truth. Her power has waned without a corresponding increase in truth. To me, it seems incredibly arrogant believing one is in possession of the truth, but then I was raised to believe truth is an aspect of God and have read Dante who has the arrogant punished by blindness. The arrogant have closed minds as do those who believe they know the truth.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
Lyn N
Lyn N
1 year ago

On growth, on housing, I agree with him.

On the choice between Net Zero v IS v CCP AI – clearly the most desirable is net zero which is why it was chosen though the reality will almost certainly be a combination of the three. The key point being that no single outcome is achievable if it generates too much resistance that cannot be overcome.

On the renewal of Christianity, I agree and, to some extent this is happening through the growth of a type of cultural religious naturalism, not unlinked to net zero.

The reality though is that net zero fails if it causes too much pain and resentment.

But this is the most important part to me: “vast collective displacement activity. Notably, it’s often a delivery mechanism for resource competition, for example in universities where student numbers are ever-rising even as paid positions shrink, a pinch that “brings out the worst in people”. So much of what looks like an unhinged new ideology is actually the brutal office politics pursued by too many academics competing for too few paid positions? “Yes,” he says, “and maybe there’s some way to get people to be nicer to one another in a world of limited resources. But we never seem to be even able to talk about that.”

Education – it must be personalised so that people are deeply and intrinsically dedicated to the gifts they have been given and therefore contentedly productive – by choice, not external reward.

Education must change radically.

On transhumanism…well we can’t have everything, can we. We all have to have things to argue about.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 year ago
Reply to  Lyn N

“Contentedly Productive” is Utopian, in other words, not realistic. Increased productivity isn’t something human beings can manage without incentives, especially those only able to get boring and/or unpleasant jobs.

Last edited 1 year ago by Deb Grant
Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 year ago
Reply to  Lyn N

“Contentedly Productive” is Utopian, in other words, not realistic. Increased productivity isn’t something human beings can manage without incentives, especially those only able to get boring and/or unpleasant jobs.

Last edited 1 year ago by Deb Grant
Lyn N
Lyn N
1 year ago

On growth, on housing, I agree with him.

On the choice between Net Zero v IS v CCP AI – clearly the most desirable is net zero which is why it was chosen though the reality will almost certainly be a combination of the three. The key point being that no single outcome is achievable if it generates too much resistance that cannot be overcome.

On the renewal of Christianity, I agree and, to some extent this is happening through the growth of a type of cultural religious naturalism, not unlinked to net zero.

The reality though is that net zero fails if it causes too much pain and resentment.

But this is the most important part to me: “vast collective displacement activity. Notably, it’s often a delivery mechanism for resource competition, for example in universities where student numbers are ever-rising even as paid positions shrink, a pinch that “brings out the worst in people”. So much of what looks like an unhinged new ideology is actually the brutal office politics pursued by too many academics competing for too few paid positions? “Yes,” he says, “and maybe there’s some way to get people to be nicer to one another in a world of limited resources. But we never seem to be even able to talk about that.”

Education – it must be personalised so that people are deeply and intrinsically dedicated to the gifts they have been given and therefore contentedly productive – by choice, not external reward.

Education must change radically.

On transhumanism…well we can’t have everything, can we. We all have to have things to argue about.

jonausten@hotmail.co.uk jonausten@hotmail.co.uk
jonausten@hotmail.co.uk jonausten@hotmail.co.uk
1 year ago

He doesn’t seem to understand that we cannot have eternal growth on a finite planet. Nature is real and we rely on nature. The UK expanded, with the help of religion, to expand into an empty word ready to be exploited. The US has taken advantage of this for the last 2 centuries, but now we’re full as a planet. 8 billion people. We have to stop with the growth and build quality not quantity. Tech can still grow, but we need to stop polluting and destroying our greatest resource, the natural world, which has evolved perfectly until we came along.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
1 year ago

We can have eternal growth. This left wing claim doesn’t become true through repetition. “Growth” here just means an increase in the value of all goods and services we produce and sell to each other. It doesn’t automatically imply population growth. There is no reason that can’t continue indefinitely through a combination of better technology, recycling, better resource extraction techniques and ultimately things like asteroid mining (if it should ever be necessary).
But even if we assume endless population growth instead of stable population+tech driven growth, so what? Most of the world is still empty. The idea that it’s full is just an assertion, it’s not backed by anything real. Nobody has any idea how many people could live on Earth even assuming high environmental standards. And that’s before we think about colonizing other planets!

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

How ‘bout you start with yourself and lead by example?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Self-immolation perhaps?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Self-immolation perhaps?

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
1 year ago

We can have eternal growth. This left wing claim doesn’t become true through repetition. “Growth” here just means an increase in the value of all goods and services we produce and sell to each other. It doesn’t automatically imply population growth. There is no reason that can’t continue indefinitely through a combination of better technology, recycling, better resource extraction techniques and ultimately things like asteroid mining (if it should ever be necessary).
But even if we assume endless population growth instead of stable population+tech driven growth, so what? Most of the world is still empty. The idea that it’s full is just an assertion, it’s not backed by anything real. Nobody has any idea how many people could live on Earth even assuming high environmental standards. And that’s before we think about colonizing other planets!

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

How ‘bout you start with yourself and lead by example?

jonausten@hotmail.co.uk jonausten@hotmail.co.uk
jonausten@hotmail.co.uk jonausten@hotmail.co.uk
1 year ago

He doesn’t seem to understand that we cannot have eternal growth on a finite planet. Nature is real and we rely on nature. The UK expanded, with the help of religion, to expand into an empty word ready to be exploited. The US has taken advantage of this for the last 2 centuries, but now we’re full as a planet. 8 billion people. We have to stop with the growth and build quality not quantity. Tech can still grow, but we need to stop polluting and destroying our greatest resource, the natural world, which has evolved perfectly until we came along.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago

I put off reading it till now – I knew the article would be painful to try to take in, and I suppose a couple reads, even notes taken, would be needed to really comment, but why bother – I got the feel of it. At each point I crunched the paragraph into a gist of something, and like the scale of Peer Gynt; came up with the mid range balance. Melt it down is my decision.

(Peer Gynt found at the end of life the one with the scale weighs your life, all the good and bad – the evil go to hell, the good to heaven, and the vast majority of people are neither, they are in the range of fully neither one or the other, and so their soul is melted down into the masses of the others neither here or there, and a new soul from that blending is set out into the world again to see what they become by life – and so it continues…)

Theil is not good enough – if he is good at all I could not find it, nor evil enough, to go to either reward. He is just grim and wearying. What he says is good is not convincing, what he says is wrong seems to miss the real issue. I got an overall dark feel from what Mary says Theil is about. Not at all uplifting – the world made into his ideals is as dark as the one made into what he disdains. No uplifting at all – just what shade of grey – dark gray? Light gray? No sunlit uplands in his imagining, no good and evil to fight for and against, just a better or badder, a correct and incorrect. A dreary cosmology, and it gives off a dreary soul aura

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago

I put off reading it till now – I knew the article would be painful to try to take in, and I suppose a couple reads, even notes taken, would be needed to really comment, but why bother – I got the feel of it. At each point I crunched the paragraph into a gist of something, and like the scale of Peer Gynt; came up with the mid range balance. Melt it down is my decision.

(Peer Gynt found at the end of life the one with the scale weighs your life, all the good and bad – the evil go to hell, the good to heaven, and the vast majority of people are neither, they are in the range of fully neither one or the other, and so their soul is melted down into the masses of the others neither here or there, and a new soul from that blending is set out into the world again to see what they become by life – and so it continues…)

Theil is not good enough – if he is good at all I could not find it, nor evil enough, to go to either reward. He is just grim and wearying. What he says is good is not convincing, what he says is wrong seems to miss the real issue. I got an overall dark feel from what Mary says Theil is about. Not at all uplifting – the world made into his ideals is as dark as the one made into what he disdains. No uplifting at all – just what shade of grey – dark gray? Light gray? No sunlit uplands in his imagining, no good and evil to fight for and against, just a better or badder, a correct and incorrect. A dreary cosmology, and it gives off a dreary soul aura

Annest John
Annest John
1 year ago

Loving the Lorenzo de’ Medici comparison (although I don’t see PT as a particularly magnetic character). The parallels between the shift towards oligarchy in the Renaissance city states and the PayPal Mafia of Silicon Valley 500 years later are undeniable.

Despite the Renaissance heralding the end of the feudalism, Silicon Valley is heralding a return to a different form of feudalism. Assessment of PT (and his coterie) as a reversion to historic norm is spot on.

I’m firmly in camp “malign plutocrat” but I’m constantly surprised by number of occupants in camp “Who?”. Whilst it seems wise not to supply some extremists with the oxygen of publicity, surely the opposite must be true of characters such as Peter Thiel? Denial is definitely dangerous, as is distraction; technological progression certainly is an effective smokescreen for economic decline.
As much as it saddens (and occasionally terrifies) me to witness the demise of democracy I do accept that we may well be on the path towards opting for the lesser of two evils. Resistance is not futile.

Annest John
Annest John
1 year ago

Loving the Lorenzo de’ Medici comparison (although I don’t see PT as a particularly magnetic character). The parallels between the shift towards oligarchy in the Renaissance city states and the PayPal Mafia of Silicon Valley 500 years later are undeniable.

Despite the Renaissance heralding the end of the feudalism, Silicon Valley is heralding a return to a different form of feudalism. Assessment of PT (and his coterie) as a reversion to historic norm is spot on.

I’m firmly in camp “malign plutocrat” but I’m constantly surprised by number of occupants in camp “Who?”. Whilst it seems wise not to supply some extremists with the oxygen of publicity, surely the opposite must be true of characters such as Peter Thiel? Denial is definitely dangerous, as is distraction; technological progression certainly is an effective smokescreen for economic decline.
As much as it saddens (and occasionally terrifies) me to witness the demise of democracy I do accept that we may well be on the path towards opting for the lesser of two evils. Resistance is not futile.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

!!

Last edited 1 year ago by polidori redux
Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 year ago

Interesting article. Thank you.

Seth Edenbaum
Seth Edenbaum
1 year ago

You make me wonder if perhaps Thiel’s right that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

Seth Edenbaum
Seth Edenbaum
1 year ago

You make me wonder if perhaps Thiel’s right that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 year ago

Another dollar store Bond villain with a daddy complex. His support for Trump and that swivel eyed loon Masters suggests that maybe he should keep his trap shut about politics.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

“…suggests that maybe he should keep his trap shut about politics”.
Why more than you?
If you have reason to disagree with him, then explain, but if all you can do is mouth-off, then perhaps you should restrict yourself to Twitter and The Guardian.

Last edited 1 year ago by polidori redux
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

“Much may be made of a Scotchman, if he be caught young.”
Mr Mc Neil all too obviously wasn’t caught young! Sadly.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

“Much may be made of a Scotchman, if he be caught young.”
Mr Mc Neil all too obviously wasn’t caught young! Sadly.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

“…suggests that maybe he should keep his trap shut about politics”.
Why more than you?
If you have reason to disagree with him, then explain, but if all you can do is mouth-off, then perhaps you should restrict yourself to Twitter and The Guardian.

Last edited 1 year ago by polidori redux
Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 year ago

Another dollar store Bond villain with a daddy complex. His support for Trump and that swivel eyed loon Masters suggests that maybe he should keep his trap shut about politics.