At the beginning of Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future, Peter Thiel writes:

Whenever I interview someone for a job, I like to ask this question: "What important truth do very few people agree with you on?"

Can someone explain what was Peter's answer to this?

  • 1
    I’m voting to close this question because it is not about literature. Jun 4, 2020 at 14:23
  • 2
    The help center says, "We interpet ‘literature’ in a broad sense" so I think this is fine here -- a good literary answer would examine Thiel's rhetoric here (why a job interview?) as well as the literal meaning of the passage. Jun 4, 2020 at 14:53
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    Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. What exactly do you want to know? The meaning of the question "What important truth do very few people agree with you on?"? Or the answer to the question "What important truth do very few people agree with you on?"? Or something else?
    – Tsundoku
    Jun 4, 2020 at 20:56
  • I wanted to understand what is Peter's answer to the question in the book. He mentions on the very same page that his answer is revealed in the end. I am not able to spot the same. I assume that there is an interpretation involved to understand his answer to the question. Seeking help on getting an explanation to the answer (Peter's answer) to this question.
    – Tapan Jain
    Jun 5, 2020 at 4:11

1 Answer 1


In the same chapter, Peter Thiel describes the question "What important truth do very few people agree with you on?" as a "contrarian question" and adds that

A good answer takes the following form: "Most people believe in x, but the truth is the opposite of x."

He then goes on to define two types of progress: horizontal or extensive progress versus vertical or intensive progress. Horizontal progress takes things that already work somewhere and makes them work everywhere; according to Thiel, this is what globalisation does. Vertical progress is technology or, more precisely, the invention of new technology. Horizontal progress takes the world from 1 to n (e.g. you have a typewriter and mass-produce it), while technology takes the world from 0 to 1 (e.g. you have a typewriter and you invent a word processor).

With this in mind, it is possible to understand Thiel's own answer, which he also explains in the first chapter:

My own answer to the contrarian question is that most people think the future of the world will be defined by globalization, but the truth is that technology matters more.

You can see how it takes the form described earlier in the chapter: "Most people believe x" (x = "the future of the world will be defined by globalization"), "but the truth is the opposite of x" (the opposite of x is "technology matters more"). However, technology is not the opposite of globalisation. In fact. a few paragraphs above his own answer, Thiel writes,

Because globalisation and technology are different modes of progress, it's possible to have both, either, or neither at the same time.

Different doesn't mean "opposite".

  • Thank you so much! This is indeed wonderfully explained :)
    – Tapan Jain
    Jun 13, 2020 at 11:49

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