Peter Thiel is Silicon Valley’s homegrown Cassandra. He warned for years that the big tech companies were arrogant and clueless and less good for mankind than they believed.
Comeuppance, the billionaire investor warned, was coming.
Trouble has now arrived. Unfortunately for Mr. Thiel, the storm is centered on Facebook, whose board he has been a member of practically since its founding. The social network, which billed itself as bringing democracy and enlightenment to the world, was used by the Russians to subvert democracy and sow confusion in the United States.
Even people paid to see the future didn’t see that one coming.
“The board’s role is to help think about some of the medium- and longer-term problems coming around the corner,” Mr. Thiel said. “We were far from perfect in doing that.”
Mr. Thiel, 50, is at the center of nearly every issue that roils Silicon Valley, ranging from the tech elite’s fascination with New Zealand hideaways (Mr. Thiel obtained New Zealand citizenship ) to Bitcoin (he is a major investor) to the problems of herd thinking (he is moving from San Francisco to Los Angeles to escape it) to the evolving role of content on the internet (he has been exploring the creation of a media company that would outflank Breitbart and Fox for a younger audience).
Two subjects are currently overwhelming everything else: President Trump, whom Mr. Thiel aggressively backed for president, and Facebook, whose core mission is being called into question in the wake of the Russian revelations. In a typical Thiel move — he tends to run toward controversy even as his Silicon Valley peers try to make themselves inconspicuous — he agreed, in a rare interview, to talk about both.