If you watch Thiel's presentations going back over a decade, you'll see something different. These are all public but it takes about a hundred hours or more so most people have jumped around, looking for the gist of what is going on, such as all these journalists attempting to psychoanalyze Thiel, with the obvious motives that first: something weird needs to be explained (100 journalists at the recent press conference!) and less honorably second: he has to be vilified as a prominent opposing political entity external to their tribe.
This is unfortunate because the truth is far more interesting albeit very difficult to explain in a way that would impart an understanding. It does not get picked up on because I believe it takes slow-thinking, it takes some reflection to absorb what is being suggested. Reading old books helps. I think somebody said once "the past is a foreign land, they do things differently there", and that intuition is of use here. Darwin, Gibbons, Girard, Spengler and many others, the basic theme is 'this basic reality you think you have? Well, it ain't so. Here is a deeper level'. In present day parlance this is called 'redpilling' by reactionaries but that should not put you off this, this is an old way to give knowledge by undermining former assumptions (the Christians call this 'revelation' I believe) and not the sole providence of a single political sect.
I see a disturbing picture emerging I call the Wolfian World after Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun. If there is a shortcut to understanding, then that book is it. Ancient institutions are crumbling due to age and corruption. The frame of reference the narrator has is bizarrely warped as things familiar are perceived with alien eyes. The past is without context. The accretion of crud is literally geological. The spirit of renewal, has evaporated. The keyholders are creatures of mimicry going through the motions. Many parts are vestigial limbs and do not know it. The peripheral shrinks literally and spiritually as the World turns inward, navel gazing instead of looking to new frontiers. Enemies, ancient and modern, are at the gates. What is more, the gates are abandoned, forgotten because the peoples who manned them no longer understood their purpose and left their posts generations ago. It is unclear who is controlled and who are the controllers. In Christopher Nolan's Interstellar humanity experiences not just empty future prospects but also a diminished expectation of the past. We did not really go to the moon in that future, that is very telling of human nature's chronocentricism - They cannot even imagine their past, let alone their future.
In short; our World is becoming like the Wolfian World. It is likely that we are on the threshold of sliding into a new Dark Age. In order to fight back one would need to utterly readjust his thinking and expectations of the future. The people who prepare (e.g. sama) for a systems collapse, are appreciating the possibility but those kind of actions are mostly in microcosm, a self preservation instinct. A sudden shock is more immediate and so more energizing for an individual to take action, but the more likely option is actually a long steady stagnation punctuated with the occasional shock.
tldr; Thiel believes our civilization has Alzheimers.
I repeat; if you want a shortcut to Thiel's worldview in my personal opinion the best way to see that is to read The Book of the New Sun. The suggestion you might find weird, but go with me on this, is to listen to the Voyager Recordings - Symphonies of the Planets while you're reading it. It is hard to escape our inherent chronocentricism. When demands are made of our presence from moment to moment, it becomes much harder to appreciate anything outside of that. If it feels 'weird' then good, it is supposed to, you have to get out of your comfort zone. If you wanted the material specifics of the Stagnation Thiel believes is going on, then I've written about it at length in my history on HN dozens of times, some samples are included below. There is a list of statistics, attributes and artifacts a mile long that cannot be explained in any other way than we have been plateauing. We ought to anticipate that the future will be much stranger than the present, and not in a good way.
Gene Wolfe is several orders of complexity higher than the Foundation series. Its threads are tied together in ways that will blow your mind. You need to be totally, totally awake to understand what you are reading. You don't get 'clues'. You get one chance to grasp something Wolfe is telling you. It is extremely rewarding as well as intellectual.
I cannot count the number of times I had a "holy fuck" moment, Wolfe is unbelievably smart.
You know how people on Reddit and 4chan look for 'mindfuck' movies.
This book, The Book of the New Sun, is on another level. My mind changed its frame of reference about a dozen times reading it. Normally a good author manages to accomplish that once.
There is basically no way I can ruin this book for you by hyping your expectations. It is just that good.
Also; I must beg a favour so I can return one to you. You must read the book (there's two volumes of 4 books total) while listening to a piece of 'music'. The Voyager Recordings.
This is not actually music. It is what the sensors picked up on the spacecraft as they pointed their arrays at the different planets.
If you listen to this while you read the book, it'll make it much more immersive.
I know this sounds dumb as hell, but it is hard to explain. Just do it, you'll thank me later.
P.S. Your initials won't happen to be N.D would they? Foundation is his favorite book also. If so I won't hold it against you, I'm not that kind of guy, but do read and listen. It is rewarding, and important, I think. I know I somehow changed after doing this, it was as if the world had deeper textures and certain things just clicked or something. Maybe I'm a strange person on the internet, but it is worth taking a risk to find out.
Your arguments are intriguing. I was tempted to fire off half thought through replies to what initially struck me as gaping holes in logic, but am glad I did not. The more I read, the more I realize that I need to put more effort into understanding what you're really trying to say before I can begin to evaluate it.
Almost a "see it as the painter intended" moment. Anyhow, thank you for your writings, for although I don't know yet if I agree with anything you said, it's certainly exposed me to new perspectives I hadn't considered.
edit - and yes, I do promise to read the books listening to your recommendation.
I am convinced Thiel has seen a glimpse of something really important in the big picture. Events are in motion, as we can see from recent events, formerly influential stories we tell ourselves about the world appear to be flying apart.
Please tell me what your experience was when you finish your first Labour! (My email is in my profile.) :-)
Here are the specific recordings I meant, there's a few alternatives drifting about:
They themselves are remarkable, they took electromagnetic sensor data from Voyager 1 and 2’s trip past Jupiter and Saturn and then converted the radio waves into sound accessible to ears.