David Heinemeier Hansson

February 28, 2023

When prophecy fails

Remember back in November, when seemingly every pious public persona and their coteries announced final farewells on Twitter? All in the clear expectation that the service would sink any moment? Like they had seen the iceberg, and was sure – just sure! – that impact was imminent. Except, there was no iceberg, no impact, no sinking ship. The prophecy failed and the farewells were in vain.

That's not to say that Twitter was or is free of challenges. But they're mostly economic in nature. Tied to the whims of advertisers and the uncertainty of a subscription pivot. The truth is that Elon has definitively proven that it did indeed does not take 7,000 people to operate Twitter. There's reportedly less than 2,000 employees left at the company, yet the tweets have kept flowing, through both the World Cup and the Super Bowl.

Now add insult to injury for those cheering for Musk to fail: He's now once again the richest man in the world. Tesla stock has rebounded 70% since its lows in late 2022. The company may well sell an astounding 2 million cars this year. Nobody sold their Tesla because Musk posted offensive memes on Twitter, even in California.

It's hard to predict the future! Nobody knows anything! Most predictions are just wishful thinking on fancy paper!

Just recently, we've learned that yet another US agency now believes Lab Leak to be the most likely explanation for the coronavirus outbreak. Oh, and masks apparently did little to nothing to stop community spread. On top of that, America in particular is dealing with a rash of social ills stemming from the overly-aggressive and prolonged lockdowns it imposed on schools and students.

As late as early 2022, when Denmark dumped all restrictions of all kinds, there were "experts" proclaiming what a reckless, if not genocidal, strategy that was. But it wasn't. Denmark has enjoyed total freedom from covid restrictions ever since. There was no surge in hospitalizations. These prophesies failed too.

Let's not even get started on the folly of Russiagate. The point isn't that one side has had a particularly cold streak of prophesies for the past several years, but that all people on all sides are likely and liable to get it wrong on the big questions of the day. Yes, it might be frustrating that there seemingly are zero ramifications for journalists and pundits flopping it repeatedly, but use that frustration to look inward. When all these highly-credentialed people can get it so wrong for so long, what dearly-held beliefs might you sit with that aren't so?

We're living through an era of turmoil. A fourth turning. So if you're going to put on a mask, make it one that delivers a steady flow of humility. Then use that clear head to temper all these ill-conceived attempts to rid the internet of "misinformation", "disinformation", or whatever label people intent on silencing their political opponents is using these days. There was a time Facebook and Twitter would have you censored, muzzled, or even banned for discussing the lab leak theory, whether masks are efficient or not, whether vaccines protect against transmission. Those attempts delayed us all in advancing closer to the truth at the fastest pace possible.

But I get it. When it seems like we're all lost at sea on so many topics, picking a political team and sticking to it can seem like the only stable rock available. But your rock is bound to often be in the wrong place, so you should have some sympathy for those who pick another one. Then let the tide of truth submerge whatever rock the facts can swallow.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.