Marc Andreessen, a Silicon Valley investor and co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, published a recent blog post titled, ‘The Techno-Optimist Manifesto‘ in which he defends technology and capitalism as the solution to most of the world’s problems. He argues that technology is far from being the problem, but rather the solution.
Andreessen’s manifesto, written in a grand and idealistic style, is a stinging rebuke to those who worry about the social, economic and political consequences of rapid technological change, particularly the recent AI growth. The a16z co-founder argues that technological progress, driven by free markets, will inevitably lead to a better society.
“We are being lied to. We are told that technology takes our jobs, reduces our wages, increases inequality, threatens our health, ruins the environment, degrades our society, corrupts our children, impairs our humanity, threatens our future, and is ever on the verge of ruining everything,” Andreessen wrote in his manifesto.
An optimistic future
The billionaire’s optimistic view of technology seemingly ignores the challenges and concerns that come with technological progress. Typically, new problems are often created as old ones are solved. The internet, for instance, has connected us in unprecedented ways, making the impossible possible. However, it has also given rise to problems such as cybercrime and privacy nightmare.
Conversely, Andreessen believes that technology can still be used to solve most, if not all of the world’s problems as he argues that, “We believe that there is no material problem – whether created by nature or by technology – that cannot be solved with more technology.”
“We had a problem of starvation, so we invented the Green Revolution. We had a problem of darkness, so we invented electric lighting. We had a problem of cold, so we invented indoor heating. We had a problem of heat, so we invented air conditioning. We had a problem of isolation, so we invented the Internet. We had a problem of pandemics, so we invented vaccines. We have a problem of poverty, so we invent technology to create abundance. Give us a real world problem, and we can invent technology that will solve it,” wrote Andreessen.
In his manifesto, the co-author of Mosaic overlooked the important question of who can access technology and its benefits. The digital divide, which exists both within and between countries, is a major obstacle to his vision. “While not Utopian, we believe in what Brad DeLong terms “slouching toward Utopia” – doing the best fallen humanity can do, making things better as we go,” said Andreessen.
“We believe intelligence is the ultimate engine of progress. Intelligence makes everything better. Smart people and smart societies outperform less smart ones on virtually every metric we can measure,” wrote Andreessen. “Intelligence is the birthright of humanity; we should expand it as fully and broadly as we possibly can.”
Andreessen believes that intelligence is, “An upward spiral” especially as artificial intelligence increases not only machine capabilities but also that of humans. “We believe we are poised for an intelligence takeoff that will expand our capabilities to unimagined heights. We believe Artificial Intelligence is our alchemy, our Philosopher’s Stone – we are literally making sand think,” said Andreessen.
“We believe Artificial Intelligence can save lives – if we let it. Medicine, among many other fields, is in the stone age compared to what we can achieve with joined human and machine intelligence working on new cures. There are scores of common causes of death that can be fixed with AI, from car crashes to pandemics to wartime friendly fire.”
In the ‘Intelligence’ section of his manifesto, Andreessen said that slowing down the development of AI will lead to unnecessary deaths. And that if AI could have prevented deaths but was prevented from existing, those deaths are, “A form of murder.”
Not bad people, but bad ideas
Toward the end of his manifesto, Andreessen takes a strange turn by attacking concepts such as sustainability, social responsibility and safety. He claims that these concepts are part of a, “Mass demoralisation campaign” against progress. He even calls out, “Trust and safety” and, “Tech ethics” teams as “enemies”.
“Our enemies are not bad people – but rather bad ideas.”
However, the manifesto provides insight into a powerful strain of techno-utopianism, which remains popular in debates about AI safety and governance. Andreessen’s view sees technology as inherently good and regulation as inherently bad. Critics say this simple view promotes carelessness and avoids responsibility. Enthusiasts, on the other hand, claim that being hopeful drives progress, while being cautious leads to stagnation.
As technology continues to play a vital role in reshaping society, the argument about openness, control, risk, and duty remains. The “Techno-Optimist Manifesto” has made these concerns more visible as well as exposed many to the opportunities behind emerging technologies such as AI, which consumers are already embracing.