Andreessen: AI manifesto due to “crazy hysterics” in DC

Marc Andressen

Marc Andreessen at the Fortune Global Forum – on November 3, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Kimberly White/Getty Images for Fortune

The world has gone hysterical about AI and it needed to be fixed. That’s why billionaire VC and occasional essayist Marc Andreessen wrote his 7,000-word manifesto Why AI Will Save the World. That’s what Andreessen told tech great Ben Thompson on the Stratechery podcast.

Andreessen co-founded Netscape (the first version of the Internet) and is now co-founder and managing partner of Andreessen Horowitz, the influential Silicon Valley venture capital firm. He is also known for publishing essays on his blog, most famous this year being his AI manifesto, in which he claims that AI could usher humanity into a material utopia that neither Adam Smith nor Karl Marx ever dared to dream, complete with robot personal assistants and endless Love.

On Thursday, the billionaire told Stratecherys Thompson that he had to write the manifesto to teach hysterics who think AI could harm the world.

In my view it’s just this kind of non-technical, non-scientific, somewhat hysterical kind of thing that’s going on, he told Thompson. By the way, in some ways it actually has interesting psychological similarities to some of the COVID hysterias. So there’s just a lot of hysterical craziness going on right now.

Andreessen said the current anti-AI movement of people who are wary of embracing technology out of fear of its existential threat to creativity, jobs, or humanity itself, is simply the widespread freakout of our era. He said every era in history has its hysteria of the day, including the Salem witch trials, the rise of Nazism in Germany and the communist revolution in Russia.

The venture capitalist, who said his only request for the interview was not to touch on partisan politics, went on to say he had to step in with the manifesto because anti-AI hysteria was engulfing decision-making.

The hysterical freakout has arrived in Washington, and it has arrived in Brussels, and it’s arriving in the capitals of countries around the world right now, Andreessen said. Hysterics have a much louder voice than people who are calmer and perhaps a little more dispassionate about things. The demands for regulation and laws under conditions of hysteria almost got to the point where I felt like I couldn’t let this continue.

There is currently no regulation on AI, although the EU has suggested a legal framework in its proposed AI law. Notably, however, OpenAI’s own CEO Sam Altman testified before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee in May urging Congress to regulate the new technology and saying that OpenAI wanted to cooperate with the government to create laws on the AI.

And as much as Andreessen highlights a hysteria about the dangers of AI, many voices have employed high-flying rhetoric on the other side of the debate, taking extreme positions such as that AI is the birth of a superhuman or that it could shut down for humanity.

Elon Musk has actually voiced both, saying that AI could both lead to the destruction of civilization, and it could create an era of plenty.

For his part, Wedbush tech analyst Dan Ives calls it the fourth industrial revolution, and he’s still completely up in the air about how it will transform daily life, but odds are it will be pervasive.

Andreessen has a famous resume, of course. His 2011 essay, Why Software is Eating the World, is considered prescient by techies for seeing that software would completely disrupt business and that traditional companies needed to incorporate it to stay competitive. He also described the software as a democratizing tool that would lower barriers for startups to launch. These arguments, made over a decade ago, have largely come true, as evidenced by Amazon’s growth to become a dominant retailer on the scale of Walmart.

Now Andreessen is saying that people are too quick to get out of the depths and should see cool new technology just like this.

People who are freaking out about AI haven’t even bothered to stop and basically try to make the positive case, and immediately thought everything was going to be negative, Andreessen said. The positive case of AI is very simple which is number one is just that AI is a technical development.

It may be the most powerful piece of technology ever invented, he added, but it’s still just a technical development that responds to suggestions.

This is a main topic of discussion in Andreessen’s manifesto, expressed succinctly as follows: AI no WantHe has not goalsdoes not want kill youbecause it isn’t I live. And AI is a machine that won’t come to life any more than your toaster oven will.

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