Q&A with Marc Andreessen on his “It’s Time to Build” essay, techno-optimism, Clubhouse and Substack’s potential, “Augmented Intelligence”, crypto, and more (Noah Smith/Noahpinion)

qa andreessen time build clubhouse substack

Marc Andreessen should need no introduction, but I’ll do one anyway. He helped code the first widely used graphical web browser, Mosaic, which as I see it makes him one of the inventors of the internet. He co-founded Netscape and various other companies. He also co-founded the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (with Ben Horowitz), also known as A16Z, one of the country’s largest VC firms. Recently he has launched a media publication called Future, where he occasionally writes his thoughts.

Marc has been a sort of hero of mine ever since I was a teenager, when Netscape Navigator felt like it opened up the world. I came out to California in part to meet people like him. Now we know each other well, and he’s a subscriber to my blog! The thing I always like about talking to Marc is how he combines relentless optimism with the concrete knowledge to back up that optimism — both knowledge of specific details and a broad understanding of various schools of thought. Lots of people will tell you the future holds amazing possibilities; Marc will tell you exactly what those possibilities are, and why they’re possible.

In the interview that follows, I sent Marc a list of ten questions about technology and the future — about automation, U.S. institutions, social media, competition from China, crypto, the future of the VC industry, and more.

The 15 months since I wrote It’s Time To Build have been dominated by three big events: the catastrophe of COVID, the systematic failure of virtually all public sector entities around the world (the formerly high functioning Asian nations are failing to vaccinate quickly), and the remarkable success of the private sector and in particular the American technology industry in helping us all get through this pandemic in far better collective shape that we had any right to expect. (See my new essay Technology Saves The World.)

So the good news is that, notwithstanding the apparent chronic collapse of state capacity virtually everywhere in our time, the private sector can and does deliver even under considerable duress, and even when much of our political system is devoted to stifling it with regulatory handcuffs and damaging it with misguided policies.

Now, God knows there is still a lot to build. For starters, most of our country, as well as most of the world, does not yet have the remarkably advanced standard of living that the elite readers of this interview have come to expect. Consider the three primary markers of the American Dream, or more generally middle class success — housing, education, and health care. You have written at length on how all three of these success markers seem further and further out of reach for many regular people. I think — and you would agree? — that these three deficits are not only causing problems for how people live and how the economy functions, but are fouling our politics quite dramatically.

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