PODCAST: America Needs More Techno-Optimism (Andreesen Horowitz, March 13, 2024, American Dynamism Summit)

In this fireside chat from the American Dynamism Summit, a16z Cofounder and General Partner Marc Andreessen sits down with economist, podcaster, and polymath Tyler Cowen to discuss the state of innovation in America, from recent AI advances to growing support for nuclear power. They’ll explain why the future many people claim to want — a better economy, better quality of life, and a safer world — is only possible if America leads. […]

Tyler: Now, how will AI make our world different five years from now? What’s the most surprising way in which it will be different?

Marc: Yeah, so there’s a great kind of breakdown on adoption of new technology that the science fiction author, Douglas Adams, wrote about years ago. He says any new technology is received differently by three different groups of people. If you’re below the age of 15, it’s just the way things have always been. If you’re between the ages of 15 and 35, it’s really cool and you might be able to get a job doing it. If you’re above the age of 35, it’s unholy and against the order of society and will destroy everything. AI, I think, so far is living up to that framework.

What I would like to tell you is AI is gonna, you know, be completely transformative for education. I believe that it will. Having said that, I did recently roll out ChatGPT to my eight-year-old. And, you know, I was, like, very, very proud of myself because I was like, “Wow, this is just gonna be such a great educational resource for him.” And I felt like, you know, Prometheus bringing fire down from the mountain to my child. And I installed it on his laptop and said, you know, “Son, you know, this is the thing that you can talk to any time, and it will answer any question you have.” And he said, “Yeah.” I said, “No, this is, like, a big deal that answers questions.” He’s like, “Well, what else would you use a computer for?” And I was like, “Oh, God, I’m getting old.”

So, I actually think there’s a pretty good prospect that, like, kids are just gonna, like, pick this up and run with it. I actually think that’s already happening, right? ChatGPT is fully out, you know, and barred and banging all these other things. And so, I think, you know, kids are gonna grow up with basically…you know, you could use various terms, assistant friend, coach, mentor, you know, tutor, but, you know, kids are gonna grow up in sort of this amazing kind of back-and-forth relationship with AI. And any time a kid is interested in something, if there’s not, you know, a teacher who can help with something or they don’t have a friend who’s interested in the same thing, they’ll be able to explore all kinds of ideas. And so I think it will be great for that.

You know, I think it’s, obviously, gonna be totally transformative and feels like warfare and you already see that. You know, the concern, quite honestly, I actually wrote an essay a while ago on sort of why AI won’t destroy all the jobs, and the sort of the short version of it is because it’s illegal to do that because so many jobs in the modern economy require licensing and are regulated. And so, you know, I think the concern would be that there’s just so much, sort of, glue in the system now that prevents change and it’ll be very easy to sort of not have AI healthcare or, you know, AI education or whatever because, literally, some combination of, like, you know, doctor licensing, teacher unions and so forth will basically outlaw it. And so I think that’s the risk.