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Checking in on the intellectual giants of Silicon Valley


Venture capitalists who are Elon Musk cronies would seem to be, without exception, people for whom a diagnosis of “Dunning-Kruger” seems grossly inadequate. On foreign policy:

I’m trying to imagine what it would be like to think that the president who ended the war in Afghanistan and grounded the drones has a more “aggressive” foreign policy than George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan or Lyndon Johnson etc. etc. etc., but I’m afraid that it would require multiple lobotomies. “Donald the Dove” libertarians are some of the most willfully deluded people to ever walk the face of the Earth. Heckuva job, Quincy Institute!

How about domestic policy?

Under Uncle Joe Brandon’s recession, the GDP only grew 4.9% last quarter! And when you consider the fact that useless shitheads who lucked into and/or inherited independent wealth didn’t get another big tax cut it’s kind of a recession when you think about it.

So maybe they are Grade A morons when it comes to politics domestic or foreign, but what about Grand Theory?

The rest of it is, well … you can read it yourself, though I can’t really recommend that. The manifesto is about 5,000 words; nearly every sentence is treated as a single paragraph, which makes it feel (at best) like Andreessen just dumping a notebook in which he’s jotted down some quotes he liked and lines that came to him in the shower, or (at worst, and more often) a LinkedIn post straining for profundity. He repeats himself and over-uses italics; he quotes Nietzsche at tedious length, and also Carrie Fisher. At the end he assembles a list of “Patron Saints of Techno-Optimism,” starting with three Twitter accounts.

The basic thrust of “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto” is that technology is the key to human thriving, and that certain malign elements in society–Andreessen names “experts,” “bureaucracy,” “sustainability” and “social responsibility” as “enemies”–have convinced us otherwise. These “enemies,” who “are suffering from ressentiment” must be escorted “out of their self-imposed labyrinth of pain,” for the good of humanity, and convinced of the error of their ways. Once their path is cleared, techno-optimists can make “everyone rich, everything cheap, and everything abundant.” Eventually, “our descendents will live in the stars.” He concludes: “We owe the past, and the future. It’s time to be a Techno-Optimist. It’s time to build.”1

If that sounds particularly familiar, it may be because “It’s Time to Build” is the title of a post Andreessen wrote in April 2020, in which he offers a broadly similar, if somewhat less lofty, argument: “The problem is inertia… The problem is regulatory capture… Every step of the way, to everyone around us, we should be asking the question, what are you building?”

Well, yes, indeed. What are you building? One reason that, three and a half years later, Andreessen is reiterating that “it’s time to build” instead of writing posts called “Here’s What I Built During the Building Time I Previously Announced Was Commencing” is that Marc Andreessen has not really built much of anything. In the years since he determined that it was time to build, his fund invested tens of millions of dollars in a video-game Ponzi scheme that immiserated its players and a company that sells blockchain transaction records said to reflect ownership of ape cartoons. That’s not just not building; it’s so not-building it’s not even the opposite of building, which would be “destroying,” and has the benefit of relating to the real world in some way. It’s ”venture investing in crypto companies,” which is its own little onanistic universe, conceptually and practically unrelated to “building” entirely.

What Andreessen has been doing in lieu of building, and besides signing off on bad cryptocurrency investments, is spending a lot of time on Twitter. The key difference between “It’s Time to Build” and “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto” is that the former still sounds like an essay by a more-or-less normal V.C.–citing specific examples and evidence, explaining the steps in his thinking, diligently castigating left and right together–while the latter–quoting Nietzsche, Nick Land, and Thomas Sowell–sounds like the forum post of a guy who’s been reading some dumb shit online for the last few years. The inspiration and audience of this manifesto is the adherents and proponents of “effective accelerationism,” or “e/acc,” a Twitter community nominally centered around the promotion of unregulated, uncaring, and extremely rapid technological advancement but whose real attraction is smug own-the-libs shitposting.

There would seem to be some kind of network effect where all of these guys make each other even dumber than they already were. It’s an intellectual echo chamber with padded walls and pacifiers.

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