Andreessen: AI could eliminate manpower or help China rule the world

Marc Andressen

Marc Andreesen, partner at Andreesen Horowitz, during the Fortune Global Forum November 3, 2015 in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

AI has inspired both frenzied panic and passion since ChatGPT exploded onto the scene in 2023. Some think it will turn the world into a utopia, while others think it spells the fate of humanity. Marc Andreessen, the billionaire co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, thinks it could go either way. On the Bio eat the world podcast on Tuesday, Andreessen discussed the possibility of AI turning the world into a jobless heaven or perhaps an authoritarian hell instead.

Andreessen, known for his occasional and sometimes prescient essays on technology, released the 7,000-word manifesto Why AI Will Save the World in June, envisioning a future where everyone has an AI personal assistant and technology helps decode the laws of nature . He expanded on his theories about him in his conversation with Vijay Pande on the podcast.

Productivity growth is the economy’s ability to produce more output with fewer inputs, which is literally the economic result of applying technology, Andreessen said on the podcast. It’s the equivalent of basically giving consumers a raise and then that purchasing power is a new demand. That new demand leads to the creation of new industries, new products, new jobs, expansion of existing industries.

In a possible ideal situation, he argued, artificial general intelligence (that is, artificial intelligence that can do everything that humans can do) would be effectively applied to the economy and its benefits would be distributed among the population. In that case, US economic growth could rise to 100% annually (up from 1.5% at present). Then the cost of goods would plummet and consumers would have a cornucopia of purchasing power.

However, there are legal barriers to this, he added. It is illegal to apply new technologies to most industries without oversight, and Andreessen said the lawyers could slow the rapid economic expansion.

The billionaire also said AI could improve inequality, because capitalism would motivate tech companies to expand into the biggest market possible, referencing Elon Musk’s secret plan for Tesla to continue expanding its consumer base by manufacturing cheaper cars. Similarly, Andreessen predicted that AI companies would seek to make the technology available to as many people as possible to maximize reach and profitability. According to him, this could improve living standards globally.

While he’s very optimistic about the future of AI, the venture capitalist has acknowledged a darker timeline. He said he fears China could use AI for world domination if the West doesn’t develop it competitively enough.

[The] The Communist Party of China has a very specific view on how to use artificial intelligence, it talks about it publicly, Andreessen said. They will hand many more authoritarian rulers the technology to basically run a perpetual authoritarian state enforced by AI.

Andreessen, who created Mosaic, one of the first widely used web browsers, said the world is at a crossroads and the West must fight to maintain democracy.

What is the future shape of the world we will live in? Will it be a free world or an authoritarian world? Andreessen asked.

The billionaire said the West needs to preserve America’s principles of freedom and democracy, and to do that it needs winning technology. AI spreading around the world may carry authoritarian or American ideals, he explained, and the United States needs to be proactive to ensure it’s the latter.

Washington’s rationale is to attack only US tech companies, Andreessen said. It’s a nice, fun game to attack yourself for a while, but if there’s this other kind of force out there, at some point, there are big decisions to be made.

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