Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, December 9, 2023

‘AI Will Save the World’ Says Marc Andreessen 

(Phonlamai Photo/Shutterstock)

VC billionaire Marc Andreessen says the world is currently “hysterically freaking out” about artificial intelligence, and he recently wrote a 7,000-word essay to address these fears.

During the Stratechery podcast, Andreessen told host Ben Thompson that he felt compelled to write “Why AI Will Save the World” because the world had gone hysterical over A.I. and needed to be set straight. Thompson's podcast is just one of many (including those from Lex Fridman and Sam Harris) Andreessen has recently visited with his message that AI is a positive force for good.

Andreessen was a co-founder of Netscape and is now co-founder and general partner of the Silicon Valley VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. His essay explores his idea that the transformative potential of AI should be seen not as a threat but as a tool that will significantly enhance the world.

He emphasizes the scientific aspects of AI and how it is based on the application of mathematics and software that teach computers how to understand and generate knowledge in ways humans do. Andreessen asserts that AI, like any technology, is under human control, despite fears of AI systems developing into murderous robots like in movies like “The Terminator.” He likens these fears to superstition.

“My view is that the idea that AI will decide to literally kill humanity is a profound category error. AI is not a living being that has been primed by billions of years of evolution to participate in the battle for the survival of the fittest, as animals are, and as we are. It is math – code – computers, built by people, owned by people, used by people, controlled by people. The idea that it will at some point develop a mind of its own and decide that it has motivations that lead it to try to kill us is a superstitious handwave,” he wrote.

Andreessen sees AI’s potential as a “way to make everything we care about better.” He argues that AI offers an opportunity to enhance human intelligence and amplify outcomes in domains such as academic achievement, job performance, creativity, and health.

“What AI offers us is the opportunity to profoundly augment human intelligence to make all of these outcomes of intelligence – and many others, from the creation of new medicines to ways to solve climate change to technologies to reach the stars – much, much better from here,” he considers.

Examples of possible ways AI could enhance human capacities are the potential mass availability of AI tutors, AI assistants, and AI partners in professional settings, something that could lead to a surge in productivity and economic growth. Andreessen also considers AI’s potential for making the world a friendlier place and argues that AI could be a source of empathy to support humans during adversity in a sometimes-cold world.

“Talking to an empathetic AI friend really does improve their ability to handle adversity,” said Andreessen. “And AI medical chatbots are already more empathetic than their human counterparts. Rather than making the world harsher and more mechanistic, infinitely patient and sympathetic AI will make the world warmer and nicer.”

Marc Andreessen discusses his essay with colleague Martin Casado in a company podcast. (Source: Andreessen Horowitz)

The development and proliferation of AI are of the utmost importance, Andreessen asserts, likening it to innovations like electricity and microchips. He says it could be the most important invention of human civilization and embracing it is a moral obligation to ourselves, our children, and the future.

Andreessen’s essay offers an immensely optimistic view of AI, refuting those who view it as a destructive force and instead championing it as a powerful tool to address humanity’s challenges.

"Today, growing legions of engineers – many of whom are young and may have had grandparents or even great-grandparents involved in the creation of the ideas behind AI – are working to make AI a reality, against a wall of fear-mongering and doomerism that is attempting to paint them as reckless villains. I do not believe they are reckless or villains. They are heroes, every one," Andreessen wrote.

It is important to note that Andreessen Horowitz has backed 80 AI-related startups since 2013, starting with a $38 billion investment in Databricks that year. The firm has since made large investments in AI including a $27 billion investment in OpenAI in 2019, a $1 billion investment in parallel computing platform Anyscale in 2020, and a host of others.

Read Andreessen’s entire essay at this link.