At the recent a16z Tech Policy Summit, Axios’ Dan Primack interviewed a16z’s Marc Andreessen. If you haven’t subscribed to any of Axios’ newsletters, I highly recommend doing so. The podcast is available here, and the initial paragraphs are available below. For more transcripts, subscribe here. Or for my favorite finance podcasts of the week, subscribe here!
My Three Favorite Excerpts from Marc
1. The slow moving versus fast moving sectors of the economy
Marc: “We are looking forward into the future where if you want to send your kid to college, it is $500,000 a year…The kicker to the whole thing back to your question is the sectors where prices are crashing by definition are shrinking as a percentage of the economy and the sectors where prices are rising are growing as a percentage of the economy, and so what’s actually happening is the sectors where tech is not having a big impact are growing and will eventually be the entire economy…So TVs are going to cost $10 and healthcare is going to cost $1 million…As a consequence, the answer is we are all going to employed in healthcare and education which is actually what’s happening.”
2. Marc’s audacious claim
Marc: “So I will make maybe an audacious claim and then try to defend it. I actually have reached the point where I think that all of the ideas in tech and all of the ideas in Silicon Valley are good ideas. I don’t think there actually are bad ideas…They actually all seem to be good ideas. The reason I say that is they all seem to actually happen at some point. It’s a timing issue. It goes back to your question which is the timing is really, really hard. I’ll just give you one random example of that… The poster child for excess during the dotcom era was Pets.com, and that stupid sock puppet became an icon…It’s this idea that you could ship a fifty pound bag of dog food with online commerce…and then this company Chewy just got bought for $3 billion by Petsmart. Guess what? Online dog sales. So that works. Online pet food sales worked.”
3. Can inventors anticipate the effects of new technology? Usually no.
Marc: “There is not a lot of historical evidence that either the inventor of the new technology or anybody else can anticipate the effects very well. My favorite story…is Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, and like literally they didn’t quite know what it was going to be for, and they made a list of the use cases and applications…Music was not on the list. It was just viewed as why would you do that? Why would you listen to music in your home? And then the other was Edison’s personal number one thing which he thought was a slam dunk for market adoption was of course listening to religious sermons…And so if Edison couldn’t figure that out, it’s a stretch to say that the rest of us can…These technologies get invented and they can’t be uninvented. Jack Welch put this well one time, he just said at one point there was no steel, and then there was steel, and people either figured out what to do with steel or not. Right? You could do lots of things with steel. You could build buildings, or you could build battleships. In fact people did both and the world changed. It’s more a question of how do you adapt. It’s more a question of how do you accommodate the change and deal with the change than it is a question of trying to anticipate it.”
Bonus: Why did Marc leave Twitter for an extended period?
Marc: “It’s sort of this question of like why can we talk about some issues, like why can we talk about differential calculus and not get all angry about it. If you have different views on differential calculus than I do, I respect you and I don’t think you are a giant stupid person. But if we talk about other issues, if we talk about healthcare policy, all of a sudden everybody who has the other position from us is evil.”