Marx Andreessen

In a series of rhapsodic tweets, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen imagines a world in which robots take over all productive labor:

All human time, labor, energy, ambition, and goals reorient to the intangibles: the big questions, the deep needs. Human nature expresses itself fully, for the first time in history. Without physical need constraints, we will be whoever we want to be. The main fields of human endeavor will be culture, arts, sciences, creativity, philosophy, experimentation, exploration, adventure. Rather than nothing to do, we would have everything to do: curiosity, artistic and scientific creativity, new forms of status seeking. Imagine six, or 10, billion people doing nothing but arts and sciences, culture and exploring and learning. What a world that would be.

What a world, indeed. It would, in fact, be precisely the world that Karl Marx dreamed about, where “nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wished.” Marx, too, believed that modern production technology would be instrumental in liberating people from the narrowness of traditional jobs, freeing human nature to express itself fully for the first time in history.

We know the process by which Marx saw his utopia of self-actualization come into being. I wonder how Andreessen would go about making his utopia operational. Would he begin by distributing his own wealth to the masses?

10 Comments

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10 Responses to Marx Andreessen

  1. Tom Panelas

    I can’t wait. We’ll “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner . . .” If I may, however, I’ll skip the cattle rearing and go straight to the after-dinner polemics.

  2. That’s funny. When I was a kid learning how to program at the age of 14, I had a similar dream for computing. I got my first digital red LED watch and I thought about how soon it would be for computers to be small enough to replace slide rules and how we would be free once and for all from the dreariness of computing. Because that’s what we used to call arithmetic. I read Bartleby The Scrivener and realized the same would be true of typewriting and carbon paper. And we could liberate all of the accountants in the world from their tedium because there is nothing an accountant writes that can’t be more accurately and quickly done by a computer.

    I kept up with that hope over the years, expecting that any day now, the liberation of mankind was at hand. What I soon realized was a kind of Boyle’s Law of Computing. The vacuum of effort provided by computing is filled with more vacuous computing. There was no greater example of this than the billions of dollars spent fixing the Y2K bug. I could hardly imagine it – but it happened, instead of people wanting to live away from the city, freed of modern drudgery by the computer, people wanted more computer jobs computing the ridiculous. And people around the world developed economies of meta-jobs hyping computing and making them more and more central to our lives at lower rates of discipline and dedication than I had as a kid programming Hammurabi on an IMSAI 8080.

    So now they want it for robots, eh? There will be a Mark Hurd or robotics in the future. Of that you can be sure. But who is the great poet we have generated who might have been an accountant, freed from that necessity by the Oracle of today? Who sings better than Ella Fitzgerald because the arts and literature instruction has gotten so much better in our schools because of the labor saved by computing? Even in all the great advances in CGI, what have we to show for it but motion picture derivatives of all the comic books of the 50s? Godzilla is still just Godzilla, not great art.

    Then again. If we were so smart about such things to begin with, perhaps we wouldn’t expect our dreams of the future to be predicted by a computer nerd.

  3. Kevin

    So, does that mean that Mark will be buying me dinner and a house and clothing my family while I get work on my artistic endeavors?

  4. As automation replaces jobs, the money created by automation moves to those who hold the capital, leaving the rest of us to ponder the significant mysteries, including: “How the hell am I going to eat tonight?”

    We seem headed for a kind of economic dystopia, yet the predictions of The Coming Star Trek-Style Utopia keep growing grander.

    An yes, this is my surprised look.

  5. Brad

    Yes, we wouldn’t want to liberate anyone from traditional labor jobs. Wouldn’t want to liberate anyone from the traditional surgeries, arthritic agony, and compromised lifestyles that attend such prolonged types of work. Wouldn’t want these people to graduate into their golden years without having first spent every nickel of their body’s inherent robustness on the job. Wouldn’t want anyone to reach 58 yrs old without a considerably diminished or hobbled gait. On the other hand, my pops did it and so did his pops and they seemed to do….

    Okay I guess.

    Or maybe they just weren’t complainers.

  6. This resembles Valerie Solanas program quite a bit :

    “Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex. ”

    However current situation is more in line with 1972 limits to growth “standard run” than anything else, together with a peak in dissonance and Omerta.

    Dissonance between the possible and wishes, appearing clearly on below for instance :
    http://iiscn.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/jlliquidsworld.jpg

  7. michael metz

    Sounds like Andreessen’s been reading Fukuyama’s End of History and the Last Man.

  8. Nick

    “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner . . .”

    But when do we code? The lunch hour, maybe?

  9. VanStranden

    One of the problems of capitalism is that people who have made a lot of money are often mistaken for visionaries. You’d expect somebody so rich being able to take some days off every now and then, read some books and add something to the world with more depth than this sugar-crusted one-dimensional techno-babble.

    Most western middle-class people could probably already work significantly less if they were willing to do with a little less luxury. So why don’t they? Probably human nature is more complex than Mr. Andreessen wants us to believe it is.

  10. Leif

    Brad- See TC/Writer’s comment. I don’t think anyone’s against that utopia, we’re all just suspicious of the means needed to get to that UTOPIA AT THE END OF HISTORY. Like some guy said, its easier to imagine the apocalypse (or human-free labor) than the end of Capitalism.