A16z’s Marc Andreessen speaks out against AI doomer cults

7 Jun 2023

Marc Andreessen speaking at the Fortune Global Forum 2015. Image: Stuart Isett/Fortune Global Forum (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The VC firm has been investing in various AI start-ups recently, while Andreessen’s previous predictions on the crypto sector didn’t fully pan out.

Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of VC firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) has spoken out against those raising AI concerns and argued that the technology will “save the world”.

The recent surge in AI technology has led to some groups sharing fears about the potential impact it could have on the world. In a long blog post, Andreessen argued that AI has the potential to “profoundly augment” human intelligence to solve various global problems. He also referred to those raising concerns about the dangers of AI as a “cult”.

“This cult has pulled in not just fringe characters, but also some actual industry experts and a not small number of wealthy donors – including, until recently, Sam Bankman-Fried,” Andreessen said. “And it’s developed a full panoply of cult behaviors and beliefs.”

“This cult is why there are a set of AI risk doomers who sound so extreme – it’s not that they actually have secret knowledge that make their extremism logical, it’s that they’ve whipped themselves into a frenzy and really are extremely extreme.”

Last week, a statement from the Center for AI Safety compared the threat of AI to other societal-scale risks such as “pandemics and nuclear war”. The people who signed this statement included the CEOS of leading AI companies such as Google’s DeepMind, Anthropic and ChatGPT developer OpenAI.

Other AI experts such as UCC’s Prof Barry O’Sullivan have spoken out against this “scaremongering” statement and argued that it distracts from the real issues surrounding AI technology.

Believing in AI and crypto

In his own counter to AI “doomers”, Andreessen gave a rather idealistic view of the future, where every child has their own AI tutor and every person has a personal AI assistant.

Andreessen argued that AI companies should be allowed to build AI “as fast and aggressively as they can”. He also said bigger companies should not be allowed to establish a government-protected “cartel that is insulated from market competition due to incorrect claims of AI risk”.

But Andreessen’s desire to let AI companies flourish is not surprising, as his VC firm has been investing heavily in the sector. Some of the AI start-ups that A16z has invested in include Character.AI, Hippocratic AI, Ambient.AI and Coactive.

Andreessen’s predictions have also not always been accurate, as his firm bet big on the rise of the crypto sector. The company began investing in crypto in 2013 and by the end of May 2022, Andreessen Horowitz had raised more than $7.6bn in funds to support crypto start-ups. But the sector has been hit significantly over the past year, with the collapse of FTX, Silvergate Bank and ongoing regulatory issues in the US.

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Marc Andreessen speaking at the Fortune Global Forum 2015. Image: Stuart Isett/Fortune Global Forum via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic