Marc Andreessen says we’re in a ‘freeze-frame moment’ with A.I.—and has advice for young people

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Marc Andreessen made waves earlier this month by writing a much-discussed manifesto on why artificial intelligence won’t destroy humanity but rather make the world profoundly better. A cofounder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, he also wrote the influential 2011 essay “Why Software Is Eating the World.”  

Andreessen argues that thanks to A.I., “productivity growth throughout the economy will accelerate dramatically, driving economic growth, creation of new industries, creation of new jobs, and wage growth, and resulting in a new era of heightened material prosperity across the planet.” 

This week, on the Lex Fridman Podcast, he offered advice to young people who want to stand out in what he describes in this “freeze-frame moment” with A.I.— where tools like ChatGPT and GPT-4 are suddenly available and “everybody is kind of staring at them wondering what to do.” 

He noted that we’re now living in a world where vast amounts of information are at our fingertips and, with A.I. tools, “your ability both to learn and to produce” is dramatically higher than in the past. Such tools should allow for more “hyper-productive people” to emerge, he said. For example, there’s no reason authors and musicians couldn’t churn out far more books or songs than was customary in the past. 

There’s little doubt that A.I. tools can make people more productive. Ethan Mollick, a management professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, ran an experiment earlier this year to see how much of a business project could be completed in 30 minutes by simply prompting A.I. tools like ChatGPT and letting them do the work. He called the results “superhuman.”

Of course, hyper-productive people made their mark in the world long before A.I. came along. Andreessen gave a few examples, including Pliny the Elder, a prodigious author of the Roman Empire, and in today’s world Richard Posner, a former federal judge who has written dozen of books on a dizzying array of topics.

Asked why we aren’t already seeing many more such individuals given today’s technology, Andreessen replied, “I think it might be distraction. It’s so easy to just sit and consume that I think people get distracted from production.”

He didn’t elaborate, but it’s no secret that social media, video games, and streaming and traditional media are competing for our time and attention like never before. Andreessen suggested that ambitious young people today could easily distinguish themselves by minimizing such distractions and maximizing productivity with the “spectacular” tools now readily available. 

“If you wanted to as young person, if you really wanted to stand out,” he said, “you could get on a hyper-productivity curve very early on.” 

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