ds106 - Saying Things

Figuring Things Out – The Techno-Optimist Manifesto

This week I read The Techno-Optimist Manifesto by Marc Andreessen. From the first line – “We are being lied to” – I had an issue with the tone of the article. I agreed with the ideas presented but the entire thing came off as pretentious (maybe that is just the tone of a manifesto?). In the manifesto, Andreessen breaks down the ideas of Techno-Optimism, of which there is a wide range. He goes through everything from the use of technology throughout history to the general idea of capitalism and the free market. He throws in several philosophers and theorists (Ray Kurzweil, Paul Collier, Friedrich Hayek, and interestingly, Andy Warhol, to name a few) and brief discussions of their ideas, sometimes with quotes. 

My other issue is that he provides very little support for some of his claims. For example, he says “Per-capita US carbon emissions are lower now than they were 100 years ago, even without nuclear power.” He does not state where this information came from. It was hard to find any support for this online, although a few sources agreed. Besides, even if the US carbon emissions are lower, what about the rest of the world?

In general, I agreed with most of his messages but struggled with reading the manifesto otherwise. I think that we should look at AI in a much more positive light, but that light has to come from something other than speculation, which a lot of this is.

One comment on “Figuring Things Out – The Techno-Optimist Manifesto

  1. That line about per-capita carbon emissions stuck out to me too. Does it matter to the environment how many people are putting CO2 into the atmosphere? If we have three times as many people and they’re only producing twice as much carbon (for argument’s sake), that’s not actually going to make anything better. It’s almost like we are being lied to.

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