The Techno-Critical Manifesto
Venture Capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z from here on out) caused quite the stir this week when it published “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto.” The ode to being ‘pro-tech’ makes flashy statements about the transformational benefits of technology and its potential future impact. It also declares that anyone cynical, critical, or fearful of tech — hey, I guess that’s me! — is “the enemy.”
I don’t have issue with “technology good.” Of course technology has had a transformational impact on society. The speed at which we progressed from hunter/gatherer cave dwellers to where we are now is thanks to all forms of technology.
What I do take issue with is labeling anyone with concerns as the enemy.
According to a16z, “Our society has been subjected to a mass demoralization campaign for six decades.” It blames varying sources, such as “sustainability, social responsibility, trust and safety, tech ethics and risk management.” In other words, if you wish to halt the forward march of technology for the acceptable reason of “let’s make sure this stuff is made with the right intention and delivers the desired outcomes,” you can get the fuck out and close the door behind you. It is a strange tone to take: defensive, insecure and immature.
I’m going to say something obvious — don’t all those things sound reasonable? Don’t they sound like necessary stop gaps and protections to prevent the Wild West techno landscape from running a mock? The opposite of these is what, Theranos? FTX? Look at the gushing praise those two individuals got, especially Holmes. Without any of these precautions, and without critics holding people accountable, technologists have repeatedly shown that they can’t be trusted, that they aren’t in it for the greater good and that the fame, the ego, and the accolades are all more important. And we, the consumers, the human subjects on which the tech is thrust, always suffer the most.
“Worse, the manifesto’s aggressive, ends-justify-means tone is chilling. Portraying differing views as “enemies” breeds intolerance and extremism. Reasonable people can…