Reading, Watching 10.29.23
Taste, Snobbery, Jealousy
This is a regular feature for paid subscribers where I write a little about what I’ve recently been reading and/or watching. Hope you enjoy!
Tech venture capitalist Marc Andreesen, he of the curiously-shaped cranium, released his “Techno-Optimist Manifesto” recently. It’s truly unreadable dreck, so I suggest you read Max Read and Ezra Klein takes instead, who’ve done us all a favor by parsing this garbage. Max believes that Andreesen’s blather is a product of decline and even crisis in the V.C. industry:
After a decade of high-profile failures and embarrassments, venture investing is no longer seen as credible or reliable. The political economy of the U.S. has shifted in labor’s favor, and economists and wonks are increasingly in favor of industrial policy as an engine of growth and stability rather than free-floating individual investment. A V.C. confronted with this reality might both shift his strategy away from software platforms and crypto companies and toward the more reliable proposition of government contractors--and he might also grumble about all the people holding him back.
I really like this idea of the trigger of all this being some kind of problem in the process of accumulation for this fraction of capital. It seems like the Objectively Correct Historical Materialist explanation. Back when SVB failed, I was fumbling around with a similar notion, but without the close understanding of the internal dynamics of the tech world that Max has:
The sudden panic at SVB and the hobbyist interest of some of Silicon Valley capitalists in authoritarian politics have the same root: a fear of the declining social dominance of this particular class fraction. There’s still a lot of capital, but a lot less venture. Now they just want very badly to hold on to what they’ve got. They have entered into a risk-averse period. A lot of what they’ve created is just boring, old infrastructure now and therefore can’t offer the same fabulous returns it once did. Tech is not going to disappear overnight. But we should stop taking the pretensions of Silicon Valley so seriously: They are a bunch of schmucks, just like everyone else. And maybe even a little more so. Silicon Valley is busy laying off its workers, but maybe we should be laying off its capitalists. I’m sorry, but you’re just not very productive anymore, but best of luck with your next step!
If the schmuck thesis needs anymore evidence, just take a look at what Andreesen wrote.