It’s time to Build

Marc Andreessen , the CEO of a16z venture firm and the creator of Netscape browser recently wrote a very inspiring piece about building stuff. The article delves into some of the key aspects the America is slipping in its position as a global technology hub and what are the things the people have to do to bring it back to its previous status as the nation who build great stuff.

Here’s some key point I liked from the article –

  • Every Western institution was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, despite many prior warnings.
  •  And that is a failure of action, and specifically our widespread inability to *build*.
  • A government that collects money from all its citizens and businesses each year has never built a system to distribute money to us when it’s needed most.
  • You don’t just see this smug complacency, this satisfaction with the status quo and the unwillingness to build, in the pandemic, or in healthcare generally. You see it throughout Western life, and specifically throughout American life.
  • Why not educate every 18 year old? Isn’t that the most important thing we can possibly do? 
  • We know how to build highly automated factories. We know the enormous number of higher paying jobs we would create to design and build and operate those factories.
  • Is the problem capitalism? I’m with Nicholas Stern when he says that capitalism is how we take care of people we don’t know — all of these fields are highly lucrative already and should be prime stomping grounds for capitalist investment, good both for the investor and the customers who are served.
  • The problem is inertia. We need to want these things more than we want to prevent these things.
  • The right must fight hard against crony capitalism, regulatory capture, ossified oligopolies, risk-inducing offshoring, and investor-friendly buybacks in lieu of customer-friendly (and, over a longer period of time, even more investor-friendly) innovation
  • Milton Friedman once said the great public sector mistake is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results. Instead of taking that as an insult, take it as a challenge — build new things and show the results!
  • Why can’t 100,000 or 1 million students a year attend Harvard? Why shouldn’t regulators and taxpayers demand that Harvard build? Solve the climate crisis by building.
  • We need to demand more of our political leaders, of our CEOs, our entrepreneurs, our investors. 
  • We’re all necessary, and we can all contribute, to building.
  • Every step of the way, to everyone around us, we should be asking the question, what are you building?
  • If the work you’re doing isn’t either leading to something being built or taking care of people directly, we’ve failed you, and we need to get you into a position, an occupation, a career where you can contribute to building. 
  • There are always outstanding people in even the most broken systems — we need to get all the talent we can on the biggest problems we have, and on building the answers to those problems.

The last paragraph was the most moving one –

Our nation and our civilization were built on production, on building. Our forefathers and foremothers built roads and trains, farms and factories, then the computer, the microchip, the smartphone, and uncounted thousands of other things that we now take for granted, that are all around us, that define our lives and provide for our well-being. There is only one way to honor their legacy and to create the future we want for our own children and grandchildren, and that’s to build.

Marc Andreessen