Cam Pegg Thinking Aloud Time to Build?

April 27, 2020

Like a lot of people, I got a bit caught up in It’s Time to Build, Marc Andressen’s essay from last week. Since then, I’ve seen a few rebuttals, but there are two that I think capture the essence of where it falls over.

Ezra Klein at Vox outlines the governmental obstacles to Andreesen’s approach, which is the key roadblock to, you know, actually getting anything of substance built. There are a multitude of reasons, but it mostly boils down to a lack of incentives to change, along with a system that would potentially punish change-makers in the future.

But legislators on both sides prefer the status quo because it gives them power when they’re in the minority, and because they’re more afraid of what their opponents might do than committed to what they’ve promised to do. The allure of what they could build isn’t as powerful as the fear of what the other side may build.

In his response, Scott Berkun methodically takes apart points made throughout the essay, but (for me at least), the most effective summation of the argument against the entire piece is this:

Had he simply listed important problems that he feels we have underinvested in (education, infrastructure, emergency response, climate change) I’d be fully behind him. But that’s not what this is. It’s an underthought list of tech-lust thinking.

I still like the basic premise of It’s Time to Build; there’s a ton of stuff that needs to be (re-)built. But the things we build need to be more than just cool technical “solutions” that are looking for problems but real, systemic changes, and they’re going to require an unprecedented amount of co-operation and institutional reform (and the political will to make those reforms!).

Personally, I’m not all that hopeful about the likelihood of any kind of monumental shift.