Media started using discussing technology in corelation with "culture, economics, politics, labor, and media" around a decade ago. It was the turning point that Andressen foresaw in his article, "Why software is eating the world", that technology will revolutionize sectors and industries. Tech coverage by journalists became grandiose, pushing a narrative of not just technology, but the people behind it, as visionaries who create the future.
The role played by venture capital itself rarely figured: widespread adoption was seen as a reflection of merit, rather than a function of a funding model that used cash reserves to create new monopolies. By the mid-twenty-tens, Andreessen Horowitz’s marketing strategy had evolved into something like mythological.
After some resounding failures (or frauds) of overpromising tech startups such as Theranos (or WeWork), coupled with the stories around Facebook's role in the 2016 US election, including the larger part data plays in manipulating people, the narrative on tech has become gloomier and dystopian, including in the mainstream press. Zuckerberg is still a mythological figure but is far from being considered infaillable anymore. "The myth had been distorted; the idealistic, aspirational narratives had not borne out. The industry needed a new story."
Andressen's new essay, "IT'S TIME TO BUILD" sounds eerly like a "call to arms" to the tech sector to encompass or simply overtake major institutions - with the same self-understood ethos of "doing good through technology". He suggests that politics and what was already build simply isn't enough, so what is lacking is this startup mentality of building more, faster. While it is unclear how it would work, it serves as a way to give gleaming new hope to tech entrepreneurs that they get to be seen as heroes again.
If Andreessen’s exhortation to build was a call for “aggressive investment in new products, in new industries, in new factories, in new science, in big leaps forward,” it was also a call to power. The era of the builder may also be the era of the Silicon Valley political actor.
“The tools for distribution have become democratized, and every company can become a source of truth.” - Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, on companies who build their own media arms to expand on their own narratives. It could be indicative to where the tech industry is looking to go forward: keep pushing ambitious, overarching narratives as part of the business model, or focus more on building (rather than "the idea of building").
For an ontologically—perhaps pathologically—future-facing industry, anything looks possible; it has to... amid the updated rhetoric, it can be easy to forget that venture-funded companies have always been trying to envision the banks, health-care systems, schools, postal systems, and newspapers of the future. To date, they have been only somewhat successful.
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