The world needs to change faster, Marc Andreessen said at the Code Conference Tuesday, in a conversation with LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman and journalist Kara Swisher. Andreessen said that most people's worries about the future, stoked by media coverage, have U.S. economic problems backward. People shouldn't be worried about robots taking all the jobs; instead, they should be looking to accelerate that switch so that society can quickly attain the next phase of growth.
Andreessen said that he divides the economy into fast sectors and slow sectors. Fast sectors are the ones being "eaten" by software, per his famous quote. Media and retail, for example, have been remade by the internet, and prices for consumers have plummeted. Andreessen sees transportation as another candidate, given the effects of ridesharing and soon self-driving cars. Slow sectors are trending in the opposite direction -- for example, health-care and construction costs are both going up.
"The price of all those things is rising super fast," he explained, referring to eldercare, childcare, healthcare, education, construction, and government. "Those are also the sectors that have almost no productivity growth, right, as measured by economists. And left unchecked, those sectors are basically just going to eat the economy."
Nevertheless, Andreessen sounded quite optimistic, as befits a venture capitalist who constantly makes bets on a transformed future. "I think the opportunity and the challenge is for the tech industry and Silicon Valley and all of us to go figure out how to have a much bigger impact in the slow-growth sectors of the economy."
Kara Swisher brought up the effect that automation may have on the number of jobs available to average people. "It's the lump-of-labor fallacy," Andreessen rejoined. "It's the Luddite fallacy. It's a recurring panic. This happens every 25, 50 years -- people get all amped up about 'machines are going to take all the jobs' and it never happens."
He gave the example of cars. When the automobile first debuted, it worried people whose livelihoods depending on caring for horses. But it turned out that manufacturing and maintaining cars created more jobs than it took away, while remaking American cities. Over time, "The car industry became such a huge employer that we had to bail out all the car companies to keep people working," Andreessen pointed out.
"We don't have enough change. We don't have enough creation of new jobs," he went on to say. "The reason our politics is going sideways is not 'cause there's too much change. It's 'cause there's not enough change...The way through that is not to slow down, the way through that is to speed up. The way through that is more change, more growth, more opportunity."