Marc Andreessen says his A.I. policy conversations in D.C. ‘go very differently’ once China is brought up

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Marc Andreessen spends a lot of time in Washington, D.C. these days talking to policymakers about artificial intelligence. One thing the Silicon Valley venture capitalist has noticed: When it comes to A.I., he can have two conversations with the “exact same person” that “go very differently” depending on whether China is mentioned. 

The first conversation, as he shared on an episode the Joe Rogan Experience released this week, is “generally characterized by the American government very much hating the tech companies right now and wanting to damage them in various ways, and the tech companies wanting to figure out how to fix that.”

Then there’s the second conversation, involving what China plans to do with A.I.

“It’s a completely different conversation,” said Andreessen, cofounder of the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. “All of a sudden it’s like, ‘Oh well we need American A.I. to succeed, and we need American technology companies to succeed, and we need to beat the Chinese.’” 

China, of course, has a vision for A.I. that many observers find unsettling.

“They view A.I. as a way to achieve population control,” said Andreessen. “They’re authoritarians. So the number one priority for the Chinese leadership is always that the Chinese population stay under control and not revolt or expect to be able to vote or whatever.”

While China wants to use A.I. for authoritarian control within its own borders, it also wants to export those capabilities to leaders in other nations, Andreessen continued. He noted that in the field of A.I. security cameras, for example, China has world-leading companies. “They’re really good at like sniffing out people walking down the street,” he said. 

Andreessen noted many nations are deploying 5G networks using Chinese technology. On top of that infrastructure, he said, they can roll out China’s A.I. authoritarian surveillance technology.

“What they pitch to the president or prime minister of country X is if you install our stuff you’ll be able to better control your population,” he said. “And of course a lot of people running a lot of countries would find the China model quite compelling.” 

Back in America, he continued, “Once you start thinking in those terms. you realize that, actually, all these debates that are happening in the U.S. are interesting and maybe important, but there’s this other much bigger, I would argue more important, thing that’s happening—which is, what kind of world do we think we’re living in 50 years from now?”

In Washington, D.C., he said, “The minute you open up the door and talk about China, and what China is going to do with A.I., and what that’s gonna mean in this new Cold War that we’re in with China, it’s a completely different conversation…One of my hopes would be that people start thinking outside just our own borders and start thinking about the broader global implications of what’s happening.”

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