Marc Andreessen’s Pronuclear Techno-Optimism

Marc Andreessen, Cofounder and General Partner of Andreessen Horowitz, a phenomenally-successful $35 billion venture capital firm dubbed “a16z,” has shared a litany of views of where humanity is and where it should be vis-à-vis technology in a post entitled “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto.”  Writing in Nietzsche-like style, Andreessen covers topics such as lies, truth, technology, markets, intelligence, energy, abundance and much more with bold pronouncements regarding our future. This manifesto is a wake-up call to us all to not presume our future’s doom and allow pessimism to handcuff action. In fact, Marc posits that we have all the tools we need to create a better future, if we are optimistic and brave enough to use them. 

There is much to appreciate about someone of Andreessen’s stature putting his views out there in unapologetic style.  We take the liberty of sharing an extract from Marc’s manifesto on the topic of “Energy,” which we agree with entirely and which informed our reasons for founding Nucleation Capital, but we urge everyone to take a moment to read the entire manifesto to refresh your brain and recharge your perspective.

Energy

Energy is life. We take it for granted, but without it, we have darkness, starvation, and pain. With it, we have light, safety, and warmth.

We believe energy should be in an upward spiral. Energy is the foundational engine of our civilization. The more energy we have, the more people we can have, and the better everyone’s lives can be. We should raise everyone to the energy consumption level we have, then increase our energy 1,000x, then raise everyone else’s energy 1,000x as well.

The current gap in per-capita energy use between the smaller developed world and larger developing world is enormous. That gap will close – either by massively expanding energy production, making everyone better off, or by massively reducing energy production, making everyone worse off.

We believe energy need not expand to the detriment of the natural environment. We have the silver bullet for virtually unlimited zero-emissions energy today – nuclear fission. In 1973, President Richard Nixon called for Project Independence, the construction of 1,000 nuclear power plants by the year 2000, to achieve complete US energy independence. Nixon was right; we didn’t build the plants then, but we can now, anytime we decide we want to.

Atomic Energy Commissioner Thomas Murray said in 1953: “For years the splitting atom, packaged in weapons, has been our main shield against the barbarians. Now, in addition, it is a God-given instrument to do the constructive work of mankind.” Murray was right too.

We believe a second energy silver bullet is coming – nuclear fusion. We should build that as well. The same bad ideas that effectively outlawed fission are going to try to outlaw fusion. We should not let them.

We believe there is no inherent conflict between the techno-capital machine and the natural environment. Per-capita US carbon emissions are lower now than they were 100 years ago, even without nuclear power.

We believe technology is the solution to environmental degradation and crisis. A technologically advanced society improves the natural environment, a technologically stagnant society ruins it. If you want to see environmental devastation, visit a former Communist country. The socialist USSR was far worse for the natural environment than the capitalist US. Google the Aral Sea.

We believe a technologically stagnant society has limited energy at the cost of environmental ruin; a technologically advanced society has unlimited clean energy for everyone. [Emphasis added.]

As investors in next-generation nuclear, we were thrilled to see Marc Andreessen rail in support of nuclear.  Yet, a mere two days after the release of Andreessen’s almost poetic Techno-Optimist Manifesto, Ryan McEntush from the a16z team published an even more significant piece, a profoundly well researched and comprehensive analysis called “How to Scale Nuclear.”  This article received almost none of the social media attention but is definitely well worth reading. To us, this article is evidence that Andreessen Horowitz is actively investing human capital into understanding and building expertise in nuclear fission and, if they aren’t already, may soon become a fission investor.

Source: 
Andreessen Horowitz, “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto,” by Marc Andreessen, October 16, 2023.

Andreessen Horowitz, “How to Scale Nuclear,” by Ryan McEntush, October 18, 2023.