There is an “architectural shift” in technology and in the world brought upon by cryptoassets, which many crypto supporters miss, according to Marc Andreessen, co-founder of venture capital powerhouse Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), and founder of Netscape Communications Corporation.
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Today, a16z announced a new USD 2.2bn fund to continue investing in crypto networks.
Meanwhile, in a recent interview with economic blogger Noah Smith, Andreessen compared the topic of crypto with the parable of the blind men and the elephant, allowing people to interpret many different parts in many different ways, or use it to make their point. As an example, he gave people seizing on “the money part,” then either glorifying crypto as a new type of monetary system that brings freedom from the nation-state, or “crucify[ing] it as a danger to economic stability and the ability for governments to tax.”
However, while these are interesting arguments, Andreessen stressed,
“I think they all miss a more fundamental point, which is that crypto represents an architectural shift in how technology works and therefore how the world works. That architectural shift is called distributed consensus — the ability for many untrusted participants in a network to establish consistency and trust.”
According to him, the Internet has never had this until now and it will take thirty years to work through all of the things that can be done as a result. While money is the easiest application of this idea, other things that can now be built in theory include Internet native contracts, loans, insurance, title to real-world assets, unique digital goods aka non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and online corporate structures such as digital autonomous organizations (DAOs), among others, the investor said.
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This also presents a great impact on and shift in incentives – which further impacts reaching these applications.
Collaborative human effort online so far was either in the form of a literal adoption of real-world corporate norms, such as a company with a website, or an open-source project like Linux that didn’t have any money directly attached to it, said Andreessen.
“With crypto, you can now create thousands of new kinds of incentive systems for collaborative work online, since participants in a crypto project can get paid directly without a real-world company even needing to exist,” he said.
While open-source software development has been great, people are generally willing to work more for money than for free, “and all of a sudden all those things become possible and even easy to do.” And though it will take a few decades to see the results of this as well, “I don’t think it’s crazy that this could be a civilizational shift in how people work and get paid,” said Andreessen.
He also discussed the idea that AI is somewhat a left-wing idea, having centralized machines making top-down decisions, but that crypto is a right-wing idea, having many distributed agents, humans and bots, making bottom-up decisions, he said, citing another prominent venture capitalist Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal.
The tech industry has historically been dominated by left-wing politics and today’s big tech companies are intertwined with the US Democratic Party, Andreessen said, noting,
“Crypto potentially represents the creation of a whole new category of technology, quite literally right-wing tech that is far more aggressively decentralized and far more comfortable with entrepreneurialism and free voluntary exchange. If you believe, as I do, that the world needs far more technology, this is a very powerful idea, a step function increase in what the technology world can do.”
As for a16z becoming known for innovating in the space of venture capital itself, Andreessen said that there is something old and something new about venture capital – and this something new includes crypto.
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“So we sit at the vortex of this combination of the very old and the very new. It’s certainly possible that venture capital itself gets pulled into this vortex and comes out the other side radically transformed, and in fact, this is what some of the smartest crypto experts are predicting,” Andreessen concluded.