Notes from Tyler Cowen’s Conversation with Marc Andreessen

Background info on Marc Andreessen is here. This is his page on the a16z website. Here are two other podcasts on which he has appeared as a guest that I enjoyed listening to: EconTalk, and The Tim Ferriss Show.


  1. He’s a fan of Knight Rider! I know this is something only folks of my age will get and appreciate, but Knight Rider was special when I was growing up.
  2. “Basically, it was an endurance competition to see who could outlast who, me or them.” That’s Marc talking about his school, but a semi-cynical take is that this could be about most higher education in general.
  3. The discussion on having kids (and at what age) is a great way to both understand and explain opportunity costs
  4. The two questions about Florence and the Neolithic era might seem funny and light-hearted, and on the face of it, they are. But to me, the answers are revealing: no matter what era, and no matter where in the world, he (Marc) would have wanted to make the world around him better. Better is a tricky word, and you may not agree with his (or my) definition of the word better, but that part of this answer doesn’t change. Does yours?
  5. “Economics pre — what was it — the 1950s, 1960s, it wasn’t all these formulas. It wasn’t all these formulas. It wasn’t a branch of physics, like it seems like it is today. It was descriptive. It was verbal. If you read Keynes, it’s like this, and even the people that preceded him.”
    This is true, and I do think we’ve gone too far over to the other side.
    ..
    ..
    “The form of humanities that resonates me is like that. It’s history, economics, philosophy, politics merged.”
  6. “What I’m figuring out over time is the psychology-sociology elements are as important or more important than the business finance elements or the technology elements.”
    Read more! That is as much a request to you as it is me admonishing myself.
  7. “In fact, he was the first customer of Edison’s light bulb system for the house. Edison came and installed the first indoor lighting in the world in J.P. Morgan’s library. Then it caught on fire and burnt the library down, and then J.P. Morgan, to his enormous credit, rebuilt the library and hired Edison to do it all over again.”
  8. Marc is a fan of Google Reader, and I cannot begin to tell you how much I miss it. Like Marc, I also use Feedly (and pay for the Pro version), but nothing comes close to Google Reader. And the most underrated part, to me, was the in-built social aspect of Google Reader. It was Facebook, but for nerds, and it was fantastic.
  9. The part of the conversation where Tyler asks about how exactly Web 3.0 will be useful for producers of content is interesting, because the answers (to me) still don’t make sense. I still don’t “get it”. That’s not me expressing scepticism, it is me expressing befuddlement. And a very similar exchange takes place in Russ Roberts’ conversation with Marc, and there too, I didn’t “get it”.
  10. The office is a solution to a problem that no longer exists is a wonderful way to think about, well, working from home, and it ties in nicely with my conviction that classrooms are (slowly but surely) on their way out.
  11. “My mental model of what Peter does is, I use the metaphor, the Bat-Signal. Peter puts out the Bat-Signal, and then he basically sees who shows up. He’s basically been doing this since college. That’s very interesting.”
    That’s Peter Thiel, of course, and the idea of attracting the best talent, rather than having to sort it, is a wonderful idea.
  12. “He basically says it was the foundational science and advanced technology basically developed in the computer world for 50 years by DARPA and its succeeding technological agencies, and then by big industrial research labs like IBM Research and others, that created the preconditions for computer-based start-ups. There was a 50-year backstory to that by the time Silicon Valley really got going. He said, also, the reason biotech’s half successful is because there was 25 years of biotech — NIH and all these very aggressive biotech biological science–investing programs.”
    Is Mazzucato underrated, or am I misunderstanding his point?