Almost a decade ago, Marc Andreessen, the creator of the internet browser Netscape and more famously the founder of the iconic venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z), wrote the now legendary essay titled “Why Software is Eating the World”. The past decade has seen that essay play out perhaps more than even he could imagine. In this piece, he talks about how technology has come to the world’s rescue in the past eighteen months when the pandemic threatened to shut down the world economy. He brings out several facets of our lives which have carried on thanks to technology. Now that the world has embraced technology so widely, he reckons we are set for a ‘Roaring 20’s’ decade as we emerge out of the pandemic into normalcy when this technology will likely lead to enormous productivity gains.
In this essay, he specifically talks about technologies such as mRNA that opens doors for more miracles in the world of medicine, the adoption of telemedicine which could widen healthcare access like never before, digital marketing and payments coming to the rescue of small businesses, online learning democratising access to education, streaming tech, social media and video calling tools all helping with people’s entertainment and social needs.
“Finally, possibly the most profound technology-driven change of all — geography, and its bearing on how we live and work. For thousands of years, until the time of COVID, the dominant fact of every productive economy has been that people need to live where we work. The best jobs have always been in the bigger cities, where quality of life is inevitably impaired by the practical constraints of colocation and density. This has also meant that governance of bigger cities can be truly terrible, since people have no choice but to live there if they want the good jobs.
What we have learned — what we were forced to learn — during the COVID lockdowns has permanently shattered these assumptions. It turns out many of the best jobs really can be performed from anywhere, through screens and the internet. It turns out people really can live in a smaller city or a small town or in rural nowhere and still be just as productive as if they lived in a tiny one-room walk-up in a big city. It turns out companies really are capable of organizing and sustaining remote work even — perhaps especially — in the most sophisticated and complex fields.
This is, I believe, a permanent civilizational shift. It is perhaps the most important thing that’s happened in my lifetime, a consequence of the internet that’s maybe even more important than the internet. Permanently divorcing physical location from economic opportunity gives us a real shot at radically expanding the number of good jobs in the world while also dramatically improving quality of life for millions, or billions, of people. We may, at long last, shatter the geographic lottery, opening up opportunity to countless people who weren’t lucky enough to be born in the right place. And people are leaping at the opportunities this shift is already creating, moving both homes and jobs at furious rates. It will take years to understand where this leads, but I am extremely optimistic.”
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