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It’s Time to Act – a Response to Marc Andreessen

As promised, I’m rereading the “Build” essay by Marc Andreessen with fresh eyes. Somewhat fresh eyes since I woke up at 0430 thinking about it, but I have some tea and I’m ready to go. Let’s start from the beginning.

Every Western institution was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, despite many prior warnings. This monumental failure of institutional effectiveness will reverberate for the rest of the decade, but it’s not too early to ask why, and what we need to do about it.

This is unequivocaly false. We don’t even need to go to government. HEB was ready. This amazing article by Texas Monthly goes into the details including this:

Justen Noakes, director of emergency preparedness, H-E-B: Just a little bit of history: we have been working on our pandemic and influenza plan for quite a while now, since 2005, when we had the threat of H5N1 overseas in China.

and

In 2009, we actually used that plan in response to H1N1, when the swine flu came to fruition in Cibolo, and refined it, made it more of an influenza plan. We’ve continued to revise it, and it’s been a part of our preparedness plan at H-E-B ever since.

But Cory, that’s a grocery store! What about government? Well, glad you asked. In 2012 a trilateral group of countries – Canada, Mexico and the US – developed the North American Plan for Animal and Pandemic Influenza.

But what about Ebola? Take a look at this page from 2014 about how the government was responding to Ebola:

On top of expanding the network of hospitals that can assess, respond, and treat patients, the U.S. government is enhancing our domestic preparedness in these key ways:

  • Increasing the number of Ebola testing labs throughout the U.S. that can quickly and safely screen a potential Ebola specimen
  • Educating more than 150,000 health care workers on how to identify, isolate, diagnose, and care for patients under investigation for Ebola
  • Developing countermeasures — including the first Ebola vaccine to progress to Phase 2 testing — to prevent and treat Ebola
  • Converting at least 10 of the Ebola Treatment Centers into long-term Regional Ebola and Pandemic Treatment Centers for long-term readiness for years to come
  • Helping state and local public health systems accelerate and improve their operational readiness and preparedness for Ebola or other infectious diseases

Let’s move on because he reiterates the point:

Many of us would like to pin the cause on one political party or another, on one government or another. But the harsh reality is that it all failed — no Western country, or state, or city was prepared — and despite hard work and often extraordinary sacrifice by many people within these institutions. So the problem runs deeper than your favorite political opponent or your home nation.

Again, this is false. FEMA and the CDC produced guidance for Pandemics over 10 years ago. Here is the discussion guide as an example. Our own department had workflows and stock for pandemics. Here’s a hospital prepardness expert:

“When we have done exercises in the past for pandemic preparedness, supply chain issues were a well-documented challenge,” Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist focused on hospital preparedness, told me. “This is something we’ve known about — maybe not to this extent, but this isn’t a shocker. It’s more surprising that we let it get this bad.”

But could we have seen it coming? In that same article, Vox says:

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, China made half the world’s face masks. When the outbreak took off there, China started to use its supply and hoard what remained. This problem has only spread since, as more and more countries hoard whatever medical supplies they can get — with some, like Germany, even banning most PPE exports. So as demand increased due to Covid-19 — not just from health care workers but from a general public increasingly scared of infection — there was less supply to go around.

Intelligence and Logistics at the nation-state scale is solely the domain of the national government. And we had programs an intelligence embedded in China that could have alerted us to what was going on, but was removed months before COVID-19:

Quick left amid a bitter U.S. trade dispute with China when she learned her federally funded post, officially known as resident adviser to the U.S. Field Epidemiology Training Program in China, would be discontinued as of September, the sources said. The U.S. CDC said it first learned of a “cluster of 27 cases of pneumonia” of unexplained origin in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31.

So the next paragraph from Marc’s article:

Part of the problem is clearly foresight, a failure of imagination. But the other part of the problem is what we didn’t do in advance, and what we’re failing to do now. And that is a failure of action, and specifically our widespread inability to build.

continues to be wrong. This wasn’t a problem of foresight, of imagination. I’ve been in Fire Rescue since 1996. I’ve been an Assistant Fire Chief. I’ve participated in Emergency Management exercises focused on everything from Pandemics, to Chemical attacks on the World Series, to giant airplanes landing in the middle of a major highway in our town. And I cut my teeth in Florida, where hurricanes and prepardness was a way of life.

But, he is right about something there. We do have a failure of action, although it’s not an inability to build.

We see this today with the things we urgently need but don’t have. We don’t have enough coronavirus tests, or test materials — including, amazingly, cotton swabs and common reagents. We don’t have enough ventilators, negative pressure rooms, and ICU beds. And we don’t have enough surgical masks, eye shields, and medical gowns — as I write this, New York City has put out a desperate call for rain ponchos to be used as medical gowns. Rain ponchos! In 2020! In America!

Well, I mean the rain ponchos are being used primarily to keep soiled materials off of the front-line health workers, and they’re pretty good at that. But how about this:

Some public health officials and experts tried to tamp down on public demand by suggesting face masks wouldn’t help laypeople avoid infection. But experts told me this messaging backfired: There is evidence that masks help people avoid infection, and once the public saw doctors and nurses were using and wanted more of the masks, that likely fueled distrust toward what public officials and experts were saying — and people bought up masks anyway.

The result, now, is a shortage that not only threatens doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals at the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, but also puts us all at serious risk, since we’re relying on these same health care workers to literally save us if we get sick.

I’m much more outraged at the fact that, lack of supplies aside, we let this spread because we didn’t want to tell people to wrap a towel around their mouth when they went out. Again, a problem of lack of action not an inability to act.

Vaccines? Let’s talk about vaccines:

We also don’t have therapies or a vaccine — despite, again, years of advance warning about bat-borne coronaviruses. Our scientists will hopefully invent therapies and a vaccine, but then we may not have the manufacturing factories required to scale their production. And even then, we’ll see if we can deploy therapies or a vaccine fast enough to matter — it took scientists 5 years to get regulatory testing approval for the new Ebola vaccine after that scourge’s 2014 outbreak, at the cost of many lives.

What the hell, Marc. Do you think scientists are just sitting around ignoring this stuff? Like, “we could have had a vaccine but we just didn’t think it was that important?”. That’s not how these things work. In fact, the scientific community’s response is considered record breaking:

On 13 January, 3 days after Chinese researchers first made public the full RNA sequence of SARS-CoV-2, NIAID immunologist Barney Graham sent Moderna an optimized version of a gene that would become the backbone of its vaccine. Sixty-three days later, the first dose of the vaccine went into Haller and other volunteers participating in the small trial at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. In 2016, Graham had made a Zika virus vaccine that went from lab bench to the first volunteer in what he then thought was a lightning-fast 190 days. “We beat that record by nearly 130 days,” he says.

Also, this stuff takes time because it takes fricking time. We don’t know how the body will respond. We don’t know if we trigger an immune response that builds antibodies that those will protect against infection. We don’t know what side effects it will have. For example a Scientific American article says:

As more data comes in from China and Italy, as well as Washington state and New York, more cardiac experts are coming to believe the COVID-19 virus can infect the heart muscle. An initial study found cardiac damage in as many as 1 in 5 patients, leading to heart failure and death even among those who show no signs of respiratory distress.

But Bonow said the damage observed in COVID-19 patients could be from the virus directly infecting the heart muscle. Initial research suggests the coronavirus attaches to certain receptors in the lungs, and those same receptors are found in heart muscle as well.

So let’s not be hasty about triggering immune responses in patients that end up attaching to heart muscle receptors and killing patients, OK?

Now, on to money:

In the U.S., we don’t even have the ability to get federal bailout money to the people and businesses that need it. Tens of millions of laid off workers and their families, and many millions of small businesses, are in serious trouble right now, and we have no direct method to transfer them money without potentially disastrous delays. A government that collects money from all its citizens and businesses each year has never built a system to distribute money to us when it’s needed most.

We delayed the payments to add a signature in the memo line of the paper checks. And even if it didn’t delay them it was because of “hard work and long hours by dedicated IRS employees, these payments are going out on schedule, as planned, without delay, to the nation”

But here’s the thing. The wealthy among us all have plenty of ways of getting that money. They have bank accounts, permenant addresses, internet access. We’ve chosen not to build a system because we’re a racist, classist country. From this article:

Esperanza is an undocumented immigrant whose Austin-based employer deducts taxes from her checks every pay period. Those taxes add up to thousands of dollars annually, but because of her immigration status, she won’t receive one of the payments of up to $1,200 that the federal government began sending out earlier this week. A Social Security number is required to receive the benefit, so only citizens, legal permanent residents and some immigrants with work authorization can expect payments.

“They take a part of your check,” said Esperanza, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym because of her status. “It’s our obligation [to pay the taxes], but then we don’t receive any benefits afterward.”

Is it an ability problem?

Proposals like the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act would expand health care and financial relief options for undocumented immigrants. And in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the creation of a $125 million disaster relief fund to benefit undocumented immigrants. Something similar would be a tough sell in Texas, where the Republican-controlled state government has pushed measures to crack down on undocumented immigrants and sent state troopers to help reinforce the border in recent years.

No, sounds like it’s not. It’s doable, but hard. Is it because things are hard? Is that why we’re not doing them?

Why do we not have these things? Medical equipment and financial conduits involve no rocket science whatsoever.

No rocket science? N95 masks – which filter 95% of the particulates – and N100 masks – which filter 100% are pretty rocket sciency:

However, some N95 respirators are intended for use in a health care setting. Specifically, single-use, disposable respiratory protective devices used and worn by health care personnel during procedures to protect both the patient and health care personnel from the transfer of microorganisms, body fluids, and particulate material. These surgical N95 respirators are class II devices regulated by the FDA, under 21 CFR 878.4040, and CDC NIOSH under 42 CFR Part 84.

And financial conduits aren’t rocket science? I agree they shouldn’t be, but there’s a lot of systemic problems baked into it. How do we make sure everyone gets something? Why do we say that a single parent with a child deserves less than two working adults ($1,700 vs $2,400)?

And – going back to ability versus inaction – why did we force banks to only approve Paycheck Protection Loans for clients with existing relationships, leaving minority-owned businesses potentially at risk? Should we have done something about that? (Hint: uh, yeah).

At least therapies and vaccines are hard! Making masks and transferring money are not hard. We could have these things but we chose not to — specifically we chose not to have the mechanisms, the factories, the systems to make these things. We chose not to build.

I might argue that we chose not to have those things because people get advice like:

If everything goes well, then the downside of more structure is limited: The company grows into a successful behemoth and everyone, from the founder to startup employees to investors, wins…The key is to run an organized fundraising process that’s aimed at creating competition.

We’ve created a business culture where profits come first, and it’s more important to build valuation than communities. I know – I saw the outsourcing of jobs to lower-priced markets since the 90s. I saw – and still see – people laid off and not considered for positions because the company wants to look good for investors, for the market. We encourage people to take shortcuts, to reduce R&D spend prior to going public.

Prior IPO studies show that companies invest more aggressively prior to IPO (Pagano et al. 1998) and primarily use IPO proceeds to repay debt due to the aggressive investments (Leone et al. 2007). Since most R&D expenditures are not allowed to be capitalized under the current GAAP, investing in R&D activities is conceptually costly to IPO companies as it leads to lower reported earnings before going public.

As such, “good companies” are likely to invest in R&D activities more aggressively in pre-IPO years, so that the cost is prohibitively too high to be mimicked by “bad companies”. With such costly signal, rational investors will realize only “good companies” can bear this cost and thus price the signal accordingly.

And now it gets good:

You don’t just see this smug complacency, this satisfaction with the status quo and the unwillingness to build, in the pandemic, or in healthcare generally. You see it throughout Western life, and specifically throughout American life.

You see it in housing and the physical footprint of our cities. We can’t build nearly enough housing in our cities with surging economic potential — which results in crazily skyrocketing housing prices in places like San Francisco, making it nearly impossible for regular people to move in and take the jobs of the future. We also can’t build the cities themselves anymore. When the producers of HBO’s “Westworld” wanted to portray the American city of the future, they didn’t film in Seattle or Los Angeles or Austin — they went to Singapore. We should have gleaming skyscrapers and spectacular living environments in all our best cities at levels way beyond what we have now; where are they?

But yet his firm is still opening offices in the heart of San Francisco. I can’t answer obviously how he’s been involved in things like city councils blocking larger developments but answer me this…why do all the “jobs of the future” have to be in San Francisco? Where’s the forethought? The innovation?

Oh, now education? And Montessori?

You see it in education. We have top-end universities, yes, but with the capacity to teach only a microscopic percentage of the 4 million new 18 year olds in the U.S. each year, or the 120 million new 18 year olds in the world each year. Why not educate every 18 year old? Isn’t that the most important thing we can possibly do? Why not build a far larger number of universities, or scale the ones we have way up? The last major innovation in K-12 education was Montessori, which traces back to the 1960s; we’ve been doing education research that’s never reached practical deployment for 50 years since; why not build a lot more great K-12 schools using everything we now know? We know one-to-one tutoring can reliably increase education outcomes by two standard deviations (the Bloom two-sigma effect); we have the internet; why haven’t we built systems to match every young learner with an older tutor to dramatically improve student success?

Because, Marc, kids don’t have computers. They don’t have internet access. New York has 114,000 homeless students. Philadelphia finds only 1/3rd of students able to use a computer at home to access the internet:

The survey of 130,000 people found that fewer than a third of the students at public and charter schools in pockets of North and Southwest Philadelphia used a computer at home to access the internet.

The district is strongly encouraging students to learn during the pandemic but is not penalizing those who can’t, as many don’t have the necessary technology. Last week, the school board authorized spending $11 million to buy as many as 50,000 computers to make remote learning possible for all students. Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts donated $5 million to help pay for the equipment.

We don’t have internet access because telecoms lobby to block governments from building that access to increase their monopolies and profits:

The telecom industry’s lobbying efforts have had tangible ramifications on state laws governing municipal broadband. In fact, over $92 million was spent on lobbying in 2018 alone to protect business interests at the national and state level.

Manufacturing?

You see it in manufacturing. Contrary to conventional wisdom, American manufacturing output is higher than ever, but why has so much manufacturing been offshored to places with cheaper manual labor? We know how to build highly automated factories. We know the enormous number of higher paying jobs we would create to design and build and operate those factories. We know — and we’re experiencing right now! — the strategic problem of relying on offshore manufacturing of key goods. Why aren’t we building Elon Musk’s “alien dreadnoughts” — giant, gleaming, state of the art factories producing every conceivable kind of product, at the highest possible quality and lowest possible cost — all throughout our country?

Elon Musk? That’s who you’re going to hold up? The guy who is sending CPAP machines claiming they are ventilators? The one who says that his “personal opinion is some ICUs are jumping the gun on intubation“?

Ok, let’s put that aside for a moment. “Alien Dreadnought factories”? The kind where the boss can do stuff like this:

At about 10 o’clock on Saturday evening, an angry Musk was examining one of the production line’s mechanized modules, trying to figure out what was wrong, when the young, excited engineer was brought over to assist him.

“Hey, buddy, this doesn’t work!” Musk shouted at the engineer, according to someone who heard the conversation. “Did you do this?”

The engineer was taken aback. He had never met Musk before. Musk didn’t even know the engineer’s name. The young man wasn’t certain what, exactly, Musk was asking him, or why he sounded so angry.

“You mean, program the robot?” the engineer said. “Or design that tool?”

“Did you fucking do this?” Musk asked him.

“I’m not sure what you’re referring to?” the engineer replied apologetically.

“You’re a fucking idiot!” Musk shouted back. “Get the fuck out and don’t come back!”

The young engineer climbed over a low safety barrier and walked away. He was bewildered by what had just happened. The entire conversation had lasted less than a minute. A few moments later, his manager came over to say that he had been fired on Musk’s orders, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. The engineer was shocked. He’d been working so hard. He was set to get a review from his manager the next week, and had been hearing only positive things. Instead, two days later, he signed his separation papers.

Or, maybe, maybe it’s the part where we found out that it’s succeeding through good old fashion fear:

Tesla had to have high standards to succeed. It was not a 9 to 5 company. People were already working hard; now Musk was implying they needed to do more. He was at turns complimentary, awkward, and intense. The Model 3 was a bet-the-company decision, he said. Everybody needed to work hard and smarter.

But, ok, let’s put Elon aside for a second because there’s something worse in his paragraph. Let’s bring it back up:

but why has so much manufacturing been offshored…

Because we live in a global economy where countries are supposed to work together to understand supply chains, logistics, and urgent needs. The answer isn’t for us to “bring manufacturing home”.

to places with cheaper manual labor?

Oh, well, you answered your own question, then. It’s because we have economies of scale, of globalization. Some of that is horrifying and relies on slave labor, unsafe conditions, environmental damage and worse. But hey, the Dow is up, so it’s all good, right?

You see it in transportation. Where are the supersonic aircraft? Where are the millions of delivery drones? Where are the high speed trains, the soaring monorails, the hyperloops, and yes, the flying cars?

This is my favorite one. We don’t have supersonic aircraft because they break the sound barrier. That means they can only do that over the ocean, which limits their usefulness. And do we really have a need for that if we have the internet? Why are we traveling so much? Why aren’t we building for people to work wherever makes the most sense for them? Why aren’t we focused on flooding low-income areas with high-quality internet access coupled with high-quality education and food programs? Why the hell are we talking about hyperloops and flying cars when we could be talking about vibrant communities that meet people where they are?

Is the problem money?

I mean, yeah, it is.

That seems hard to believe when we have the money to wage endless wars in the Middle East and repeatedly bail out incumbent banks, airlines, and carmakers. The federal government just passed a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package in two weeks!

Does it? Does it really? Here’s the clue. Those wars fund huge military industries that make money hand-over-fist. Those industries – and the others listed – have enough money to pay for lobbyists to talk about the utter destruction if they are allowed to fail.

Is the problem capitalism?

I mean, yeah, it is. At least how we model it.

I’m with Nicholas Stern when he says that capitalism is how we take care of people we don’t know — all of these fields are highly lucrative already and should be prime stomping grounds for capitalist investment, good both for the investor and the customers who are served.

Lucrative? Is that why the adminstration said that we had plenty of testing capacity, but wasn’t activated because it wasn’t profitable at $50 a test so they had to pay $100 a test (at the 1:07:30 ish mark if that doesn’t link directly to the video)

Is the problem technical competence? Clearly not, or we wouldn’t have the homes and skyscrapers, schools and hospitals, cars and trains, computers and smartphones, that we already have.

Yeah, I agree this isn’t an ability problem.

The problem is desire. We need to want these things. The problem is inertia. We need to want these things more than we want to prevent these things. The problem is regulatory capture. We need to want new companies to build these things, even if incumbents don’t like it, even if only to force the incumbents to build these things. And the problem is will. We need to build these things.

I mean, forcing new companies to build things to force incumbents to also build them seems wasteful, and it seems like our competitive model instead of a cooperative model might be more at what’s to blame here, but let’s run with it for a second.

And we need to separate the imperative to build these things from ideology and politics. Both sides need to contribute to building.

Ok, let’s run with that for a second, too, although I’d argue it’s incredibly privileged to separate this out from ideology since it’s ideology that has gotten us to where we are, building systemic power dynamics that make it incredibly difficult for others to succeed who are incredibly innovative but don’t happen to live in San Francisco. Or are white and male.

The right starts out in a more natural, albeit compromised, place. The right is generally pro production, but is too often corrupted by forces that hold back market-based competition and the building of things. The right must fight hard against crony capitalism, regulatory capture, ossified oligopolies, risk-inducing offshoring, and investor-friendly buybacks in lieu of customer-friendly (and, over a longer period of time, even more investor-friendly) innovation.

Except…that innovation is sometimes better served by government, not private industry. We have areas that will never be profitable. For example, the Postal Service is being fought against hard by the right, because they’d rather see it privatized. It’s not investor-friendly to subsidize mail service to rural areas and let them pay the same as someone in a large city, but it’s equitable.

It’s time for full-throated, unapologetic, uncompromised political support from the right for aggressive investment in new products, in new industries, in new factories, in new science, in big leaps forward.

Funny how all of this gets mentioned without addressing the incredible systems built – often by the right – to fight against leveling the playing fields to enable those large leaps forward. Let’s not do vote-by-mail because it enables more Democrats to vote. Let’s be OK with Income Inequality:

Rather than work to make higher education more affordable, they have ignored the student debt crisis and proposed nearly $80 billion cuts to the Pell Grant program, which millions of Americans rely on to afford higher education. Rather than boost social safety nets to help low income families afford education, job training, or health care, they have proposed massive cuts to programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that help huge swaths of the population.

Rather than work to shape a federal tax code that limits the tax burden on poor and working class families, and requires the rich to pay what they owe, they passed a nearly $2 trillion tax cut just last year that was deliberately designed to provide massive cuts to millionaires, billionaires, and corporations while leaving crumbs for the rest of the nation.

Oh, and rather than fight the issue of health care, let’s actively set to weaken it

But the story of the high premiums themselves is not complete unless we take a look back over the last several years and look at all the ways Republican lawmakers, governors, and pundits – and now the Trump administration — took steps to deliberately weaken the Affordable Care Act.

Ok, so that’s the right. Surely in not making this a partisan issue he’s going to talk about the left?

The left starts out with a stronger bias toward the public sector in many of these areas. To which I say, prove the superior model! Demonstrate that the public sector can build better hospitals, better schools, better transportation, better cities, better housing. Stop trying to protect the old, the entrenched, the irrelevant; commit the public sector fully to the future. Milton Friedman once said the great public sector mistake is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results. Instead of taking that as an insult, take it as a challenge — build new things and show the results!

Funny how the “left” has to prove that it’s not OK to have hospitals lay off thousands of workers because it’s not “profitable”. That it’s not OK that “funding gaps existed solely based on the racial composition of the school“. That it’s not OK that “A big part of this problem, says Ryan Avent, is San Francisco’s restrictive zoning requirements. The city’s longtime residents are very good at keeping new construction out of their backyard.

And cities would love to show the superior model for things like internet access. But they can’t and that’s not because the left isn’t willing to show it.

Show that new models of public sector healthcare can be inexpensive and effective — how about starting with the VA? When the next coronavirus comes along, blow us away!

Yes, yes, let’s blame the left for the VA’s problems:

Despite the common belief to the contrary, veteran-specific benefits and services fall short of meeting the needs of veterans and their families, many of whom struggle to meet basic needs even with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) supports. More than 3.9 million veterans live paycheck to paycheck—meaning their family incomes are less than twice the federal poverty level, or less than $50,000 for a family of four. Yet new CAP analysis reveals that if Trump’s proposed cuts to key job training programs were applied directly to program participation, more than 340,000 veterans could lose access to critical employment services that help boost wages.

Additionally, CAP estimates that over the next decade, 400,000 veterans on average could lose access to critical nutrition assistance each year if the cut proposed in President Trump’s budget were applied directly to participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). If instead the cuts proposed in the House of Representatives Republican budget were applied, more than 554,000 veterans could lose SNAP each year between 2023 and 2027. Previous congressional Republican attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would have cost close to half a million veterans their Medicaid benefits by 2026. And the most recent repeal effort, which makes devastating changes to Medicaid, would be even worse, costing an estimated 579,000 veterans their Medicaid coverage within a decade.

Education?

Even private universities like Harvard are lavished with public funding; why can’t 100,000 or 1 million students a year attend Harvard? Why shouldn’t regulators and taxpayers demand that Harvard build?

I can’t find information on universities being “lavished with public funding” though they get a huge benefit from their tax-exempt status. I do like the idea of providing broader education access to all, though that seems to be a stength of the left, not the right:

The progressive Democratic presidential candidates mean well when they say they want to make a college education an entitlement. They believe that nothing but good can result from giving children from low-income families the opportunity to attend college.

But they are mistaken. When students realize that they will get into college no matter what they learn in grade school or high school, they will have no incentive to forgo activities that are more fun than attending school, listening to teachers, and doing homework.

Energy?

Solve the climate crisis by building — energy experts say that all carbon-based electrical power generation on the planet could be replaced by a few thousand new zero-emission nuclear reactors, so let’s build those. Maybe we can start with 10 new reactors? Then 100? Then the rest?

Who are those experts? Where are they running those reactors at? And why nuclear and not wind energy? Because it seems like nuclear isn’t as rosy as Marc makes it out to be:

There is no such thing as a zero-or close-to-zero emission nuclear power plant. Even existing plants emit due to the continuous mining and refining of uranium needed for the plant. However, all plantsalso emit 4.4 g-CO2e/kWh from the water vaporand heat they release. This contrasts with solar panels and wind turbines, which reduce heat or water vapor fluxes to the air by about 2.2 g-CO2e/kWh for a net difference from this factor alone of 6.6 g-CO2e/kWh.

On top of that, because all nuclear reactors take 10-19 years or more between planning and operation vs.2-5 year for utility solar or wind, nuclear causes another64-102 g-CO2/kWh over 100 years to be emittedfrom the background grid while consumers waitfor it to come online or be refurbished, relative to wind or solar.

Build, build, build

In fact, I think building is how we reboot the American dream. The things we build in huge quantities, like computers and TVs, drop rapidly in price. The things we don’t, like housing, schools, and hospitals, skyrocket in price.

I…I, uh think he’s saying we should create hospital factories? “A hospital in every home, that’s what I say!”

What’s the American dream? The opportunity to have a home of your own, and a family you can provide for. We need to break the rapidly escalating price curves for housing, education, and healthcare, to make sure that every American can realize the dream, and the only way to do that is to build.

Or, you know, break the systemic racist, classist policies that form the backbone of repression throughout this country. And yes, I of course mean that we treat minority founders like garbage but we also don’t fund rural America either so this is a problem for us all.

Building isn’t easy, or we’d already be doing all this. We need to demand more of our political leaders, of our CEOs, our entrepreneurs, our investors. We need to demand more of our culture, of our society. And we need to demand more from one another. We’re all necessary, and we can all contribute, to building.

Oh Marc, you think people aren’t doing this? How about Backstage Capital? How about these 16 women fighting for change? What about Little Miss Flint or Greta Thunberg.

It’s not easy because some of the most radical, fundamental changes are at the heart of what makes people the most money.

Every step of the way, to everyone around us, we should be asking the question, what are you building? What are you building directly, or helping other people to build, or teaching other people to build, or taking care of people who are building? If the work you’re doing isn’t either leading to something being built or taking care of people directly, we’ve failed you, and we need to get you into a position, an occupation, a career where you can contribute to building. There are always outstanding people in even the most broken systems — we need to get all the talent we can on the biggest problems we have, and on building the answers to those problems.

Not everyone is capable of building, or taking care of others. Now we’re being ablist on top of everything else. A society is a mix of people, some which build, some which support, and some which need supporting. And the second and third order effects are huge.

But what are you doing to build this? In what ways are you building capacity in your community? Maybe you’ve opened your 9,000 square foot home (“He and Arrillaga live in a 9,000-square-foot home filled with modern art in Atherton, just five minutes from Andreessen Horowitz’s offices.”) to others? And while I appreciate your spouse’s work with the Social Fund, have you personally lobbied for higher taxes (which it seems like you believe in)?

I expect this essay to be the target of criticism. Here’s a modest proposal to my critics. Instead of attacking my ideas of what to build, conceive your own! What do you think we should build? There’s an excellent chance I’ll agree with you.

Oh, how about you go first? Since I already serve my community through government work, fire rescue, search and rescue, serving on school boards. It seems like you are in a better position to advocate for these changes, so would love to hear more about the direct impact you all are having. How you’re funding more diverse founders. How you’re expanding your offices. How you are enabling housing capabilities to increase. How you’re helping source PPEs.

We need people like you Marc. Can you help us change the world?

Our nation and our civilization were built on production, on building. Our forefathers and foremothers built roads and trains, farms and factories, then the computer, the microchip, the smartphone, and uncounted thousands of other things that we now take for granted, that are all around us, that define our lives and provide for our well-being. There is only one way to honor their legacy and to create the future we want for our own children and grandchildren, and that’s to build.

And it was build on inequality, and slavery, and slave labor, and many other awful things we also take for granted. Let’s not forget about them in this brave new world.