Open banking is dead, Techno-Optimists want a war

Techno-Optimist meme
Marc Andreessen's manifesto is flawed. But it shows a greater sense of the moment than our politicians.

This week on the podcast, we discuss a government failing to deliver on an innovation promise for the benefit of its citizens, and technologists who believe that governments shouldn’t be making these decisions in the first place. Strap yourself in.

“What happens when the technologists decide what they do is more important than the government and they don’t want to play by those rules?”

The writing is on the wall for open banking, it seems. While it might not be technically dead, the dream of financial innovation and competition through open banking does seem to be just that in the cold light of morning. Minister Freeland has announced new promises to make banking more affordable, but none of them would be necessary if the original promise to create structural change was kept. Is a banking services ombudsman a half-measure or a large white flag? It’s a shame, too, because it seemed like team #FreeBoswell was starting to win hearts and minds.

Speaking of rhetorical appeals, a16z general partner Marc Andreessen has drafted a manifesto for the Techno-Optimist. It’s bad in a lot of ways, and many good-faith critiques show its failings in more thoughtful ways than my undergrad philosophy flailings.

But as your podcast interlocutor, you know we encourage good-faith deep readings of complex subjects that lead to dialogue and greater understanding. My biggest issue with The Techno-Optimist Manifesto isn’t what the document gets wrong, but what it aims to do: offer a meme-able, ahistoric shorthand provoking not deep thought, but weaponized binary.

I’m not trying to be a polemicist, I can pretty easily point to the pernicious implications right under the surface throughout the document. “Become our allies in the pursuit of technology, abundance, and life,” sounds like a warm embrace but it’s grounded in the conviction that any constraints on the pursuit of technology are the enemy (the manifesto’s list of enemies is quite something).

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It is perhaps not a coincidence that this manifesto dropped mere weeks before United States President Joe Biden signed an executive order looking to regulate AI. We’ve talked about the difficulties of regulating AI on this podcast before and I don’t want to assume the order is well-constructed, but I do want to highlight one response from the manifesto’s author. Much like the feature image above (also from Andreessen’s Twitter), it doesn’t quite invoke optimistic vibes. It feels like the optimism has been weaponized.

And before you present a “just doing it for the memes” argument, allow me to remind you of the last 15 years of the internet or the concept of propaganda in the first place.

So is this tech podcast anti-tech, or tech pessimistic (techimistic)? No! We just want to balance our enthusiasm for tech with a healthy skepticism of claims that technology is an end in and of itself.

But we’re open to debate. Care to join us?

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The BetaKit Podcast is hosted by Douglas Soltys and Rob Kenedi. Produced by Kattie Laur, edited by Kattie Laur and Poncho Navarro. Sponsored by Float and SAAS NORTH (use the code ‘betakit25’ to get your tickets). Feature image courtesy Marc Andreessen.

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys is the Editor-in-Chief of BetaKit and founder of BetaKit Incorporated. He has worked for a few failed companies and written about many more. He spends too much time on the Internet.

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