The 'rock stars' of AI who dream of the day when robots are smarter than humans trends now
They call it a 'city of yesterday', where nostalgic Americans will escape the problems of the modern world.
In California Forever, children will walk to school and grandparents will live down the street from their grandchildren, say its founders. Promo drawings show youngsters riding their bikes down tree-lined streets and families canoeing on lily-covered lakes.
A secretive group of Silicon Valley moguls has paid $900 million for 50,000 acres of rural land in Solano County, north-east of San Francisco — and say their 'sustainable community' could one day house 400,000 people.
But will this old-fashioned suburban paradise also be free from Artificial Intelligence (AI), the potentially apocalyptic technology some say threatens our existence?
It's a fair question given that one of the project's main backers is the billionaire venture capitalist and software engineer Marc Andreessen. Two weeks ago, the Iowa-born tech guru published an extraordinary 'manifesto' warning the world of the folly of resisting the onward march of AI.
One of the project's main backers is the billionaire venture capitalist and software engineer Marc Andreessen (pictured with wife Laura)
Despite the cosy suburban 1950s theme planned for California Forever, Marc and Laura prefer to wallow in very 21st-century splendour. In 2021, they bought a seven-acre compound in Malibu formerly owned by fashion mogul Serge Azria for $177 million (£145 million). Pictured: Uber-rich Malibu
He's an influential figure and his 5,000-word Techno-Optimist Manifesto will be known to many of the politicians and Silicon Valley bosses attending Rishi Sunak's world-first AI Summit this week at the former World War II codebreaking HQ, Bletchley Park.
From the devastating mental harm wrought by social media to the rampant misinformation, violence and pornography spread on the internet, technology is often blamed for many of the contemporary world's problems.
However, with breathtaking nerve, Andreessen — one of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley — argues precisely the opposite. In fact, there's no modern problem that cannot be solved by technology, he insists, which is why we must do all we can to accelerate the dawn of 'artificial general intelligence' — when computers start to 'think' like humans.
Considerations like ethics, safety and regulations must not be allowed to get in the way, he argues. Dismissing his opponents as 'elites', 'Luddites' and 'communists', he insists there's no cause for alarm. 'We are not primitives, cowering in fear of the lightning bolt,' he intones. 'We are the apex predator; the lightning works for us.'
It comes at a time when Big Tech is split into two factions over AI. On one side, the likes of Andreessen and Facebook's head of policy, the ex-deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, are pushing for ever faster AI development.
On the other side, a group is fighting to slow — or even halt — research into the technology. They include the three pioneering computer scientists known as the 'godfathers of AI' — Yann LeCun, Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio — who have all expressed alarm at the way the technology is going amid fears it could even lead to the extinction of humanity.
Andreessen, 52, who's been dubbed the 'chief ideologist of the Silicon Valley elite', and a coterie of other AI zealots in the tech world couldn't disagree more.
It comes amid Rishi Sunak's world-first AI Summit this week at the former World War II codebreaking HQ, Bletchley Park. Last night, he interviewed X CEO Elon Musk
Critics argue much of their enthusiasm is deeply self-serving, as these entrepreneurs have made millions — even billions — from digital innovations and stand to get richer still from AI.
Their ranks include those who've already made fortunes from such ethically questionable industries as cryptocurrencies, violent video games and social media.
Adding to the unease is the sense that their cause is beginning to feel like something of a religious cult. Many subtly signal their allegiance by adding an 'e/acc' tag to their profiles on X/Twitter. It stands for 'effective acceleration', a set of ideas centred around the theory that AI shouldn't just be unrestrained but accelerated for the good of mankind.
Some of them say artificial general intelligence will be achieved by 2030. Tech venture capitalist and AI devotee Garry Tan has predicted that anyone with a job in future will either be telling a