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Don't be afraid of artificial intelligence, says VC Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz (right), Andreessen Horowitz partner talks about artificial intelligence and jobs at the TANIUM CONVERGE16 conference San Francisco.
Harriet Taylor | CNBC
Ben Horowitz (right), Andreessen Horowitz partner talks about artificial intelligence and jobs at the TANIUM CONVERGE16 conference San Francisco.

Software will continue to eat — and program — the world, and erase some jobs in the process, but history suggests it will create even more, said Andreessen Horowitz partner Ben Horowitz.

"It is possible this time it's different — it's possible that this time technology just wipes out all the jobs and there's nothing for people to do and we just have to put on plays, and write music and paint pictures — but that's not the highly probable bet," he said.

For every single technological shift, the implications for business and society are massive, but hard to predict.

"I think you have to be careful about shorting human ambition and ingenuity," said Horowitz. "The possibilities of the future — things that we might build or do — are just really hard to anticipate." The comments came on stage at a user conference for Andreessen Horowitz portfolio company Tanium.

No one would have predicted that smartphones would give rise to driver jobs for college kids delivering food, said Horowitz.

"Its hard to say what's going to happen when driving no longer becomes a job — we know the downside — that's easy to predict. It's very hard to predict the upside," he said.

Horowitz did make some predictions for how technology will change — and improve — certain jobs. Artificial intelligence will free humans from things machines do better, and people will be able to spend time doing the things machines are not good at, like interacting with people, he said.

Our descendants will look back at the way we went to the doctor with horror, given the low-level technology we applied to our healthcare system, said Horowitz.

In the future, sensors will monitor everything from blood sugar level to heart rate level and machines will be able to do things like sequence the microbiome to identify good and bad bacteria, said Horowitz. That data will be compared against family history and a huge database of other patient information — drawing on society's the collective health intelligence — to suggest possible diagnoses and treatments.

The doctor will become less focused on memorizing things and trying to get to a diagnosis, and thus be able to spend more time with patients.


When it comes to things like business forecasting, machines will step in and do a better job than humans of doing certain things, like producing quarterly earnings forecasts, said Horowitz.

Producing an accurate business forecast requires analyzing huge volumes of data on things like the macro-economic environment, a company's customer usage and the competitive landscape to create better quarterly earnings forecasts.

"No human being can analyze all that and put up a forecast, but a machine absolutely can do a better job, over time, which enables you to plan the business better, and enables you to hire the right number of people," he said.

This frees up corporate executives to focus on things like hiring, something machines cannot do better since it requires an understanding of human relationships, said Horowitz.

Of course, artifically intelligent machines will screw up forecasts, crash cars and come up with the wrong diagnoses from time to time, but so do humans, said Horowitz.

Ben Horowitz
Travis P. Ball | Getty Images
Ben Horowitz