American Dynamism — Or Inertia?

Frederick Daso
3 min readJan 11, 2024

In an era of high interest rates and slowing venture capital activity, I was surprised to see a16z General Partner Katherine Boyle announce her firm’s latest initiative, “American Dynamism.”

Her recent speech, “How to Win the Fight for America,” was the latest exhortation of her perspective on what’s plaguing America and how to move forward.

Still image of Katherine Boyle, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, speaking at the Defense Ventures Summit in Washington, D.C., on November 15th, 2023.

I caught wind of it on Twitter from a founder who was tweeting the highlights of the speech live.

I’m glad she spoke at Shift’s Defense Venture Summit. From what I saw on Twitter, her words were compelling, timely, and relevant amidst ongoing foreign conflicts and domestic debates.

I believe that Boyle and a16z will be successful in generating massive investment returns for their LPs following her investment thesis.

Yet, her speech leaves me with more questions, which is good! The best takes in tech are thought-provoking. Initially, she raises the main tension between Silicon Valley and Washington, which is being driven by the latter’s inefficient procurement processes to acquire new technologies from the former.

“We tried to explain that we had about 18–24 months to figure out how to procure these systems, because not only would businesses go out of business waiting for the DOD to make decisions, but investors would get tired of waiting. Talent would move on to other areas that seem more promising or flourishing.”

I was excited by her introduction and was looking forward to the rest.

(Note: “In 2017, 92 percent of U.S. VC dollars — up from 55 percent in 2006 — went toward software-based technologies that have lower capital requirements, less invention risk, and quicker returns,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Investors may not have been waiting in the first place.)

Yet, she spends more time framing American Dynamism through allusions to our nation’s culture wars instead of drilling down further into the main tension she introduced at the beginning of her speech.

For example:

“You win a war against America when we believe the doomer memes and stop thinking life has meaning at all. A recent Wall Street Journal poll found that faith, family, and the flag — the very things that used to define our national character — have eroded in the last 25 years. Less than thirty percent of people say patriotism is important to them now, down from 70 percent two decades ago. Religion, having children, and community all fared the same. You win the war against America when it’s nihilism all the way down.

You win a war against America when you believe the planet is fallen and you perpetuate your own extinction, when doom-mongers are telling us that we’ll have to bomb data centers and people in Washington take them seriously.”

Why isn’t Boyle digging deeper into the loss of faith in American life and its institutions captured in the preceding paragraph of her speech?

Why is Boyle giving undeserved attention to Eliezer Yudkowsky, someone who has no formal training, credentials, or industry experience in artificial intelligence?

(I guess one article in Time is enough to be considered an authority on the subject from the perspective of White House journalists.)

I agree with much of what she is saying on common sense grounds, but where is the novel path forward?

Where is the assessment of the hollowing out of America’s manufacturing industry over the past half-century on Americans and their social, economic, and cultural lives?

Where is the analysis of how the nation’s armament supply chains have performed in the face of multiple geopolitical conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East?

Where are today’s solutions to improving our nation’s defense industrial base to meet tomorrow’s geopolitical conflicts in Southeast Asia?

How do we get more production contracts in the hands of startups to drive innovation between Silicon Valley and Washington?

Ultimately, how does America reindustrialize again to reflect Boyle’s dynamism?

I appreciate her speech for the questions it has left me with, and I enjoy seeing how her thought leadership in this space has developed since she published her promising thesis at the beginning of 2022.

I thank Boyle for her thinking, and I’m excited to see how she presses forward with American Dynamism and removes the inertia of doubt that has captured our present moment at a16z.