Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Men Without Work (mauldineconomics.com)
216 points by hunglee2 on Apr 2, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 382 comments



I don't see his conclusion of "you have to get lots of smart immigrants to fill in"... he spends paragraphs talking about how there is a growing pool of able-bodied, middle-aged citizenry yet he advocates bringing in even more people to maintain GDP.

This is a training problem; we have a surplus of workers (and potential workers) with mismatched skills. He should consider retraining willing reentrants before further attempting to crowd a dwindling workforce with outsiders.


I just want to add that a lot of my jobless (and semi-employed), nontechnical friends would gladly jump into a good, entry-level position that would train them. What's sad is most of the entry-level work I see across most fields could be done with a minimum of training, even though employers insist on a college degree.

There's a lot of computing grunt work that I would love to pawn off on a junior, but our hiring funnel is so messed up...


>What's sad is most of the entry-level work I see across most fields could be done with a minimum of training, even though employers insist on a college degree.

I'm in a graduate program now and I've become extremely cynical about "college" and "university". The mandatory degree("credentialing") is starting, in my opinion, to look more like institutional fraud than any honest attempt at teaching people anything.

Whoever figures that out, the credentialing part, could go a long way toward fixing that problem. Is anyone working on this?


Your ire is focused on the symptom not the cure.

Take a look at india and china, they have this exact same problem, and it's a result of immense demand for STEM engineers, no matter what.

Marketing employees will have gone through a STEM education on a regular basis.

The way it unfolds is this -

1) If you aren't a degree holder, you aren't employable, there's millions of degree holders fighting for a job

2) you are a degree holder? Well there's 1000s fighting for your position, are you a hard degree or soft degree?

3) HArd STEM? What's your pedigree?

In short - allowing the system to take root (degree as pre requisite for jobs), sets of a vicious cycle.

This cycle only begins when you have a large group of unemployable humans.

To compete and be employed they increasingly turn to signaling. Eventually the old signal (actually interested In learning) gets overwhelmed with people who just want a job.

it's a jobs problem not an education problem.


One of my professors made a point about college: it's not about getting a job or not, but rather, being a button-pusher or understanding what you're doing. It's way too easy to become a "button-pusher". I am 100% confident that I could successfully perform a relatively complex cardiac surgery on a patient with about 2-3 weeks of training and some good staff. "Cut here, tie that together, done".

The thing is, there is a HUGE difference between what I described and actually understanding what one is doing, in the deepest meaning of that word. That's what you go to college for: to pass on that deep knowledge. You don't go to college to "get a job".

So the problem really is with employers: why do they insist on a college degree when they could ask for a technical school diploma, or whatever. There's nothing wrong with college per se, IMO, as I think you'll agree.


If the goal of universities is to pass on "deep knowledge", then I would argue that the vast majority of such institutions are utter failures at their mission.


We might have a definition problem, where some institutions that offer what amounts to a technical education (i.e. with almost no mandatory "theoretical" courses) call themselves "colleges".

In the workplace I definitely experience the difference between one who received a formal education, in the sense of raw theory, and one who studied how to "do" things. Both are useful, but they serve different purposes.


From my experience working in management over the past decade, I can say with some confidence that most computer science programs excel at pushing out people that can not, in fact, code in the real world.

Sure, they can solve ACM-style challenges and spit out Dijkstra on a whim, but I can't recall the last time I needed to deliver on a business objective that mapped to either of those things.

This is not to say that understanding computer science is bad! Having a deep understanding of the underlaying theory and technology is a requirement to attain mastery.

But being able to ship maintainable, well-factored, and properly-tested code in a collaborative environment is far more important to me than having memorized every algorithm in TAOCP.

I mean, if I can have both skillsets, I'll totally take both skillsets, but given the choice between the two, I know that a wizard-level software engineer with very weak algorithms skills will, in general, bring a lot more value to a project than a wizard-level computer scientist that can't write code that the rest of the team can maintain.

About the only time that a computer science wizard is useful to me, is if I already have a team of solid software engineers, so that they can mentor each other and lift the overall skill level of the team.

What universities really need to start doing is including a multi-year track built into their curricula whereby students build and maintain production software over the course of their studies, with quarterly rotation between teams.


Why not produce useful software needed by wider society as part of the course? Whether it's open source which will give them the github credentials or something like CodeForAmerica that fixes needed public works.

The problem is the dog eat dog narrow mindedness of seeing everything as a competition and not learning anything about collaboration and serving others. Something a lot of CS grads would benefit massively from, I know I would have.


Also a good idea.


Equally to blame is the industry hiring process. ACM HackerRank and Codility challenges are often the first stage before you're put through a whiteboard. As a result, a competent programmer has no incentive to actually continue training in best practice, rather optimise for the interview process. I flat out refuse to do any interviews with this silly competitive programming hoop jumping. As a manager, what is your hiring process?


I share your concerns, but I absolutely disagree with your last proposal: Universities should stay universities. There's a reason why civil engineers aren't pouring concrete and installing cables etc in a new hospital, for example. There are vastly more competent people for the tasks, and they all went to technical school (electricians, etc).

I actually think Universities do a disservice to their students if they promise them a curriculum that "leads to a job". You should go to University if you want to continue your formal education, not "to get a job". If you just want to get a piece of paper that lets you get a job, mentor with someone, go to a technical college, learn to "do" something. But Universities should teach how to think, that's about it, IMO. If you can find a job after should have no impact on the curriculum.


I am from Brazil, here people demanded that I should go to university to get a degree to get a job.

I can say now that trusting the adults was stupid idea, I ended getting student loans, got a degree, but no job. I am 29 now and my government job registry is still empty.


Then we need to build an entirely separate practical education track in the United States, similar to how things work in Germany. We could base it in community colleges to leverage existing mindshare and infrastructure.

I would actually love to see this, but haven't yet thought through in-depth how it would work in the US.

Because right now, nothing like this exists, and until it does, the primary focus of most university students is to indeed "get a job".


You mean like trade school? I'm not familiar with the German system, but the description of "practical education track" sounds a lot like trade school. Of which there are many in the US but are considered undesireable in comparison to college.


This.


There really needs to be a division in American universities between Computer Science and Software Engineering, the same like you would find between Physics and Mechanical Engineering.


Or clearly defined apprenticeship programs. Which may not be part of universities.


A part of which is the difference between information and experience.

Schools attempt to cram as much information as possible in as little time in the overworked and overwhelmed minds of the students. The result is low retention and studying for the tests.

Knowledge and deep understanding come with time and experience in the presence of awareness.

The experiential parts of medical training for example are closer to hazing than anything else. We have enough research to know that the brain needs rest to process learning. Having people work for 24-36h straight does not do anyone a favor, is not sustainable and presents significant dangers to everyone involved.


>There's nothing wrong with college per se, IMO, as I think you'll agree.

Yep, I'd absolutely agree. I suppose my problem here is cultural, in a way. I didn't mean to say that I don't think young people (am I old? Maybe I am) shouldn't have to take history classes that are exogenous to whatever they end up doing later in life. I think what I'm trying to say is that there's a lot of room to make specific skills that employers look for separate from the horribly expensive University system. This has to be possible, but maybe I'm wrong.


Unfortunately, IME, neither is "deep knowledge" gained by an average student during an average undergraduate education, despite practitioners' best intentions.


You are right. It is also my experience that some graduates from technical schools are much more knowledgeable than some graduates from college. But the point stands, the two types of schools are serving different needs. We need both.


>I am 100% confident that I could successfully perform a relatively complex cardiac surgery on a patient with about 2-3 weeks of training and some good staff. "Cut here, tie that together, done".

And what if something goes wrong?


I really wish someone would. I know too many folks who've been laid off after an otherwise very successful run, and will not be interviewed by new companies because they fall sort in the credential category. It's enraging, frankly, because they meet and usually exceed all other requirements and yet the credential is what stops the hire.

I hear theories that cite insurance (that power company case) and other reasons, and I think they all kind of stink. It's as if higher education is more of a gatekeeper than mobilizer. (In some industries.)


It would probably be quite difficult to hammer together some "agreed upon standard" for "levels" of proficiency in X_language.

That said, it's been done before...with spoken languages for the Military. Taking the DLPT will give you a rating on your proficiency, and then you get both the credentialing and then additional pay (Once upon a time I took it for Arabic and scored some 0+s). It'd be hard, but I don't think it would be impossible to do it for some kind of development credential.

http://www.dliflc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Generic-Fam... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_Language_Proficiency_T...


> I really wish someone would. I know too many folks who've been laid off after an otherwise very successful run, and will not be interviewed by new companies because they fall sort in the credential category

I wonder if that's disguised ageism. A lot more people are going to college in the last decade than in previous decades.


If ageism is hitting in our early 30s things are worse than I thought.


"The mandatory degree("credentialing") is starting, in my opinion, to look more like institutional fraud than any honest attempt at teaching people anything."

New age indentured servants.


There's a company thats working on getting there. https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/20/sigma/


It looks like they're solving a different problem.

Lots of analog credentials do exist that should be digitized (the SCUBA one is a great example that I've personally encountered), but I'm talking about a replacement for traditional, outrageously expensive 4-year Universities where a fraction of what you pay for is directed toward what you'll do for work - but more importantly, folks that wish to career switch from whatever they'd doing to a more technical field but lack that 4-year "degree".


Quit your job, hire your non-technical friends. Train them up and run your consultancy that can beat everyone on price and is at least as good. Riches await.

Use the fact that you have the experience to sell the consultancy. Then use your army of once non-technical friends as your code farm. You can pay them less than market (since they were otherwise making nothing) and you can charge market.

You're promising an easy market opportunity. And that always raises the question, "If it's so easy, why aren't you doing it?"


... because his "once non-technical friends", after he trains them up, will either have to be paid market rate or will eventually jump ship to someone who does? This is a bit simplified (perhaps these guys will be grateful enough to stick around for a while, and not act like Homo Economicus).

You also can't charge full market rate if you are using the equivalent of apprentices/journeymen to do the work.

It's the classic problem of training.


So the way a company charges market rate for juniors varies by industry.

In the trades, they generally get apprentices to do work at full chargeout (with guidance) with final signoff from certified person.

In consulting (IT, law, legal) you can either have tiered rates based on seniority of resource or a mixture of experience types doing "flat rate" job.


> In the trades, they generally get apprentices to do work at full chargeout (with guidance) with final signoff from certified person.

And this is why I generally do the work myself rather than getting a tradie in. If I want someone inexperienced to give it a go and probably screw up, I'll screw it up myself on a Saturday afternoon rather than paying $120/hr for someone else to screw it up. At least after that I know how to fix it next time.


Because, honestly, I am not so sure one can just be trained to be a good developer. There has to be some level of self-interest to hit the kind of performance levels one needs with a small team.

A worry about a lot of the people that are just joining the technical scene; they're entering a world where computing has been abstracted so far away from the actual hardware that many of them think the only way forward is to string together plugins (not that that's a particularly new phenomenon) and cloud services.

But for sales, or stocking a warehouse, or operations, or managing a team? Hell yeah I'd hire some of these folks. If only I had a business that needed that kind of staffing...


>> Quit your job, hire your non-technical friends.

Hiring a bunch of inexperienced people is not a good idea. Having larger companies sprinkle them around the workforce is better. Also, larger companies are more likely to need enough people to have a regular training program.


Probably because you'll be undercut by a company that doesn't need to invest in training because they will outsource or hire an immigrant.

And most people don't have the access to capital to start a business.


Not everyone is motivated by more money. I like what I do, I have great work-life balance, and I get paid enough that I don't have to think about money. I wouldn't take a stressful job that I didn't enjoy doing for anything short of an obscene salary that allowed me to "retire" in 3-4 years.


Because, having access to cheaper labor isn't a competitive advantage when it comes to software companies. There's already such a vast oversupply of labor, it doesn't help companies if they have even more labor. Unlike other industries, in software, there are much larger factors to success than access to cheaper labor.


There are people trying to solve the problems. zoho is well known in the Indian startup space for successful lly doing it

https//m.rediff.com/business/report/pix-tech-zohos-success-thanks-to-college-dropouts-and-high-school-grads/20141203.htm


I agree with the sentiment but the notion that all the folks inclined to work with their hands just need to become knowledge workers misses the mark I think.

A bigger problem is that capitalists can easily take advantage of labor arbitrage. But laborers can't easily take advantage of cost of living arbitrage.


It's not that they should all become knowledge workers, but tradespeople too -- construction, plumbing, electricians, etc. From what I hear it is very hard to break into these fields without prior training, which you need to acquire on your own and with some other means of supporting yourself (which isn't always available). I would love to see a return to master-and-apprentice style workplace relationships.


Some of these trades do have apprenticeship program's in their unions and at least in my city in the licensing requirements. To be a journeyman electrician you are first an apprentice for 4 or five years, and at least in union shops your pay reflects your (theoretical) ability.

So a fifth year apprentice make something like 80% of a journeyman as they should be capable of 80% of his tasks; while a first year apprentice pulls in less than half as he likely knows little of the trade.


Vast majority of these apprenticeship programs first require that you have a 2 yr degree from some technical institute though, and there's very few that will hire you based on high school grades and agree to pay for your education with the exception of some power companies. Seems if you're crazy enough to be a powerline tech they will pay to train you.


"Seems if you're crazy enough..."

Why is this crazy? It's a very important job that actually contributes to society. I have much respect for T-men, Linemen, and Sub Techs.


Crazy as in dangerous, many deaths and injuries here over the years of powerline techs.


That all gets paid for by unions, which The US is about to push out in the interest of "freedom".


By "freedom", you mean because 90% of the country isn't a member of a union and many of those people don't want to be.


These trades are not difficult to break into, except if you want to make a livable wage, and that requires a union.

I guarantee anyone of you here, if remotely physically fit, could get a non-union job in construction. Good luck making $10-15 an hour. Even being a non-union electrican is not difficult. The contractor, will many times, train you, but it just doesn't pay more than retail.

You will see a lot of Contractors. It's not that difficult to get a licence. C-6 electrical being the exception. They are checking experience lately, and elevator mechanics--forget the number.

It's difficult to get into a good union, like local 6 in San Francisco though.

Why is the pay so low in construction, even field like Electrical, and Telecommunications? Partly it's because jobs are just hard to come by. And you gave a Huge swath of people who will apply to that job.

A couple of guys just got out of prison on the 70's. "What should we do now? Most jobs like will check out backround. Yes--they could check background then too. Convicts, "Let's start a landscaping company, or work in construction?" Good idea. Many could do these labor intensive jobs, and pull themselfs back into society.

They can't do it anymore, because there is just too much competition. I won't touch that debate.

If anyone reads this, and want to get into construction, apply to a union. How do you know this? Been non-union, union, and Contractor.

If you have some training, getting your Contractor's license is not that difficult. You will have a hard time making a good living off it. Most of you will fail, but the ones that really market themselfs, and have connections will make a living. You will find most people want to pay you the least amount for your labor, and knowledge. The wealthy are the worst. You will be one of those people who pay minimum wage. I have never hired a guy off the sidewalk though--it's just something I won't do. Why will you just pay minimum wage? You can't compete paying livable wages.

United States has had a huge problem with low paying jobs for a long time.

I have known something is very wrong for a long time. I stopped listening to those employment numbers, they just don't add up to what I see, except the "able bodied workers, but gave up" number".

And as my dad said, if you fall into construction; Electrical is still the best, but it's all backbreaking work. Look into being an elevator mechanic--it's a high paying, interesting field--believe it or not. It's basically a union apprenticeship, and unions are only in big cities. A lot of guys want to get into Carpetry because they like woodworking. On most commercial job sites, you won't see much wood. It's all metal studs, and "get it done." If you do custom homes, yes--you will be able to do some woodworking.

You can teach yourself to become an Electrician. Getting licenced by the states is kinda difficult. You can even make over $100/hr. on certain markets like San Francisco. Union companies will hire you now, because the economy is so hot there. You will be called white paper though, and when the good times end--you will go right back to non-union shops, or another low paying job.


Not only cost-of-living arbitrage, but also productivity arbitrage. That's why we need more migration (internal and across borders), and lower restrictions on building more capacity for housing in highly productive places like San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York, etc.


I met a guy who was highly motivated, seemed quite capable of doing work. He had lost his low level manufacturing job probably due to his own issues (he felt blamed of other peoples crappy work). This guy was desperate, had no place to stay, couldn't find a job due to a long criminal record (10 years in prison for a bunch of felonies) I swear if he got some solid mental health help, and a bit of training, he could make a solid electronics tech which we need where I work. He was totally ready to take whatever chance someone would give him, but he's essentially been discarded by society.


Let's back up and not make it about this particular person. I don't care what job you're working in, if you were willing to hire someone who has not been able to hold a job in the field, who had a criminal record and even mental health issues, you would be inundated with applicants. If you interviewed than and selected based on motivation to work, you'd have a huge problem selecting from the people who are absolutely desperate to get a job.

But, in all honesty, can you actually provide what they need? Can you deal with alcoholism, or drug dependency? Can you deal with absenteeism? Can you deal with behaviour disorders that might even be violent?

I'm not saying a candidate will definitely have any of these problems (or others), but I am saying that I have worked with people with all of these kinds of issues before. It is crippling. It's hard enough to do a good job when you are with people who are able to hide their personal problems away for 8 hours a day and concentrate on work. If you have to deal with someone else's problems on top of your own on top of both of your jobs, can you really cope?

If the answer is yes, then please hire these people and help them. If the answer is no, then you're going to have to draw the line somewhere. Where? How much risk are you willing to take on board? How much risk can your organisation realistically deal with? The places I've worked at can barely cope with the problems they already have. Looking for more problems to solve will not actually help anyone if you can't actually solve them.

It sucks to let someone drown, but it is foolish to dive in and try to save them when you can't swim.


>> But, in all honesty, can you actually provide what they need?

No. I am not a mental health professional. I did point out the need for that. It takes time and costs money and our world is not set up to provide it to the bottom rungs of society unless they are in crisis.

>> Can you deal with alcoholism, or drug dependency?

We don't need someone coming to work drunk or high. Again, people need treatment for these things.

>> Can you deal with absenteeism?

That depends. If it's once a week but I get good work 4 days it might be better than not having anyone at all. There are limits of course.

>> Can you deal with behaviour disorders that might even be violent?

Again, mental health issues. There is a pattern to your questions. I stand by my assertion that society has discarded these people. You are right that it's not my companies job to pick up the pieces when we have our own issues (and we do). But whose job is it?

>> It sucks to let someone drown, but it is foolish to dive in and try to save them when you can't swim.

Completely agree. I was pointing out a problem, not offering a solution. It may also be an opportunity if someone can figure out how to tap that pool of people for mutual benefit and not exploitation.

You're probably right about getting flooded with applicants, but I think screening would be extremely difficult with people wanting to overstate their motivation and skills just to get a job.

In the end, everyone has to find their own path. It just seems like we've made that harder than it has to be.


People don't matter, money does. The economy works for money, not the humans it was created to serve.


Why do that, when you can hire some body shop $90/hr to pay some poor Indian kid $18?


Hey don't forget - that poor Indian kid is still better off for it.


We would all be better off if our immigration system didn't create a process where some bodyshop pimp gets to skim 50-80% of the billing!

When my grandparents immigrated here, they did scutwork for low pay, but at least they got to work for their employer. There wasn't some layer of middlemen skimming the cream.


This is true, but when an entire society does this, then all it does is exploit cheap labor and leads to a race to the bottom to see who can charge the least, all while the capital owners reap the rewards.


Sounds like the "Fachkräftemangel" ("skilled worker shortage"), which is pushed into the media regularly by lobbyist groups (via "studies" and "statistics"). The goal is obviously to further reduce wages (even though they are already low here, Germany has some of the lowest unit labour costs on the entire continent) — many call it "cheap skilled worker shortage" now.


I like "Cheap Skilled Worker Shortage" as a term. I have found there is also a shortage of "Cheap Premium Quality Steaks" here.

For example my desire as a buyer would be to purchase an awesome steak for about a dollar but the failings of our society have again let me down.


"For example my desire as a buyer would be to purchase an awesome steak for about a dollar but the failings of our society have again let me down."

"Lobby" congress to right these wrongs perhaps?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7tWHJfhiyo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3GFG0sXIig


And yet, that's kind of true. There is a scarcity of high quality meat. Many people would be made happier if steak would be no more expensive than carrots.

Perhaps one day lab-grown meat will decrease the cost of production and make that a reality.


>Many people would be made happier if steak would be no more expensive than carrots. //

I kinda know what you mean but ... if we structured society to make steak that cheap we'd fritter away resources on something that we don't really need to spend them on, we'd probably destroy a good deal of eco-systems too in the production, deforest to make cattle farms and such. Ultimately we think we'd be happier, but in practice we'd probably not be happier; just have more ecological damage to contend with.

We'd probably be saying we just wish we had cheap carrots instead of steak all the time, probably.


Reminds me of the shortage of BMWs. I only want to pay $10k for a new one, and I've been searching for ages. Obviously there's a shortage.


Able-bodied? Sure. Able-minded? Not quite. There's a huge surplus of middle-age men more interested in pointless office politics and political propaganda than doing good work, conducting themselves respectfully, and maintaining competence. And a dearth of the hardworking, skilled variety.

This isn't just a training problem, it's a cultural issue.

Praising charlatans like Scott Adams, and worse, failing to recognize their lack of ability and their motives is another cultural issue.

Ultimately, the reason we have so many unemployed is because we're stupid. We suffer from a cultural stupidity partly the result of longterm political propaganda campaigns by less-intelligent politicians and industry leaders who can't gain support any other way (because they are also stupid). If America wants to slip back to the level of a third world country in terms of political systems and the average education of the citizenry, a higher unemployment rate is just par for the course.

We have people unfit for training.

As an aside, how can the American workforce maintain world class competency and compensation? We need to interact with the best in the rest of the world. Bringing them here and giving them the option to stay in a safe, fair environment is best. On the flip side, engineers need to believe they are being compensated fairly for their efforts, and not take so many pains to prevent the industry from developing better ways of doing things.


I disagree, I've met many very sharp people who happen to not have a background that does not fit the traditional 'knowledge worker' funnel. The fundamental problem is that once you make early life decisions - our society has increasingly closed the paths to retrace that decision. Employers are unwilling to fund retraining, even if one re-educates themselves there is discrimination for entry positions vs someone young and cheap (and has no expectations of good treatment...).


Wish I disagreed with you more than I do..

Still I think mostly that's just what the system rewards. Hardworking and skilled people with disdain for office politics will either get exploited or never get their foot in the door in the first place.


> Praising charlatans like Scott Adams, and worse, failing to recognize their lack of ability and their motives is another cultural issue.

I'm confused by this part. What does Scott Adams have to do with what you just wrote and how is he (in this context) a charlatan?


Yeah, I don't get it. Scott Adams draws comics lampooning office politics. He's not actually an office worker, just a comedian.


Adams has recently come out as a Trump supporter. Maybe that's it? He's still a strange choice of target, since he's not (as far as I know) one of the crazies screaming about "cucks" or Benghazi or whatever.

Personally I've found his blog to be pretty helpful for understanding the Trump phenomenon better. http://blog.dilbert.com/


Wasn't he an office drone before drawing Dilbert?


He was. His experience being a drone is where he drew his inspiration for Dilbert from.


Yes this stood out to me as well. I don't understand the rationale behind that argument. College attendance is at an all time high. Why is University not producing the thing that "smart immigrants" seem to have that U.S. graduates do not?


Because they skill they're looking for is "being under 30". Therefore being cheap to pay, cheap to insure, simple ageism in general, being extremely gullible WRT labor vs reward, being easily manipulable, etc.

Oddly enough no educational program helps with those already affected, retraining program participants have even been observed to fall behind about one day per 24 hours no matter how intensive the training program.

If they would just pull themselves up by their bootstraps like I do then they'd all look 29 for the rest of their lives, I mean can't all macroeconomic problems be solved by lecturing people to all do microeconomic improvements upon themselves, of course if they did that and no one were over age 29, then ageism would simply result in no one appearing to be over 28 ever being employed again, LOL.


> Oddly enough no educational program helps with those already affected, retraining program participants have even been observed to fall behind about one day per 24 hours no matter how intensive the training program.

I don't understand this, do you mind explaining it to me?


It's a joke. He's saying no educational programme will make you as stupid, naive and exploitable as you were in your twenties. One day = 24 hours


It's even simpler than that: they're already too old (over 30), and they continue to age at a one day per day rate no matter how well they're trained. It is possible to train oneself to be as stupid, naive and exploitable as necessary, but as long as the assumptions about who has those desirable qualities can be based on age, that training is unlikely to do you much good.


Unfortunately, having a college degree does not make one a skilled tech worker. Many students attend college for reasons other than being interested in tech - they want to make money, they want to enjoy being young before entering the workforce, people told them that going to college is the thing to do.

You can tell these at college - they take the easiest classes, they do as little as possible, they'll give you long-winded explanations justifying cheating, they complain about the college rather than taking advantage of the opportunities there, and they avoid math as much as possible.

When they graduate, they are only marginally employable, and offering more training won't help.


> ... they'll give you long-winded explanations justifying cheating ...

This is kind of off-topic and nitpicky of me, but it's something that's been on my mind recently, so I'll go ahead anyway:

For many things in life, condemnations are much easier to make than defenses, but that doesn't mean the defense is without merit.

I once took an upper-level math class where the instructor told us that we were not allowed to receive any help from people who were not currently enrolled in, or administering, the course. I said "screw that" and routinely asked my friend at another university, who had taken a similar course, for advice and clarifications on the subject matter and assignments. As a result I did very well in the course, particularly on the exams (where of course I had no one helping me).

This was clearly cheating, but to fully justify why I felt the rule was unfair, and why I felt it was morally permissible to cheat, would have required a full exposition of my beliefs on the purpose of education and fairness and personal responsibility. Meanwhile, anyone could just say to me, "that's against the rules, it's cheating, and you're putting the people who don't cheat at a disadvantage." Much easier to condemn than to defend.

This is really just a nitpick, though, and I agree with your overall point.


I remember a quote from a scifi book years ago, that a real scientist was one who would peer fearlessly into the gates of hell if he thought he'd learn something about his field.

You can't just train/encourage people into that. They are born that way. They'd be scientists/engineers for free if they could. Ironically, this often results in them being very well paid :-)

It reminds me of the fighter pilots who say "I can't believe they actually PAY me to fly these things!"

There's always a shortage of those kinds of people.


a real scientist was one who would peer fearlessly into the gates of hell if he thought he'd learn something about his field. You can't just train/encourage people into that. They are born that way.

What if your mother was a drug addict and your father was a fast-food worker? Would you still be a natural-born scientist?

It's too easy to think "People are born how they are."


Does it count if your mother took in laundry to survive and your father was a usually-out-of-work bricklayer?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelly_Johnson_(engineer)

and his autobiography:

"Kelly: More than My Share of It All" by Kelly Johnson


It's always possible to find exceptions, of course. But there are exceptional people from all walks of life.

Also, the wikipedia page makes it sound like it was all due to his merit:

His parents were Swedish, from the city of Malmö, county of Scania. Kelly was ashamed of his family's poverty, and vowed to return one day in prominence.[6] Johnson was 13 years old when he won a prize for his first aircraft design. He worked his way through Flint Central High School and graduated in 1928, then went to Flint Junior College, now known as Mott Community College, and finally to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he received a Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Aeronautical Engineering.

Who granted him the prize? It's fortunate they were paying attention to his work. How did he attend college with no money? It's fortunate he managed to find a source of income. Nowadays college is prohibitively expensive for those in poverty who don't achieve a full-ride scholarship or loans. And if you entered the workforce and later decide to go to college, you don't qualify for loans.

It seems less useful to say that someone will become something rather than they might overcome X and Y to become Z.


You might want to pick up Kelly's biography, where you can read about how easy it was for him :-) Kelly also had a bunch of siblings who are forgotten by history.

People (especially in America) have choices about their path in life. They are not hapless victims of circumstance and do not follow preordained paths.


People (especially in America) have choices about their path in life. They are not hapless victims of circumstance and do not follow preordained paths.

Your thesis is that they do: "They are born that way."

It's probably best to agree to disagree as to how much someone at the bottom can influence their situation in the modern day. You're talking about nearly a century ago.


Being a born engineer is not the same thing as being born into various external circumstances.

> It's probably best to agree to disagree as to how much someone at the bottom can influence their situation in the modern day. You're talking about nearly a century ago.

You're right it's different today. There's a lot MORE opportunity today than a century ago. Heck, I can get any information I want about any field of knowledge by pushing a button at my desk. How awesome is that? How about all those people becoming billionaires in their early 20s? That was utterly unheard of 50 years ago.


To clarify my thoughts on this: It sounds like you're saying "If someone is motivated and smart, they can always make significant opportunities for themselves."

That's a very convenient model, isn't it? If someone fails to make opportunities for themselves, then they must not be very smart and motivated.

It's like epicycles: The model can fit however you want it to fit. That's why it's worth being suspicious of it.


That is indeed what I'm saying. And the converse is also true - if someone needs excuses for failure, they can always find plenty.

> then they must not be very smart and motivated.

Negation does not work like that. A implies B does not mean that !A implies !B.


Why believe in a model that you can fit to whatever data you want?

I leave you with Feynman noting that you cannot prove a vague theory wrong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIN_-Flswy0&feature=youtu.be...

Your model seems to fit that description.


> Why

Because I've been around a long time, and know lots of people over many years. The ones who believe they can make their lives better and take action to do so, tend to get results and are happier. Those who believe they are victims of chance with no choice, tend to take no action, achieve little, and wind up bitter and defeated.

Note I said nothing about their circumstances.

I choose the happy path. If you choose the victim of fate path, I am sorry for you. Feynman is a terrible argument for your position - I've read his biographies, and he always chose the happy path.


Actually, Feynman has gone on at length about prejudice against certain ideas, and that the people who hold these prejudices are unlikely to change their minds. I also suspect you didn't actually watch the video, so I'm not sure what else there is to say if you're unwilling to listen to counterarguments.

I'm glad you've personally achieved success. It's mildly annoying that you attribute your success to your own inborn merits rather than the mixture of hard work and luck that success seems to be derived from, but you're in good company.

You can indeed close your eyes and choose the happy path. I hope you'll never be cut down by forces you cannot control.


What do you want, and what have you done today to move towards that? Are you waiting for luck to pay you a visit first?

I presume you have sound mind and body, and live in the US. That's all the luck you need. Anything else is up to you. YOUR choice. Even your health is about 60-80% under your control, if epidemiological studies are to be believed.


Have you heard of the Uber driver who's now $90k in debt because Uber lowered their rates after he leased a car via Uber? Would it be reasonable to attribute his misfortune to a lack of inborn intelligence or motivation? https://www.recode.net/2017/2/28/14766964/video-uber-travis-...

Even your health is about 60-80% under your control, if epidemiological studies are to be believed.

Do you have a source on this?


Lots of successful people have a track record of numerous failures. A friend of mine has made millions and gone bust 3 times now (or is it 4?). He's well along on his next startup. He doesn't even have a degree. How is America not the land of opportunity?

If you're not failing now and then, you're not trying. The Uber driver has my respect for getting in the game and trying.

> source

Not offhand. But you can start with every health report that comes out that outlines how this disease or that can have its lethal probability reduced by changing lifestyle. Such as quitting smoking, eating healthy, exercising, flossing, getting vaccinations, washing hands, using condoms, quitting meth, etc. The list goes on.


There's plenty of science in making better drugs


I'm hardly one to jump on the "CS degrees are useless" bandwagon -- different discussion, but suffice it to say that I believe they're a great thing to have and are generally a good stepping stone to a career in software.

I interviewed a man last week who had a CS degree from a good school and had been working in industry for two years, two different companies. Couldn't answer any of my technical questions. Couldn't describe, even in broad strokes, how his websites worked behind the scenes (as in "request sent to this server, server accesses DB, server sends this response, mail server sends an alert, etc") Couldn't answer basic questions about his own code (I believe he wrote it, but perhaps with a lot of copy/pasting)

I asked him why he majored in CS. He says that the recession had a big influence on him and he wanted to make a lot of money :-p Okay then! That explained a lot. I don't think programming is as hard as it's often made out to be on HN, but it's a really difficult field if you don't like it.


> it's a really difficult field if you don't like it.

That's the issue in a nutshell. You can tell people they'll make 100k easily but to be a developer you have to like it.

A good developer looks at the problem and goes "that's cool".

A great developer looks at the problem and goes "Huh, let's try that again".


>Many students attend college for reasons other than being interested in tech - they want to make money, they want to enjoy being young before entering the workforce, people told them that going to college is the thing to do.

God forbid people have an instrumental interest in getting one of the few decent jobs available?


Agreed. We should be investing in our own people and figuring out why our system isn't producing especially in light of the fact that we spend more than most countries on education. I'm guessing it's a combination of things:

- Recent grads from other countries are hungrier so they are constantly learning and have a plan. Many here get a sense of entitlement from graduating college because their parents came from an era where going to college was a near guarantee of a good job. Now it means very little as it's a requirement for most people.

- Our universities leave our students with a lot of debt which can be overwhelming. Rather than take a good opportunity with an internship, they're wanting high salaries straight out of college. They're very short-sighted and entitled. When I hire - I'm not going to overpay because you took on a lot of debt. Most small businesses can't afford to hire at what these grads want. I'm personally hiring people with no formal experience in technology with good personalities and a hunger to learn and teaching them.

- Universities are failing because most don't have the professors and curriculum yet to handle the needs of our evolving economy. I've always been interested in the web but they didn't teach any web development or technology when I was at school, so I taught myself instead of going to classes and ran an ecommerce store in 01 when margins online still existed. My brother is much younger than me and his school has these programs so that's a good thing.

A college education is definitely oversold and has been for some time. It used to be an incredible value. As with most things, I think we'll see a return to the older times and apprenticeships will emerge as a competing alternative. I know General Assembly offers apprenticeships where you pay something like $3500/mo for a boot camp graduate and they work on-site for 4 days and spend Friday learning at GA. I haven't tried it yet because I've been hiring in-network but I think that's a pretty compelling offering for both the student and the company hiring.


> - Universities are failing because most don't have the professors and curriculum yet to handle the needs of our evolving economy. I've always been interested in the web but they didn't teach any web development or technology when I was at school, so I taught myself instead of going to classes and ran an ecommerce store in 01 when margins online still existed. My brother is much younger than me and his school has these programs so that's a good thing.

Universities know what they should be teaching in order for their graduates to be successful in the workforce and in graduate studies. Lesser schools simply dumb down the curriculum to pad their graduation rates. In the case of software jobs, good companies want new graduates with solid fundamentals. There are certainly professors who are clueless but I doubt it's the tenured/tenure track faculty in top STEM departments.

>A college education is definitely oversold and has been for some time. It used to be an incredible value.

I agree with you on this, most schools are simply not worth attending.

> I've always been interested in the web but they didn't teach any web development or technology when I was at school

This is too vocational for a school to teach. Web development frameworks are easy enough to learn on your own and intellectually they are not challenging. Schools must concentrate on the fundamentals and not on ephemeral technologies.

>As with most things, I think we'll see a return to the older times and apprenticeships will emerge as a competing alternative.

I'd say it's more likely software hiring turns into what you see in industries where too many people want to get in such as investment banking, big law, and consulting where employers simply recruit from certain schools. My Summer software engineering internship at a Fortune 500, non-tech company is composed roughly of 75% of students from reputable or name brand schools. Bay area software companies are probably even a greater percentage.


I agree that you don't need a university to be successful in web development, but they ARE getting on the train and offering web development programs and have been since I graduated some time ago. I did C and Matlab in school and my much younger brother is doing Java and Python. You can teach the fundamentals while still having a web development program that is more interesting and applicable to the student and less intimidating for a wider audience. I wasn't advocating for teaching frameworks or any specific technology because that doesn't make sense for a university. I do think the unis are disconnected from building soft-skills though. I'm thankful that my experience in sales & marketing classes opened that up for me - persuasion, team projects, building rapport & sales, speeches, etc.

> My Summer software engineering internship at a Fortune 500, non-tech company is composed roughly of 75% of students from reputable or name brand schools

You might be right with the big companies, but even they have had to open their requirements because of the shortage of talent. SMBs can't afford what those reputable school graduates want. So there is a big gap and opportunity which I think the more value priced colleges, boot camps and apprenticeships can fill to add more good paying jobs which will stimulate the economy.


Because work ethic is not taught in high school or university (or in American families/society). And many 3rd (or higher) generation Americans have an unhealthy sense of entitlement.

Many American teens are told that they are able to become and do whatever they want and that money, knowledge, education and job stability have very little utility for happiness.

At age 18, "whatever they want" means partying while gaining large amounts of debt and barely passing through a ridiculously easy, but useless liberal arts major.


Our "entitlement" doesn't come from nothing. Wages have been dropping significantly since the recession. The loyalty that corporations show is lower than ever. All the jobs are either being outsourced or concentrated to a handful of urban centers in the country. Cost of living is going up every year, especially in housing. We're required to get $40-$100k in debt just to start our careers. All this is happening when supposedly our economy is doing better than ever. Then we hear constantly about how we're lazy, entitled, and should just work more. I'll tell you, I'm one of those "lazy" millennials, but I'm not lazy. I'm just not willing to be exploited just so corporations can profit more and more off of my labor. Why should I care about my work when it's obvious that it doesn't care about me?


I think some of your assumptions merit more consideration, too: college attendance is higher but it's still significantly below the theoretical maximum – does that mean that the in-demand degrees require interests/talents which simply aren't more common in the general population or that there's a problem with some combination of being prepared for those majors, supporting students all the way through graduation, or having certain career paths be open and inviting to the entire prospective student population?

Based on the number of students who either never attend or fail to graduate due to financial reasons I think most of this could be by our society choosing not to invest in high-quality education and other social support rather than some intrinsic failure of the higher-education system.


We get to pick our majors in Uni here, so many are free to study things that don't train them in useful employment areas at all. In e.g. China you don't get much of a choice (unless you test ridiculously well). Idk that could be part of it.


> he spends paragraphs talking about how there is a growing pool of able-bodied, middle-aged citizenry yet he advocates bringing in even more people to maintain GDP.

This makes no sense to me. The US economy exists to serve the people of the US, and GDP isn't an end to itself.


>The US economy exists to serve the people of the US, and GDP isn't an end to itself.

Those two points, really, have become increasingly hard to argue with my friends the last couple years.


That is correct, but if GDP remains stagnant or falls, that becomes harder to do. GDP per capita is one of the ways that the wealth of a nation's citizenry is measured, so if that is declining due to low productivity and continued population growth, that's trouble. Basically means that the economy isn't going to be able to serve people.


I understand what you're saying, but I don't think looking at GDP to the exclusion of other factors is a very useful exercise.

If GDP per capita is the way you're measuring wealth, you're not doing yourself any favor by adding more people to the denominator. Also, having a higher GDP doesn't help if it means everyone is burdened by the additional strain of providing for all the people who are out of work as a result of whatever policy you used to goose GDP.


Right. It's basically an unresolved empirical question as to whether or not bringing all of those new people here will result in the release of a magical growth fairy that will paper over any of the problems. If it does, glossing over the whole question isn't too bad. If it doesn't, then you're right.


>I don't see his conclusion of "you have to get lots of smart immigrants to fill in"

I wouldn't call a point made less than halfway through the article a "conclusion". He seems to place more importance on incarceration rates; from the final few paragraphs:

As we close this letter, I want to highlight that one bolded paragraph again

As we shall see, a single variable -- having a criminal record -- is a key missing piece in explaining why work rates and LFPRs have collapsed much more dramatically in America than other affluent Western societies over the past two generations...

If we want to see things began to change, we going to have to deal with this variable. Perhaps we should rethink our concept of incarcerating everyone found guilty of using currently illegal drugs. Maybe we need to rethink about how long felony convictions stay attached to personal records.


I have to agree. I'm an immigrant though I grew up here (and my parents had a strong work ethic and taught me that hard technical work is respected). I notice with my American peers that there is some disdain for office work. And also there is some lack of belief in their skillset. (As much as people say Americans are overly confident, I find the opposite in tech for those who simply haven't tried it enough. They don't know easy it can be.)

The key for many is willingness and commitment to it in my opinion. At the end of the day, many folks could retrain themselves with all the tools they have for free online. I find that tech is not a profession you can exactly spoon feed to someone. This is why I think immigrants are an easier solution in some cases.


Employers don't want to own the problems of the workforce. They just want to make more profit by reducing costs. It would be ideal for them that people spend lots of money on their products while they pay as little salary as possible, by automating jobs.

Of course it won't be possible, but nobody wants to be the first to make a sacrifice for the common good. It's a game theory problem - how to convince them to think more long-term and inclusive while they also compete and are selfish.

I think we should move towards helping people become more self reliant, since there are fewer jobs. Maybe we could bootstrap communities of unemployed to take care of their own needs. Even with all the automation, we still have a job left: taking care of our own family and community.


It's also physically healthy for people to be employed. Unemployed people who have too much free time but little productive time don't typically use that time to better their health -worse, they develop bad eating habits.

We could learn a thing or two from Japan regarding re-employing retirees. They feel useful and it keeps them physically and mentally healthy without having to depend on "new blood" to subsidize their lives.


These kind of programs exist! Sadly it looks like Trump will be cutting the budget that they rely on. [1]

> Judy Banks, a 70-year-old struggling to get by, said she voted for Trump because “he was talking about getting rid of those illegals.” But Banks now finds herself shocked that he also has his sights on funds for the Labor Department’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, which is her lifeline. It pays senior citizens a minimum wage to hold public service jobs.

“This program makes sense,” said Banks, who was placed by the program into a job as a receptionist for a senior nutrition program. Banks said she depends on the job to make ends meet, and for an excuse to get out of the house.

[1] https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/opinion/sunday/in-trum...


> Judy Banks, a 70-year-old struggling to get by, said she voted for Trump because “he was talking about getting rid of those illegals.” But Banks now finds herself shocked that he also has his sights on funds ... which is her lifeline.

Karma is served!

I've seen much the same thing with people I know who voted for Trump. He's their savior because he promises to "get rid of those illegals". Somehow, it doesn't matter that his henchman Sessions is also going to massively ramp up marijuana enforcement, and this is likely to hit them because they're pot smokers. As long as he gets rid of the illegals, it's all worth it in their minds, even if that means they become a felon and spend a lot of time in a privately-owned prison.


[flagged]


> If you can't save for your own retirement, then you have no right to leave the workforce or lean on government programs.

There's a massive part of the population who will not be able to save for retirement. How exactly does one save for retirement when they live paycheck to paycheck?


Try being able to pay them minimum wage.


Calling it a training problem is like framing it as a need to simply "raise consciousness" - something which I feel tends to backfire


The smart immigrants will generate companies that the elderly individuals to be retrained to work at.


I know people who have been out of work for a long time, and it seems to come to the point where they can no longer keep a job at all. These people essential leave society. And then there are those who subsequently choose to occupy their time with things that are damaging to society, like gangs or other violence. I think there is a potential solution to these problems - workfare. By this I mean the social aid given by the government consists of giving people a job.

There is always more work to do. The problem is that there might not be someone willing to pay enough to have it done. This is where the government social program would come in. They basically supplement the income for the person doing the job. The idea being that it is better for the person to work then to just get aid. At the same time, society benefits because that person is being productive.

This is counter to one of the big ideas to solve the problem of loss of jobs, universal basic income. It is good that is being studied to determine if it is a good way to move forward. I think there are people who will make the most of that, which is great. I think there are also people who can fall between the cracks. Within a workfare type program, self motivated people can also be addressed. Perhaps some people's job could be working on their own project, such as open source software or even being a musician.


Looking at my own society (Sweden), the idea of fixing unemployment by inventing job programs to employ people is a quite common idea. Sadly it has some big draw backs, one simply being that such large force of "free labor" is very attractive to be exploited. When there is no option to decline a job offer, some places will naturally abuse that and out compete those companies not getting free employees from the state. The Swedish government naturally have rules against such exploitation, but enforcement is a problem and far from 100%.

And I recall reading that there is statistics showing the rates of people improving their situations when working in such jobs, and if I recall right, its no better than compared to people who just get social aid and stay at home. This is one of the arguments in favor of universal basic income when its discussed here.


Reminds me of George Orwell:

>I believe that this instinct to perpetuate useless work is, at bottom, simply fear of the mob. The mob (the thought runs) are such low animals that they would be dangerous if they had leisure; it is safer to keep them too busy to think.

The desire to keep people employed is driven by fear, as its known that idle hands are the Devil's workshop.


That's rather obvious when you consider that no one has ever been afraid of rich people having leisure.


It has much less to do with money than you think. There are people who would be very dangerous if they had leisure time, rich or poor, for we're all the mob.


Do you think the fear is irrational?


Yes, because time and again we see that we're all the mob, and someone always has leisure, and money, and power, and it always ends badly. Ignoring that and pretending that the current order (whatever current happens to be) is somehow "ordained" or "natural" or "necessary" is a sop to the ego that's as old as the written word at least.


All examples of someone with power having leisure time ends badly?


I can see how what I wrote can be read that way, but I meant more that human history and the history of humans in power is not a positive history.


Ok I see.

Completely agree on your idea of a state of affairs being "normal"/optimal/best/whatever....getting everyone to agree on that principle would be a good start.


There are a lot of ways that we can address the problem of poverty, and workfare is a legitimate component of a multi-faceted approach, but I think we need to use it very cautiously. If the government has meaningful projects that it wants to accomplish regardless, then giving those jobs (and the training needed to do them) to the unemployed is by all means a good idea. The problem is that the line between workfare and make-work is blurry. If you pay people $16000/year to build the Hoover Dam, that's awesome. But if you pay people more than the job is worth to society, or pay people any amount to do jobs they will view as stupid or pointless, that's counterproductive. The government must ensure that the projects they undertake generate societal value on their own, considering the employment created only as a side-benefit. Furthermore, when you require that people work in order to receive benefits, you are effectively saying that whatever else they would rather be doing with their time is worth less than whatever you are having them do, and whatever you are paying them to do it. Not only is that depressing, the thing they might rather be doing could be something very valuable to society. This is the main argument in favor of universal basic income. The is no requirement that people work, nor is there a requirement that they be unemployed, or anything else in a laundry list of arbitrary requirements. Everyone gets the same amount of money no matter what and no perverse incentives are created.


In addition, "workfare" is a well-tested approach that has given good results in the past [1] [2]. What's to stop someone on UBI from joining a gang, anyway?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Works_Administration

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Writers%27_Project


Penalize their UBI for felony convictions. Doesn't have to be all, but UBI can make it a citizen's "job" to not do crime.


>do crime

This particular verb with the word crime--may I ask if you are an American? I've only ever heard people who are not from America say it this way. Americans always seem to say "commit" crime.


Problem with this is that you then create incentive for businesses to pay less for staff, knowing the government will pick up the tab. Alternatively, the government prescribes the work - But then I suppose you end up with jobs which don't motivate people to get out of bed in the morning and leaves them in the same cycle we're trying to prevent


I've always liked this idea, that the government has jobs of last resort that pay minimum wage. There's always something to do, even if it's just picking up litter.


Quite a few liberal cities are also quite dirty, especially in the poorer areas. I've always wondered why the government-helps-all-of-us types haven't put two and two together here to revitalize neighborhoods, reduce pollution, and give the unemployable opportunities to improve their lives.


I think there is potential for problems like you mention. This would depend on how the program was implemented.


The problem with the government inventing jobs out of thin air is that those jobs tend to be counter-productive - They add bureaucracy and slow everything down further - They add negative economic value.


Agree to some extent but as this thread's OP pointed out, there is always work to do - it's not inventing jobs. There is always a need for flooding reinforcement or landslide mitigation for example (I kinda cherry-picked these as it's becoming a pressing matter in my home country).

I would say that by comparison, the private sector does a better job lately at inventing (bullshit) jobs. The value wouldn't be negative. For example was the CCC negative?


Indeed, the US could use thousands of workers to fix our roads and bridges. Or to build renewable energy infrastructure. Problem is getting any of that funded, especially in today's political climate.


Paying someone to pick up litter or replant trees would add more value to the world than many an adtech business.


Adtech businesses generate revenue.


For themselves, but not for society and civilization. Advertisements impose an external cost on society. Advertisements are a type of mental pollution. Like other types of pollution, there are laws and regulations on advertisements to protect society from the worst of public nuisances, negligence, and other damages.


What if you'll be required to join a non-profit organization, with goals approved by the government(and possibly financed by it)?

Hopefully choosing such organization would lead to less exploitation and more community value, since there's less profit motive. Also less work on bullshit jobs and commercial crap.

And often, there can be some sort of competition between non-profits, which is helpful too.


Not if it creates demand.


I like this idea. Furthermore, it could be used as a preparation for basic income: one of the problem with BI is where do we get enough money ?

One solution is making things cheap.

And one way to make that happen, is by collaboratively creating assets that may have high fixed-cost, but very low variable cost - which what we'll need for BI.

For example, shared community fiber. or on a bigger scale - build together a city ?


Things like "free fiber" is thinking too small.

The "killer app" for making things cheaper is obvious.

Solve the housing crisis that effects every major city in the world, and you get rid of the biggest expense that humans pay.

It is not even that hard to solve from a technical perspective. Construction costs are pennies on the dollar, when compared to land costs.

The tough part is solving the political problem of convincing all the rich landowners to let us devalue their investment.

By definition, if we make housing cheap, we have destroyed the housing investment of a whole lot of really powerful people.


I agree. Maybe the solution is starting a city from scratch, on cheap land on the middle of nowhere, while building rules that will keep prices low.

EDIT:it seems that it's possible legally to start a city with your own rules(as long those doesn't conflict with US/state/county laws):

https://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/3bnzp3/e...


Indeed, you can view prescriptive or customary adoption of secondary and tertiary education (for one demographic) and the penal system (for another) as the state of the art social contract a la workfare. To all appearances, the US has been steadily drifting away from the welfare state model, so workfare seems like wishful thinking to me.


The thing that worries me most about "Men Without Work" is that's one way civil unrest can break out and war start. If that sounds bizarre then you should come visit me in Texas. I'll show you a land where almost every man has 2+ firearms. Where they overwhelmingly voted Trump, and distrust the government. I'll show you a land where men are more aggressive in general and my county in particular where at one point there were more shooting deaths per violent arrest than anywhere else in the country.

I don't want to live here when men reach unemployment rates beyond 25% (as the article and book suggest).


While I feel unrest could start there, I doubt it would persist. The army and national guard are just too well equipped and organized to deal with the problem. I'd put my money on 1,000 national guard troops vs 10,000 random Texans with guns. This doesn't even get into larger military hardware, such as planes and drones with missiles. Sure, people will die, and it would be a tragedy. It may move the political needle, but I doubt it would be some kind of meaningful uprising.

As a larger point, I think this diminishes the chances of a "french revolution" style revolution in general, where the huge masses of poor people revolt against the rich. The poor are not well equipped or organized in general, and military technology is increasingly becoming more powerful and longer range. Just think if the richest people were protected by working ED-209's that responded to their command. Even if we had the other 99% fighting them, could they really win?


Love all the arm chair generals.

I would rather be one of 10,000 random Texans with guns than 1,000 national guard.

10:1 are horrible odds in an urban environment against well resourced, well equipped, intelligent insurgents.

Houston for instance is full of chemical engineers, tradesmen, software engineers, and all around handy outdoorsy people. You clearly have no concept of how hard it would be to occupy and hold such a place against such an enemy. I tried to hold territory in Baghdad amongst people who couldn't even shoot straight and we were regular army not weekend warriors and it sucked. It was unpredictable and constantly dangerous.

Nope.


Shut off the water, power, sewerage, fuel, and food supplies.

It'll sort out pretty quickly.

Most of the population will want out. The remnants won't have much by effective resistance.

As the French tankers learned in WWII, superior armour & firepower without coordination and communications as well as force unity doesn't buy you much.


I see your point. Have you thought about how such a militia would communicate, if they were working together? They would have to come up with new communication channels, seeing as how the government has it's hands in all telecommunications today. I think that would prove a great barrier, and perhaps it's insurmountable.


Knowing insurgencies these days, it would probably be so low-tech the government wouldn't be able to tap it.


Couriers on horses seemed to work for U.S. militias in the past.


If 10k Texans organized to start some sort of rebellion we'd certainly put forth more resources to address that. Nobody needs combat experience in Baghdad or first-hand economic knowledge of Houston to know that Texas would have no chance of succeeding in their civil unrest if it did happen under your feared scenario.

On a side note, I've hunted with Texans before and they put up deer feeders that make noises when they spit out food to draw in the game for easy shots. They also import exotic animals from Africa and stuff them on fenced private property. I don't call that hunting.


>Nobody needs combat experience in Baghdad or first-hand economic knowledge of Houston to know that Texas would have no chance of succeeding in their civil unrest if it did happen under your feared scenario.

Uhhh. I'd check the confidence at the door, here. Places in Iraq (and Afghanistan, where I was) were full of folks who were basically peasants and they utterly baffled us in their commitment and ability to make war. I would absolutely dread fighting an insurgency against a bunch of well armed, well educated, well trained, and freakishly devoted Texans.


Are you saying Texans would succeed? You didn't argue my notion that they wouldn't, just stated that it wouldn't be pleasant.

EDIT: @remarkEon that's ridiculous. We have ~ 1.5M active troops. Drones, aircraft, firepower and heavy surveillance which these Texans don't have. This is not Baghdad or Afghanistan geographically or politically; it's our turf and everyone would rally around crushing any rogue Texans. Some of you are worried about 10k Texans in some crazy hypothetical situation where they get disgruntled due to lack of job prospects like its the first time that ever happened to the south. Then someone says North Korea is not a threat. I yield.

@remarkEon's history of the US: Scrappily defeats the Redcoats and turns a country into a superpower in a mere 150 years. Survives a Great Depression. Takes down Hitler, the Axis of Evil, Osama Bin Laden. Helps overthrow several dictatorships. Builds the most powerful military in history. Avoids nuclear war with North Korea and other dictatorships. Does not fall due to over extension like most great empires. Ultimate demise: 10k Texans with deer rifles.


Counter-insurgency is really easy. That's why Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are now stable and prosperous democracies. /s

A small and highly motivated group of insurgents can completely destabilise a region, rendering it ungovernable. No amount of resources can effectively manage such an insurgency, as we have seen in the quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan. IS and the Taliban aren't very numerous, but they don't have to be. They aren't very skilled, but they don't have to be. They're never going to win by any meaningful definition of the word, but they're not going to lose either. At this stage, an uneasy truce would be a minor miracle.

That's the risk - not a sudden uprising followed by an Independent State of Texas, but a grinding low-intensity war of attrition that drags on indefinitely. Look at the Troubles in Northern Ireland for how such a scenario can play out in a western democracy. The Troubles lasted for thirty dispiriting years. A whole generation grew up knowing nothing but soldiers on the streets, snipers in tower blocks, "peace barriers" and wanton bombing. The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland wanted peace, but a cycle of tit-for-tat is incredibly difficult to break. With enough pent-up resentment and an inciting incident, it could happen in Texas.


> Counter-insurgency is really easy. That's why Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are now stable and prosperous democracies. /s

It's a lot easier to play a home game than it is to play an away game halfway across the world.

The US could bring a million soldiers to bear in Texas with very little difficulty. With those numbers, they could walk into every part of the countryside with rocks and beat the shit out of any insurgents. More importantly, they could occupy the territory with ease. It's much easier to occupy home turf than it is to occupy people of a different culture, ethnicity, language, and background.

Regarding the Troubles, I don't think that applies here. The Troubles were, at their root, a sectarian conflict. That doesn't exist in the US; it's not like there's a religious minority in Texas that feels oppressed by a government that will never, ever listen to their grievances.


> It's a lot easier to play a home game than it is to play an away game halfway across the world.

I think it would be much harder. It would be very difficult for the US to keep soldiers committed if they were deployed to Texas. There would be a lot of internal conflict for the military in a civil war situation.


The interesting part of your scenario is where you assume the 10k insurgency happens in a vacuum. The insurgency in Iraq only involved some tens of thousands of fighters but many hundreds of thousands or millions more were sympathetic.


Right, but what about all those people who like a stable government and life as usual in the U.S.?

If I see a bunch of gun nuts out there shooting at cops and troops, it's, frankly speaking, an easy call to make whose side I'm on. I trust the government we've got over the one those guys want to install by force.


Okay...I can detect the snark. Got it. I'd submit that you're seriously oversimplifying things, and given the poor track-record of "defeating" insurgencies in the past...like I noted earlier we'd have to engage in some pretty awful tactics. If you can stomach that, great. Not really sure that was the argument.


Yes, we'd engage in awful tactics against a home grown insurgency. Of course I can stomach that; any administration would respond in whatever ways necessary to crush the hypothetical Texans. They certainly wouldn't win as you suggested and were bring stubborn about.


To be fair, there are ~28 million Texans, many whom are not sympathetic to the government and carry arms. I'd also reckon there are a number of Texans in the military that could possibly defect.

Anyways this is a fun exercise, not in anyway an exhaustive argument.


On the flipside - I'd propose in this simulation that there would be inner city civil unrest and the bulk of Texans, most of them armed, would join the force to squash that unrest or hunker down at home and mind their own property. I've spent a lot of time with Texans. Yes they have a ton of pride and many are more aggressive and have a distrust of the federal government. But they'd be more likely IMO to be against any movements terrorizing their cities, especially those that come from the city dwellers who have shown to be more violent historically in dire economic situations. Regardless of what happened, Texas is our #2 largest economy and we'd protect it federally with any means necessary.


You'd have to be okay with a pretty dark, Mirror Universe, version of COIN to prevent them from succeeding, yes.


Guess which communities the national guard and the army recruited those troops from. If it ever comes to that, you're expecting soldiers to shoot and kill people just like them, people whose friends and family they may well have served with, people who - if things had gone a little differently - could have been them or their friends and family. This would likely not end well.


Are we talking about the same national guard that mowed down unarmed students in the Kent State massacre? You'd be surprised what strong structure can cause a person to do.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent_State_shootings


Well, more the National Guard that's literally the same people as the armed rednecks in rural Texas. Keep in mind the National Guard are the "weekend warriors", only now many of them have months/years in actual combat zones and have returned to their home communities with those skills.

Not to mention this whole argument assumes the government isn't siding with the insurrection. Sounds like an odd point to make, but if there was a substantial redneck revolution, which side is Trump's government on? Who will be labeled the rebels?

It's incredibly risky to assume who is on which side of an actual civil war scale uprising. The chances of being wrong are very high, and the consequences are literally life and death.


Liberal students are them. A group of angry patriots, many of whom are likely to be veterans themselves, are much more likely to be considered us.


This seems naive. People will happily fight others just like them and from similar backgrounds for all sorts of reasons. Civil Wars are infamous for it. "Brother against brother".


It's true, it wouldn't start well or end well. But using military equipment at a long range, like a drone, does add a dehumanizing component. And killing people that are just like you is really the nastiest part of any civil war (since both sides are very culturally similar), but it doesn't seem to stop the killing.


Hey would do it. Soldiers are not trained to think about how they are similiar to their enemies.


They're also not trained to fight their neighbors.


What do you think these guys are going to do, line up and wait to be carpet bombed? Guys who are essentially illiterate farmers have managed to keep insurgencies going against the US military for around 15 years in Iraq/Afghanistan. There's not an unreasonable chance that the dumb rednecks of Texas could do as well. But, these guys aren't all dumb rednecks - they're going to have support from a decent amount of people with US military, national guard, police, etc. experience. No one is claiming that they're going to march on DC and take over the country, but they could certainly turn sections of the US into something akin to the Syria/Iraq civil war situation.


I'm not saying they're dumb, you're right many people will have law enforcement and military experience. But they simply won't be equipped and supplied like normal forces, and I think that's the key difference. And yes, I agree that there could be a strong resistance movement to whatever happens by armed citizens, since guns are everywhere.


Viet Cong, French Indian War, George Washington, County Jones, and Benjamin Martin are just a few times in American History where a lack of arms or training did not result as you're expecting.


It's amazing how quickly you can teach someone how to handle themselves in a combat situation when their life depends on it. We're talking days.


Yea, I can tell you its already happening in PA.


A lot of those are poor examples because the gap between s peasant and a professional soldier has become much larger over time, particularly over the last century.


Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria.


I'd bet on 1,000 national guard troops refusing to mobilize, and military refusing to follow civilian leadership.


You should read up on your French Revolution. It wasn't the poorest who revolted the most.


It's not about defeating the national guard or whoever outright, it's about being able to resist them long enough to attract defectors from the military and start a civil war.


The military and prisons to the rescue. Think Detroit.


Are you serious? You're giving them too much credit. They'd be squashed in two seconds if they ever organized. North Korea is a threat. Not some hillbillies in your neck of the woods with a few deer hunting rifles that don't have jobs. A larger threat locally that's been around forever and needs no speculation is inner city youths with no jobs, no education and guns. They started calling Chicago "Chiraq".


A lot of blood could be shed before anything was "squashed".

Have you ever been in a civil war? I have. There are more guns in Houston, TX than there ever was in Baghdad. Local police/fire are cut from the same cloth as the locals, they'd be sympathetic to their neighbors. How do I know? They say so.

Also, there is nothing more terrifying or effective in a civil war than a sniper. Source: been there done that. The U.S. has the largest standing army in the world on opening day of deer season, all with high powered rifles and scopes.

Any uprising could be squashed eventually, but it would take a lot of ordnance, blood, and time.


Which civil war were you in? Where and when did this take place?


I'm assuming op is a military veteran that was sent overseas to protect US interests in a civil war; one such example would be Somalia in the 90s.


Baghdad '04 and '05.


Ok so how does Iraq apply to your suggestion that a civil unrest and civil war in our country could easily break out when Texans with guns hit high unemployment?

You also cited Houston which is the 4th largest city that has a crime problem not due to deer hunters, but of inner city folks and saw a crime rate explosion from an influx of people post-Katrina that had lost everything and had little job prospects. You didn't see country people from the gulf area bringing deer rifles into the city shooting people up and starting civil war.

EDIT: to JakeTheAndroid - the parent mentioned as part of their fear - "The U.S. has the largest standing army in the world on opening day of deer season, all with high powered rifles and scopes."

There's no evidence to suggest that those deer hunters would organize in the event of high employment to incite civil unrest which would result in civil war. We saw a rise in crime but did not see civil war when people lost everything with Katrina. And the rural people feared the most didn't do what was suggested.

The crime I'm talking about in the cities, esp. Houston, has existed for a long time. Rising unemployment does lead to more crime in the inner city, primarily by inner city people. I don't see deer hunters organizing and posing a threat. In fact, I'd guess they'd hunker down and protect their property and community and probably assist in any local response to the civil unrest if necessary, not the other way around, posing a threat to other citizens and the government itself as the OP speculates.


I think OP made the connection pretty clear.

In Iraq, the military attempted to take cities in turmoil and were successfully held by normal, everyday people not nearly as well armed as people in TX. You then support the statement by pointing out its already a dangerous place full of armed people being malicious.

OP didn't say deer hunters are the cause of crime, but pointed out normal people there, that well armed with high powered, long range rifles are numerous. They'd likely pose a huge threat.

So, if civil unrest was to break out due to unemployment, this seems like a potentially difficult situation for everyone involved. Pretty plausible to me.


I think the a general human pattern has been established that high unemployment leads to civil unrest, especially when you look in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Sure, you could say that their society is much different than ours, but that difference is shrinking, and I think claiming we are somehow exceptional requires some evidence, not the other way around. (Now that we're facing significant headwinds over the last 30 years, we're seeing our society becoming more violent via shootings, terrorism, and corrections, etc.)


Well, those Texas/southern hillbillies are the ones running the US military.

Military workforce by state:

http://www.governing.com/gov-data/military-civilian-active-d...


Yah, imagine everyone at Fort Hood being ordered to invade Dallas and half the tanks driving off in the night to go protect the neighborhood they grew up in.


Which is why if such orders were being issued it'd be more like blue state stationed divisions sent to quell uprisings in red state areas and vice versa. This is a huge part of why I think a growing political divide is such a problem - we can be easily persuaded to attack each other when the problem isn't each other but the ones issuing the orders.


Texas is split inside itself:

http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/texas

(The map is even still a lie; there are large counties that voted Republican, but the majority of the red by area is tiny little county populations.)

I also don't think that people are particularly stationed by their home state.


And everyone at Ft. Hood will just sit there while Dallas is leveled.

First you'd need a political purge of the Army. Anything less would leave the door open to a split in the military. I think history supports this well.


A division stationed in a blue state isn't going to be made up of locals. It's going to have the same mix as the US military in general (read: Mostly southern states).

The National Guard will be more representative of their home base, but that is going to be smaller forces that complement active duty, not replace it.


I was meaning more of metaphorical constructs of blue and red rather than just the political jargon and probably should have used quotes. I'm an army brat and former DoD IC contractor and know very well how distributed personnel get.


Or Blackwater (Xe) mercenaries.


There just aren't enough.


North Korea isn't really a threat. Not such a one that the rusty superpower should obsess over it and follow it on evening news.


Any country with nukes and a disdain and distrust for both its own people and any country not like them is definitely a threat. Look back at history - the biggest threats were the ones that did terrible things to their own people.

We're talking about a country with 100k+ CCTVs monitoring their own people, loaded with anti-US and anti-South Korean propaganda, forbids internet usage, starves its people, has a top 5 military while being the size of Pennsylvania, and enslaves 200k+ of their own people falsely.

What evidence do you have that they are not a threat?


[flagged]


You responded with no argument or evidence. Glad you at least acknowledged they don't care about their own citizens and have a terrible human rights record.


In what scenario is North Korea a threat to the US? Their ICBMs can't reach the US, and their military is similarly unequipped to be mobile.


Depends who you ask. They either already have the capability now or will in the near future.

Hawaii is much closer anyway. Remember what happened when Hawaii was last attacked? We've already deployed radar out of Hawaii earlier this year so we believe it's a threat [1].

"North Korea is now in possession of a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the US mainland, according to a senior US military official." [2]

"Despite Pyongyang's apparent progress on a warhead, it doesn't have good enough missile and rocket technology to deliver a nuke -- at least not yet, says Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corporation think tank." [3]

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/11/politics/north-korea-icbm-us-r...

[2] https://sputniknews.com/asia/201612111048412314-north-korea-...

[3] http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/01/asia/north-korea-kim-jong-un-s...


You're lying, I said the opposite. They are running a despicable concentration camp of a country over there.


You don't make any sense. What did I lie about?


My bad, I misread it to be the opposite somehow. I'm sorry for that.


So ... just like the USA, then?

More

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: