Middle class kids can afford one throw. Most miss. A few hit the target and get a small prize. A very few hit the center bullseye and get a bigger prize. Rags to riches! The American Dream lives on.
Rich kids can afford many throws. If they want to, they can try over and over and over again until they hit something and feel good about themselves. Some keep going until they hit the center bullseye, then they give speeches or write blog posts about "meritocracy" and the salutary effects of hard work.
Poor kids aren't visiting the carnival. They're the ones working it.
This article is the typical BS that assumes "entrepreneurs" only do SV startups or want a big exit. The actual reality is that there are millions of small businesses out there, full of hard working entrepreneurs who saved and sacrificed, and are perfectly happy growing modestly and providing for their family. That's the prize that many chase, and many do end up winning.
The whole point of human culture is to transcend the raw reality the universe hands us. Not just by inventing math and microchips, but also by inventing ways to reduce randomness and unfairness, be it the randomness and unfairness of weather, birth, disease, or human nature. Especially human nature. Culture invented morality and laws and notions of justice. The more advanced the culture, the less your birth circumstances matter for political power, social station, or economic opportunity.
But culture can also succumb to that base human nature which it was supposed to help us transcend. When a culture decides that self-interest is the fundamental reality of human nature, that the best thing to do is yield to rather than counter this nature, such a culture becomes a self-fulfilling prophet, and we all end up prisoner's of the dilemma.
That's making the mistake of equating the way things are with the way they should be.
While there's a lot of variations in opportunity from ability that should be respected, I don't think "being born well off" deserves the same kind of respect.
Nature and humanity will always have inequality. Chaos and entropy are normal and inevitable. Even if you stop the world and reset everyone today to the same exact situation, things will change the moment you let them go. So what is this utopian ideal you think is possible?
I'm also assuming you'll be leaving your children with nothing so that they won't get any unfair advantages right or respect right?
And the article is focusing on the SV startup scene because that's where most of the new economic growth has been focused. The only other big growth areas have all been in energy.
The article is talking about entrepreneurs, which are people who start businesses. The amount of people starting SV startups is insignificant compared to business owners around the world. You seem to be assuming something about economic growth and some connection to SV, but I see no such statement in the article itself.
Unfortunately, education levels in the general population are not yet at a level where the majority of groups are able to routinely identify threats to their long-term interests caused by optimising for short-term gains.
You may argue that "fairness" is "unnatural". Then it is also "unnatural" e.g. that people physically stronger than you can't just kill you and take your wife and all your stuff. Would you rather we go back to a completely "natural" system like that? Complete all-out Mad Max-style anarchy? Of course not.
I meant to show that "perfectly fair" is an unobtainable non-sequitur. We need to know what we are up against when we attempt to balance out some of the indifferent harshness of the universe, at least in our little patch of space.
I do find it interesting that you thought my previous comment implied such things. I suppose it did sound a bit like certain shibboleths.
A single instant in time which we do not understand led to an unimaginable expansion where the tiniest of fluctuations at the quantum level led to matter randomly collecting and coalescing into stellar clusters of billions of galaxies with trillions of stars with planets, and we know of only one that led to life.
Fairness, a completely human societal concept, has no impact on the reality of our universe and unless you can change that, life will never be fair.
It's a matter of the order of things. Life can't be fair by default because it's not subservient to fairness, it's the other way around. The concept of fairness derives from existence, it doesn't come before it. It takes a great effort to create and sustain large systems of fairness as entropy is constantly acting to undermine our efforts and destroy us (while we simultaneously deal with irrationality, chaos, scarcity, injury, etc etc). On this planet, only humans expend such immense energy attempting to accomplish elaborate systems of fairness, while trying to strive toward even greater fairness (learning from and applying, attempting to improve over time; our charitable systems for example have radically improved over the last few hundred years).
When a dolphin murders a porpoise for fun, or a troop of chimps raids another territory and murders competing chimps, is it fair? Fairness has no role to play, because it's a human concept. Humanity is still subservient to the greater rules and limitations of the universe, which means our best efforts at applying fairness can inherently never be perfect or ideal. Just the fact that we act against an erosion by entropy at all times guarantees that outcome (to say nothing of the inefficiency thrown into the equation by routine imperfect human judgment).
I'm also going to call bullshit on your entropy argument: the accumulations of wealth we see are unnatural, and a product of artificial social choices about policing. Your entire argument is nonsense post-hoc rationalization about what's "natural".
In a natural setting, things would be fairer because we'd have already murdered a bunch of rich people.
In stark contrast to your claims, it's the inequality and present social order that's artificial and unnatural.
Not to mention other mammals, certainly primates, DO seem to have an innate notion of fairness.
Anybody who starts in with the 'natural' order of things argument usually starts off on the wrong foot, in my experience. It's such a loaded word.
Are you saying that life is actually fair, and thus the parent is arguing in the wrong direction? Or do you agree with the parent that life is unfair, but think that alternative arguments should be used to argue for it?
If you poll people, almost everyone thinks things should be more fair -- to the point that some are nearing violence over the issue. I think it's quite unnatural for things to be this unfair, and requires elaborate orchestration to keep it so.
I also don't think the idea was a principled attempt to model the situation -- I think it was a post-hoc justification for why it should be as we see, and not an actual attempt to explain why things as they are. Nobody raises "well, it's just natural" for why we shouldn't try to stop heart attacks (and particularly, I've never heard it for why we shouldn't try to reduce the number of heart attacks, as it was used here about unfairness) -- only things like equality, gay marriage, etc. Which happen to all be things that align with the speakers' beliefs (either for or against; I've heard it both ways).
To me the crux of the argument is that the environment of a new lifeform isn't constant. Indeed, it's pretty much guaranteed to be different for every live entity. One beetle may live a happy resourceful life, another one may get hit by an asteroid.
Lifeforms aren't provided equal opportunity by the universe. The default state is one of unfairness. However some intelligent lifeforms like primates, and indeed humans, have taken it upon themselves to artificially move the needle towards more fairness.
I too would like to see more fairness. I also think that things are unfair by default, and I don't consider this as moral justification for social policies that keep it in the natural unfair state or worse. While I don't know @adventured's moral policies of whether unfairness is justified, I have re-read the comment a few times and I still see it as purely a description of the situation with no moral judgement at all.
 It's possible that we're having trouble here due to semantics. When answering why life isn't fair, both my arguments and seemingly @adventured's entropy argument are talking about life as a sub-phenomenon of existence (which is to say, the widest scope). However if we're talking about life as limited to social structures, then I can see how any talk about natural unfairness can seem absurd.
It doesn't explain why the predominant strategy of life at all scales is mutualism and synergy between scales and kinds of life.
In no particular order, your "technical" argument fails to explain: eukaryotic structure, multicellular life, the interplay of fungii and roots, forests (which are more than adjacent trees), and really just about anything we see in the natural world. (Ed: I've thought of another 5 or 6 examples if you want to protest those -- mutualism is pretty easy to pick out in nature.)
And that's because you've failed to account for localized regions of stability able to ratchet themselves to greater and geater levels of stability -- and these metastable systems are the model we see on every scale of existence. Life does this as well, which means that we always see stable collaborations outpace competition (and unfairness) on an asymptotic scale. You literally failed to account for how life does work in your argument.
So I still don't believe you're advancing either a genuine observation (ie, it doesn't match fact to say it's unfair in general) or a principled theory (ie, it doesn't actually seem an internally consistent model -- at least, if you believe in physics).
I think you're trying to build a post-hoc justification for the human system being as it is.
I am getting the impression that when you're talking about fairness in life, you're talking about how one lifeform treats another. Am I right? Life as an actor vs. life as a state of existance. When I'm talking about fairness of life, I'm talking about the latter, so I also include all the non-live entities (e.g. asteroids, or sulfuric acid if you want something more common) and how they affect the fairness.
Looking at this whole discussion in summary, I'm increasingly feeling like we don't really disagree on much. As best as I can tell, we both think life is unfair. Perhaps we even agree on the amount of unfairness. It feels more like you're describing the situation as a cup half full, and don't like that I describe it as half empty.
There are other potentially problematic indicators, such as the fact that grip strength in young men has plummeted over the last few decades (avg 18yo male is not as strong as avg 35yo woman was at his age). Grip strength is a good indicator of overall fitness.
Even if everyone had the same amount of wealth, there are those that will be born good looking, or tall, or physically fit, or any other thing that would give someone an advantage over others.
That's not an answer to his question.
Because really, "Why isn't life fair?" is not a valid question. "Life" is unique. Why are two unique items not the same? Because unique and same are antonyms.
The 7yr old part is the context for my initial answer from my world view.
No matter how hard we try, it's impossible to make life fair for our twins. We do our best to treat them fairly, but while they are the same age, they are not the same. They are not the same physical size and they have different mental strengths and weaknesses. They are not evenly matched in all/many areas. That can make things feel unfair.
On the other hand, maybe it is fair, we just do not have enough context to do a proper measurement.
What makes you think anything should be fair?
Because it helps the human race maximize their collective potential. Imagine how many Einsteins we've had over the millennia, there may have been hundreds/thousands of them but they never had the chance to shine because they were born a serf or a slave.
It doesn't have to be 100% fair, but being somewhat egalitarian produces better results for everyone on the economic scale.
Why did you perceive my question to be anti-egalitarian?
I understand that a more equal society == better collective potential. BUT, our whole species (and life on this planet) is based on inequality. It started right from evolution (other animals got extinct) and it goes on until today because not all genes are equal.
Now this doesn't mean that we shouldn't remove/reduce artificial barriers to equality but we gotta realize that inequality is inherent. What makes humans awesome is that we have a brain and can strive for the collective good.
Personally I believe that our striving for advancement is something that's deeper than our daily brain-oriented struggle. Our evolution is being driven at the cellular level, so we don't need to translate that into attempting to personify an egotistical concept of progress.
If some good looking but dumb guy is getting too many partners, should the government/society try to level the playing field to allow the smart but socially inept guy to make some more "Einsteins?"
Those are choices for individuals though, not society as a whole. Society doesn't decide the attributes you were born with, but they do decide if your money has any real value.
The rich do get richer (up to a point anyway) but what I'm saying is that you don't need to be rich at all to be an entrepreneur, and some of those who start with nothing do go on to become rich as well.
Bakeries and such don't fall under this description, usually.
Besides, anyone can start a business with essentially zero capital. One can mow lawns, do babysitting, maid service, write apps, write a novel, etc. The only capital I invested in my own business startup was buying a computer.
Search Amazon books for "starting a business with no money" for lots of ideas.
The "poor kids" working at the carnival get unlimited free throws.
Because that's what it's like in Software right now. There has never been an industry before where the market rate is so high for individual contributors, and the real cost of starting a business are so low.
Software is a Perfect Storm of near-zero overhead and near-infinite execution leverage as compared to pretty much any other type of business.
So sure, you're right that a poor kid working at a Shoe Store can, over the course of his lifetime, open between zero and one shoe stores. But a poor kid who takes his self-taught programming skills and gets a job writing code 40 hours a week can moonlight out several hundred Minimum Viable Products if necessary until something hits big.
So yeah, it's darts. But if you throw lots of them, you'll probably hit something.
Well you still need to pay your rent, your food, etc.
You keep your day job writing software and do your entrepreneuring on nights and weekends. Try things out until one of them is matching your day job's income, then quit and go full time.
That's what I did. And come to think of it, it's yet another factor to throw into that Perfect Storm I mentioned above, because you can't really moonlight out a brick and mortar store while keeping your day job at another one.
Glad to see it worked for you despite that handicap !
Apple was a little better.
Ultimately, it's cheaper for whoever owns the tent to let one person win every once in a while then to just let everybody lose.
I may be stretching the analogy but yeah.
If nothing else, bread-and-circuses-made-literal is useful for storytelling.
This is the opposite of what he's saying.
Some kids might be born with phenomenal musical talent, or incredibly high IQ.
Heck, some kids might be born so they grow up to be extremely attractive and become models or actors.
Being born into a wealthy family isn't the only stroke of luck.
It might just be cultural. Rich successful people encourage their children to be successful like they were. It could be genetic. Those immigrants I mentioned go through a fairly difficult and selective process to get into the country. They have higher IQs and conscientiousness than average. Factors which are both fairly heritable, and correlate very well with success in life. Meritocracy rewards the most able and driven. But no one said ability and motivation were distributed fairly.
The comic makes a big deal about education. Yet there's a number of studies that show there is basically zero effect of education and education spending. In a single chart see this: https://www.cato.org/images/testimony/coulson-2-9-11-3.jpg and a nice in depth essay here http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/05/19/teachers-much-more-than...
Not sure about other immigrants but for me it's probably because life itself has been so challenging that startup life doesn't seem that hard. I have been running my own startup with challenges of getting customers, employees, development done, customer outreach, interns and all that wham-bam with no investors and also trying to keep my family sane for more than an year.
But one thing is for sure, I won't give up till the very end. My bipolar startup has been an year of yo-yos but hopefully tomorrow is a better day
And if you look at the founders of companies that eventually go public (or at least have the revenue that they could do so), they are pretty much all started by people who had connections and access to their own capital early on.
I'm not saying the American dream is dead, but it's never been as great as people make out and it's only getting worse.
The immigrants from poor countries may have the relative advantage that living cheaply feels more acceptable to them, and is more socially acceptable in their community.
Most people spend all the money they make. If the average salary in your community is e.g. $1000 a month, then to look "normal", you have to spend approximately $1000 a month. You can cut corners here and there, but if you do it too much, you will suffer social consequences. Either your friends will start seeing you as a "loser", or you will stop participating at some of their more expensive activities. In such situation, most people won't push too far. Maybe it wouldn't even be a good idea to burn your social capital, because if your business fails, you will need a Plan B.
If you are an immigrant from a poor country, your social circle probably mostly consists of people coming from the same place. They won't judge you for not having expensive hobbies; it's "normal" not to have them. They are probably saving the extra money, and so are you. Maybe you only spend $500 a month on yourself, so if you have a brother, you can make a deal like "one of us goes to work for $1000 and pays for both, while the other tries to start a family business". Or parents work hard and live cheaply in order to provide their children a better future. The second generation is much less likely to live like this, because they already made friends in the majority culture, and start doing the expensive things to fit in.
Social pressure is a thing. It is much easier to live the way people around you do. Sure, it's also about conscientiousness; I am not saying it's either-or, just that "conscientious and living in a subculture that encourages saving" is better than "conscientious and living in a subculture that encourages spending" for starting your own business.
I think you'll find that this is very cultural. Middle easterners (who aren't of minority religion status) are poor (on average, just like everywhere else), but have the opposite attitude. You won't have money, and there are large social consequences to not spending. So they drive a 20 year old mercedes, for example.
It is a cultural thing. Some places are large enough to have multiple cultures, and both people who save everything they have and people who overspend are a popular thing. Popular in the sense that there's millions of people living like that. India and China are such places.
Even starting a business by itself has cultural stigma associated with it. Starting a business, for instance, may immediately cause people to judge you (because you're "obviously" dodging taxes and therefore "stealing from them", and destined for bankruptcy or prison, is the best explanation I've heard). I've seen this attitude in Western Europe. Better to be an employee. Even better to be a "respectable" money maker like a doctor or lawyer. Starting a company will have social consequences just by itself.
And of course to some extent, you'll find both attitudes everywhere.
Is this true? I mean, most immigrants to America are from places like Mexico and India and China ... so it makes sense we don't see a lot of 'French immigrant entrepreneurs'.
However, it is true that rich people can afford to take more risks (and therefore stand to gain more) for the same amount of hard-work.
Not rich? Work smarter - you probably have a much better perspective on what the masses need / use than a rich person does. Convince a money man to invest in your ideas.
Rent is too high? Consider the chances your SV startup will make you a millionaire are near 0. You may want to live elsewhere.
Don't like your elected officials? Tough shit, 50% of the country does or doesn't.
Your boss or management sucks? Chances are they think you suck too. Find a new job you enjoy and are appreciated. Work culture is like dating and not everybody is compatible.
Nature and the universe aren't fair. Don't expect anything to be given to you.
I just wish this site was about technology and ingenuity, now it just sounds like a bunch of grovelling losers, upset they won't hit a 1M+ active daily users.
So how many people have the cognitive abilities or the educational background to 'work smarter"? Looking down from the ivory tower telling the factory worker or the sales assistant to "work smarter" to "get rich" is a nasty mix of ignorance and arrogance. For mosylt people the only option to keep their head above the water is to work harder.
> Rent is too high? Consider the chances your SV startup will make you a millionaire are near 0. You may want to live elsewhere.
Yeah, everyone can move whenever they want. Who cares about family, friends and maybe the job you like. The rent is higher now, so just move where you and people like you belong.
> Don't like your elected officials? Tough shit, 50% of the country does or doesn't.
Bullshit. While there are countries that run some perverted version of democracy, most developed countries are pretty good building governments with way higher approvals.
> Your boss or management sucks? Chances are they think you suck too. Find a new job you enjoy and are appreciated. Work culture is like dating and not everybody is compatible.
Yeah, with a job market like the current one you, the employee, have all the power. /s A LOT of people are happy to have a job and just quitting because their boss is a dick? Not gonna happen because not possible.
> Nature and the universe aren't fair. Don't expect anything to be given to you.
And that's why we give money to the elderly and disabled, make education accessible to everyone, have social welfare, pay doctor's bills for people who cannot afford it and try to counter ghettofication by subsidizing flats in more expensive areas. At least some countries do that, and guess what - those are the ones with the highest living standards for everyone.
Larry Page's parents were renown computer scientists in the 70s and 80s. Thus no doubt they were more then middle class. Now Segrey Im not sure, but if you have one founder that is rich then well...
Elon Musk's father was also a computer scientist back in the day.
None of the people you mention grew up middle class ... rather the next level above .. either between middle class or flat out rich.
We have a generation of people that thinks every person can be rich, successful or famous... and if they aren't then they are a victim somehow.
Perhaps they are. But the issue I have is that this type of thinking is fundamentally unproductive. The barriers that have been broken have been done so by achieving success despite the odds, and becoming a role model ... not through whining. Equality is only achieved when people obtain power and change things. Power requires being successful and valuable to whatever society exists, not complaining.
EDIT: I guess I take issue with the fact that "life" is being compared to a dart game. It's just not the case. You can reduce it down to "throwing darts" ... but that is a very pessimistic way of viewing the world ... and it's quite sad. I've seen so many "rich kids" who were total nut cases and poor kids who were able to overcome the odds through their character. Reducing the human condition down to the amount of wealth is excessively simplistic. I agree that rich kids might get a few percentage points of help (maybe 5-10%) but if you come from a middle class background you can still become a billionaire and sometimes even if you're dirt poor. What other country let's you do that? yes my screenname is "Stanfordkid"... I came from a very poor family and am not some entitled brat. The fact that that was the first thing people pointed out I think speaks to the way in which people are trying to reduce everything down numbers or labels that are in fact, very complex.
At first, you take aim at the "victim" mindset -- a mis-characterization of the analogy of the OP. However, you then go on to even concede that the perpetuators of this mindset may even hold well-founded "complaints."
Of course people from all backgrounds try to become entrepreneurs, engineers, artists and whatever else. Nevertheless, it's clear that people from some backgrounds face more difficulties than others -- that's all. The fact that merely pointing out this fact gets you slapped with a "victim" label is hilarious. Of course people from all backgrounds should continue to work hard and pursue their goals -- but as a society, we should also strive to lower un-equal barriers where possible.
Your comment is just a mess of generalizations and grand-standing. You're losing faith in this country because you've seen a "victim" mindset emerge in the past two months on hacker news -- a pretty niche website in the American demographic -- even while recognizing that the grievances contributing to this mindset may be legitimate. Forgive me if I don't take your loss of faith seriously. Furthermore, I have to say, if anyone is victim-baiting here, it's clearly yourself.
I agree with you that "complaining" by itself is unproductive and a waste of time. However, it would be super presumptuous to say that the complainant is not doing "something" about it in meatspace. Not that there is a lot to do, which is to say: Realistically, a few people control the overwhelming majority of monetary resources in the present world.
Should we contemplate that?
I don't. I am content with my status. I can, however, understand others are not. From an objective POV, it is super ridiculous that so few control so much. Does it affect me on a daily basis? Not that I am aware of, so I press on...
Some apparently can only envision success as achievement for oneself despite society being what it is.
Clamor for change is inevitably part of societal change.
And anyways, you're right: the nature of fairness or lack thereof is not always about money--but that cuts both ways.
If you're middle class you should still make that one throw you can afford, and if you're poor you should be taking all the damn fluffy animals and candy you can stuff in your pocket when you finish work without being caught.
Life is complicated.