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Crazy Work Hours and Lots of Cameras: a group from Silicon Valley visits China (nytimes.com)
134 points by awad on Nov 8, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 173 comments

This attitude of "tech for tech's sake" at the cost of everything human is so absurd on its face that I have a hard time believing that even these SV-bubble VC's truly believe it. But apparently they do. This is why people hate Silicon Valley and everything tech nowadays.

Historically, technology -- even when it has caused massive disruptions -- has generally enhanced people's lives by freeing them from a harsh constraint imposed by nature. If you have a refrigerator and a microwave, you don't have to worry so much about gathering food and spending all day cooking. If you have birth control, you don't have to worry about choosing between your sex life and your future.

Much of what Silicon Valley has produced in the past 10 years is software and platforms that 1) actually appeal to base, primitive instincts via advertising and 2) directly reduce human liberty by constraining privacy.

We need technology that has a purpose. It seems like the EU is the only governing body that actually understands this.

Respectfully dissenting on the hate comment, but otherwise very good points. +1

"Fuck! Fuck Google!"

Literal quote from my mother when I explained Project Dragonfly to her. (She's not a person who cusses often.)

It's a strong word. However, I've found that very few people I know outside of the tech-world bubble have remotely favorable opinions of Twitter, Facebook, or Google. I realize that's anecdotal, though.

This has amazing parallels to the panic over the Japanese manufacturing and management methods of the 1980s. Everyone was terrified that Japan would take over the world economically, and everyone would be working for Japanese companies soon if we didn't adopt their ways of doing things.

Hell, it even made it into Back to the Future: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlUgBDgH1po

Seriously, this is what America was terrified of.

I can remember watching new reports of people smashing up Japanese electronics in front of the White House. And people were really concerned about all the US property being bought up by the Japanese.

It was the beginning of America's decline everyone thought.

It didn't turn out that way at all.

Bingo. Japan also was (and is) infamous for long working hours, but turns out that just hides a lot of inefficiency.

then IMF and World Bank popped Japan's credit bubble. Same shit happening to China but because of their authoritarian rule, they will let it go to shit before they lose control.

there's already social unrest happening as China is getting its ass beat in the trade war

I.. uh.. congratulations on the pregnancy?

Semi-related video from 1999 of Jack Ma's early pitch about Alibaba's potential to some friends in China.[0]

His quote about hard work and long hours:

>"Second, we need to learn the hard working spirit of Silicon Valley. If we go to work at 8am and go home at 5pm, this is not a high tech company, and Alibaba wil never be successful."

Apparently, of the 17 people in that room, only 1 joined/invested in Alibaba. Intense startups are definitely not the right lifestyle for most people.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Up9-C4_8dVo

“We’re so lazy in the U.S.!” blurted Wesley Chan, a venture capital investor, on the first day of what would be a weeklong journey into the Chinese technology scene.


yes, this only shows how not very experimented those people were, not a lot of gray hair in this article.

Good Point! Burn out is real. And Eventual. Especially when you work for a founder or have a VC who is just demeaning and sucks all around.

I think perhaps you were looking for the word “experienced“ (experimented is a ‘false cognate’ in Spanish and similar languages)

I'm from Europe, living in the US, and it always frustrated me that startups are able to do so well in the US and China, yet find very little momentum in the EU. It's crazy, there is plenty of local talent in Europe's tech hubs.

Let me give you a real world data point.

I'm in the UK. With a bootstrapped startup. I get no problems contacting US companies. Each upper level manager, VP or even CEO that I contact are all excited about the project. Have no issues getting a service provider onboard.

Juxtapose this with a UK or EU company, where lets face it. There's no bootstrap startup culture at all.

Anyway, here's my anecdotes:-

- If I contact the sales or info mailbox on the website. I don't get a response. Even after 2 or 3 more follow ups.

- If I contact the sales team by phone, no one is ever available. They are permanently busy.

- If I do manage to get in contact with someone, they tell me to send information over and they don't call back.

- If I do manage to get a VP/Director email address. I send out the initial email and then I hear silence back. Follow on emails just get ignored.

The US and UK/Europe mentality are completely different. In the US you can start in your basement, garage or even on the streets and fight your way to a unicorn. There is infrastructure available to make a success and everyone has a vested interest in that.

In the UK/Europe it seems, the general feeling that I get. Is that unless you have sold a major stake to a VC/Accelerator, there's no way you'll succeed!

Also everyone wants a slice of your company for free because in all honesty, they are a bunch of freeloaders. I've had 5 instances already of companies telling me they can partner with me for 5-10% of equity. I just ignore them.

Hiring might not be as big a fear, compared to firing in Europe. A startup cannot quickly cut a bad fit there.

Mostly I see that as a feature not a bug. If you can't trust management for hiring why trust them for firing. You got like a couple of months "test period" that can end every month anyway.

Why do you think it is like that? Access to risk capital? Lack of IPOs?

Size of the market, US and China have #1 and #2 economies. Start-ups in India seem to have similar problem as Europe, given multi-lingual nature of mass market.

> Size of the market, US and China have #1 and #2 economies. Start-ups in India seem to have similar problem as Europe, given multi-lingual nature of mass market.

I've never done internationalization, but I'm surprised language could be such a barrier. Couldn't you just hire a team of translators on a contract basis?

Maybe theres's some market for internationalization-as-a-service.

Merely translating the interface is not the main problem IMO. Word of mouth, TV, newspaper, youtube channels and other "influencers"... Everything more or less stops at the border. There are also significant cultural differences that might make it difficult to make your product appealing to the whole market.

In the US if you get the hype going about your startup, get mentioned by a few high-profile newspapers, news programs and Instagram celebs you can ramp up pretty quickly. In Europe your brand can be mainstream enough that it becomes a common name in Italy while at the same time nobody ever heard of you in Germany.

Ever heard of Skyblog? I remember that in the early 2000's it was basically French Myspace. It was spawned by a French radio but became super popular on its own, all the French teens back then had a "Skyblog" (and an MSN messenger account). How many non-francophone Europeans have heard of a Skyblog? Not many I'd wager. Actually I doubt that even today's French teenagers know what a Skyblog is, they're using Instagram and whatever else while Skyblog is joining the Minitel as a footnote in the history of the French internet.

It's not only language, it is also a huge cultural differences. Swedes have as much in common with the Portugese as Americans with Columbians - really not much. Also very different legislations, banking systems, difficult tax handlings and so on. How do you even handle support for 23 different languages as a startup? Do sales and marketing in 23 languages?

all of the EU has had the similiar banking system[1] for ages now. Tax handling can be an issue, but i won't see how this is different between the different taxes between US states.

Also, culture and language are major barriers in the european market, legislation less so (especially if you ship physical products).

1: https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/banking-and-...

Doubtful. It's less about verbatim translation of text from one language to another, and more about changing your product's design + data architecture to accomodate the possibility of more than one language. It's a lot of overhead. You now need to answer questions like: "Do I need to add a dropdown to select languages? How would I store the different texts for each language for different parts of my product? How would I have to change the visual design of my product now that I have to account for translations in other languages being wider / narrower than my core language? What about right-to-left languages?"

Fragmented European market; the culture and language differences.

I don’t but that argument. In math you’d say that this is an “continuous function”, wouldn’t you? Where is the break-off point? Germany for example has 80 mio people, Japan has 120 mio or so. You’d expect the same level of activity scaled by population size. Am I wrong?

EDIT: Another example countering your point is Sweden/Stockholm. Tiny population, high number of startups and unicorns.

That really heavily depends on the market in question. They're all so different in terms of culture, regulation, politics, market structures, productivity, output, wealth, etc.

Jordan for example has the same population size as Sweden, that's about where the similarities end.

Sweden, along with Canada and Australia, are just about ideal micro US versions in technology, in terms of potential to pull off your scaling of activity. Good market economies, relatively robust technology societies and technology economies, high GDP per capita and incomes, plenty of wealth and capital to invest, stable open societies with respect for human rights, english language use giving them global benefits (Sweden having one of the world's highest english language adoption rates, outside of primarily english speaking countries), and so on.

Japan has far less spending power per capita - disposable income - than the US, and their economic output per capita is similarly far lower. Their cost of living is not far lower to offset. US GDP per capita will be around $63,000 for 2018. Japan is down around $38,000 to $40,000. Culturally Japan has historically not been friendly to risk taking, entrepreneurial activity. That has shifted some over the last 10-15 years, but not immensely (it's starting from an extreme where a long corporate career was the only acceptable path). There's a considerable difference between Sweden and Japan on that conservativism. Japan also is very different at a macro level, they put themselves into a particularly bad 20+ year debt trap that has robbed their economy of the surplus capital it needs to invest into expansion and innovation.

Germany is doing OK, in regards to technology and tech start-ups. They've lagged a bit in the transition from old industrial to new technology [1][2], it appears to be a cultural problem that is acting as friction. Culturally they're not nearly as dynamic on entrepreneurism as Sweden has become. Perhaps it's just easier to change directions at the scale of Sweden than Germany, with all the entrenched institutions and large conglomerates that Germany has.

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-12/germany-n...

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-08-16/inside-eu...

Ok, so you’re saying it’s not size (as single root cause)

Investors tend to be very rational here, they won't throw money and any stupid shit. At least that's what I've seen :) Of course, if you do that, you will find unpolished gems from time to time.


That's a lazy excuse, IMHO.

To me the key is to embrace new ideas, think big and have the drive to deliver.

An example: Deliveroo is doing extremely well in many markets around the world but is a British company. Interestingly the founder is... American of Chinese origin.

I had a classmate from France in my class at a US college. He opinion was that in American you can think big and fail and no one looks down at you for it. Not the same in the EU.

Same with becoming wildly successful. In America those people are looked up to as role models. In many parts of the EU, being the "tall poppy" is a bad thing.

Bingo. You can launch a startup in the "United States" or "in China" in day one. You can't really launch a startup in "Europe" from day one, unless you only offer an online service and only to the English speakers (a tiny single-digit percentage, on average) of those countries.

Beyond the language barrier, does the regulatory burden of complying with all applicable EU and individual state rules factor in at all?

it depends on your market you are trying to enter.

Let's not forget that harmonizing these rules is one of the major points of the EU in the first place.

My personal experience, after working for Alibaba, is that just the appearance of looking busy is what drives promotions, funding, and raises. Actual progress on projects is not measured, nor is code quality via common metrics (tests written, branch coverage, line coverage, test failures).

Chinese citizens have en masse been exploited by those in power for thousands of years. Moreover, workers and peasants weren't critical or even overwhelmingly supportive of the cultural revolution. Now China near the highest income inequality in the world and just like in the past those in power have technology in place to keep the average Chinese worker the ability to protest their working conditions. Hopefully, this will change but it is probably unlikely.

I'd really like to ask these VC's and corporate leaders "Are 12 hour work days 6 days a week where every movement of your workers are tracked something you'd like to see as a cultural norm?"

I think it is up to employees and entrepreneurs here in the US to push back against this march to longer and longer work days. Our physical and emotional health is far more important than a title or a few extra dollars. The well balanced life is a wealthy life.

I can give a first hand account. Working in a mid sized engineering consulting company there, and been working all around consumer electronics industry since 2007. Six points for you:

1. "American style startups" only make single digit percentage of the whole tech industry in China. And out of those, the "cult like" make even less.

2. "the American style startup" model is seen here with a lot of scepticism. Some call it a model for failure, and justly so.

3. There are not so few very well run companies in China, including, surprise, factories! I don't know a single factory owner who is not aware how dangerous overworked workforce can be for the bottom line. A single misplaced component can fry a few thousand dollars TV set. A single labour action, can end his business.

4. Becoming "more Western" is not a success model for a Chinese company. It became clear to me as as a rule of thumb, when a Chinese company invites "cool American MBA boys," things begin to go wrong very fast.

5. So are Chinese businesses that competitive after all? Yes and no: Yes, as for that the capability to outcompete American companies "fair and square" is there. And no, for that the company that could've buried countless strong American competitors will never take their place, never become a household name, never list on a stock market, never own a skyscraper office, and may not even have a website — it will forever remain a no name OEM in a grey factory building in a dusty industrial town.

6. "What's the trick?" The answer is: "the trick is that there are no tricks." Whatever place under the sun Chinese companies wrestled from Western competitors was achieved with nothing but sweat, blood, grit, and perseverance.

The best thing China has introduced me to was an entirely different, bullshit free work culture centred on value: contract, payment, and CAD files in the morning — widgets ready in the evening, without any manager in the loop.

If a Western business wants to do as well as a Chinese competitor these days, their corporate boffins should try doing that as their starting point

As much as I love working in IT, if things continue down the path where you are expected to become a labourer in 3rd World Country (mentally) and as a consequence start suffering devastating effects such as physical illnesses,

I would strongly, STRONGLY recommend my kids to not pursue IT as a career at all - better be a civil engineer or even a plumber or a lawyer or a family Doctor and live a good life with good money.

Plumber = get hands dirty, sometimes real dirty, little respect, and work is hard.

Civil engineer = except for the top tier branch smart people will find a difficult community fit, moderate to modest money, too many external influences towards the discipline, seemingly prime for disruption by the tech world (already happening).

Lawyer and family doctor = too many hours in school and then too many hours in work (generally).

Disclaimer: I'm a civil engineer, work alongside plumbing engineers, know zero actual plumbers, fiancee is doctor, looking to pursue law.

hahaha, damn, you are probably the best suited person to reply to my comment. Good luck to you and wishing you and your Fiancee the very best!

Wow a doctor looking to pursue law, very cool! Isn't law worse for work/life balance? (Not taking into account the opportunity cost of already having gotten past the grueling med school and residency stages). Or is it to go into the medical side of the legal field and combine the best of both worlds, or simply a change of heart? How do you like civil engineering? Do you see tech disrupting your profession, or the field of medicine or law for your significant other? For example, I know there is software that will make paralegal work redundant eventually.

Whoops! Didn't mean to say fiancee is looking to pursue law. I am.

Definitely worse for the work/life balance metric. But I think it is unfair to yourself if you seek careers based on how little or how much you work. Sometimes you are just looking for something fulfilling. It is the problematic misc/admin problems surrounding the cool stuff that cause you to lose your passion. Like knowing the dismal outcome of a work beforehand, but having to do it anyway without success because someone else said so.

A forgotten rule for me: Know your [unique] strengths, Find your fit, Swing hard at the pitches, and serve the community with what God gave you as uniquely yours because that is your duty. But don't forget everything else you have to do too (this causes a natural work/life balance).

> Do you see tech disrupting

Disruption is a good word. With newer tech, you find newer capabilities, and therefore seek a newer fit in your career. Some areas of medicine are getting more impacted than others (radiology, surgery). Others are becoming better facilitated (cardiology, nephrology). But probably the most difficult cases doctors have to deal with is when a patient has multiple problems (old age, diabetes, high blood pressure, blood clot). If a doctor has 1 or 2 patients like that, all of their time gets sucked up in those cases. So the answer is tech advances in medicine is welcomed/needed and/or disruptive based on the area of study.

For Civil, the field is dominated more by government clients than private clients. And government divisions for infrastructure maintenance and improvement are far too closed and opaque, too rigid for outsiders to propose tech advances, and too authoritarian for consultants to slip them in. On the private client side, building design dominates as prime allowing for better advancement by tech. But Civil Engineers are way too backwards in their minds and resist these kinds of improvements. So tech companies are taking the lead (sidewalk labs, google moonshot Flux) here. And civil engineers are unwillingly getting into formation (monkey ordered, monkey do).

I'm a municipal civil, wife is a winemaker. We do well enough that we can afford to live where we grew up and I don't see this job getting disrupted (old underground infrastructure, much of the work is project management related, im pretty adaptable to whatever technologies end up downsizing the field, etc) but it is definitely just a job to me and not even remotely a passion.

do you think plumber or family doctor are future proof occupations?

Plumber probably is. The tech and tools used may change, but I can't see it going away.

That's my thought as well. It's not a glamour job, but I have a hard time seeing us creating machines that have the problem solving, troubleshooting and manual dexterity of a skilled tradesman.

Oh no, not at all. However, I don't think they are required to be working 996 and to generally work 'harder' due to 'competition' (in the sense related to IT and Silicon Valley).

I see a lot of one-man plumbing companies advertise 24/7 availability. We can bitch about IT working conditions here on HN, but at least we're not getting woken up at 3 AM to go unclog somebody's overflowing toilets.

That's often because they have an apprentice they can send in the middle of the night. Then they can come by in the morning if needed and bill for everything.

I think one thing that seems to be missed here is none of the products they showed were that original. It's not like WeChat was some amazing new idea. It was chat. Their only real advantage is a captive market.

Besides chat, WeChat allows a lot of stuff from hailing cabs, ordering food, doing payments, the sky is the limit because businesses can integrate with it.

On the other hand, I look at all Western social apps and cringe: Facebook made a big deal from launching their instant games for messenger, Twitch from allowing some extra monetization options, YouTube actually reducing opportunities for people to make money.

Look at China with their WeChat, Weibo, bilibili, QQ and many more..

I wish I could open Facebook, start doing a live and people can send me money (red packets, rockets, cute cats, auspicious objects etc.) for doing it, right there.

Meanwhile there's the EU where if you receive 5E, you have the IRS from 28 countries breathing down your neck, asking for their cut, fining you, smacking a GDPR notice because why not and passing legislation to "enable" competitive startups similar to the US (/semi-sarcastic).

What makes WeChat unique is how much market share they captured and how they positioned themselves as a replacement for many other retail payment services in China.

WeChat is a lot more than just a chat app

agreed, it's the most successful gov surveillance tool, now even enhanced with tracking financial movements

This seems to be straight out of a dystopian novel. While we do have our own - of government snooping and excessive government oversight - the scenario playing out of China is not sustainable in the long term.

My fear is the scenario is all too sustainable. North Korea is at the third generation of Kim's and its political pyramid appears to be quite stable.

It is extremely concerning to me how these tech executives are so enamored with Chinas working conditions and all-pervasive data collection as if it was the pinnacle of living in the 21st century.

What happened to the dream of letting technology do the work for us, giving us vast leisure time and taking the burden of survival off? These executives seem so driven towards some ever-changing unobtainable goal that I don't think they will be ever satiated with people just... living.

> It is extremely concerning to me how these tech executives are so enamored with Chinas working conditions

That's handy! You could read the article linked above, which presents the opposite picture.

“I’m not worried so much about my portfolio companies not working as hard as the Chinese companies,” said Mr. Chan, now a partner at Felicis Ventures. “I’ll worry when they’re less creative and less efficient.”

Why is it concerning to you? It's typical for human nature. Out of sight out of mind. If it doesn't directly affect the executive or their bottom dollar, then it doesn't matter. As long as they aren't getting spied on, everything is fine from their perspective. Nothing will change.

I read the subtext as OP being concerned that the same degree of dystopian data collection and race-to-the-bottom work culture eventually may occur in their own backyard. That's also a pretty common human fear.

It's also tricky territory, however, as it's actually an economic imperialist perspective. Ie, pining for a Western quality-of-life reminiscent of the 195X-2008 period all but guarantees that, somewhere else on the planet, swathes of your fellow man will be systematically fucked over to facilitate your bubble.

Tech executives mostly care about their own rewards and the shareholder/Wall ST.

Employees become less and less important in the grand scheme of things. Especially when there are millions of people competing for every position, a way to distinguish yourself in these environments is through either a higher education or being more driven (willing to work/die for your company). I'm sure the burn out rate is high.

Emphasis mine:

> We don't know a perfected totalitarian power structure, because it would require the control of the whole planet. But we know enough about the the still preliminary experiments of total organization to realize that the very well possible perfection of this apparatus would get rid of human agency in the sense as we know it. To act would turn out to be superfluous for people living together, when all people have become an example of their species, when all doing has become an acceleration of the movement mechanism of history or nature following a set pattern, and all deeds have become the execution of death sentences which history and nature have given anyway.

-- Hannah Arendt

To me that's basically what the driving force of totalitarianism is in a nutshell, people who can't stand themselves and want to get rid of (the agency and the ability to judge of) free humans, and ultimately themselves, consciously or not.

Insofar a person is cut off from themselves and depends solely on external validation, colossal projects that are "objectively impressive" are just perfect. Working hours, money earned, daily active users, anything of that kind of metric is great because it never asks you who you are. The more metrics, the better. That it never ends and never quite satisfies is actually a desired quality where the main goal to not achieve something, but to run away from oneself.

> The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.

-- Hannah Arendt

If you want to get somewhere with others that isn't far off, a nice walk with calm conversations where everybody gets to speak might be a good way to do it. But if you don't care or can barely see where you're going because it's mostly drowned out by fear and insecurity, driving in circles endlessly in loud race cars, while communicating mostly with equally driven drivers over the radio, is so much better.

>What happened to the dream of letting technology do the work for us, giving us vast leisure time and taking the burden of survival off?


- https://basicincome.ycr.org/

- https://openai.com/

It's just capitalists pushing their agenda and propaganda in pursuit of "more".

Full automation was the dream of the proletariat. The capitalists dream of full emiseration.

Please keep ideological flamewar miles away from this site. It's predictable, therefore tedious, and usually nasty.

HN exists for other things: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

The behavior and displays in these ideological flamewars have gotten so much worse over the last year, and the pace of that change seems to be accelerating.

There seems to be a demographic shift happening on HN, away from rational and genuinely interested technologists and business people, and toward college kids who haven't done anything and don't know anything, trying to sound smart and then throwing a temper tantrum whenever anything political comes up.

How a community in aggregate behaves when certain topics are brought up is more than just an isolated event, it's a litmus test for what kind of community it is and the kind of people it is attracting. I think I'm done participating entirely.

I don't think that's accurate. The community isn't that different from how it used to be; it's largely the same people after all. For example, the GP's account is 6 years old.

What's changed is that society is becoming increasingly polarized. HN isn't immune from macro trends.

Their goal is to be billionaires first. Then they can have the leisure life.

You won't become a billionaire by enjoying life on basic income.

I think though wanting to be a billionaire is, for lack of a better word, a psychosis.

There's nothing that you could possibly want that costs that much. A drive for that much money to me indicates a form of emotional damage where one no longer has a rational relationship with a numeric self-assessment.

You think of money as a way to buy things. Others think of it for what it really is - a way to gain influence and control.

Sure, but wanting influence and control is somewhat the opposite of the desire for a leisurely life.

I strongly disagree with the premise. I can’t think of any industrial titans who retired to leisure. Those who tried or were forced into it seemed to die shortly after.

Henry Ford perhaps came closest with 20 years of only “unofficial” control of the company he founded.

Psychosis is still an appropriate term for people who want to gain influence and control.

That would make the diagnosis so common as to be meaningless.

Just because a large number of people seek control, power, and influence does not make it a worthy venture. It is a terrible trait.

What if you want to gain influence and control in order to make a positive impact on the world?

People who wish to gain influence in order to make a positive impact typically aren't trying to make a positive difference, they're trying to gain notoriety . You can make a positive impact in the world without gaining influence.

There's nothing that you could possibly want that costs that much.

What about your own space station to name one thing from the top of my head? Then again 1 billion wouldn't be nearly enough.

What do you mean, there's nothing that you could possibly want that costs that much? What about funding large-scale medical or scientific research, or a private space program, or mass vaccination campaigns in poverty-stricken areas ala Gates Foundation? These kinds of goals are extremely capital intensive, and if you can fund it entirely by yourself, you won't have to answer to shareholders who seek an immediate profit, or be forced to play politics instead of focusing on your mission.

You might enjoy the book 'How Much Is Enough?' by Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky

The underlying problem with all of this is that money is a poorly designed mechanism for (1) exchange of services (almost all goods are the result of services) between people (2) apportioning of natural resources which really belong to no one in particular

I'm curious what you see as a better mechanism for exchanging services.

Killing everyone! /s

No but most likely you will have a better overall life (imho).

Yes, but not your children and their children. Being a billionaire is prosperity for several generation of your children.

The real problem is that becoming a billionaire is statistically an abnormal outcome of that kind of life. Some people have jumped from a plane without parachute and survived. The fact that happened shouldn't be an argument to do the same.

But will those billions bring my children a happy and stress free life?

It might.

Or they will fight over it, get pestered by the media, have people beg for investments etc.

There's a part two to the fairy tale of the Mexican Fisherman.

> Sensing skepticism from the fisherman, the businessman moves onto the next boat and finds a more receptive fisherman. The two, sensing an obvious business opportunity, decide to go into business together. They raise a venture capital round and a year later, return to the pier outfitted with a dozen high tech fishing boats.

> Immediately, the price of tuna at the pier drops threefold with increased supply, forcing the young Mexican fisherman to increase his hours at sea just to maintain his existing standard of living.

> Shortly thereafter, all of the shallow water tuna have been caught and the young Mexican fisherman discovers his tiny boat is incapable of deep water fishing. Because of his limited savings, he does not have enough capital to invest in a deep water fishing boat and he is forced to sell his tiny fishing boat for pennies on the dollar as scrap because advances in technology have made it obsolete.

> After discovering that there is limited demand for an employee whose only skills are watching ballgames, playing the guitar and taking siestas, the young Mexican fisherman finds his only option is to take a job working minimum wage on one of the businessman’s fishing vessels.

> Several years later, the fisherman’s joints are shot through from the hard manual labor of operating on a commercial fishing vessel and an ill timed lift of a 150lb pallet of tuna finally causes his back to give way, causing permanent crippling. The fisherman discovers intensive lobbying from the businessman has weakened workplace protection rules and the fisherman is summarily let go with only a paltry settlement.

> After years of expensive medical treatments and crippling bills, the fisherman is finally forced to sell his land, passed along to him from generation to generation, to a development conglomerate run by the businessman who is buying large tracts of the entire village.

> Unbeknownst to the fisherman, the businessman has lobbied for the village to turn into a protected nature reserve, allowing for the rehabilitation of the environment and the restocking of fish in it’s pristine waters. The businessman painstakingly recreates the quaint, costal charm of the village he once visited, making it a paradise where the wealthy flock to when they want to retire into a life of easy indolence.

> Finally, 15 – 20 years after the original conversation, the fisherman and his wife are found dead in a homeless shelter. Meanwhile, the businessman retires to the village having made two successive fortunes first in fisheries and then in real estate development. He spends his days sleeping late, playing with his grandchildren, watching high def ESPN ballgames on a 70″ TV, and taking siesta with his wife. He occasionally strolls down to the village in the evenings where he regales his fellow millionaires with the story of how he found an unexploited niche in the marketplace and then took full advantage of it to make the fortune that got him to the comfortable retirement he enjoys today.

Much like the original story, this is of course a fairy tale - I doubt the businessman in question would put much effort towards the rehabilitation of the village's environment. Environmentalism rarely improves a business' bottom line - if it did, we'd see a lot more businesses lobbying for it.

Once they have a billion dollars, what will they do that is substantially different than someone on basic income? I have a hard time imagining things I want to do that require a billion dollars.

It’s not that that there are particular things you can only buy for a billion dollars, but that a billion dollars frees you from having to think about doing them.

When a millionaire wants to take a vacation, they plan it out just like you or I do, even if they’re going to a cooler place or staying at a fancier hotel. When a billionaire wants to take a vacation, they just take it.

Seems like a lot of effort to take a vacation...

Gold plated lamborghinis

what's the point tho? you are not taking that money into your afterlife.

It would be interesting if we are indeed judged in the afterlife by our net worth at the time of death, perhaps with our dollars being converted into a heavenly currency for continued commerce.

Seems a bit more likely than sitting around playing harps and petting lambs for an eternity.

From a Christian perspective, the Parable of the Talents (or Minas from Luke's gospel) describes future reward based not on net worth but on one's faithfulness with the resources entrusted to one. No harp-playing or lamb-petting necessary.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+25%3A14... https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+19%3A11-27...

"heavenly currency for continued commerce"


No but you live on through your influence and your children, which can be modulated with money.

you won't be alive to see it sadly. it would be as if it never existed in the first place.

Maybe just because it’s hard.

I think this is correct as long as survival is a personal goal.

However IMO civilization overall needs all the scientific and technological advancement possible, and then some more - if it is to survive beyond the next 50-60 years. ( 50-60 yrs : a guesstimate of how long the earth will remain habitable )

Are you really suggesting that at the current rate earth will only remain habitable for 50-60 more years? Even the most dire predictions, that I have seen, don't have a timeline like that. Unless we have a full out nuclear war or a giant meteor hits, I don't see how that could be the case. Habitable being that humans can no longer live on it at all.

Maybe OP is referencing soil health? Not saying I agree but I've seen similar numbers there.

Interesting. We not being able to grow food is a show stopper. I'll have to look into that more.

I guess 50 yrs is too dire.

However IMO the direst predictions you refer to are probably assuming a continuation of the current levels of resource consumption/ecosystem destruction.

But IMO it's far more likely that resource consumption in all its forms will keep increasing at a breakneck pace with every technological advance - thus accelerating the march to uninhabitability.

I have always found this notion of "race" with China odd. I don't see how other countries doing well economically does anything but help America economically.

If anything, to me the lesson of the last century is that we've changed too fast with too little forethought.

The "us vs them" mentality puzzles me as well. Perhaps for some they feel economic growth is a zero sum game. However I see the potential growing for all players.

> Perhaps for some they feel economic growth is a zero sum game.

Maybe not zero sum, but you can't have the rich without the poor.

If you lose the race, you may very well end up among the poor.

I have taken part in this trip on previous years. It really was an eye-opening experience, although less for long work hours and more for the scale that these "small" startups operate at.

We were talking to companies only a couple of years old that had hundreds of millions of users – and that wasn't a standout/unicorn.

In walled garden where you have few choices as a user it's not really a question of quality product/service.

It's a walled garden with over a billion people, there's plenty of choice. If anything there's more choice since BBAT copycat each other furiously: imagine if every time Google launched a product, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Microsoft all launched their versions within weeks.

"Then there are the work schedules. The Silicon Valley natives were introduced to the Chinese start-up concept of 996: Work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. Once they got over their shock, they had to ask: Does that punishing schedule make sense? “I’m not worried so much about my portfolio companies not working as hard as the Chinese companies,” said Mr. Chan, now a partner at Felicis Ventures. “I’ll worry when they’re less creative and less efficient.”"

This is scary

> “I’m not worried so much about my portfolio companies not working as hard as the Chinese companies,” said Mr. Chan, now a partner at Felicis Ventures. “I’ll worry when they’re less creative and less efficient.”

This seems to be a hollow fear. Working that much seems like it would do more harm than good.

I’ve always thought that in future we are going to have 4h work days. I thought it is a logical direction to go. However, it seems we are now proud of longer working hours and we are heading to wrong direction.

This is interesting - implications is that VC's may have to work 996 too to keep up :)

> While Silicon Valley start-ups raise funding every 18 to 24 months on average, the group was told that the most successful Chinese companies do it every six months. It isn’t unusual for a hot start-up to raise funding three to four times a year

edit changed 669 to 996 :)

> One Chinese technology executive said he worked 14 to 15 hours a day at least six days a week. Another said he worked every waking hour and forced himself to watch movies to relax.

> The reaction from a group of Silicon Valley executives: Wow.

> “We’re so lazy in the U.S.!” blurted Wesley Chan, a venture capital investor, on the first day of what would be a weeklong journey into the Chinese technology scene.

Uh, how about not. That is the complete wrong response to that. I understand Wesley might have just been trying to lighten the mood or be nice but let's not encourage working yourself to death.

>That is the complete wrong response to that. I understand Wesley might have just been trying to lighten the mood

No, he's a VC so he's probably 100% serious. VC's aren't going to fund founders who think they can build a successful business by limiting themselves 8-to-5 and 40 hours a week.

Another famous VC Mike Moritz of Sequoia Capital expressed the same praise about working hard like the Chinese.[1] Famous seed investor Ron Conway has said similar qualifications of a founder. ("Well I mean are you willing to work 24/7? The really great entrepreneurs are 24/7.")[2]

Likewise, if you're an entrepreneur that prioritizes the principle of "work/life balance" and 40-hours-a-week, VCs are not the right investor for you.

[1] https://www.google.com/search?q=moritz+chinese+work+long+hou...

[2] https://youtu.be/qvHhhIfu7Lo?t=4m20s

I think it's a bit of a false dichotomy to say that the options are 40 hours or 24/7. And if they don't literally mean "24/7" then why say it?

Edit: In fact, I can't think of any way to destroy productivity than attempting to work 24 hours a day for any length of time.

Why is literalism becoming such a thing? I would think that with the advance of AI we would want to hold our edge and embrace our fuzzier linguistics.

no money for you!

If it comes at the cost of forcing myself to work 24/7, or even worse, making other work ridiculous hours at the cost of their health then yeah - no money for me.

One round through the startup/VC/IPO/acquisition world was enough for me - I like building stuff too much.

8-to-5 is 45 hours.

In America, both 8-to-5 and 9-to-5 are colloquially referred to as "40 hours/week". It's not an exact math equation.

E.g. Many offices that have salaried "40 hours/week" jobs have expectations of employees showing up at ~8:00am, leaving ~5:00pm, with an unpaid 1 hour lunch in between. Same inexact math reason that we also call 9-to-5 "40 hours" instead of "37.5 hours" even though some workers take a half hour lunch break.

Considering how little work people actually do at work we should be pushing for a 4 day work week instead.

Yeah, but how would you make managers feel important with the illusion of having control if they couldn't extend the time spent on their subordinates? Imagine the horror if an employee could do whatever they want for 3 unsupervised days in a row!

Much of the value is standby time. Even if workers are doing very little most of the day, the fact that you can spin up a worker instantly (between 9 and 9) in China can make their companies extremely efficient.

Depends on what kind of work, if you are front-line developer the value of work is different from that of an executive. Executive game has more perception elements to it, in such the style is as much important as substance. Its has little or no similarities with the deep work needed from most of the knowledge workers.

I think I now what you're saying, but can you please ELI5?

I think this is why the author chose "blurted", clearly this was not a thought out response

> worked 14 to 15 hours a day at least six days a week

That's not the same definition for "work" though, and basically a lot of office time socializing, and watching over people, etc. I doubt that is 2x productivity from 9-5 M-F

If I were a venture capital investor, I probably would say the same thing. My worker mork more -> more money for me.

Of course that only works if you're making widgets. More time working doesn't actually correlate to a successful business. At some point exhaustion sets in and you start making mistakes or making flat out wrong decisions and this leads to failed companies. Failed companies don't tend to provide returns to investors.

This data set suggests that workers in the US put in long hours. I’m on my phone and it isn’t sorted, doesn’t have China in there either.


I suppose when you’re a superpower up against the other superpowers, then maybe how you stack up against prosperous small republics with small armies and a high standard of living isn’t the point though.

Americans put in long hours but they don’t work hard. Most of it is posturing and staying in the office longer than your boss even if you spend half the time chatting away on slack.

Some work hard of course. Nobody puts in ling hard hours.

You can either work hard or work long. They are mutually exclusive. Such is life.

You put in the type of work your boss appreciates.

That said: you can always squeeze in another email or another meeting. Manager mode thrives under long hours.

Try to squeeze in another hour of creating and you just spend 2 hours fixing it tomorrow.

Americans working white-collar jobs may not work both long and hard, but people working 2+ manual labor jobs sure do.

White collar workers may actually work long and hard hours and be very exhausted by them. They may be unproductive, though. Or if they are “productive” in the sense that they complete a task, often the task itself adds little value.

The white collar workers actually aren’t necessarily lazy though, which is why the bullshit work thing is kinda tragic.

You are correct. I was talking about the white collar bubble, which seems reasonable since we're talking in the VC-funded ecosystem.

Do VCs often fund companies that are full of people working 2+ manual labor jobs?

The comment you were replying to makes no mention of the VC environment, merely the hours that people work in various countries. VCs also don't fund companies full of people who "hardly do any work", they fund outliers full of passionate people who work twice as hard to make up for lack of manpower.

People looking for a second manual labor job are the mainstay of the gig economy (Uber, Airtasker, etc).

Oh I fully agree that the long hours aren’t highly productive in the long run. I actually do think people work long and hard hours in the sense that they are exhausted and not chillin at the water cooler, but I doubt they’re terribly productive.

I wouldn’t call that lazy though, just counter productive.

> let's not encourage working yourself to death

But if the system's only optimization criterion is the bottom line, then this is the expected outcome.

I don't know. Sometimes it is hard to argue with results. The pace of Chinese technological capitalism is staggering. Perhaps it is just a race to the bottom with working hours.

The economy exists for people, people do not exist for the economy.

Though I agree with the normative claim behind what you are saying, it is not descriptive. The economy should exist for the people; it does not now. And making it do so will be very difficult, short of the invention of Culture style Minds.

Imagine I said the following: "The ecosystem exists for the welfare of the animals." This would strike you as absurd.

The economy exits because of people; it does not exist for people. In the limit of perfect competition, we should expect a race to the bottom, provided imperfect coordination.

There are a lot of factors besides the number of hours an individual works that effect their pace. Huge government support (including things like industrial espionage and technology transfer) and a huge number of citizens are much more important than having individuals work obscene hours.

Agree, but I also read this as a little condescending towards Chinese workers.

We tend to attribute their success to corruption, exploitation, or brute-force (given their population). But, could it be that they have something going for them? Maybe they are as capable as we are, as productive as we are, and also are putting the extra work.

Don't get me wrong, I believe this is totally unhealthy for individuals. But it doesn't seem unreasonable for me that a highly capable and motivated individual would indeed produce more in 16 than in 8 hours, health and normal life aside.

>Agree, but I also read this as a little condescending towards Chinese workers.

You need to talk to Chinese tech employees who were formerly working/living in China and are now in the US. They will have nothing but bad things to say about the work culture in China, regarding both management and the employees under them, with plenty of examples / horror stories.

Don't just take HN comments at their word, do a little work on your part and get some first-hand information so you can form a less biased opinion. Even better, go work in China for a bit :)

I understand how you would read it that way, but I didn't mean any condensation towards Chinese workers. I was simply being lazy at showcasing other factors and picked the two easiest.

> Maybe they are as capable as we are, as productive as we are, and also are putting the extra work.

I 100% agree with this and don't think I suggested otherwise. My comment was in no way meant to take away from the incredible work of many people. I don't doubt that many people have worked long hours and absolutely think people are equally capable regardless of where they come from.

I just think it is ridiculous to suggest that other economies should participate in a race to the bottom of who can work their citizens to death

I think the Chinese are harder working and seemingly smarter if your trust their PISA scores. I don't think there is any measurable trait of the quality of human capital in which Chinese workers do worse than Americans.

it wasn't just internal factors - many companies/business people have wanted to do business with the Chinese. In my own experience they're pretty easy to work with.


We've banned this account, of course.

"They found Chinese tech executives to be less reflective about the social impact and potential misuse of their technologies." On the one hand it's hard to find anything less reflexive than Facebook/Whatsapp acknowledging their platform was used for a literal genocide and taking a year to actually do something about it, on the other hand what we know about product tampering in China for the bigger scandals with baby formula, milk and pet food seems the anything goes for a profit should make this story's startup attitude not a surprise to anyone paying attention to the news.

I'd prefer 6am to 6pm 6 days a week.

We need to be more efficient to beat them, there are not other ways.

I've often wondered about that. It seems we've gone backwards since the social democratic promises of the 60s and 70s. A higher level of technology should translate into more leisure and less work, not the opposite.


Generic ideological discussions, like the thread below, are off topic here. They're always repetitive, usually nasty, and never go well.

We detached it from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18407327.

Capitalism ironically. X money is never enough.

Oh please. If you had said "humans never have enough", I would have agreed.

Be it art, science, business, relationships, longevity, finance or knowledge, the human condition is we're never satisfied with where we are.

Which is good or we'd still be living in caves.

There's a lot of people here trying to blame capitalism or the right, but it seems like trying to square that circle with the collaboration of Silicon Valley and the Chinese Government is a bit of a stretch. History is important and all, but even if I stipulate your theory about the past (which I don't, but for the sake of argument let's let it go), it's SV and China doing this today. Anyone who wants to try to convince me that the SV+China collaboration is "of the right" is welcome to try but I warn you you're basically facing Mt. Everest here. Blaming it on people who are not even proximal to today's manifestation of the will, at best, make you briefly feel better, but do nothing to solve the problem.

What happened in the past can happen again. See, every war in human history.

What relevance does that have to what is happening now? Are you seriously proposing that it's OK to not worry about what Silicon Valley and China are doing, because someday in the past and maybe someday in the future, right-wing people will try to squash freedom? That makes no sense.

I think you'll be willing to admit that SV's interest in China is the good old capitalistic rule "rational actors will make deals that most benefit them" coupled with the fact that publicly traded businesses are generally targeted at profit for shareholders.

You'd need quite a few obstacles/penalties to make a rationally acting company not jump on the more money bandwagon. Whether that's shareholders with that inclination and enough power to block such actions, blow back from other parts of the company(customers boycott/supplier not supplying/workers walkout) to lower the value of Chinese deals, or laws and regulations that make dealing with China while disregarding ethical issues less profitable.

In that non exhaustive list on making companies behave ethically the first two are "vote with your wallet" the last is "vote with your vote".

Both the left and right vote with their wallet on these issues, but when it comes to the laws and regulations it is fair to say that the right has a more laissez faire approach than not to adding regulations and laws. It's also arguably this one that is most effective with very large or monopolistic companies (as there are more barriers to voting with your wallet).

Thus the left blaming the right for not coming to the party on regulations that would stop or regulate this. I'll point out that this is just one viewpoint on why those more to the right can be blamed for this and ofcourse it misses the underpinnings of why the right to left spectrum differ on their views to the spectrum of regulation. I'd expect that those underpinnings would be part of why you feel changing your mind on the connection would be climbing Everest. Still, I'd hope you agree that it's not straight "Blaming it on people who are not even proximal" as regulations do change company behaviour.

"I think you'll be willing to admit that SV's interest in China is the good old capitalistic rule "rational actors will make deals that most benefit them" coupled with the fact that publicly traded businesses are generally targeted at profit for shareholders."

I'm not. Personally I think helping a leftwing authoritarian society is actually something that the SV leadership is interested in doing, because it is something they want for the US as well, and they want in at the top. I don't feel this is a very big leap from the demonstrated political proclivities of the area, what people say, or the actions being taken.

"Thus the left blaming the right for not coming to the party on regulations that would stop or regulate this."

Actually, if you want to fall back to "I blame the other people over there for not stopping us from doing this!", I'll take it. It's a silly argument but I'll take the premise it's based on without question. It's still you doing it. And I say "you" not necessarily as "greycol" personally, but because this is HN and the line workers actually doing this work are indeed here. And 95%+ of them are on the left.

Reagon won.

Workers have no rights, unions are for communists, the best gov't is no gov't.

Not like it's completely his doing, the Teamsters endorsed him.

I'm pretty ignorant of this part of history. What were the policies that Reagan enacted that led to these results?

Wow, that opinion piece is a huge stretch.

Reagan fired air traffic controllers who were striking illegally. It then makes the huge jump that this caused private sector companies to not negotiate.

I don't buy it.

Username check out. But to be honset, the Democrats also helped and people can't think for themsleves because of the school system


Eh? This comment makes no sense. Wesley Chan is American, dude. He’s amazed at what people are doing in China. If anything he’s bringing the cultural habits of a 9-5 job from the US to China and being surprised by it, hence ‘we’ and not ‘they are lazy in the US’.

Hear hear


Assuming this is true, the pink pigs would be the smart ones in this situation. Tricking latinos and asians to do all the hard work while they get to enjoy life!

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