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The HN front page is similar to any community. For example, a car site's homepage will be listing the latest supercars, expensive turbos, rims, whatever... while most readers are driving a $30,000 Civic.

The best & brightest in tech are working with the best tools on the biggest problems, and that's what gets talked about, regardless of what the mass is doing.






> The best & brightest in tech are working with the best tools on the biggest problems

I don't think that's true—there is a subset of the best and brightest who work on greenfield projects very decoupled from existing customer bases, and they get to blog / present / post a lot about what they're doing. There are quite a few "best and brightest" people who are in large companies or slow-moving industries. They're often constrained to existing tooling, because moving to fancy new tooling is a huge risk and time sink for limited reward. They might be using cool personal tools—fancy editors and keyboards and window managers—but the stack they work on is generally "legacy".

And usually the problem of "How do we make this work slightly better for millions of end users" ends up being a bigger problem than "How do we do something really cool as a demo."


The best and brightest are working on greatest problems and are not focused on using the newest tools in many cases they are using substandard tools because they are focused on the problem.

If they're really the best, wouldn't they have their pick of workplaces and optimize for personal enjoyment? Nobody who could chew through research level algorithm problems all day would willingly write Java 8 CRUD apps for Windows Server 2000, because those are the people that have a choice.

Personal enjoyment can take many forms and people have more than one priority in life. Big corps can also have their upsides aside from tech and process related questions that might be attractive. While I have my pet peeves that would hinder progress, I personally don't really care about a particular stack enough to get invested. If I'm too concerned with that aspect that would imply that I'm not working on the interesting part of the problem anyway.

You can handle a lot of restrictions if the domain/problem is interesting enough and the constraints put on you don't feel too taxing, e.g. because they aren't enforced for your role or team very much. I feel like company size just isn't a good indicator for personal enjoyment/growth/$whatever, lots of research oriented divisions in larger corporations will let you work on interesting topics and hand off the engineering part to teams with people that enjoy that particular aspect of our world, both working for the same company.


One, the hiring market isn't either liquid enough or high-information enough for this to work.

Two, they have their pick of workplaces and focus on finding the biggest problem or perhaps the biggest paycheck, not the most freedom in tools. I have perfect freedom in tools hacking on OSS by myself; I don't look for that in a job.


> Nobody who could chew through research level algorithm problems all day would willingly write Java 8 CRUD apps for Windows Server 2000

Why do you assume it's impossible to have a fulfilling career writing Java 8 CRUD apps for Windows Server 2000?


People have a strange idea of what "best and brightest" work entails.

I work with Java 8 on a greenfield high-frequency transaction platform for a very large company. It is extremely satisfying to build the "world's largest" of something, and no amount of shiny features in a cute new language would deter me from this work.


Good point about communities, but I don't think it's good to say "the best and brightest in tech" in this context. HN exists to gratify curiosity, and people are more curious about things they haven't seen before, or that are currently captivating their imagination. This emotion is not a reflection of the world around us—it's aspirational. But there's a risk if we start to feel inferior because we don't get to do that at our job or whatever, which is partly what the article is about.

Incidentally, it's the same curiosity that has the current article near the top of HN right now. It's not a point that has been articulated so often, or so recently, or so well, so it's fresh. Even if we already know it, it's a fresh reminder. (And also, of course, there's the catnip of the meta dimension.)


Are we just going to ignore the idea of paying $30k for a Civic? I hope noone is doing that.

If the poster was from Canada, $30K is actually about right for a 2019 Touring trim level (it would be even more after taxes):

https://carcostcanada.com/Canada/Prices/2019-Honda-Civic_Sed...


You could pull it off by buying a Civic Type-R, which I think fits the theme.

The price is negligible in that the point is most people will work with Java, PHP, JS, etc at their workplaces yet indulge in the newest concepts/technologies on HN.

I have like $2k into a 90s Ranger. By the time I'm doing doing "enthusiast things" to it I'll probably have well over 10k into it.

Well the sticker price isn't 30k, but that's probably what you end up paying by the end of the 5 year loan.

> The best & brightest in tech are working with the best tools on the biggest problems, and that's what gets talked about, regardless of what the mass is doing.

That doesn't have to mean new and shiny.

By way of analogy: the F-117 stealth fighter--the world's first operational stealth aircraft--was developed by the best and brightest (Lockheed Martin Skunk Works) and solved the biggest problem (visibility to radar). Aside from having a weird polyhedral shape and innovative radar-absorbing material, nothing about the plane was the "best", "latest", or "cutting-edge" at all. Much of it consisted of parts from other aircraft hacked together. If you actually do want to have the best cutting-edge technology all in one plane, you spend 25 years designing the damn thing--that's the F-35.


The initial version of F-35 was lifted wholesale from Yakovlev Yak-141. Basically during the wild late 80's early 90's in Russia Lockheed Martin entered into an agreement with the Yakovlev bureau to do who knows what with Yak-141 (which sounds impossible and wild in itself nowadays). The agreement lasted just long enough for them to rip everything off and was then dissolved.

http://aviationintel.com/yak-141-freestyle-the-f-35b-was-bor...


That's a massive exaggeration at best. The F-35B variant borrows the lift fan design from the Yak-141. That's a single feature of a single variant of an aircraft that has a half-dozen other completely unrelated features. The Yak-141 didn't have helmet-mounted displays, it wasn't stealthy, it didn't have the new combat information management systems, it wasn't built out of modern composite materials, and so forth.

Would be quite a feat to have all those things in late 80s, don't you think? :-) It's not an "exaggeration" The planes even look similar, and Lockheed got $1.5T in government money for a few million they spent bribing government officials in Moscow.

> Would be quite a feat to have all those things in late 80s, don't you think? :-)

The F-35 has them. The Yak-141 didn't. Therefore, it absolutely is an exaggeration to say the F-35 was "lifted wholesale" from the Yak-141. Two of the three F-35 variants don't even have the lift fan!


>The best & brightest in tech are working with the best tools on the biggest problems, and that's what gets talked about

We should be so lucky. Nobody knows who's the best, what the best tools are, or what the biggest problems are. We only know the ones that get written about.

Writers cover what's flashy, who's the best self-promoter, and what makes the most money.


Exactly right.

Sites like HN and Reddit are aggregators in the literal sense. They take a large volume of data points and reduce it to a select few that get shown to most users. that aggregation function is "most interesting", not "most representative". Those are direct opposites of each other: interesting is almost by definition unusual.

I always find the subreddits that try to explicitly not target polar extremes the most fascinating from a sociology perspective. For example, this photo of a sink faucet is the most mildly interesting submission of the past year:

https://www.reddit.com/r/mildlyinteresting/comments/9ykoe4/t...

Does that mean all other submissions were less interesting, or less mild?


There is most likely some kind of division here where 5% here is working with the best tools on the biggest problems, 60% are working with old and non optimal tools on crud making money, 15% is working with the latest and coolest at a well funded startup and the rest is just following hypes making peanuts trying to fill their resume. Here best & brightest depends on your definition; if you are in it for the money and do not live in the valley, I think brightest might be java or c# if you want to make money.

$30,000 for a Civic? You better be getting gold-plated cup holders at that price.

1x $1900 Civic

1x $100 eBay turbocharger

1x $1000 misc expenses

27x $1000 JDM long-block

There's probably less fun ways to spend $30k on a Civic too


Like in Singapore:

Example A - Honda Civic 1.6 i-VTEC

    Registration Fees - S$220
    OMV - S$19,370
    Excise Duty (20 percent of OMV) - S$3,874
    COE (as of 23rd March 2018) - S$38,000
    ARF - S$19,370
    VES - $0
Basic Cost of Car - S$82,460 (~ 60k USD)

https://www.sgcarmart.com/news/writeup.php?AID=171


This is implying the best & brightest drivers are driving tricked out super cars.

Not a super-driver but Enzo Ferrari used to daily drive a Fiat 128 [1] . Nowadays the former chairman of the VW Group and a member of the family that controls Porsche has just paid $18 million for a custom-made Bugatti.

[1] https://youtu.be/lQSac0Jpz0Y


Right. It's not what all the best and brightest are doing. It's what people like to read about, and what we want to be doing, even if most of what we do isn't that.

I think mundane programmers could be some of the brightest, but for whatever reason, they don't go into the limelight to be noticed.

Supercars or soup-of-the-day?



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