The point is that not that smart people who went into finance and law somehow fucked up. It may be a perfectly rational and good choice for them.
The point is that smart, hard-working people tend to get funneled into one of a handful of professions, and at this point, I would even include software in that handful. It would better if we had smart people also going into other, more underserved fields that are in dire need of innovation.
With software specifically, it feels very much like a case of too many chefs in the kitchen at this point. Just look at facebook trying to build one website with 10000 engineers. It's some of the most ridiculous bullshit and it's incredibly distracting even as an outside observer. There are clean and reusable patterns that solve problems for 99.9% of use cases, but most of the discussion and energy these days is spent rehashing the same boring front-end UI story over and over and over.
Sure, I can ignore all the noise on HN, et. al. if I want to get work done, but then I risk missing out on the occasional insight that can potentially give me an integer factor increase in productivity or product quality. As it currently stands, I have to wade through a cesspool of the same boring amateur concepts on a daily basis in order to find the rare fundamental insights that meaningfully move the state of the art forward.
Same thing for Twitter and all these other social media sites. How does Google have so many engineers yet so many failed products? It’s a narrow perspective to take on and a wrong one.
Actually the division of labour at large companies is impressive and it becomes apparent if you look at the amount of actual output from them.
These FAANG companies aren’t just building websites. They are managing larges amounts of complex infrastructure, because scaling the amount of engineers a company can have requires it.
They are designing incredibly complex products. Apple’s products are descriptively simple and don’t represent the amount of work required to get there.
They are maintaining and insane amount of code and ensuring it works reliably. It’s easy to point at the one day with the Google Maps SDK failure or the Facebook SDK failure while forgetting the many days there wasn’t one.
Lately they are investing in privacy and security, which is another huge effort that I think the public underestimates. It’s easy to ensure data is deleted in a database, but it’s a completely different problem to ensure that data is deleted across all your infrastructure and to ensure it stays that way while teams rapidly develop software.
Startups and smaller companies can compete with large behemoths because they are only focusing on one or two things (or should be). But when you focus on one thing you lose sight of how hard it is to focus on one thousand things.
Sure,they do some other cool stuff, are useful in other ways, but on the side really.
Same af really smart folks working in high frequency trading. Also wasted talent IMO
This single website is making billions of dollars in profits and used billions daily. It is good for us that Facebook have 10000 people working on this. Thanks to Facebook we have now flow, react, react-native, GraphQL, Redux, immutable.js, ReasonML, jest and create-react-app just to mention few things that were open sourced or worked by people hired by Facebook. No other company contributed as much to "boring front-end UI story"
The added value of all of that is dubious when you see the result from the creators themselves. The analogy "too many chefs in the kitchen" is pretty spot on. The front-end UI is not the back-end, it doesn't scale with the number of users, so when too many smart engineers work on it you see the result.
One-way bindings and isolation of effects help a lot.
Keep in mind that most most these engineers are paid for the fact that they don't work for another company that is perhaps competing with Facebook. They are given "sensible-looking" work to make them feel important and keep them busy (feel free to call this a "bullshit job" (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bullshit_Jobs&old... ) if you desire).
Now, this group also contains the more risk taking ones who want glory and outsized returns. These pioneers would go into other more underserved fields in dire need of innovation if they saw opportunity. If they don't see opportunity, there are likely structural factors in play that prohibit innovation. And these structural factors are necessarily difficult to change for any but the most already powerful subgroups of these pioneers -- any less powerful actors will be so easily dispatched by incumbents that they would be foolish to try. So they don't, because as previously established, we're talking about smart people here.
I think your point would be served better by going into more detail about just which other underserved fields are the ones that are in dire need of innovation. My previous points notwithstanding, I do believe that there still exist a significant amount of underserved fields in dire need of innovation that are also completely tractable for the more pioneer oriented group of intelligent people without requiring billionaire level resources to solve. Messy, unsexy problems that customers would jump in line to pay for. But these problems tend to be require solutions by sharp pioneer generalists with a ton of intellectual horsepower _who_ are also capable recruiting and working well with industry insiders.
Having worked at such a company before, I think it's the latter part that's rarer than the former. I can grab a bucket of sharp STEM grads from top 10 universities that could make progress on a lot of hard problems that I know folks would pay good money for, but will they have the humility, spongelike curiosity and flexibility to work well enough with top industry insiders to not just be able to keep up with them but add something unique that wouldn't be doable otherwise? That's the hard part, and I think those kinds of folks are hard to find and will always be hard to find, no matter what kind of society you have.
Better for humanity as a whole. Do you seriously think that if money and status weren't factors, every one of the "smart people" that went into finance or law would have exactly the same choice?
Of course not, and they would have excelled in another field with less competition and advanced our knowledge in that domain instead.
Are money and status actually contributing to human progress? Barely, if at all. In some ways, it has even caused regress.
Yes. Money and status are among the most core notions of the human societal experience. They represent success, continuity, surplus, achievement, ranking, collective opinions. Any attempts to remove or repress them invariably fail due to proxies that spring up to substitute the utility they provide.
This doesn't mean they they are intrinsically "good" for humanity, just that they are useful abstractions that humans use to maximize the throughput of their Dunbar number. If you tried to remove them without providing suitable replacements, people just go about recreating them.
In other words, they would not have made the same choice, because the circumstances surrounding status and finances would be different.
No one is talking about removing social incentives. Musk was saying that finance and law are given more status and financial incentives as professions than they deserve by their contributions to humanity, in a similar manner that some stocks in the stock market become overvalued and eventually undergo corrections.
Finance in particular absolutely, unequivocally requires a social correction in how it's perceived and how much influence it has.
If this is the point, then it's even weaker. Two things are being conflated here, which is neoliberal value judgments (what professions "deserve by their contributions to humanity", as if value could ever be assigned or assessed in such a uniform way) and emergent behavior (when "some stocks in the stock market become overvalued and eventually undergo corrections"). To want the former to result in the latter is not enough; a concrete feedback mechanism must exist for that correction.
For Marx, this was historical materialism, wherein the capitalist mode of production evolutionarily existed in between the feudal mode of production and the communist mode of production. Weaknesses in the feudal mode of production left it vulnerable to being outexecuted by the emerging capitalist mode of production. Likewise, a systemic weakness in the capitalist mode of production leaves it weaker compared to the operationally superior communist mode of production, which is evolutionarily poised to supplant it as it collapses. For many Marxist thinkers, the Weimar-esque features of our current period of post LBO raider baron capitalism has earned our current episteme the reluctant brand of "late capitalism", a phrase which marries this time's absurd and banal social credit flavored cruelties with its evident dysfunctions and blank spaces that almost beg to be replaced with superior communist alternatives. I can't say I'm fully convinced by them, but they've at least done the legwork of slotting their explanations and predictions into a sufficiently detailed framework of historical context.
But I can't say the same for Elon here, or for your argument. What's notable for such Marxists is not that finance or law disappear. Their innovations exist and continue to be developed, but the surplus value they create is distributed and aggregated differently. This is a far cry from a belief that professions involving knowledge work (particularly those with such a wide variety of labor requirements and work product outputs) can be treated as stocks in that some are "undervalued" and some are "overvalued", because such an assertion is "not even wrong".
What is more likely to me is that in every profession, just as in every other kind of socioeconomic strata or societal hierarchy in human history, there exists caste-like stratification between the most successful and wealthy practitioners and the rest. Consider the paralegal who works full workweeks for barely more than minimum wage compared to the partner that rakes in eight figures. Or consider the lowly analyst at a bulge bracket . The top practitioners of each field (or to be more direct, the most well compensated executive class of each field) have much more in common with each other than with others in their field, for they have all learned the most primal, modern human skill of expanding and aggregating political power. That is to say, they have learned the skill of empire building.
Does it really matter what your formal profession is when opportunistic general managers can fluidly move from one managerial, executive or political role to another? And furthermore, hasn't it always been this way with empire-builders? If I asked you to consider that a frame that encouraged you to take profession as a proxy for identity was potentially a red herring to distract you from class identity, would you consider that a possibility?
"Deserve" and "over valued" are not conflated, they are in fact inextricably linked. Market value is aggregated value, and what someone or some profession "deserves" as recompense is also an expression of market value. Of course, our markets are heavily skewed with negative externalities and perverse incentives, which is exactly why finance and law are over valued by any impartial measure of the functions they ought to serve in a free society.
Finance and law no longer serve to facilitate free enterprise, commerce and national development, but as a means of escaping responsibility and legal jurisdiction.
 Some balance of happier, healthier, and wealthier.
Okay, fantastic, now we're getting to the juicy part here. So I agree with you that our markets are heavily skewed with negative externalities and perverse incentives. I also agree with you that these negative externalities and perverse incentives are present in finance and law. I can even agree with you that in terms of the utility functions they ought to serve in an ideal society, it's plausible that they would be commodities rather than this strange realm of both commodity and luxury that they currently occupy. But, I can't agree with you here:
> Finance and law no longer serve to facilitate free enterprise, commerce and national development, but as a means of escaping responsibility and legal jurisdiction.
Finance and law never served to do any of those things. Nor does it necessarily serve purely as a means of escaping responsibility and legal jurisdiction. Finance and law, much like politics, exists to serve empire. In the golden age of expansion of an empire, you see emergent phenomena such as free enterprise, commerce and national development. You may even see people express that such emergent phenomena are the goals of the empire. But I am never convinced by this. The purpose of an empire is furthering its own existence, and once it exhausts the more palatable ways to achieve growth, it turns to less palatable ways.
To reiterate it again, to argue that people would be better off if smart people worked in fields other than finance or law is, in most senses, neither factual or counterfactual, because it doesn't attempt to engage with reality. The reality is that we live in a world that in many ways is not expanding. We live in a world that is increasingly has zero-sum dynamics. When one lives in a world that increasingly has zero-sum dynamics, people start thinking about securing safety and power, which tends to stratify along the caste lines of the professional managerial class, the lines of finance and law.
When you live in an unsafe world, you don't want to try and follow the rules of the game. You want to write the rules of the game. None of this superficial speculation about whether people would be better if more Xs were doing Y actually addresses this root dynamical interaction, or its increasing chaos. And so it would necessarily miss it. That's why I don't think you're wrong. I think you are missing the point.
I respect people who take low-paying jobs when they don't have to. In many ways, they're donating money to society, and that's pretty damn cool of them to be doing it.
First job out of school - low pay, worked in a crappy cube farm in an old building outside of a city center at an industrial park. Had to be there at 8 and stay til 5 no matter what. Middle management sucked. Pay raises were low. Health benefits were horrible. No vacation for a full year (yea I could've negotiated that, but why should that even be negotiable? absurd.)
Switched into software and never looked back. Better hours, better pay, better benefits. More respect for work life balance. Better office locations. Younger colleagues.
It's easy to see why people don't go into the sciences. The sciences are attacked on a daily basis in this country. From vaccines to global warming to covid19. The pay is low. Outside of engineering, the jobs suck, and you almost certainly need at least a masters. Academia is filled with tenured has-beens who exert undue influence over everyone.
The richest engineers I known became sales engineers. The ones who worked on problems were never rewarded for the problems they worked on - thus they instead went to selling and made boat loads instead. Who can blame them?
It's in my opinion more complicated:
My first point is that the metric that you are interested in is not maximum salary, but "salary minus costs of living". The highest paying job does not necessarily maximize this metric.
My second point is that companies that offer worse salaries (or are worse in the sense of the metric of the first point) have to compensate to stay attractive. Be it via better working environment (no open plan or cubicle farm), be it by offering really interesting work, etc. I consider this to be a feature.
Even after netting all that out, though, society often "commands" us to work at jobs that seem relatively useless. I suppose you could counter that "seeming useful" is itself a form of compensation. But still, it seems a bit dreary. I don't have any answers.
As far as non-monetary comp offered by companies (e.g., more interesting work), the problem is that it's really hard to tell whether such offers will actually pan out. It's very much luck of the draw whether you will get to do interesting work, or perhaps just end up sitting beside someone who is, while you are tasked with something meaningless. Been there. It's very difficult for companies to be credible on this.
Epidemiology and Public Health. The capability for disaster response hasn't increased with gains in technology. Clearly, the way technology has increased the dangers of contagious disease has far outstripped the technology driven capacity for containing outbreaks.
Discourse and News Media. Right now, the incentives and technology align in such a way, that Social Media becomes an outrage spreading and viral amplification machine.
(Obligatory link. It's practically my personal religion by now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE3j_RHkqJc )
It turns out the Internet isn't for raising human discourse and encouraging brilliant thought. It's for preventing good thinking by fomenting interfering emotions and replacing actual thought with its doppelganger, ideology. And what's big tech's response to the above? Things which aren't technically censorship, but which insidiously have the same effect. Clearly, something is wrong with this picture.
That is part of the problem. The tech giants created infrastructure that 1) has enabled a cottage industry of independent journalism and 2) has completely disrupted traditional news business models. Then, the same large companies proceed to ink sweetheart deals with the dying large media companies, while jerking around the small independent journalists. Just as in the music industry, the endless supply of new aspiring media stars, combined with their control of the technology and their lobbying for favorable laws, has gained them carte blanche to say, "my way, or the highway" to the emerging independents. All the above basically sets them up to control most all future societal discourse -- particularly by less than completely transparent means that strangely resemble censorship.
The tech giants control the newest, best conduits for future information and media. Given what we've seen of their stewardship, citizens should indeed be concerned.
I feel like so many fields have fallen behind, because of the way incentives are set up. It pays better to be a banker, or a lawyer, developing antibiotics isn't profitable enough, it pays better to work at a company that gathers data about people and pumps advertisements to them. It's rather sad, really.
Maybe the only area where the (inexperienced and thus enthusiastic) supply exceeds demand is game development.
And I think there's a lot of truth to that. If you work at Facebook or Google or other companies, you've been convinced that you're the best of the best. The brightest of our generation. But ultimately all your work leads to selling ads.
That's what's so attractive about Musk. He's a bizarre, often unhealthy mind. But he's dead focused on numerous businesses that have a considerably greater point than boosting ad impressions.
And I think he continues to poorly communicate that frustration: way too little of our high tech industry is focused on true innovation for the betterment of humanity. I wish there were more non-Musks we could cheer for.
My takeaway from his musings is that too many strong minds are funnelled into industries that don't push the envelope in more directions.
And I agree with musk's general point on finance. I did my M.S. in finance, I work (somewhat) in the industry still. It's a ridiculous amount of smart people basically wasting everyone's time to magically make money.
Nothing of any real value is being done.. After these many years I don't find value in people spending SO MUCH TIME AND ENERGY into "making more money out of money". That's all it is. We can talk all day about making efficient portfolios and all this bullshit.. Sure there is some value, but 99% of it is utter bullshit that is solely designed to make the rich richer. And not even just the super rich- it is even to keep the upper middle class above the "rest".
/disillusioned person related to finance
I find him very human, as flawed as the rest of us.
This may be somewhat true, but on the bright side these companies have made immense contributions to open source software. And that ultimately has a positive impact to humanity on a broad scale.
I mean, Vue.js seems ok so I think I’ll just have that and not the surveillance state bit thanks
Mr Musk won’t put 2.5% of his money where his mouth is. If he genuinely thought there was a problem to fix, he’d fund a demonstration of the solution.
The US government already spends $2B a year funding small business innovation across a range of industries. What more can we do?
I think it’s BS, but those are pretty much his believes.
Somewhat closer to Earth and immediately necessary for civilization's future.
Does all of this really have no value for society?
Nowadays it seems more and more common that this phrase is "Too many smart people go into working on ad optimization".
Flow Traders made 10x because of the novel corona virus. In all fairness that could've turned out very differently. The reason for that: volatility went up, but it could've easily gone down.
I don't see how volatility could have gone down. Maybe explain?
Died down trading = low volatility
Here it appears that volatility went up, up, up for 2008 - then died back down to pre-crash levels with occasional spikes. I don't see volatility going much below what it was before the crash. You can see a similar pattern in 2020.
> After the first huge volumes of sales, trading would die down because no one had faith in the economy and the stock market.
I would honestly be shocked if this was a real thing - if a ton of people stopped trading, it would cause other people to trade on the inefficiencies that creates.
Maybe. At least of the East Coast elite universities, what Elon is saying here rings true to me.
Disclosure: work on ad tech at Google. Opinion my own.
Now, whether either the innovations that top tier tax lawyers have built deliver long term value or not is a different question entirely, but the same could be said for technical innovations in ML and scalability. Law, ML, scalability, ad optimization -- none of these things contain intrinsic societal good, although they have the potential to contribute towards it.
I have seen honest businesses destroyed when bad actors entered their market, charging 5 times more for the exact same service, easily outbidding the honest businesses on Google adwords and other marketing channels and then use the proceeds to buy positive reviews and pay off the few customers who found out they were ripped off.
All this ad-tech only serves Google/FB and businesses that overcharge customers, at the expense of society.
Computer Vision has benefited from the ML work of the big corps, but now it's just being used to more efficiently spy on the population.
> The harm coming from a business like Alphabet significantly outweights the beneficial things they do.
Doubt it. This is first world privileged thinking.
If they are a mechanical engineering professor at a good university, they pretty much have borne the risk of their own advice. Most people in upper-level STEM academia could easily get a higher paying job in finance/consulting and have chosen not to.
Professors also likely know many other people with developed career paths that are different from their own, while a student has no career at all to draw inferences from.
You're right it's not "a priori guaranteed," but when talking about empirical realities, what is?
A professor in a good school is like a small-business owner with a guaranteed income and a supply of free labor. In industry, the money is much better, but you're paying with your dignity and your self-respect.
People go into finance for extremely rational reasons. Getting upset at them for that is folly.
So ya agree with you about the social pressure! Let's keep it up. But we also need to find ways to align our financial incentives with social incentives!
Professors aren’t rich, duh. But they’re also neither in the job market, not starting their career off. Their students need to build wealth, worry about long term earnings potential, and pay back the large student debt that they just incurred. Unless if the professor is actively planning on quoting soon, none of these are incentives that the professor are subject to personally, meaning their advice will probably underweight them.
Those who have more experience are going to be more distanced from your exact circumstances, as a function of having more experience. Advice can be useful nonetheless.
reducing it's stature and influence might lead to a more harmonious society.
>Making a car is an honest day’s living, that’s for sure
Yes, and I'm sure the class of people who work in car factories and have seen their wealth drop further and further and further over the last 30 years really appreciate how honest their living is.
But I do think his point needs to be taken. We don't value engineering/science/solving hard problems enough in the US.
Regret is too strong of a word. I don't regret it. Law is fun and you can make a lot of money. Who doesn't like that? But, I had been dissuaded from getting a CS degree at university. It was partly because my dad was a SWE for one of the big ones when I was young, and I was a rebellious kid who could be swayed away from something I loved in part by not wanting to be like him. And, like I said, law was a field where I could make a lot of money. Back then, I didn't realize that I could have done CS without being like him.
Rather, I regret it because I could have spent these years doing something that I loved.
Anyway, I am rectifying that now by doing a masters in cognitive science with a goal of researching human curiosity and building curious machines. In other words, I am trying to rectify the error I made the first time around where I went into something for reasons other than because I really wanted to.
I would also note that way way way too many not-smart people go into law and finance, as well. But I'm not sure there is much you can do about that.
There are only 4 interesting fundamental categories of knowledge: Math, Physics, Chemistry and Biology; everything else is made up by man from nothing and it will return to nothing after all surplus energy (that gave humans the possibility to dream up all that crap in the first place) is consumed!
Hang on to your knowledge of nature people; because this society is going Kansas.
To make predictions about society dont you need an understanding of... I dunno. Sociology, Psychology, Politics, Finance, or maybe History?
I dont remember societal forecasting in my STEM classes.
Not meant as a roast, just a mild reminder that the dominant force on earth is people.
Finance is about navigating the particular niceties of dealing with money as a professional, and maybe a little bit of trend-misprediction for the sake of occasionally getting to be a "rainmaker" for some employer. I think you mean economics, which is about the movements of economic agents and of whole economies.
Economics is a "social" science (ignoring for the moment the fact that some economists aren't very scientific), and finance is a (highly lucrative) job field.
I don't understand. Hasn't Kansas generally turned away from science and toward religion?
I was under the impression the Kansas reference was basically an insult both to the direction of society and Kansas, but then I wasn't sure how that fit in with the claims about what sciences are useful or "real". Yours might make more sense.
Then again, I'm not sure sense is what was being made, there, anyway.
Okay, that makes perfect sense. Thank you.
Unless you're a moral relativist, why shouldn't I do this? I find this entire attitude baffling.
If you went around assassinating people to make a living, I think I would be fine in saying that you're an asshole, no?
That's pure gold! I'm putting that one in my notes!
But to play devil's advocate: Well, if you go empirical on this, then what the heck else is the Internet for, aside from porn!?
Tesla is Tesla because of an army of lawyers and financial engineering.
How many car startups that achieve wide distribution has America had in the past 100 years?
You can easily point to ford and Toyota's major innovations that changed not only the car industry, but manufacturing on the whole.
The Prius also stands out as the big success on moving drivers off of fossil fuels. What's Tesla got?
At a surface view, I'd say their engineering is worse than their competitors. Poorly engineered products and manufacturing processes make for slow production -- a problem that Tesla is pretty famous for o think?
My understanding is that they design overly complex parts and use overly complex mechanisms to build their cars.
Also, what makes Tesla being Tesla is something invented centuries ago. The battery.
There's a reason only market makers are the ones prop trading any more.
You could argue both Tesla and SpaceX orient their goals around human survival and defense. One for slowing down climate change, the other for interplanetary colonization.
Fear motivates society into funding engineering projects and taking action.
The defense industry throws money at anything that seems to suit its needs. Thus, claiming that without the defense industry we would never have the Internet is not clear to me.
I am familiar with disproving negatives, but I don't find it to be a compelling claim that the scientists involved would never have developed the Internet.
For example, was the mother of all demos exclusively the result of actions from the DoD? The innovative scientists and engineers at Xerox PARC? Many of the people involved in these things likely already theorized on how to build this sort of stuff, and sought out the easiest route.
But the DoD comes with substantial amounts of other costs. For example, the Vietnam war is largely understood to have been initiated by people within the DoD complex and not the actions of foreign governments. During the war, the DoD cronies forced soldiers to use a defective assault rifle that would leave entire platoons with nothing but grenades and handguns to get slaughtered. Agent Orange killed and continues to kill an incredible number of civilians in Vietnam.
On balance, the DoD leads to horrific amounts of death and destruction using engineers who may otherwise create things that would make people's lives better. Further, significant innovations such as the Internet would most likely still have been developed, just by some private entity or group of entities where the scientist and engineers would have gone to work.
Basically, anyone can call him/herself an engineer and they generally don’t have any engineering knowledge, training, or ethics. It’s unfortunate how devalued the engineer title has become.
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in South Africa (where I’m from) these two fields account for roughly 30% of all of our dollar millionaires. I’m sure it’s the same/similar in the developed world.
In my career as a software dev, my options have fallen into three categories:
- Projects interesting and challenging enough to devote time to, but subpar pay.
- Good pay but absolutely boring, career ending, mind numbing work.
- Go to Fintech, work hard, get to work on interesting things, get paid well.
At least as far as finance in software is concerned, the smart people go into it because it's one of the few fields where there's a better chance that there are interesting problems to be solved. Finance is the only industry I've worked in that paid more than lip service to scaling and high availability.
Admittedly, at least part of this is because of my location in the USA, and C# as my language of choice.
I work in an investment bank in IT and have colleagues from top universities doing boring jobs, at least in my view.
This is overly simplistic black and white thinking.
Jane Street has probably done more to popularize functional programming then any shop out there.
Even people who make stuff need effective legal counsel. Even if all they make is memes that get them sued for libel.
My Chinese wife tells me this had reversed itself somewhat under Xi Jinping. (Re: Geeks, MOPS, and Sociopaths?) That regime's performance in the current pandemic crisis would seem to support this, though that government's record has been spotty to poor on the epistemology vs. ideology front for awhile.
The problem with spending so much of one's time wrangling texts which are somewhat abstracted away from reality, is that one can lose touch with the epistemological grounding of reality. One might even start to believe they can start to rewrite reality through strong conviction.
Before all you fellow programmers out there start feeling smug, think about this: As a programmer, one is primarily a wrangler of a particular kind of text. Ever wonder about why so many conflicts in the programming "field" ("" are a reference to Alan Kay) have the tenor of medieval sectarian religious squabbles?
Management consulting a little less so from PhD but definitely from undergrad.
He then got into online payments (X.com, PayPal) and the sale of his shares allowed him to start SpaceX and buy Tesla.
So don't listen to what billionaires say and just look at what they do if you don't want to get deceived by them.
I argue that law is an adversarial profession - what matters is if you are smarter than the lawyer in the other side of the courtroom. If everyone was less good, outcomes would be much the same, and we as a society could redistribute those smart people to engineering problems where those IQ points will make the difference between inventing something useful or not.
It's an effect on the outcome that's orthogonal to the actual facts of the case itself. Unless the guy with a public defender has as much of a chance as the guy with a legal team with a million dollar budget. I'm a little doubtful that that's the case right now.
I'm not sure that the trials of either a wealthy defendant with deep pockets or an indigent defendant with a public defender significantly affect whether the finder of fact can obtain objective Truth with a capital T. The outcomes may indeed be different, but I also think it's orthogonal to the truth as well. They're more the result of the amount of resources you're willing or able to throw at a problem to make it go away.
Not a contradiction. This is exactly why the proportion of very smart people going into law is decreasing.
Can’t find it for the us, but you can see it rose consistently in ontario: https://www.ouac.on.ca/statistics/olsas-application-statisti...
 or took a shot at a career that didn't go anywhere, like in Hollywood or politics or any other industry built on an underclass of lied-to 21 year olds
I mean you can look and enrollment figures and law school closures over last few years. This isn’t just a “hunch”.
The whole “I don’t know what to do with my life so I’ll apply to law school” is like a meme from 2004.
1. It's possible that a 48-year-old might have a different perspective, and potentially more wisdom, than his 17-year-old self did? I'm sure many people would make different choices in hindsight, if they could go back to being 15-17 yrs old.
2. It depends what you're trying to optimise for. Even if you are trying to plot a path to being a billionaire, following Elon Musk's path just won't work - huge numbers of other factors and luck involved. But...
3. ...I don't think he was only talking about optimising for personal financial success. It's clear from other comments in the video (on Warren Buffett, for example) that Musk doesn't see the field of investing (to put it broadly - essentially making money by shifting money around better than other people) as an especially worthy pursuit. I interpret this as Musk (rightly or wrongly) seeing his companies (which innovate, and create new products which mostly being some sort of benefit to the world) as morally superior to (in this case) law and investment banking. Indeed, if we were to try to optimise for some sort of worthier goal, it's reasonable that you'd want the best and smartest in the industries where they would have the greatest net benefit for the world.
Musk's first love is/was physics and he intended to work on electric cars at the get-go. However, at the time (and as I can attest to) the Internet was JUST starting to boom - like a gold rush. There were millions of problems to solve and businesses to start. At the time we was at Stanford and there, more than any other place, this fact was the most obvious. He knew he could / should capitalize on the current opportunity -- and he did.
After he cashed out with PayPal, instead of doing the easy path of doing another Internet startup, he returned to his priorities. He's been trying to create the environment in his orgs, and the rest of the valley, for workers and investors to pursue the same type of opportunities / risks.
He's doing exactly what he says, and the world is rewarding him for making better stuff every day.
His words and actions are in complete agreement.
It doesn’t mean that being a fan is any better than being a hater.
Fans are the ones who become an army of lobbyists for someone who is flawed and will never change thanks to this army of yes-(wo)men.
Don't forget that he's curing autism, blindness and paralysis, and will eliminate the need for humans to talk within 5-10 years with Neuralink!
The problem is that a lot of the money is in things like finance and advertising. We could absolutely restructure our economy so that wasn't the case.
Musk makes a lot of grandiose statements, but he's spot on with this one.
But so what? A lot of people believe that. What I have never heard is a realistic plan for restructuring the economy that makes things like finance and advertising less lucrative.
Technology naturally leads to a "winner take all (or most)" economic system. When it's so easy to switch to competitors, platforms that are even a tiny amount better than their competitors can take all the mindshare of an industry.
In that environment of extreme economic concentration, fields like finance and advertising (which is really controlling marketplaces) will always be extremely lucrative. Haven't heard any good proposals on how to change that.
1. I would like to see strong progressive taxation that explicitly taxes concentration of wealth. This would be aimed at all large companies and wealthy individuals, and ultimately based on which actual human persons have legal control of the company such that it can't be gamed by creating shell companies, etc.
2. On top of this, I don't see why we can't explicitly put tariffs on things like financial or advertising transactions. Somewhat similar to a Carbon Tax, it would correct for costs to society caused by the activity. I'd be particularly keen on seeing measures that make it extremely expensive to do short-term trading, forcing investors to take a much more long-term view.
As he's showing, it won't be easy. EVERYONE will try to kill the earnest attempts. For all of Musk's faults, he is trying to show there is another way and how to get there.
I mean, as many others have pointed out, Musk had to get rich first in the finance world before he could get enough F.U. money to indulge his real passions.
That's precisely the problem that I (and Musk it seems) are pointing out. These activities shouldn't have better reward profiles.
If I could hit the reset button and do it all over again, knowing what I know now, I would 1. get into the most prestigious undergrad school (Ivy if possible) that I could, rather than just lazily apply for one state school and go to it, 2. Still majored in some kind of computer engineering track, 3. immediately go into finance after school and pump money doing the standard two-to-three-year grind as an analyst, 4. get into the most prestigious MBA school I possibly could, 5. pump money doing the standard grind as an associate, then 6. basically do anything I want as a 30 year old with the millions I've saved.
The nice properties of this career path are:
- It doesn't take any outlier talent, just learn excel and do grunt work.
- It minimizes the need for luck (as opposed to starting a business or interviewing at Google). I would argue the risk adjusted expected value of this path is higher than other careers like starting a business where you need to multiply by a low probability of success.
- The contacts/network you make doing 1, 3, 4, and 5 mean you will always have easy access to capital, a huge advantage for someone who wants to do that "actually-valuable" thing. As opposed to some rando dude who was "3rd engineer from the left" at Amazon wanting to quit and start his own business, who will have to pitch and pitch and pitch to get a single investor to listen to him.
It would be nice if society was set up such that there were more "work hard" paths to financial security as opposed to risky paths, but we collectively can't shake this risk-reward caveman mentality, so people go into law or finance.
> It would be nice if society was set up such that there were more "work hard" paths to financial security as opposed to risky paths, but we collectively can't shake this risk-reward caveman mentality, so people go into law or finance.
This is precisely my point. If we set things up so that finance and MBAs weren't the things that lead to financial security then things would be much more efficient. Because people would be rewarded for the things that are creating value, rather than having to make choice between creating value and earning more money.
Where on earth does this narrative come from that Musk isn't working for financial gain?
The guy rammed a pay package beyond anything the world has ever seen past a weak board, and just took his first payment, $700MM+ in equity, which is far beyond what the company has ever earned in GAAP profits in its entire existence.
If he doesn't care about money, how do you explain that?
I'm not saying that people don't care about money. I'm agreeing that they do. And thus that it is important that as a society we distribute our money to enterprises that are actually doing useful work. Precisely so that people who are money-motivated (which is basically everyone to a greater or lesser degree) will choose to work for these enterprises.
1) Going to mars.
2) Sustainable energy / transport
He didn't just graduate and get into finance.
I never heard that "banker" story before, but a month long internship is hardly a career.
He went on getting physics scholarships for UPenn and then Stanford.
Of course it's finance, and a great way to tell is to ask the question does a big bank offer this service, albeit in a product I may not personally use? The answer is yes.
As I have stated in my other replies, at the time there was an opportunity like no other. Musk put his goals on hold to capitalize... then he returned to his priorities.
I'll say this, if other 'smart people' did this... made a truck load of $$$ off of their finance gigs and then did stuff like build EVs, rocket or whatever. That would be something. That's not the normal path at all, however.
If I had my life to do over I would focus on money and money alone first and defer heavy study into science or engineering or tackling actual hard problems. I did it backwards and so I made everything 10X harder on myself.
Part of the problem is that I was naive and thought the social structures and economic systems that drove this kind of progress in the past (a supportive university system with an academic career path, intelligently allocated science funding, a generally workable middle class economy that you could fall back on) still existed. They don't. We dismantled all that stuff starting in the 1970s because we didn't understand what we had built or why it worked.
Both of these people also did their work in low capital cost areas with fast revision cycles: CS/software and math. Those are areas where individual scale bootstrapping is actually a possibility. There are no garage spaceships, automobile plants, novel surgical procedures (I hope), or nuclear reactors (excepting that wacko who tried to make one from material from hundreds of smoke detectors and turned his yard into a superfund site).
In America you must support yourself and pay for college (unless you go 100% autodidact, which is very hard in its own way). That relegates any additional work to moonlighting, which is very sub-optimal for concentration and is only possible in a few fields anyway. As you get older you may want to start a family, which eliminates most moonlighting time and demands even higher income for support and long term savings.
So the only way to do it in America is to (a) earn a ton of money early and achieve financial independence and then do your innovative work, or (b) take a vow of poverty and celibacy and live like a monk. I guess there's also (c) which is to find a benefactor or find some way to make your work viable as an angel/VC investment, but the former is extremely rare and the latter is only workable in a few fields that have low barriers to entry (like software) and a fairly rapid time from prototype to potential market. For "atoms" rather than "bits" type stuff the initial investment and time horizon are too big for angel/VC and there are very few benefactors/patrons with pockets that deep.
The thing is, when I realized this, these things stopped being cool.
I think there was a lot of hope a long time ago that future technological progress was going to be a lot more open to individuals than it actually is now.
In my guesstimate, there aren't many people alive who have contributed more to humanity's technological progress than Linus.
Not intentionally though. Globalization has led to most of it.
Manufacturing leaving for cheaper climes hollowed out the middle class, made unions impotent, etc.
Hypercompetition has forced companies to be ruthless.
In academia, administrators have taken absolute power for themselves and now enrich themselves at the expense of education and research.
It's quite a mess we've stumbled into.
Globalism was implemented in a market fundamentalist way. No special attention was paid to rights, fairness of trade, etc. because it was assumed that trade and markets and then (magic happens here) and then everything is great and liberal democracy spreads everywhere.
What really happened was corporations and international finance going trans-national and exempting itself from the rule of law and then leveraging foreign totalitarian or lawless regimes to break workers power at the wage negotiating table.
The real long term winners were totalitarians and would be totalitarians though, not the corporations or finance. Capitalists selling nooses and rope, as Marx quipped.
As a society, the boomers made a choice in the late '70s / early '80s: egoism should be rewarded and money is the measure of all things. Everything else was a consequence.
Correlation/causation yeah, but you can't have more people doing nothing of value and more middle class.
> The CEO also addressed his recent vow on Twitter to sell the majority of his physical possessions, which he said weigh him down. “I have a bunch of houses, but I don’t spend a lot of time in most of them. That doesn’t seem like a good use of assets. Somebody could probably be enjoying those houses and get better use of them than me.”
I interpret it as encouraging finance over ownership. It is a sensible, if debatable position. Instead of owning things you don't use, it is smarter to invest your money in more productive ways. Which is a roundabout way of saying "if you are smart, go into finance".
Otherwise, I know a whole lot of very smart people who aren't into finance. It is just that no one talk about them because they are not rich. They probably could have been rich if they wanted to, and had a bit of luck, but instead they have chosen to use their intelligence to do what they like.
Being able to do what you enjoy and making enough money to live decently and maintaining a good work/life balance is a huge privilege. Doing that when the thing you enjoy doing is an already saturated market or something that is hardly marketable is even more so, and it may be considered as desirable as being a billionaire.
statistics, economics, finance, and accounting should be required courses in high school so that we have a more financially literate populace.
When I think of the finance careers that many of my peers are going in to, I do not think of the online payment ecosystem or fintech writ large.
I understand your point, and I wouldn't just blindly take this advice, but I'm not sure this is the right comparison.
He didn't mean don't explore multiple fields when you're a teenager.
He was already specialized as a coder and went on to build startups, as engineer. I don't really see your point.
Because in Canada, he went to school and university, studying physics, and then got a scholarship for a master's at UPenn, and later for a PhD in Stanford. All was in physics.
Now in general human beings love giving out hypocritical advice so him being a human is far more relevant than his being a billionaire, at least if our goal here is to talk about his advice and not just use this opportunity to bash billionaires.