And just how does one build a startup with all that such an effort normally entails while factoring in the need to make sure others aren't "left behind" as that startup pushes on toward a hoped-for success? This issue can't even be discussed in meaningful terms. We all, of course, share in the problems of society and we all do our bit in trying to help with such problems - and who can help but feel for those who are suffering. That is a given for most people. But what then? Do I operate my business so that it doesn't eliminate any competitor in hopes of saving that competitor's jobs for its employees? Do I refrain from introducing disruptive technologies because they might actually disrupt the lives of others? Do I ask my representatives to enact laws granting permanent subsidies to companies such as Border's, Blockbuster, Tower Records, and so many others so that they can continue in business offering products or services that people more and more don't want? Or how about passing an innovation tax to capture the all the profits of the successful tech companies so as to level the playing field? Or how about a law banning all disruptive technologies so that we can all enjoy a world that resembles the one we knew a few decades ago?
The point, I think, is that startups exist on their own terms in a free enterprise system. The goal of a business venture is to succeed in a marketplace, not to ensure that others aren't affected by one's activities. Nor is the goal of a venture to give away what it earns to salvage the prospects of others who are failing. Individuals can do that if they like, and that is an issue of private conscience on what one does with private wealth. But it is not meaningful, in my view, to tell entrepreneurs to run their ventures with the aim of solving social problems as opposed to that of succeeding in a marketplace. When you try to do that, you wind up mixing up the goals of private venturing with those of broader social institutions such as government or those of private charitable impulse. That is why even to pose the question first stated above is to expose this as flawed thinking about the legitimate business concerns of a tech company.
This piece is a variation on the lament expressed in the piece from a few days ago about how Silicon Valley founders and entrepreneurs are (in effect) shallow, self-absorbed types who can't think beyond the next trivial innovation in hopes of gaining a quick-kill exit even as they neglect a slew of problems that beset humanity and are crying out for solutions if only these narrow types just had a larger vision and greater sense of social responsibility (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2760540 - of course, the piece had not put it in those exact terms but I hope I captured its flavor even as I used license in recasting its claims).
I hate to come across as narrow-minded but it really crosses a line to lecture the tech startup world about its moral responsibility as if "it" were a monolithic entity that had responsibilities beyond those that define what a given business venture is supposed to do. At best, this amounts to discussing the important issues in confused terms; at worst, it amounts to an author smugly claiming more refined sensibilities than the mere grubbers upon whom the author is passing a misdirected moral judgment.
What we do in the Valley (using that as code for tech hubs) though does reverberate around the country and world. The types of startups we create affect people we'll never meet in places we'll never go (one of the potentially wonderful things about technology). The conversation that I'd love to see more of then is should we in the Valley care about what's happening elsewhere in the country.
But I deliberately wanted to stop short in the article of making any judgments. I think it's a perfectly rational approach to say as a tech entrepreneur that as long as I'm not breaking any laws in the process, any negative externalities (or lack of positive externalities) associated with the product I'm building shouldn't be my concern. I don't believe that personally but feel everyone has the right to their opinion on that matter.
Startups excel at tool-making. Building better mousetraps is often seen as purely destructive to jobs, but it also creates jobs like crazy when a formerly-unavailable tool suddenly becomes available and lower-priced demand can be satisfied. The availability bias works against us here because although it's easy to see that robotic factories destroy textile-worker jobs, it's hard to realize that cheaper computer costs will mean companies won't mind hiring for data entry, as now they only have to pay $400 a box as opposed to $1 million for a mainframe.
In terms of creating jobs, the most saintly of tech people are probably the UX designers who can take something a layman normally couldn't grasp, and put it within their reach. Solar panels don't create jobs for the uneducated. Solar panels so easy to install that you can hire minimum wage workers to install them DO create jobs for the uneducated.
For whatever reasons, startups have not had similar success with education. But this will undoubtedly be a hot space for the next few years, because though the growing divide isn't the Valley's "fault," modern education is a real problem and needs addressing.
Startups, you want to create jobs while still making a killing? Take something hard and make it easy, or take clueless people and make them smart.
The one thing people never lack is rationalizations, even after the worst crimes possible. In the end it is not just that some people become poor and other rich, it's the wealth transfer from one side to the other. As the middle class goes so does the democracy as the concentrated money class takes over the government. This is the worst development that was going on in America even before the Great Recession.
Making it possible to get the same output with less work is a good thing (as long as external costs are factored in).
Exploiting peasants with a "subsistence" deal is evil. Now some "free market", disaster capitalism patsy is going to jump me...
One can focus on working on products that will help. For example, instead of building the next photo-sharing app, one can build the next AirBnB or Uber.
Having said that, you're right - it's hard enough to succeed as is, so most first-time entrepreneurs have enough on their plate without more things corrupting their focus (at least that's how I feel as a first-time entrepreneur). I do think that investors and serial-entrepreneurs can chose to focus on ventures that help the country (or even help the world).
For those with less than a high school diploma, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 13.8 percent during July. For those with a high school diploma but no college, the rate was 10.1 percent. For those with some college experience but no college diploma, the rate was 8.3 percent. And for those with an undergraduate degree or better, the rate was 4.5 percent. That's less than one-third of the rate for high-school dropouts -- and it's exactly as Tyson said it was.
These aren't exactly comparable, since BLS does not release seasonally adjusted figures for those with advanced degrees. But we'll provide them anyway. The unadjusted July rate for those with masters' degrees was 4.9 percent. For those with professional degrees, it was 2.0 percent, and for those with doctorates, it was 1.9 percent.
Technology has always disrupted the low end of the workforce. The big difference this time around is just how fast the disruption has occurred. It took years for farm equipment advances to remove the need for farmhands or cars to remove the need for people who do horse shoes. The internet and computers in general have put entire types of work seemingly out of business overnight.
The 'new' economy is one where everyone will need to take control of their careers and constantly be thinking long term. The downside of this sort of economy is that the people who have no ambition will suffer. The upside is that those with ambition have an easier time than ever to try out their ideas and have huge upside potential.
Why are we all not millionaire successful entrepreneurs? On this site, I don't think it's because we lack ambition. I think it's more that there's a path toward success (or technically, several paths), but it's really easy to step off that path, and most of us have never been there before, don't have a guide, and only have the fuzziest of maps.
It's the same with people lower down on the socioeconomic spectrum. Most don't personally know anyone that has successfully jumped classes; they have no idea what this looks like, or what's entailed, or if anything they do is on the right track. And so they make very subtle mistakes.
You can see this a lot with the choice of institutions they go to and the fields they study. Popular articles - like the one posted here - simply say "Go to college and you'll get a job." So what many poor people do is they go to University of Phoenix and study Sports Medicine or something, and take on $200K of debt to do so.
You and I know this is stupid - but that information never filters down to the people who need it. The mainstream articles just say "Go to college and you'll get a job", they never say which college, or what to study, or how to study, or what it feels like when you just don't understand a concept but need to pass the final to graduate. I can give you a list of a couple dozen top colleges off the top of my head - but that's because I've worked in elite institutions, and I know which schools my coworkers went to, and I have lots of friends in that social circle. For the average person, that list is "Harvard. MIT. Stanford", and then if they don't get into one of those, they have no idea what to choose.
It's really easy to forget just how much we know simply by being part of a community that's "made it". Much of this stuff is not obvious at all until you see someone do it, and if everyone you know is in similarly dire straits, you have nobody to teach you.
Being more efficient means that we have to do more. When agriculture was mechanized, we went from a population that was half farmers (or more!) to one where less than 1% of the population farms. The remaining 49% of the population was not unemployed for the next century, nor did they all get work building mechanized farm equipment or drilling oil. They did other stuff, like build internets and go to the Moon.
Being ambitious as individuals is not enough; we need an ambitious civilization which is constantly trying to do more than it was before, and is endlessly hungry for more workers. Or else we are doomed.
Yeah... no. The first US Census, in 1790, already recorded an urban population of over 5%.
By the mid-19th century, urban population had climbed over 15%, and by 1910 (last census before the Fordson Tractor, the first really popular tractor in the US) it had already exceeded 45%
How exactly is it that this works? Do people go around to all the nice neighbourhoods and explain to the kids there that shit schools give shit degrees that nobody wants? It seems like this is just common sense, hardly something that needs to be taught.
No, I don't think being poor initially has very much to do with it. Rich kids can waste their time at party schools just as easily as poor kids can waste their time at degree mills. Similarly smart poor kids will try to get themselves real degrees (or make it on their own), as will smart rich kids. (Of course the rich kids will have an easier time of this, but that's because... they're rich.)
Here's an example from the startup world. Imagine that you have this great idea and you're desperate for funding. You're approached by a key investor, and they ask you "Is anybody else interested in your startup? Have you been talking to other investors?" Nobody else has expressed interest, and you haven't been talking to any other investors. How do you respond?
If you spend any amount of time with successful entrepreneurs, the answer is common sense: you lie and say "Oh yes, we're talking to a bunch of people and everyone's pretty excited." This is the answer the investor expects you to give: it shows that you know how to drum up interest in your product from nothing, and if you can't do that with him, you probably can't do it with anyone and you've just disqualified yourself in his eyes.
But if you grew up with a typical middle-class upbringing, this advice will seem very strange, even evil. Because you're lying. And more than that, you're lying to a powerful person about a business deal that directly concerns him. What would your mother think?
It's even more complicated because there're specific, unwritten rules about what you can lie about, and nobody ever explains this. If a journalist asks you "Are you working on X?" and you are, you're perfectly within your rights to lie and flat out say "No." If you lie about how interested people are in your product, that's fine, and people even expect that. But if you fudge the numbers in a due diligence audit, you're guilty of securities fraud and can go to jail for that. It's an awfully fine tight-rope with no clear guidebook.
Many of the rules for jumping from the working poor to the middle class are like that. Sure, everyone tells people to go to college and you'll get a good job. But which college? How are they supposed to know that University of Phoenix is nowhere near as good as, say, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor? Or that there's a big difference between a UC-Berkeley degree and a UC-Santa Cruz one. Who tells them that they should study software engineering rather than sports medicine? Or maybe they miraculously find Proggit or Hacker News and hear that you should study software engineering, but don't realize that when it comes down to the actual degree program, you're often better off with Computer Science rather than Software Engineering. Or they do all that right, get great grades, but nobody tells them that GPA doesn't matter so much and they really need to have been doing internships and helping their professor with his research to actually be qualified.
If you've studied academic sociology, there's a lot written about this under the general category of "cultural capital", particularly the work of Pierre Bourdieu. It's all the little advantages we have simply by growing up in a peer group that's successful. Usually you can't put your finger on these if you have them, but you very much feel their lack if you don't.
Who tells them that they should study software engineering rather than sports medicine?
Is that just your hunch? What if you're wrong? Do you care?
The 2008 economic shock was triggered by (depending on your perspective, I suppose) lending large amounts of money to people who did not have the means to repay the loans, as well as the collateralization and sale of these debts in tranches of risk that were inaccurately calibrated. Is part of your thesis that this is somehow related to the emergence of the new economy? Is this an orthogonal but necessary trigger of job loss that causes the evaporation of old-economy jobs? Or is this unnecessary and merely coincidental?
In the past decade or so we've witnessed a few industries lost to technology advancement - travel agencies, consumer electronics retail, newspapers. The way things are headed it's a matter of few years before titles such as 'real estate agent' or 'car salesman' are carrier around by significantly fewer people.
Number-wise the real estate bubble provided plenty of jobs to people involved in construction, mortgage financing, mortgage brokerage, mortgage repurchasing, real estate sales, etc. Without the housing bubble we would've seen slow but steady drops in employment, with housing bubble we're just seeing the same effect in a more abrupt manner.
Everybody does not shop on Amazon and use AirBnB.
For me the argument is convincing when technology changes the growth rate of a particular industry (in terms of jobs provided) to be negative.
On retail - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_defunct_retailers_of_th... do you honestly see more people selling HDTVs and BluRay players today than in 2001?
I'm not sure that's true.
The reason is underemployment. when technology disrupts the jobs of educated people, they have options to find jobs that require lower education , or take a job with lower salary , because of their prestige, education and experience.
People with less skills usually have much less options , so instead of becoming underemployed , they become unemployed.
As an example , see the table at .
there are two definition for underemployed. the official is a people with part time job looking for full time job. the other is a person looking for a job below his skills.
Many of those with high school diploma who are not unemployed are not employed either but are taking part in further education. Similarly, many of those with an undergrad degree are currently in grad school, etc.
It would be interesting to compare the employment rates of the various groups as well.
I'd believe those other factors have huge influence on employment. It's not so simple as get education -> job & life of ease.
Of course it's not that simple, but it's definitely important to realize that unemployment numbers are not the same for everyone. Recognizing that a lot of the unemployment falls within groups that have little education means that a tech startup is going to do very little to address unemployment. It's not a bad or good thing with a tech startup, just a fact.
What the numbers show is that we need more jobs that require less education.
a chart of mathematics achievement levels in various countries. Although the United States is above the international average score among the countries surveyed, as we would expect from the level of economic development in the United States, the United States is well below the top country listed, which is Singapore. An average United States student is at the bottom quartile level for Singapore, or from another point of view, a top quartile student in the United States is only at the level of an average student in Singapore.
A thoughtful article from the Notices of the American Mathematical Society
identifies some of the problems with United States education that hold back full expression of the learning potential of many Americans. Professor Hung-hsi Wu of Berkeley has devoted much of the last decade to writing important articles about what needs to be reformed in United States mathematics education.
Other mathematicians who have written interesting articles about mathematics education reform in the United States include Richard Askey,
Roger E. Howe,
All those mathematicians think that the United States could do much better than it does in teaching elementary mathematics in the public school system. I think so too after living in Taiwan twice in my adult life (January 1982 through February 1985, and December 1998 through July 2001). Taiwan is not the only place where elementary mathematics instruction is better than it is in the United States. I'm trying to do my part to fix the problem of United States elementary mathematics education by offering supplementary classes in elementary mathematics on weekends through my start-up, a nonprofit organization. My colleagues and I are gratified to have clients commute in for the classes from eight different counties. The client children have parents who grew up in the United States and also Ghana, Korea, China, India, Pakistan, Russia, and other countries. All the families want to make sure that their children have a chance to succeed in the next generation.
In terms of test score ranking, the best test scores come from Asian Americans in CT, closely followed by Asians in NY and TX. (As one might expect, CA underperforms the US and Singapore.)
Similarly, Americans of European descent rank #6 among Europeans of European descent.
I don't know why you refuse to acknowledge this.
I'm also not sure what causation you believe Sanandaji is attempting to show. Could you explain?
And educational status is strongly predicted by IQ in the U.S. EDIT: And since IQ is strongly influenced by genetics, this latest data suggests the U.S. is creating a genetic underclass. Taken far enough, this is the death of the republic.
Under IQ 90, 40% drop out of high school. Above IQ 110, less than 1% drop out of high school.
Percent with bachelor's
degree by IQ (ignoring
Source: NLSY project, early 1980s, as analyzed in The Bell Curve in the mid 1990s.
Yes, but as the source explains, the AFQT has several sub-tests, and most of them are highly correlated to IQ. (A few, like the automotive knowledge test, are uncorrelated with IQ.) They claim that appropriate analysis of results on the sub-tests allows a reasonably accurate measurement of IQ to be made.
EDIT: Re-checking the source, they mention that in 1989 the armed forces rescored the AFQT to make it more g-loaded and repeatable. The first draft of the book used the 1980 scoring, but they redid it all using the 1989 scoring because it was superior.
So there is something I wonder about: is there an IQ "floor" below which very few people will be able to benefit from or even complete this sort of education? What percentage of the population falls under this floor? And what will they be doing in the future as both the "service" and manual labor sectors, the traditional absorbers of people with no degrees or impractical "soft" degrees, dwindle in the number of people employed?
And who is doing the political squeezing? A cognitive elite that are being efficiently skimmed off and segregated by IQ in late childhood. This bodes poorly for the stability of the nation.
You're leaping across logical gaps here. IQ can be predicted by a number of factors (parental wealth, IQ, and education are a few), and research on intelligence is fraught with identification problems. It's hard to believe claims of a "genetic underclass."
There have been several large studies of identical twins separated at birth. For a given twin, the strongest correlate of IQ is the other twin's IQ. Likewise, the non-identical but biologically-related siblings do have moderately correlated IQs. However, there is barely any correlation between a twin and their adoptive parents or siblings. This suggests that genetics and prenatal environment determine most of IQ.
There is also strong evidence from gene sequencing that genetics directly affects IQ. Genes that affect sphingolipids, chemicals important in the brain, are known to affect IQ. A variation in the SNAP-25 gene has been found to increase intelligence by an average of 3 IQ points.
And while it has become a cliche, it is still true that correlation is not causation: coming up with correlation is easy, but solid scientific works need to prove that the correlation is not spurious. Most studies don't (this is sadly not specific to discussions about IQ, and is a plague of many studies in too many areas - good statistics are hard).
Yes, and I am closely acquainted, through attending their graduate student "journal club,"
with most of the researchers who have conducted the best of those studies. An earlier reply of mine here on HN
corrects (with citations to current research publications) some of the overstatements seen in popular literature about what twin studies show. There is also not any single gene variant that has large effect on IQ, in the view of those researchers about what the most up-to-date gene association studies show.
The article says that unemployment is high and then it says:
"Maybe something is missing in the Valley and surrounding tech communities and that’s a stronger sense of responsibility to make sure that the vast majority of the country isn’t left behind by all this cool technology that we’re building."
I'm curious, what should the technology communities do? As far as I can see, by expanding their firms and hiring additional employees these companies are already doing the responsible thing for the national economy.
I realize that TC is not an economic journal, but I think that it is reasonable to expect a slightly more informed discussion of this issue without so much hyperbole.
The currently high unemployment rate is not due to the technology industries growth, and, as a matter of fact, it is the expansion of the technology industry that will likely provide one of the avenues that will assist in dealing with the high unemployment rate.
Just a few references:
The implication I read into it was that technology companies should be aware of the plight of the poor, and try to help people out (AirBnB, Google, etc) and be careful not just to exploit them (Zynga). But maybe I'm just projecting my own beliefs. :)
I thought there was the implication that google did
Google helps society. They provide good search. What separates then from Bing is that they operate with the idea of "do no evil". Bing are seen as copying (an idea - stealing) which is bad in society.
Zynga provides cheap entertainment, but that's not good for society. TV isn't seen as good for society anymore - it's passive. There's an opportunity cost to being entertained - you could be productive - learning on Wikipedia.
When it's easier to start Facebook than a coffee shop you should not be surprised that there is more demand for programmers and less demand for baristas.
Asking what the tech sector can do for the rest of America is like asking what America can do for Soviet Russia, the answer to which is wait until they want to change their ways.
There's an assumption that a growing middle class with an increasing standard of living is the norm. From what I can see, it's been the norm for a pretty short period, in a pretty small part of the world. There are plenty of reasons to think that the New Deal plus the GI Bill plus the Great Moderation was just a weird, aberrant part of human history.
Unless there's way more HN companies making carbon-fiber racing yachts that I'm aware of.
Disruptive technology often results in unemployment in the short term because it cleans up inefficiencies -- look at the industrial revolution. I think it's fair to say we're richer as a society because we can automate production of goods. Yes, it put a lot of craftsmen out of work, but it was a hugely beneficial change.
And so these days we have itunes putting record stores out of business. And amazon shutting down book stores. There's plenty of nostalgia for these establishments, but the things that have replaced them electronically give us incredibly better selection at less of a cost.
Maybe we should be less concerned about efficiency and more concerned about our quality of life. And not just we the wealthy (and everyone reading HN is much, much wealthier than the average human being), but everyone. Because if there is one thing history demonstrates, it's that when wealth becomes overly concentrated, grief is sure to follow for everyone.
I find it unlikely that someone who is put out of a job by new efficiencies would find much solace in low cost YouTube access. It's precisely this blind faith in efficiency as a measure of progress that I question. I'm not saying it's always bad, but it's clear now that improved efficiency is not always good. We need to find new, more suitable metrics by which to measure progress.
It may also create new unsolved problems. Fast food is efficient, but has it represented a net gain in our quality of life or health?
I think that more and more this proves to be a questionable expectation.
If you think the current disruption is meaningful, just wait 10 to 20 years for robots to replace almost all service jobs in a very short time
"Earning" a job, implies that people invest their own resources in preparing themselves for the future. I am vehemently in favor of that as a general way for society to operate.
However, this vision requires that people have sufficient resources to make these investments. Given the increasing disparities of resource allocation that we're seeing, why should we assume that this is possible?
I definitely agree but when you are at a company who has employed you for a long time and have been doing your job well, then who's not to say that now unemployed person hasn't earned that job. The time spent at that job performing well could have been spent learning some new in-demand skill but think of the opportunity cost. Now when these people are unemployed, do we really think society has provided the motivation, resources, and most importantly, direction, to change their view on career and development. It's a very big step and I believe its naive to think that unemployment is an event actionable enough to make someone switch their mentality.
You say that as if it's a given bad thing, it isn't; humans lived in virtually static societies for most of their existence; the current rate of change is simply too fast for most people and is itself not the norm. It's like we're trying to become the Morlocks and the Eloi.
We can't predict the future, but every previous disruptive technological innovation has resulted in society being richer. It would be quite the shock if the result of the most recent one somehow left us poorer -- something really worth reporting on -- but I don't believe it.
Silicon Valley is producing these great billion dollar companies, but the companies themselves are only hiring a small fraction of the employees that similarly sized (market cap) companies have in the past. That is a bit of a problem. It means that incredible wealth is concentrated in one place, but without the filter down value that has occurred in the past.
These companies still have immense value to society, but the value as far as numbers of people employed is decreasing dramatically and that is a major concern.
So... if in the future I own a flying car with 30 cup-holders, but the rich people in society all have 5 hyper-deluxe flying cars with tinted windows, will I be worse off since my expectations are significantly higher than what I can obtain?
Or will I still own a flying car, whereas before I did not?
And no, this isn't some terrible example. "Poor" in America is anything but for the vast number of people below the poverty line. People with no skills of value to society should feel lucky for having so much.
But, do they get poorer?
> Granted the poor today (I assume) have a higher quality of life than they did 50 years ago,
Good - they're getting richer.
But, why does the sentence continue.
> but their expectations for life are also (probably) higher and cheap credit means that they can live beyond their means and a deeper whole for themselves, while temporarily giving themselves the impression that they have money to spend.
The fact that US poor can be better off than ever before has no connection to easy credit.
In fact, even with the easy credit and the resulting bankruptcy, they're better off now than past poor.
Note that I'm not arguing for stupid credit policies (pushed mostly by govt). I'm pointing out that they have nothing to do with whether the poor are better off now.
Oh, and most poor people didn't get into the cheap credit problem because they didn't even qualify under the stupid standards.
However, the efforts to prop up folks who bought what they can't afford have kept folks who saved out of those houses. It's unclear why that's a good thing.
For the good of society, banks need to lose money on stupid loans.
The question is: who will buy all these things (doesn't matter if it's online or offline) if more and more people don't have a steady paycheck?
Their parents will fund their basic needs, at least until they themselves die or run out of credit, government subsidies, etc.
It was not designed to be sustainable -- it was designed to extract as much wealth as possible for its founders, as quickly as possible, before war/peak oil/or whatever hits.
So, I don't think it's possible for us (people who work at companies whose product is technology) to help create jobs for people without tech skills.
But don't discount how much people who can do graphical design are needed too -- the projects advertised in the Weekend Hacker newsletter -- need a graphically skilled person over a programmer at a 3 to 1 ratio.
For example, while Amazon may step on the shoes of the likes of Borders, look at what it is doing for consumers. On a global scale, we should be focusing on improving the lives of people, but at the same time we should continue to promote competition.
The unfortunate consequence of competition is that some people lose out. To rectify this, perhaps we should focus on creating the right types of jobs and promoting constant education. In addition to the unemployment number, I wish we could see some additional metrics.
At a previous job, I was responsible for data management and business intelligence. My team basically looked at the company's numbers and sliced and diced it every way possible. I would love to see some more metrics from the government. I would also love to see some better tools developed by the government to help us visualize the data. (One tool that comes to mind for this sort of stuff is an OLAP cube)
Without going too far away from the point, a simple "unemployment number" isn't enough. Let's look at some more data and see where the problems are. Also, let's make this transparent so that people start talking about the details instead of one number.
If, say, we have long-term 20% unemployment, even if the economy was otherwise booming, this 20% of the population with no real source of income poses a big problem. Either we have to figure how they can participate in the economy somehow (which would mean the unemployment rate would go down, solving the problem), or, if long-term there is going to be a persistent higher unemployment rate, then we have to do something different about it (perhaps a guaranteed-minimum subsistence income along the lines that Friedman and Hayek advocated).
These are all important questions for reducing that one overall number, but everyone seems to be just focusing on the total number.
The same people who love Amazon are the same people who hate walmart and complain walmart is putting local businesses out of business. When in fact, Amazon pretty much grew their business by hiring walmart executives. And also while you look at what amazon is doing for consumers, also look at what it is doing for the enviroment.
1. Pushing for frustration-free packaging. Less waste if the packaging isn't designed to attract eyeballs and deter shoplifters in a retail environment.
2. When scheduling grocery deliveries with Amazon Fresh, you can see when they will already have a truck in your neighborhood. My groceries essentially carpool on their way to my house.
We don't have enough manufacturing jobs in the country not because technology has made it so that everything is made by robots in gleaming factories.
We don't have enough manufacturing jobs in the country because we have zero import tariffs for countries that use slave labor and have no enforced environmental regulations. This is a situation created by globalist bankers, not inventors.
The funny thing is this world almost ends up like a computer RPG; you can give away mass-produced n00b gear to everyone for free, but then the specialty stuff becomes even higher priced. It's pretty easy to argue that no one in a rich society should starve to death, but it's a lot harder to argue that the poor have a right to purely luxury versions of basic goods.
My advice is to always think about your career a little strategically. Your skills should transcend your company and your vertical. Never give up looking at ways to be better and always be willing to learn. I see very little of that from coworkers. And after a while, those types of employees build up an impedance to being an autodidact, which imho, is career suicide. That's why I love meeting coworkers who are interested in the stuff I do and want to learn. I show them how easy it is to learn new things, and that there's tools that always make your life easier. Then their eyes light up. love that.
It says that one in ten people goes to the Second Harvest Food Bank for meals. Living costs are very high and that unemployment is increasing in Silicon Valley.
Can somebody tell me what's true?
In the last 6 months, "we are hiring" signs have started to pop up in many stores. So the boom is not just for developers, it's also for retail positions. To me, that's the #1 proof that the economy is great (http://blog.foundrs.com/2011/04/26/the-sure-tell-sign-that-s...).
"Nearly 6.2 million students in the United States between the ages of 16 and 24 in 2007 dropped out of high school..."
Yikes. Something stinks. In this day and age unemployment is going to continue to be really high if there are 6.2 or so million students dropping out of high school / university per year.
America (and other western countries) are not creating labor intensive industries anymore (with the exception of wars -- sad, but true), so these drop-outs are going to have real employment troubles for the rest of their 50+ years of life.
Something's gotta give.
Die Verlierer im Silicon Valley (The losers in Silicon Valley)
Erst ist das Haus weg, dann der Job, dann die Kinder... (First they lost their house, then their jobs, then their children...)
If there's honestly a cultural divide between Silicon Valley and Unemployed America, then there ought to be some serious money to be made on things that help Unemployed America that people in Silicon Valley aren't going to find (which is good news for me, if I can just figure out what those things are). Expect this to be one of the things that ends this recession/depression - but blaming macroeconomic screwups on the only people around not screwing up is not the answer.
I think that the current divide is simply a educated/uneducated. Or it could be the market simply rewarding certain professions as they do with investment banking. However, it just so happens that the majority of these jobs are in SV as they do on Wall Street.
Yet, I don't understand the issue the author is laying out. Is he suggesting that San Francisco and the bay area is strictly a wealthy area? Is he implying that SV is so different from other cities employment wise? Has he seem the number of homeless in San Francisco?
My wife always laughs at me when I refuse to take a job, because "it only pays $60 per hour". Her friends and her don't have any high tech education, and $20-30/hr is their ceiling, most of them making less, and at the same time the jobs they do seem so much more boring than creating websites or building apps.
We are truly lucky, guys. Enjoy the ride it while it lasts.
If you have a practiced skill that takes years to develop you are, in most cases, valuable because this is a rare thing. Truth be told very, very few people have the patience and enthusiasm to learn a skill well, so it's almost always valuable when someone does.
If he were offering the right money, welders would come out of the woodwork. They would leave other jobs or relocate.
The fact that it happens to align with a huge economic need, and that it's an amazing profession from every possible vantage-- that's just pure luck and historical happenstance.
Of course there are others who did go into programming for purely practical reasons. I had a colleague once whom I regarded as kind of a mediocre and passionless programmer. He was a cool guy though, and we got to talking one time. I started asking him about programming stuff and he stopped me. He said, "Man, I do this because it pays the bills and provides a nice home for my family. I'm a painter, not a programmer." To be honest, I had a huge amount of respect for that guy after that.
I guess depending on how broad your definition is, then it my scenario supports your assertion. All vocational people have a training period (modern version of an apprenticeship).
I'm not sure a lot of IT is actually that safe. Companies have a lot easier time outsourcing IT to another country then welders. Silicon Valley has inertia and good laws to foster innovation and startups, but others can change their laws and unfunded liabilities of the state government might not allow for stable conditions long term. SF's attempt at taxing might not be an anomaly but a trend.
On their planet, being able to calculate the area of a rectangle reliably, the first time, makes you anomalously good with math. The notion of programs as long strings of instructions, followed sequentially, with predictable results is a fantasy: computers are observed to operate mostly randomly, all of the time. Some days I go to my Googles and it's the Googles with the box in the middle,a some days I go to my Googles and it's the Googles with the box at the top. Why does Microsoft keep changing the Googles? THIS IS SO FRUSTRATING.
You and I might think there is a distinction between programs and data, and we could describe how these exist in different places in a hierarchical file system on a computer, which is an abstraction over sectors on a hard disk. Every technical word in that sentence is scary juju to most of the population. There are many otherwise intelligent people who cannot open MS Word without a document emailed to them first. If you took away the document, they wouldn't know how to open Word and wouldn't know how to correct that.
In addition, many folks who are unemployed or underemployed in the United States either cannot read this post or cannot understand enough of it to answer simple questions like "Does Patrick think that programming is hard?"
You can certainly become a passable programmer in 3 years starting from being well-educated, intelligent, and reasonably skilled at knowledge work in the information economy. If you're 3 for 3 on those, you don't have a problem right now.
This is why I hate to get into small talk with someone I've just met. One of the first polite questions I get is "so, what do you do?" and to judge by reactions its as if I immediately start talking like the adults in a "Peanuts" cartoon. And even if I try to be as nontechnical as possible ("I do website work") you can see they just don't want to continue the conversation at that point.
"Yeah, it's almost exactly that exciting. So what do you do?"
So true. I work in an industrial environment, so I end up helping a lot of people out with math. High school geometry might as well be wizardry.
> You and I might think there is a distinction between programs and data
I know you're talking about the difference between word.exe and data.doc, but you're probably going to excite the Lisp programmers with a statement worded that way.
And yet does anyone doubt that they could learn highschool geometry if motivated to do so?
Not if you are a Lisper.
Here's a fact I learned that has stuck with me for years since: in China, everyone learns algebra in 4th grade, no exceptions.
Now the point of this isn't that the Chinese educational system is so awesome (I actually think that there are some really bad tradeoffs they make), but rather that the thing that we think is so difficult for highschoolers can actually be done 100% by every single person in 4th grade. It's an existence proof that for quantitative knowledge it's just a matter of training and context.
Anyone who is reasonably conversant with a computer (in the sense that they know how to type, they can use a mouse, etc.) can be taught to program. It's no harder than algebra. It's within their capacity. The problem I think is that it's just not conceivable. It's not really taught in schools, and it requires you to learn an entirely new set of skills and vocabulary.
I will grant that perhaps 3 years is an underestimate; it might take 6 years. I haven't run any actual experiments. But programming is not cutting edge research; you're not writing a PhD.
I agree with you that most of of the population really truly does not understand computers right now, I just disagree that if motivated they couldn't learn and quite quickly.
 Well of course there are a lot of exceptions: the mentally handicapped, children who live on the farm, children who have to work in factories all day. But for students pushed through the system, they all learn.
Most skills are not as difficult as people think they are with consistent effort over time. People are not born with a drawing module in their brain that makes them different than you, and that's true for programming and pretty much everything else as well.
Just think of what it really takes to create even a simple dynamic website.
EDIT: To clarify, I hardly ever use math at the level I was required to study in my comp. sci. degree curriculum. Of course I use basic arithmetic calculations often enough.
Do we not use many of the concepts?
* boolean algebra / simplification of terms?
* vectors, matrices, tensors (er, strings, arrays, objects)
* functions? functions of functions?
* set theory?
* graph theory?
* "closure" of operations (e.g. - what are the limits / bounds of this operation / function? Can I encode every character / code-point in this output representation? -- no? prepare to get hacked, then)
I've written a few times here about how I interview people. Most of the candidates have BS degrees in comp sci, most of them have 3 to 15 years of work experience. Most of them cannot write a (correct) function to reverse a string.
We accepted any correct solution.
It never gets to edge cases. Most people can't even write the simple version.
I'm pretty sure nobody can write the unicode-safe version during the interview, even the smartest developers I've worked with (I guess that depends on the language though).
// Some in the IT field would have been selling snake oil, because they do it today.
I find that similar to programming: designing and improving a project in iterations, understanding how things work by analyzing their internals, remembering processes that work, etc.
So I guess that 100 years ago I would have been either into mechanical or electrical engineering or some other more traditional skilled work like carpentry.
As for what I would be doing, likely a farmer, as that is a job I still do today. Though I'm not sure I would want to give up some of my modern conveniences.
This is going to turn into an excuse to put a boot on the Valley's neck.
The reality is, there hasn't been a real labor intensive new thing in the past 30+ years. What new thing requires massive man power to do? Even programmers, our job go easier with time. A programmer today with tools today is much more productive then he used to be. Same for most professions.
Companies are outputting the same with less employees now. Productivity measures are up. That just means a more efficient society that requires more and more complex jobs that haven't yet been automated. Some people just can't do those jobs.
(Now I'm going to go buy me this shirt from ThinkGeek: http://www.thinkgeek.com/tshirts-apparel/unisex/frustrations...)