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Is America Inc getting less dynamic, less global and more monopolistic? (economist.com)
250 points by pseudolus 35 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 334 comments




I very much agree with the assertion that our economy is getting less dynamic, in the sense that everywhere you go in the US it seems like everything, and i mean everything, is being steamrolled by bigger and bigger corps and morphed into a bland, dumbed down, mass appealing corporate monoculture, designed (probably by MBAs) exclusively with profits in mind and no actual interest in developing any sort of soul or true differentiation. Random example, walk into a hardware store (everywhere you go its either lowes, home depot, or maybe ace, cross country) and tell me if there's a real difference between any of the tool manufacturers. On the one hand, the convenience of cheap and fairly durable goods is great. On the other, it seems like everyone is afraid to stray too far from what works to really innovate or compete. Most cars look pretty similar. The same restaurants exist literally from coast to coast, everywhere you go the US is starting to look more and more generic.

Mostly it probably has to do with economies of scale, but at this point I'd rather spend an extra 10%+ on goods and services if it meant a return to true differentiation and a wider variety of consumer culture.


This reflects one of the greatest dissatisfaction I have with touring the United States, which is the ubiquity of franchises. I can tour cities across the country and I always see the same companies: Starbucks, Target, 7Eleven, Panda Express, Petco, etc. It doesn't matter if I go to Salem, Austin, or Los Angeles. I see the same stores with the same shopping centers. There is a lost sense of culture.

The same goes for billboards. It's always the same companies marketing: Ford, McDonalds, etc. Why do we hardly ever see small brands marketing? I'd be inclined to keep billboards if small brands utilized them to help their business, but that is rarely the case. Given this, why do we still tolerate billboards to the same mega-corporations? Everyone already knows they exist and what they sell. How much more exposure do they really need at the expense of the natural beauty of our towns and our own mental state?


I can't say I have too much trouble going to interesting eateries and coffee shops around cities in America. I agree with you the retail shops are pretty much the same everywhere.

I see (and have bought from) small brands online (especially ones that advertise on social networks and podcasts). In my circles a lot of other people have to. I just assume that these advertisements are a lot more effective than billboards, so billboards are left to the larger companies doing more brand marketing.


Maybe I'm wrong but probably big corps keep buying billboards to keep a status quo (kinda their monopoly) and to prevent some new company to shake the market. Therefore probably they would be the same happy if costs of renting a billboard rise to the sky preventing anyone from advertising. But probably they'd better keep things as they are.


I'm seeing more and more discussion on a stuck mono culture, and I have to say I agree with it. This is an interesting write up on the phenomenon.

https://paulskallas.substack.com/p/is-culture-stuck


Great writeup, really sums up a lot of the angst I've been feeling about modern american culture.


> since the start of the covid-19 pandemic America Inc has been anything but stagnant. Applications to start new businesses have soared. In the first six months of 2021 around 2.8m new businesses were born, 60% more than in the same period in pre-pandemic 2019

When people have something to fall back on they take more risks. Kind of like how the most successful large companies are in tech. Those founders had less downside than someone opening a restaurant.


2.8m new businesses were born but how many had revenue over $50?

Probably only tens or hundreds of thousands


Lots of new businesses are MLM, or dependant on government funding without any plans for sustainable business


I mean...lots of businesses in tech are dependent on VC funding without any plans for sustainable business.


pretty false... a lot may stay dependent, but all need to present plausible plans for generating revenue.


Buy low, move around, sell High?


Does anyone know if applying for PPP loans played a part in this? Anecdotally saw some people register businesses for the sole purpose of collecting PPP but am not sure if they were successful.

Edit: I appear to be wrong here. After some Googling it appears that PPP loan was based on previous years tax returns to I don't think you could collect PPP the first year to establish a business.


Not only that but technically you were only able to apply for PPP if your company existed before February 15th, 2020, to explicitly prevent this sort of behavior.


How would that work? Collect PPP and use it to pay yourself salary? I thought you had to show the people were already employed and paid when you apply. I'm sure it was a mess though.


Sole proprietors were eligible for PPP to cover lost income but it was based on previous years Schedule C so first year business owners likely couldn't apply


That is if you assume people played by the rules, and there was actually validation controls in place

from what I have seen of the PPP and other covid programs the concern was getting the money out as fast as possible not validating claims. There was a SHIT ton of fraud... most of which will never be discovered


Your hypothetical scammer just got $20,000 deposited into their bank account. I don't think adhering to the letter of the loan, and repaying it, is a huge concern of theirs. Withdraw it all, and go live somewhere cheap for a couple years.


This is the opposite of what the article is saying. The economy was getting scary so people headed out on their own. Did you mean to say “when people have nothing to fall back on”?


People who have a lot can afford to gamble.

People who have a little can’t afford to gamble.

People who have nothing can’t afford not to gamble.


So why are the majority of entrepreneurs in their 20s? Why doesn't the rate of entrepreneurship increase with age?


"2018 research published in the Harvard Business Review found that the average age at which a successful founder started their company is 45."

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/27/super-founders-median-age-of...


“Successful” is quite the qualifier. Are more 45 year olds starting businesses, or are they more just more effective when they do it?


Why doesn't the rate of entrepreneurship increase with age?

I thought it DID increase with age. A quick search suggests that to be the case, but I stand by to be corrected.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/693467/rate-of-new-entre...


Cause it gets more difficult to gamble when you have a child to support. You're more likely to look for a cushy job when it's not just your life at stake.


They're the ones with nothing, I guess.


Kids means you are less free to gamble?


In my perspective, yes. A child has needs and there's a baseline cost in resources to supply those needs, not just material needs like food, clothing, shelter but more integible needs like time with their parent. As a parent you have responsibility to meet that baseline and should do so with as little risk as possible to provide stability for the child who is dependent on you and has no other options.

If you can meet all their needs, then whatever you have in excess certainly can be gambled if it can improve both of your odds, but only beyond that baseline threshold. That resource threshold for a parent is going to be higher than for a single person in the same situation, so you inherently have less resources to gamble than someone without a kid.

I would consider less resources as being less free to take unneeded risk, although it really just means you have less you can risk not that you have less ability to risk (unless of course you're already at or below that child's baseline needs where you're making sacrifices of your own needs for them). You could make further sacrifices on your own needs to gamble if that doesn't effect the child but chances are, it's going to effect both of you.

Theres an absolute magnitude of wealth/resources one needs to exceed before they start playing the capital gamble gamble, at least when your risk has significant effects on someone else, especially your own child.


Yes.


I mean the extended unemployment and stimulus checks gave a some people room to try new things. A lot of people struggled, but there's a reason some are reluctant to return to their shitty old jobs.


How much was the stimulus check for an average income employee ?


The median US income is about $30k, so most people were eligible for some if not all the money. But everyone (that was laid off) was eligible for the $600 per week unemployment benefit, and the expanded child tax credit also provided a lot of cash. Child poverty in the US was cut in half by some metrics over the last year - these were very impactful programs for most people.


> Did you mean to say “when people have nothing to fall back on”?

This is better than sitting doing nothing, starving, and waiting for a handout to come, as happened in many, many countries.

My strongest belief is that America needs an economic shock therapy, to spring out of economic lethargy.

Lets face it. America is no longer the financial superpower. China is currently world biggest foreign investor, and creditor, and has banks that make Morgan's balance sheet look like pocket change.

Betting on banks to lead America's return to prominence is futile. It's akin to trying to wing a card game against a professional card trickster who lives off ripping off casinos.

Nor is the dream of service the dream of "service economy" feeding much of the country materialised. You can't earn much FX selling McKinsey consultants, nor are they are much needed around the world, because the world doesn't have American problems.


Services and manufacturing are fungible and the rest of your tough guy act is even less convincing.

Bill Gates, Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk all came from at least upper-middle class background. None of them was ever at risk of starvation.

The carrot-and-stick approach to motivation works–in an extremely small band of human experience. But as it works in that band, which is the lower middle class, it draws people in from both sides: those richer ease up a bit, those immediately below put in an extra hour. That's why it's sort of the default experience. It's also a "winnable struggle" so it makes for good stories and is overrepresented in film and literature.

But, once you leave that narrow band, other forces are clearly at work. If inflicting pain on homeless people worked to motivate them to successfully get off the streets, there wouldn't be any homeless people. Because life on the streets sucks. If you think they are "lazy", have you ever toyed with the idea of just quitting and checking out an underpass with a good view? No...? But you do have a vague idea what laziness is? So then: that's not it.


How about Brian Chesky (son of social workers), Marc Andreesen (son of seed factory worker), or just Jeff bezos with a pretty shitty family background:

At the time of Bezos' birth, his mother was a 17-year-old high school student and his father was 19 years old.[18] After completing high school despite challenging conditions, Jacklyn attended night school while bringing Bezos along as a baby.[19] After his parents divorced, his mother married Cuban immigrant Miguel "Mike" Bezos in April 1968.[20] Shortly after the wedding, Mike adopted four-year-old Bezos, whose surname was then legally changed from Jorgensen to Bezos.[21] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Bezos

We can all pick examples to fit our narratives


We can indeed. You left out this part:

After Mike had received his degree from the University of New Mexico, the family moved to Houston, Texas, so that he could begin working as an engineer for Exxon.[22] Jeff Bezos attended River Oaks Elementary School in Houston from fourth to sixth grade.[23] Bezos' maternal grandfather was Lawrence Preston Gise, a regional director of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in Albuquerque.[24] Gise retired early to his family's ranch near Cotulla, Texas, where Bezos would spend many summers in his youth.[25]

[...] He accepted an estimated $300,000 from his parents and invested in Amazon.[47][51][52] He warned many early investors that there was a 70% chance that Amazon would fail or go bankrupt.

The one thing many CEOs have in common is early access to resources and tinkering opportunities which aren't available to most of the population.

Which is the exact opposite of your point.


How does Bezos' background disprove the notion that homeless people aren't homeless because they're lazy? That if only we made life just a little more horrible for them, that they would realize being homeless sucks, stop being lazy, and just go get one of those job things, and then pull themselves up by their bootstraps. (A feat which is literally impossible, mind you)


I think the examples are to counter the cherry-picking of entrepreneurs who are from middle class backgrounds.


The salient point is that certain class of people are likelier take risks because failing will not leave their children hungry. Obviously, poor people can also take risks, but the ones that fail do not get to try again and you do not hear about them again.

Bezos is a ridiculous example to use anyway, as he obviously made bank working in finance before he took risks on Amazon such that he was never risking being homeless.

Just the simple fact that your parents own a home where you are welcome to live can be enough for you to be able to take risks. And Zuckerberg and Gates and others were not middle class, they were at least upper middle and I would bet their parents (dentists and prominent lawyers) were already above 90th percentile in wealth.

I love when people tell me examples of extremely poor people taking risks and hitting it big, and at the same time lament how people irresponsibly have children and debt they could not handle. Celebrate them when the gamble pays off, but shit on them when it does not.


> I love when people tell me examples of extremely poor people taking risks and hitting it big, and at the same time lament how people irresponsibly have children and debt they could not handle. Celebrate them when the gamble pays off, but shit on them when it does not.

How often does this happen? Who says those two things simultaneously?


Maybe not simultaneously, but I grew up in an immigrant family where everyone’s parents had farmland and houses in the original country. Almost all the families and cousins are pretty successful business/real estate owners/operators, who champion themselves, while ignoring the fact that they all had houses and farmland to go back to in their original country in case they failed.

But many, especially the older generations, also like to complain about people not striking it out on their own as a causal factor for why they remain poor.

It is a popular trope in culture too. It makes people feel good about themselves if they can forget about the shoulders they stood on, and for those who do not have shoulders to stand on, it gives them hope.


Sure but...

> people tell me examples of extremely poor people taking risks and hitting it big, and at the same time lament how people irresponsibly have children and debt they could not handle

Is having children a risk that could mean one hits it big? And it's definitely also possible (if not normal) for debt to come from lifestyle overspending rather than risking things to make it big. I just don't see the logical connection, although I can see there's an emotional one there.


Bezoes received at minimum six figures from his family (at a time where six figures was pretty significant). He is middle class.

Also pretending like the barrier of entry into technology _hasn't_ gone up is ignoring the material conditions people face now.


Has it gone up? Cheap hardware and comms, free tutorials everywhere and a thirst for more tech talent can't hurt.

If you think it was easier when you had to study at or work for a wealthy university, and also everything had to be done painstaking by punched card instead of today's instant feedback on a free, beautiful tutorial website, then I'm not sure what to tell you.


> My strongest belief is that America needs an economic shock therapy...

There is a strand of thinking that turns up sometimes, something like "they will realise their choices are making things worse, then make different choices!". I have not seen that work out well very often. People usually persist in their mistakes with little heed for the results.

The correct approach is almost always to move directly in a better direction.


It's often the case that reformers (of anything, not just government) lack an understanding of why people are making choices that appear sub-optimal. They make or encourage changes to the visible things, without fixing the underlying hidden causes. Such changes are usually unsustainable.


It's the standard eschatological shtick: burn it all down and it'll be better this time around.


You're exaggerating the bank size difference, ICBC is only 25% larger in assets.

If you meant to convey all Chinese banks against just JPM, sure, but that's a silly comparison because there are many more US banks that when also compared in aggregate the % difference is still roughly the same.[0]

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_banks


What America needs is the rich stopping buying politicians and gaslighting other Americans, and start paying more taxes.


why pay more taxes when there's no accountability and responsibility regarding spending? spending needs to get under control before raising taxes is even a thing.


Do you agree that "getting the money out of politics" might help your accountability gripe?


The big money (and thus influence) in politics is in the spending of it, not the salaries/donations. And politics without that money is pointless.


When you raise money from donors to win election to an office, those donors effectively become your constituency, rather than the people living in your state or district. Those donors will also offer you strangely sumptuous speaking fees or a lucrative lobbying position after you leave office.

If politicians' incentives can be aligned with their constitutional constituencies (not donors), they can make decisions that are actually in the best interest of those they represent, rather than the highest bidder.

Are you saying it is simply having some power over the budget that corrupts politicians, and not what they have to do in order to obtain that power that corrupts them?


You really think rich people will suddenly start paying taxes because government is more efficient? I don't think that is their gripe. If that was the case thet would not be lobbying for complex tax codes which exempt yachts.


> You really think rich people will suddenly start paying taxes because government is more efficient?

Erm. I didn't really say anything to do with that.


Because right now the middle class is paying the bill and the working class is getting abused. The ownership class just skates on, doing less to justify their existence every year.

Or do you feel like a billionaire space race is a good use of society's efforts?


A lot of the "spending" was used for tax cuts instead of infrastructure. It's kind of funny how Trump burned huge holes into the state budget and yet it's the infrastructure bill that is going to ruin everything.


Too many people, especially high income software dev's, that government can not spend enough money. So to them them the spending is not out of control at all, they want the 3, 4, 8 trillion spending because they have bought into the government-side economic model that inflation is good, government spending is good, and the "evil rich" (who if you ask them is always someone that makes more than them. They are not "the rich" it is the others....) needs to just pay "their fair share"

of course they will not define what what "fair share" is, just that is "more than they are paying now" however much that is...

I firmly believe even if we had a 110% tax rate it would not be "enough" for some of these people


You are confused because the word "rich" has two meanings. Agreed, a lot of devs are "rich", compared to the average citizen. But the problem is not "they slightly more than me and they are bad because I'm envious". It's "they make so much money that they are writing their own laws with it, and they're killing my country and my planet in the process". That is a different kind of "rich". It's "I can buy a full news studio if I want"-rich.

That second class is who the people are referring to when they say "the rich".

And most of them are paying much less taxes over their income than you or I, in percentage. They are so wealthy that they can afford to pay full teams of people who specialize in tax evading, and that costs them 1% of their income, but then they avoid paying taxes on the rest.

The usual "fair share" tax is a gradual tax. For example. 10% for the first $10000 earned. 15% for the next $20000. And so on. Such a tax can never reach 110%, by definition. It cuts a dev salary by 40% or even 50%. For one of these rich people, it can go to 70% or 80%, but it would be orders of magnitude more, in absolute numbers. But as I said, none of them pays that. They'd rather provoke a war than pay that.

And then make you pay for it.


>>That is a different kind of "rich". It's "I can buy a full news studio if I want"-rich.

There are 3 problems with that.

1. Even if you took 100% of their wealth, no income, their entire wealth, it would not even pay the interest on the debt. Let alone anything meaningful

2. You still have not defined "the rich" I want a number. 1 Billion? 10 Billion? 100 Billion? Give me an income or even wealth number..

3. It is not actually true. And it is easily proven as we have a few example. The most famous was Bernie. He was always "Millionaires and Billionaires do not pay their fair share" until he became a millionaire then just like that is was "Billionaires do not pay their fair share". Then you have many champagne socialists on YT spending millions on homes, cars, etc all talking about how the "rich do not pay their fair share" and ofcourse they are not the rich

>>And most of them are paying much less taxes over their income than you or I, in percentage.

Playing with the tax rates is not going to change that, in fact most of them increasing the tax rates will cause a inverse in collections as it becomes more profitable to evade..

If you look at the amount of revenue the IRS collects from Income tax as a percent of GDP it is almost a flat line, it does not matter what the rate it, the IRS ends up collecting about the same amount.

>>Such a tax can never reach 110%

Sure it can, in a number of ways because it is not a single taxing entity, State, Federal, Local.. They do not have to allow you to deduct the taxes you paid to the other entities, infact that is a big issue today with the SALT limits. Then you have people proposing WEALTH based taxes, which could exceed the actual income a person made if they are asset heavy and income light.

> it can go to 70% or 80%, but it would be orders of magnitude more, in absolute numbers. But as I said, none of them pays that. They'd rather provoke a war than pay that.

No Shit, that is just strait up theft. I dont know how anyone could even begin to justify 50+%.. I am opposed to income based taxation in the first place, but Shit 80%? really.

So I am left to ask.

1. Please define "Rich" in a actual dollar amount

2. Please define what you believe is a "fair" marginal rate for all income based taxation (state, federal, and local) for a person making this "rich" income.

3. If the government cannot collect the amount if needs to pay for goods and service how or (who) do you propose they make up the difference?


Sure. Rich is anyone who has wealth in excess of 10M. A "fair share" to start with would be at minimum a 1% wealth tax.

Income tax is fairly worthless when it comes to the actually rich.


> America needs an economic shock therapy

It's hard to overstate just how bad the track record of "economic shock therapy" strategies is. Tens of millions of people have died, and hundreds of millions more lost their basic freedoms, because leaders thought they could "shock therapy" their way out of economic problems.


That's one thing to see from all of this, but another that shouldn't be ignored is when cash is cheap in an economy people engage in businesses that are not otherwise viable, which leads to asset bubbles among other things.


2008: Worst economic recession in a generation

2008-2020: 3 Presidential terms with pretty lax antitrust enforcement.

That’s a long time for the monopolistic tendencies to bloom. Which is to say, yes, it is more monopolistic now (but doesn’t need to continue being that way).


> If true, that would be bad news for the spiritual home of free-market capitalism

I'd question the premise that the US is the land of free-market capitalism. America is the home of Hamilton's American system, of the Rockefellers and the gilded age, and of monopolistic competition (now Bezos and Amazon).

Startups like to describe themselves as free-market oriented but they're either giants-in-waiting or dead. There's no equilibrium of middle-sized, free market startup capitalism. That Jeffersonian ideal you're more likely to find in the artisanal, small and debt avoiding family business in the German Southwest, say.

Same goes for trade. With trade volume only constituting a quarter of the GDP[1] the US is one of the most domestic economies in the world. Compared to France and the UK at 60% or Germany and South Korea at 85%. It very much explains America's bipartisan streak for protectionism compared to much of Europe and Asia.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_trade-to-...


This is true... But only on the coasts. In the majority of this country, the people there don't care about silicon valley and many people own businesses.


But they all shop at Walmart.


I'm not 100% sure what this has to do with business ownership.


It means there is no local supermarkets, just one large monopoly.


Except there are still lots of local contractors, plumbers, specialty stores, etc. I don't disagree that Walmart has toxic effects, buy to say that it means there is no local business anymore is a stretch in my view.


But they operate on extremely low wages supplemented by government transfer payments.


I imagine many would say that's due to the inflationary pressure of living in a country with wealthy coastlines.


> With trade volume only constituting a quarter of the GDP[1] the US is one of the most domestic economies in the world.

Because net trade volume is massively and surrealistically negative and has been for a very long time, assuming the fact that exports being small in relation to total domestic production means that Americans consume an unusual proportion of domestic products is not a good assumption.

Especially when you bring up Germany and South Korea, who are massive exporters with huge trade surpluses.


From a outside perspective this free market thingy was never more than a movie plot in the US


I think you're making it smaller than it really is. At this point, it's part of a world religion A LOT of people live by, it's taught in schools and universities, it's made premise for a lot of fake science, etc. Predicted precisely by Guy Debord, 50y ago - but you won't see it being studied in universities because it hurts how they earn their bread :/


I really don't know. As mentioned I just see it from the outside. Our schools don't make America today a example for a great free market, the opposite might even be true. In fact the US is sometimes portrait as a danger to our 'free' market.


The fact that there is even the idea of a global reserve currency shows that the free market isn't as prevalent as people think. In principle people should be free to pick whatever currencies they want to conduct trade with.


There's a word for these German businesses:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mittelstand


IANAL (...not a linguist) - but to me "spiritual home of free-market capitalism" very much emphasizes that, while many in the U.S. may talk big about free markets, the current reality is quite different.


I mean, IP is by its very nature designed to be monopolistic, and with the decline of manufacturing and the rise of tech, IP is making up a bigger and bigger part of the US economy. So of course it's becoming more monopolistic.


IP is designed to allow a certain subset of solutions to be monopolize by inventors for ~ half the life of the inventor (although most patents are abandoned after a few years). It shouldn’t, ideally, block all possible solutions.

In my experience (have applied for over 50 patents), the act of understanding and inventing around other peoples patents has very often lead to brainstorming resulting in superior solutions (this was an unforeseen advantage of good US IP law that other countries are trying to replicate).

I would note that my ventures are in the area of atoms and not bits :)


Of course, a downside is a person can set out to invent something entirely on their own, succeed in doing so, and then find out what they've done is illegal. That's a big downside.

Paul Graham said if you're successful you will be sued by patent owners. How many are discouraged from even trying?


This is where experience comes in, and the need for good mentors. In many cases, you can explicitly define your solution with certain key differences relative to prior work.

That is why it is wise to have good patent lawyers on your team. You may still get sued, but your likelihood to prevail can be increased.

Companies know this, that is why it is often cheaper for, say, Apple to purchase entire start ups than to sue them. The inventor still benefits in this case (actually, they can benefit more than typical inventors when this happens).


> this was an unforeseen advantage of good US IP law that other countries are trying to replicate

More common, from what I've seen, is smaller countries reluctant to adopt liberal US-style IP law and being pressured to do so by the US State Department as a condition in trade negotiations and foreign aid. The US delegation was the principal pusher of IP reform in the TPP, and this evaporated when the US left.


The benefits of strong IP law are not apparent at first. It happened in the US through trial and error during both world wars and then up through the decades, e.g. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayh–Dole_Act

I only know this due to some policy courses I took during IAP when I was at MIT.


Looking at the US Constitution, IP law should be designed to heavily encourage innovation. I would think that the actual details of law would reflect that rather than maximizing the value of an idea to it's owner.

To be fair, the current results should have been predictable. A small, finely focused and self-interested group can usually defeat an unruly mass.

>I would note that my ventures are in the area of atoms and not bits :)

Good for you. My own bias and personal experience highly tends towards that, including US manufacture. Thinking about the article at the top, I wonder sometimes what the 'economy' even is anymore. I tend to distrust articles on it as all the news tends to involve internet-based FIRE 'industries' and surveillance marketing startups. I'm not feeling the love for those segments.


The decline of industry/manufacture is largely a fake thing American politicians pushed over the decades to enrich their overseas partners. It will definitely come back, especially with the rise of ESG where environment concerns means short supply chains, not shipping everything across the pacific and polluting the crap out of planet unnecessarily.


The gov has subsidized it at every level, including making it cheaper to send to shenghai than new York.


And on top of that, the wages in Chinese factories are approaching and sometimes surpassing a 1000$.

Even that infamous wage gap is significantly decreasing.


America Inc., riffs on the now dated "Japan Inc." But... other than cute, it's a poor take.

Japan Inc was Japan Inc because much of their economy was capitalistically centrally planned. The central Gov't would have monumental plans and would greatly incentivize their keiretsu to follow and undertake such monumental tasks. There was METI at the center making policy for an export driven economy.

That is in no way a parallel to what we are seeing in the US. In the US we are seeing companies become more influential and powerful than the central government and implementing their own policies (Uber in transportation, Facebook/YouTube in content censorship). That is no USA Inc. It's Incs in the USA with global projection. Very different.


Yes.

Ten years ago, Jeff Hammerbacher, an early Facebook employee, wrote: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.”

Look at the big names now. Google, which did most of its best work in the early days. Facebook, which is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Amazon, which has figured out how to exploit workers. Microsoft, which is still trying to sell Windows N+1. And the gig economy crowd, which has figured out how to pay below minimum wage and not pay benefits.

What don't we have?

- Really good battery companies. Tesla just packages Panasonic. GM just packages LG. They're not making batteries from raw materials.

- Progress in aircraft. Boeing is still flogging variants of the 737, which first flew in 1967.

- Semiconductors. Does anyone in the US still make commodity RAM?

- Electronics in general. There are few US sources left for small components.

- Telecom. The US no longer has anybody who makes telephone central office equipment. The US can no longer make smartphones.

- Power. The US does not make many large power transformers.

- Appliances. Few US manufacturers remain.

- Manufacturing engineering. Who gets a degree in manufacturing engineering today? Who knows how to lay out a production line?


I agree with your point, and it makes me really sad.

Let me try to make some optimistic spins?

- Intel is hopefully turning their foundry business around. I think this will be a slow (1-2 decades?) process but will pay results.

- Tesla and SpaceX are actually really positive spins, though I agree Tesla isn't completely isolated from the rest of the eletronics world. It's what we've got and it's not half bad. SpaceX in particular I is world-class at this point and hopefully will continue to get better

- Toyota makes more cars in the US than not. Worst case, these are still functioning production lines staffed by good workers, that talent and working knowledge (hopefully) doesn't just disappear

- A lot of your examples are lower down the value chain, for instance Intel doesn't produce commodity RAM since they famously got out of that game in the 80s(?) to focus on the higher margin CPU business. Maybe this is good?

Ultimately though, I agree that working in ads or finance is largely flat or negative sum to society (as someone who has or is in both). It's worse than that, too. People actively look down on manufacturing, as somehow less exciting and less complex than finance.


USA sells quite a lot of cars to China, out of all places...

But these are not American cars, these are German cars made in America.

Americans I meet are always surprised when they see how close are manufacturing jobs salaries in China, and US.


I was surprised when I discovered that the VW group sells like half of their inventory in China and ASEAN region.


If they're German cars made in America, what about all the American goods made in China?


That’s a little naive. No political entity in history has been able to reverse economic decline by looking at what it did best in an earlier age and try to do that again.

There are other countries that are simply better than the US at doing certain things. I don’t understand why Americans can’t just accept that. Embrace the things we’re really good at, work with others to get from them the things they’re good at.


There's arguably a strategic need to keep at least some expertise and a minimal operational capacity even for things that are cheaper to import[0]. COVID-19 demonstrated how fragile supply chains are, and that was just a global emergency, and not purposeful economic warfare.

America is good at things at the edge of the value chain. High-end goods. Services. Demand manufacturing[1]. Things that have value during good times, where the earlier links in the chain are healthy, and consumers have plenty of money to spend. In times of crisis, all this can evaporate quickly.

Also, I feel it might be that the kind of jobs America is good at are different from the lower-level jobs in ways that are not conductive to having a healthy middle class. I've read some convincingly-sounding arguments going in this direction, but I can't recall any right now, and I haven't thought about this topic hard enough to come up with one myself.

--

[0] - This is not an unprecedented idea. See Boeing as a point of comparison. From what I read, the company would've been dead long ago if not for government spending. This spending looks wasteful if you look at what gets produced, but not when you realize it's really a way to ensure that manufacturing plants and people knowing how to use them are available in case they're needed for war production.

[1] - Without being too bitter about it in this thread, I feel quite a lot of ways US brings in money are fads and artificial scarcities, created using marketing and intellectual property laws.


I agree with your assessment but I don’t think the solution is to try and artificially shore up domestic manufacturing capacity to the extent that it was before. There also isn’t any reason to believe that those that supply us with what we want desire the kind of economic warfare you’re describing.

As for the middle class: I do agree here, we made a huge mistake gutting the manufacturing sector too quickly. But I suspect where we failed was in providing assistance to the affected communities rather than artificially trying to prop up manufacturing. The increased savings from manufacturing abroad could have been used to fund better healthcare and educational opportunities. Provide some kind of unemployment assistance. Instead all the rewards disproportionately went to a small minority of the owner/shareholder class.


> I don’t think the solution is to try and artificially shore up domestic manufacturing capacity to the extent that it was before.

I agree that fully internalizing this kind of manufacturing is counterproductive. I feel that the optimum level is a limited capacity that could be scaled up quickly in an emergency. It's less efficient short-term, but resiliency always has some costs.

> Instead all the rewards disproportionately went to a small minority of the owner/shareholder class.

I feel there's some confusion in the way offshoring savings were, and are, being talked about. Possibly a purposeful confusion. The way I see it, one can't say "we're saving money by offshoring", where "we" means "our country/our economy". It's the private owners/shareholders that are saving money. The country only saves if they get to appropriate those savings, e.g. through a tax. If companies start to offshore and the government doesn't adapt taxation, then the country is actually losing on this.


>There are other countries that are simply better than the US at doing certain things. I don’t understand why Americans can’t just accept that.

This is essentially a reworded version of the "ricardian law of comparative advantage" which was treated as gospel as an economic theory in the 1990s-early 2000s.

It's almost dead today. The widely believed built in presumption that comparative advantage was static and unchangrable essentially led to American manufacturing being siphoned off overseas to countries that did not share this view.

Almost all policymakers are now starting to treat this as a geopolitical threat.


To expand a bit - Ricardian comparative advantage argument relies on the following assumptions:

- no transportation costs

- no unemployment

- barter economy

- 100% fungible labor - farmer, teacher, chemical engineer, doctor - they're all the same and can switch between jobs instantly, and immediately attain the level of productivity within that sector

- prices are 100% determined by labor costs

- demand for various types of items is static, and never changes

- the demand structure is the same across all countries - i.e. if British prefer tea to coffee, we assume all countries prefer tea to coffee

It's not just a "spherical cow" theory, it's more akin to "if a spherical cow rolls frictionlessly down a valley described by a parabola, then it will oscillate forever". True, but useless.

Keynes, as usual, is ahead of the pack - calling out the theory's unrealistic assumptions, and predicting (in 1930s) that not the production, but the interest rates will do the adjustments - leading to persistent trade imbalances and move the economy further from full employment. Which is exactly what happened


I recommend a read of the Austrian School of economy.

Not as influential as Keynes since he is at the top. But for me, the most correct theories (without being an expert in the matter) come from there.


The Austrian School of economics is just bad. Everyone knows that Keynes' policies are bandaids that make the wound recover faster. Meanwhile Austrian economists believe that people must let the wound heal as slowly as possible because of a tendency toward masochism and sadism.

The truth lies in neither. The biggest economic problems stem from rigidity. Money has such an extreme degree of rigidity, it is capable of traveling through both space and time unhindered. It's a time machine and massless particle all in one.

The reason why Austrian economics appeals to some people is either because they have an anti government axe to grind and want more trivial reasons to blame the government, they want to be on the receiving end of a regressive money system (gold bugs), macroeconomics are often abandoned in favor of microeconomics which hides the fact that local decision making can still result in seemingly coordinated failure and finally because they have mistaken moral beliefs about an amoral system most notably the myth of the protestant work ethic and the belief that the promise of work is their own personal property and it should be their right to delay redeeming that promise for all eternity.

I will repeat it again. There are no morals in economics. Anyone who worships savings and frugality in monetary terms is worshipping poverty in real terms. Eat your economic cake, it will be bigger tomorrow because of that and when somebody needs you to show restraint and want to borrow your slice, they'll tell you.


100% of the wealthier people I have met are frugal, and thr majority of them live on much less than the majority of the poor people I know.


I also saw this pattern. Yet many people will insist on getting their wealth because they are greedy.

For me that is plain envy sorry. And, who is the greedy the ones that save their work or the ones that want the wealth made by others? Because that is more greedy IMHO.


Ehat you are saying is not correct.

You are missing that growing in permanent debt has consequences. Some countries have been ruined by external debt. We are on our way.

We people do not manage wealth like that. A call for poverty is to live over our real outcome permanently (this does not mean we cannot invest and have debt as long as we are able to pay and as long as it has expected return in controlled ways).

Eventually you go bankrupt. What is being poorer than not being able to finance your basic services?

And yes, I admit to hsve become somewhat antistate. Because it is a scam, basically, to monopolize services, offer them more expensive, without the innovations that markets could provide you mich faster and on the way saying you are ok thanks to them and that you owe the state everything.

I can deal with market prices and free choice and save a bunch of money, which is MY invested effort, so it is me who should manage it.

States do not give me anything except poor justifications for their existence. The only exceptions could be (and I am not convinced either) security and justice.

I really think they are way more correct than the alternative: that we must be forced in groups under the decisions of ellites. This is not morally right. And, BTW, a higher goal for the sake of others under coaction lead to fascisms and communism. Little by little we lose our freedom. Not a good thing.


Comparative advantage (or rather, the fallacious notion that it is inevitable/static) is still weirdly treated as gospel by the Austrian school. E.g. https://mises.org/library/ricardian-law-comparative-advantag...

Austrians are a crotchety bunch and a bit stuck in their ways. They never really tried to explain the rise of China and are still somewhat in denial about it.


The rise of China. Well. Taking into account that they adopted a somewhat economy market in many areas and that when there was more pure communism the economy was worse...

I would say they did not get here faster because of too much intervention honestly...

Nothing is pure capitalism or socialism. As you open the economy the cash flows more. That is what happened...

BTW, I do not consider China a success since they are like one century late from America and on top of that there is no regike that has killed more than the Chinese. Do you really think it is a success? Well... I would say despite of the people managing it, not because of them...

That said, I am not meaning austrians got everything right, just that I find them relatively convincing in many areas. Of course, they are subjrct to criticism, as everyone else.


The problem with ascribing China's success to being a market economy is India.

India shared similar population size, geography and wealth to China initially.

India had something closer to a market economy that was less interventionist/communist and for far longer and yet it has grown at a far slower pace.

Austrian predictions from the 90s presumed that China keeping tight control of the economy/currency/inward flows of investment and high level of state ownership was shooting itself in the foot.


I am not an economist to analyze this in-depth. And very likely you have your point.

However, for me the discussion is also ethical: I do not find a reason to have an ellite forcing on all the others through coaction what to do. Whether it maximizes economy or not. In other words: peopke are ends not means for others. That is the fundamental point in my view.

I would not take a regime with over 60 million deaths (big leap forward, Chinese cultural revolution, etc.) as an example of something ethical by any measure.


That's the damn point. Backwards governments can still succeed precisely because of the opposite, they can become (reasonably) good governments.


Which standards judge the backwardness, and what a good one?


China is a reasonable government that has over a million Uyghurs muslims in concentration camps.

The history of a reasonably good country that had successes as the Great Leap Forward, the Chinese Cultural revolution and now the Uyghurs, among many others.

You know, Chinese government is not reasonably good at any level by any moral assessment.

Capitalism has been superior in every aspect: as a proof, migration flows went from socialists to capitalists countries, being East/West Germany just one example.


> Tesla just packages Panasonic. GM just packages LG. They're not making batteries from raw materials.

That's not really true. Tesla and Panasonic jointly developed their cells. And the latest 4680 cells are fully designed by Tesla. Tesla also seems to be going independent for production at future factories.


> “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.”

I noticed this around the same time. It was 2010 and I was still in grad school, my lab mate and I used to poke fun of what we called the "Twitter researchers", who were working on what we perceived to be very boring projects (i.e. figure out the optimal ranking of N articles on a page to maximize some objective function). They also didn't like the research, but Twitter/Facebook/Microsoft/Google was paying for their tuition and stipend, so they didn't have much of a choice. When the big grant funding agencies are funding projects at a rate of around 20% - 25%, if you're a researcher hurting for federal dollars then that big tech money looks really good. I can only imagine this dynamic being replicated at universities across the country, how many young minds are wasted on this pursuit. And for what? So Google can sell more ads and become even richer? So Facebook can suck all of your attention just to make you depressed and suffer from body dysmorphia and an eating disorder?

I'm in the robotics field, and in our lab we used to draw a clear line that whatever we worked on would not have a direct military application, because we couldn't stand the thought of our work being used to kill people. Obviously the line is blurry (will my localization algorithm be used on a predator drone?), but there was always at least an eye toward ethical considerations in our research group. We always asked ourselves "How could this be used to hurt people?" It was in our culture, because our work had such obvious evil implications. Just watch pretty much any sci-fi movie ever, there was no shortage of ideas about how robotics research could go wrong.

But there's not a lot of sci-fi source material on how page-ranking algorithms can destroy society. These "Twitter researchers" as I called them never really had a notion that their work could be used for evil purposes, and who could blame them? In 2010 it seemed so benign. But looking around at the state of social media, maybe there should have been more conversations early on about the ethical implications of the research they were doing.


Agreed completely. Crazy to see this endless iteration on ad optimization and maximizing screen time has made disinformation, polarization, and conspiracy so common. Really destroying society from the bottom up IMO


> Crazy to see this endless iteration on ad optimization and maximizing screen time has made disinformation, polarization, and conspiracy so common. Really destroying society from the bottom up IMO

I'd argue the technology that did most of the heavy-lifting for disinformation, polarization, and conspiracy was AM radio, followed by cable TV. Smartphones, the web and social media were not the cause, but a natural progression of, and an amplifier of a pre-existing trend.

There are no technological solutions to the human condition, but technology amplifies aspects of it.


Instead of whining it would be a good idea to make people aware of the stuff we care about and help them take better decisions.

I have available weapons and drugs. zmI do not use either. I am convinced it is a bad decision except in probably very extreme conditions.

We cannot be blaming others just for doing ads. No demand, no offer. Got it? Easy as that.

We all like a world we do not have, we always find problems. But that is not a reason to say what is bad or good. The market will decide :D

I do not get stressed at all with all these Betting houses (now fashionable in Spain) or drugs or anything: just need to be responsible.


> We cannot be blaming others just for doing ads.

We regulate gambling and tobacco for the same reason we should regulate this. Google and Facebook ads have been scientifically tuned to hijack your brain chemistry for money. This isn't blame, or whining, it's simply acknowledging that these companies weaponized visual stimulus and data collection to sell ads on the internet. No amount of personal responsibility is going to solve a human society level problem.


I would like to see those reports. Are there any links? Not because I do not believe you, but because I am genuinely interested.

That said... well, I still think that at the end, nothing can beat having good information. Close Facebook, Google and put ads blockers.


What reports? A simple search will provide you with all the info you need on any of those topics.

And again, the whole thrust of my argument is that telling people to close Facebook is the same as telling them to stop smoking. It's naïve and ignores the reality of brain chemistry and addiction.


ah. So if I have all the information known for years from tobacco and I smoke and get into trouble, then I blame it on not having regulations?

Seriously? I was not taught like that at my home sorry. It is not the way it should.

You do something and, unless fooled or cheated, you are responsible for the consequences.


That's a really weird (borderline bad-faith) way of reading what I wrote, and it kind of explains your viewpoint.

> So if I have all the information known for years from tobacco and I smoke and get into trouble, then I blame it on not having regulations?

If you, as a fully-informed, grown adult in 2021 make that choice, then no. In the real world, that's not how people get addicted to cigarettes. People generally get addicted when they are young, uninformed, and highly susceptible to the marketing aimed at them. Plenty of people living today remember doctors recommending cigarettes for pregnant women - it's silly to assume every person is going to know the risks of these things from the very minute they decide to engage in them. Just look at how quickly Juul took over high schools - you are really going to tell me that a 15 year old trying to fit in is making a full informed, long term decision about tobacco usage? Absurd. Or the Oxycotin epidemic - all those people were addicted to drugs because of Sackler's marketing and the corruption of their doctors - how does one take personal responsibility for following medical advice?

Social media is now where tobacco was in the 70s and 80s before all the information was released in a narrative form that the public could easily digest. All that knowledge about the risks comes from the process of bringing that information into the public light.


Do you see 10 year old people smoking? Usually no. Teenagers? Probably they start there. Then, when do you think they should get that information in education? It is a real question.

That would prevent way more I guess. Of course, in our law, trying to sell cigarrettes actively to underage is illegal and I find that regulation reasonable.

But trying to protect adults from their own irresponsibility is a totally different story. It is their problem.

I get your point and in some way you are right also. I am just advocating for little regulation, but, of course, I am talking also about adults here.

I did not mean underage people. If you target underage for gambling or any addiction in bad faith, that is an attempt to cause damage and punishable.

But that does not mean that the most important thing is to have the information there and decide. Again, I am talking about adults.

By the way, talking about regulations. In my country you can open a university only if it has 8 or 9 degrees offered. If I want to open the best CS degree in the country as a University, I cannot. Do you find it reasonable? Do you think this goes in the interest of consumers? Do you think the state abuses its position by doing so? (Clearly yes). That is why I do not want regulations. You give them the power and they end up regulating even your position to go to the toilet. That said, I find under/overage, even if it is arbitrary (there are teenagers that are responsible people), reasonable, to protect them from unscrupulous people.

But I do not need my life to be ruled in the name of so many things, that is bad and it goes against us if you think of it carefully.

But you will always have responsible teenagers and irresponsible adults. We should not help people that do not want to be helped.

The same way we should help people that have trouble. We should, I think, honestly, but... that we should does not mean we should have that responsibility unconditionally and coactively.

You know what? It can look selfish to you but you are going to have way more autonomous, responsible and self-sufficient people if you apply this rule. A good outcome IMHO.


Unfortunately every thing has a bad use. Even the knife I am using to cut meat. That is not a reason to forbid it...

Forbiding is not the way to go. The way to go is to make people aware of the dangers and implications of their choices and convince them why we should avoid damaging others. Empathy is key here: just do not do to others what you do not want for you seems to me like the most basic of the rules.

Imposing a view of what others can or cannot do is absurd, harmful and also we can miss all the good things we can do with things that can also be misused.


No one is talking about banning anything, at least I'm not. Yes, everything can be misused, which is why it's important to at least ask the questions about how and in what ways. When some technology can be so badly misused, more so than a knife, it's important to have a culture around the proper handling of that power. Take nuclear energy for example. Yes it can be used for great evil, but we should not ban research into nuclear energy because it can be used for good as well. Nonetheless, there are still grave ethical considerations that go into producing this research. The greater the ethical considerations, the more thoroughly we need to consider all the implications of this technology, good and bad, rather than "move fast and break things".

Social media is one of those things. It doesn't present itself with the same raw force of nuclear power, but it has proven to have an undeniable power over the human mind. Despite the evidence we have now, though, it still seems that ethical considerations of social media are not being taken seriously enough by the people with the most power of social media platforms, and this worries me.


> there are still grave ethical considerations that go into producing this research

I would like to know which ones. If you do something to not harm, why do you have to be blamed because other misuse it? I do not think this is the right line of thinking if you mean that we should not do it just on the basis that "someone evil could misuse it". Of course, as an individual you can refuse to research if you think it can yield those results, but never blame it on a researcher that someone else misused their invention.

Social media is a fight because there is an obsession for censorship from some interested parties, in part. That is why.

I do not believe in those super powers as much in the sense that you can always stay away from it as much as you wish. It is a matter of self-discipline also, even if it is indeed a "powerful weapon".


What I have in mind is not refusing to do the research at a society level. That’s what I personally chose to do, but others may see it differently. The research will get done if it’s valuable.

What I’m talking about is twofold: a cultural recognition and appreciation of the ethical issues, and secondly appropriate safeguards to prevent maluse of said technology, where appropriate.

Take nuclear weapons for instance. I personally wouldn’t have involved myself in building them, but others did and here we are. We as a society don’t just let that technology run amok though. There are laws about their proliferation, organizations dedicated to keeping their use in check, and a society-level understanding that their use have such terrible consequences that they can never, ever be taken lightly.

With this environment, so far we’ve averted armed nuclear conflict. But it’s important to realize this is a purposeful thing. People dedicate their lives to this pursuit. It takes effort to build this shared understanding of their dangers.

I agree with you that an individual researcher is not to blame if they are doing careful, considered research. If the attitude is “the implications of my research are not my concern. That is for someone else to worry about” then I do have a problem with that. And yes, that is a real opinion I have heard expressed by a researcher in deep fakes, and it deeply dismayed me.


I would say that if you do a research exclusively for harming that is bad. Of you do it and it can be used in several ways, some bad, but you do not do it with that ontention and someone comes grab ur work and misuses it... that is not your bad, I think.

I would also refuse to be involved in programs to harm people honestly.


Ethically , are robotics a good idea ? Who knows. People do need good jobs, or even just jobs, and it doesn't seem more robots are going to help with that.


Depends on the robot really. Robots that help the elderly manage their dementia and loneliness? Great. Robots that help wheelchair bound people navigate? Great. Robots that help clean up nuclear disasters? Great.

What would not be great is if we just allow a handful of people to own all the robots in the world (and their output), just as we allow a handful of people to own all the capital producing equipment in the world. Then we're just where we are today, but even worse off. This is actually my nightmare, and partly why I don't do much robotics anymore these days...

Remember, people only need jobs because we as a society have decided if they don't have jobs, we will allow them to go hungry and suffer exposure of the elements due to homelessness. This is perhaps necessary when there's so much work to be done you want people working instead of idle and comfortable. But if the robots can do all the work, then why do people need jobs? Only if the benefits of that work accrue to a handful of people rather that society as a whole.


If robots are expensive at first, some people will have them first. This is a basic law of economy (scarcity).

It is interesting about peoplr must havr jobs or not. If you do not provide value and someone has to pay those costs with their work, is that fair? Even if we have robots: who maintains them, manufacture, program the AI?

You want tha some people work doing that and the rest enjoy a life as good as the ones who work hard and people who benefit from them just be privileged?

Something does not match well here.

You do your contribution and find a place in society. If your contribution is not great, I do not find a reason to be in exactlythe same position as others. Yes you have the right to live and so on. But do not expect a Ferrari at your door and a luxury life.


This is the argument for UBI. Robots will displace human workers. They already are. We can either capitalize on all of this human capital by offering basic income, or we can let income + wealth inequality slowly destroy society by rendering the bottom X% (where X is modeled by an exponentially increasing function) destitute.


wealth inequality is natural by definition, whether you like it or not.

And imposing others share the fruit of their value, unethical.


What percentage of their value do you think the average worker currently makes (Pick any specific occupation you'd like, if this is too vague)? If its less than 100%, how would you propose they petition to increase it to be 100%, as ethics would dictate?


You are telling me your employer must give you 100% of the profit? What about:

- building the business

- maintaining it healthy (this can incur additional expenses at unpredictable times)

- the jobs it generates (that never mind, they are bad in your mind I suppose or they just do it to earn money! They do... but you also pick the job in the first place to make money!)

- the expenses they have to pay in case of firing someone if it does not produce.

- social security they pay and contribute for everyone (at least in the spanish system)

Do you find ethical to just ask for more money go and leave them bankrupt, without any regard of how they coud survive, when you just went pick up a position when much of that business was built? Really? I find it unethical also.

Get your best deal, with your employer, they will give you what they think they can or want, but by mutual contract. If you do not like it, go move to the next chance, it is not anyone's fault. Nothing bad into it. It is how you do in life: you choose what you drink (and what you do not!), who you join, where you go... nothing different here.


The employer is absolutely a force multiplier, which is why I say value and not revenue generated.


Ok, then I see we agree on something: you work for your employer because it is your best alternative.

Otherwise, the logical consequence would be that we would not. I believe in win-win deals. The voluntary ones are by definition like that. You can take a bad decision, yes. But still, you get my point.


And what if it's greater than 100%? Should it then be decreased; what do your ethics say in that case?


That feels like it'd be a small minority of cases, because the person who determines how much value an employee provides usually is incentivized to minimize how much to pay that employee.


If you pay too little to an employee he will just go somewhere else. The magic of the market! That is why I am all for free market (real, free market) with minimum regulations. Because employers end up fighting for the workforce and it benefits the workers.

This depends on more variables, but the goal is to avoid barriers and regulations so that the wealth increases, since these break monopolies or de-facto monopolies (via absurd regulations).


The market is no magic, it commoditizes most employees.


depends on the skill required for the job. It is a natural consequence of how things work. If you do not like it, you can always try to be the one who hires and fires.

But yes, that has its own set of risks. Risks that are disregarded all the time making employers the bad part of the story and employees the good ones. This is not at all like that you can find good and bad on both sides...

An employer is not bad for trying to pay you less. The reverse argument should be true also: the employee is bad because they want more (than they deserve or produce).

No part is bad, it is natural to want to maximize our outcome. It is how things are. I see many people having a problem with this thing. But they only have the problem when it is the other who tries to do that. When they do it for their own benefit then everything is fair and alright.


> wealth inequality is natural by definition, whether you like it or not.

Considering the huge variety in "natural by definition wealth inequality" across countries it feels like we have enough freedom to choose how much inequality we want. What we definitively know we is that we can make wealth inequality much worse than it has to be. Just take a look at South Africa. 30% unemployment by nature. Thank god we chose a different "natural by definition wealth inequality". What your argument also fails to consider is that wealth inequality is getting worse over time implying there must have been a natural shift rather than a political one.

>And imposing others share the fruit of their value, unethical.

If you refuse to share work, then you must share income by definition.

Consider a society that only needs a 4 hour work week. One person decides to work 8 hours because they like their job and talk about how amazing work is and people should work more. One person no longer has to work. The hard working person will then look at the unemployed person and then tell everyone how lazy he is.

Before you invoke the lump of labor fallacy, you have to realize that the argument relies on Say's law which assumes that the hard working person worked because he wasn't satisfied with the products and services one can obtain in a 4 hour work week, essentially that all the money that person earns will be spent and therefore generate demand for the person that is unemployed. The truth is far more pessimistic.

The hard working person will insist that he should keep his money even though he has no intention to spend it, essentially denying that say's law even exists (empirical evidence shows it's being broken all the time). This insistence is what keeps the lazy person unemployed. That unemployed person still needs 1 hour of services and goods (housing and food). The bandaid answer is to tax the hard working person and transfer the bare minimum to the unemployed person and it works because making everyone spend all their money is never going to happen, there are too many morally inclined people on this planet that insist on a oddly specific and harmful form of saving.


It is natural that if it takes you half a life make incomings you are careful how you spend them... I do not find the problem there.

There are plenty of people that take bad decisions or take jobs with lower income or no jobs at all and they try to blame the rest. I do not feel responsible for the bad decisions of others. I am not morally forced to help them.

You can be sure that if they are people I know and I know their stories I could help. But that is very, I mean, VERY different from being morally responsible for the failures of others.

Saving harmful? First, it is good in that it will lower the inflation lolol. But leaving that apart... so it is bad to not spend the money so we must force them? Seriously, I do not understand anything.

In order to make money u mist provide services or goods. If u have money is bc ur service is serving others, at least in a free market... so tell me why those people that took yhe trouble to serve others and take risks should be penalized. Do not tell me they do it for money not for serving others... that is not important. The important thing is that the side-effects is satisfying a demandand that u bought either bc it is better than the competition or cheaper.

In my view it should be much more penalized a person that does not want to work bc they say those jobs are all shit and expects the welfare to rescue them.

Sorry to be so harsh with the topic, because I know that there are people who are not like that. But the problem is not helping itself, it is systematizing it. At that point people abuse it.


> Consider a society that only needs a 4 hour work week. One person decides to work 8 hours because they like their job and talk about how amazing work is and people should work more. One person no longer has to work. The hard working person will then look at the unemployed person and then tell everyone how lazy he is.

This is difficult to say: you mean a person that works has exactly the same skills? In the case they have, you still can have a 4h/day person that is more skilled. That person will still have a job.

And yes, if a person works harder, it will get more from it. They cannot be blamed for working I think. In any case people should be blamed for not wanting to work and wanting to live from others. I do not find a problem with the reverse reasoning. Just my opinion, I understand your point, though.


what keeps the lazy person lazy is an incentive: if you do not work people who do it pay for it and governors give them your money by their vote. Full stop.

It is this. Nothing else.

And I mean the lazy. I understand there are other kind of people that are broke for other reasons.


Robots are a fantastic idea. It's the journalists telling society everyone will be out of work that is the source of society stress - that and the billionaires driving capitalism into the dirt while ignorantly driving the ignorant society they engineered for their benefit to a violent revolution that will destroy them and their children.

golemiprague [banned] 35 days ago [flagged] [–]

If you use the military to protect yourself why don't you want to sell them products to help them do their job? Are those people below you just because they do a job you don't want to do? Or do you think you don't need the military?


You make a valid point. I understand why ModernMech doesn't want their work to be used to inflict harm on others, but at the same time, they're enjoying the freedom afforded by the military that protects them.

The sad truth of our reality is that as long as there are people willing to inflict violence against us, we need people who can plausibly threaten to inflict violence in return. It is hypocritical to condemn your country's military in general, while depending on said military for protection. [1]

[1] It isn't necessarily hypocritical to condemn certain militar actions or policies, though.


With planes the 737 upgrading is a feature, not a bug.

It is extremely costly to develop a new airplane and to train staff on it, at the price point and fuel efficiency for airlines to sell ever cheaper tickets. Airbus is doing the exact same with its neo models. Bombardier and Embraer were driven into the arms of the duopoly because they cannot afford to develop new aircraft. Russia, China, and Japan have all tried their hand at pumping billions of dollars into commercial aircraft manufacturing and haven’t been successful.


Yes, but come on. 1967. We surely have made a lot of progress since then. 50 years of holding back is a bit much. Are we going to still hear "but retraining is soooooo difficult" in 2067?


retraining isn't difficult but retraining is expensive.

Southwest, Ryanair and their competition are literally nickel and diming everything to offer ever cheaper seats to fliers. Until that changes, airlines will balk at new aircraft.

It's why 737Max was developed instead of NMA; Airbus came out with the 320 and 330neo series, which did not require retraining.


maybe we reached peak aircraft? After all, we don't complain that we're using a knife design from a few hundred years ago.


While this is plausible for aircraft in general, in the case of the 737 Max it clearly isn't true. Boeing would have been better off not killing hundreds of passengers and losing $20B.


The 787 cost $32B to develop. So the jury might actually be out on whether a new clean-sheet aircraft would've been more disastrous, given that its rollout was not very smooth either.

I am just saying that the economic incentives are not aligned so that a decision other than the 737MAX would've been the prudent, competitive move.


You seem to be describing the low hanging fruit case mentioned in the article.


Tesla has their own battery factories too, one is already live at Kato in California: https://spectrum.ieee.org/tesla-4680-battery

Tesla is also working with Panasonic and CATL to implement their own factories for 4680 cells and scale production.


even within software, it feels.like their is so much room & space for new ideas, innovation & novelty. but the best minds are all paid to captivate attention for big systems, or manage various well established rent-seeking comluter offerings.

it slays me that the engineers, the techies, have never had our day. we havent gotten good. we havent started new things, havent been augmenting & enhancing the world: we've been well paid to do the opposite, to capitvate & control & take technology, to dollop it out in little well managed productized offerings. the whole culture of innovation has dried up. i think of tech as still having so much prowess, skills, potential, and power, but wow, it is so squandered. it is so hard to break off on our own, to step away from the giant faucets of money & to start pursuing the radical, the good, the possible, the exciting. the potential.

and what possibilities do arise, they seem so very quickly picked up, bought out, folded in to the mass corporatized system. comoetition & competency & novelty keep dying before they really get a chamce to bloom. it's the Thiel'ian advice to Facebook to sell, to take the money, get rich now, rather than keep working & trudging on, hoping.


Don't have semiconductors? News to me. I bet if you studied CS and you know any electronics engineers (who should be not too far from your department) they'll know wafer fabs in the US. I haven't been in uni for ages and I know like three fabs in Colorado where I don't even live.

In fact, there are like famous semiconductor companies that make their stuff in the US. Makes me suspect the rest of the list as similar doomsaying.


> - Telecom. The US no longer has anybody who makes telephone central office equipment. The US can no longer make smartphones.

Adtran (Huntsville, AL & just acquired ADVA), Infinera (fab in Sunnyvale, CA). Both make optical transport systems. Adtran also makes access network systems (POTS, DSL, PON, Ethernet). Adtran has (or had) some manufacturing capability in Alabama.


Imagine reducing Amazon to “exploits workers”.

For starters, what about all the startups powered by AWS?

Amazon lets my programmer cousins in India buy the latest technical books in days, while my generation used to torrent and print 15-20 years ago.


> - Manufacturing engineering. Who gets a degree in manufacturing engineering today? Who knows how to lay out a production line?

Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, all have engineering centres in China.

When Zuckerberg was flying to suck up to Xi Jinping, he didn't fly there in hopes of getting Facebook.com available in China. What he got from Xi is a permission to setup an office to sell ads, and hire cheap Chinese engineers.

Apple famously tried to conceal even the fact of the existence of their RnD office in China, claiming that they don't have "design centres" outside of USA. Up to some point, people working in Apple RnD centre in China had a contract clause prohibiting them from posting the fact of their employment there on their LinkedIns.

Google... almost the same story as the two above, it almost felt as if they felt "beshamed" to admit that they were opening an RnD shop in Shenzhen. "A small auxiliary office" that takes a few floors in Shenzhen's biggest building.

Amazon started their Echo, and Fire RnD in USA, and then sent it off to China after a few releases, and repeated flops of Fire.


So when does the US collapse for not knowing how to do anything anymore?


Around 2030-2035, when China gets annoyed at the US over something and just stops shipping tools and componenets. Consumer goods shipments continue, but nothing that would allow the US to make anything.


10-15 years to re-industrialize or shift to other countries.

Not going to happen.

Why doesn't the US try to onshore critical manufacturing? This is braindead stupid behavior. Existentially risky.


We don't onshore because we are higher up the economic food chain, and can do more specialized work. The people high up that chain in the US are the same class who conceive of minimum standards for living quality for the whole country, effected by things like minimum wages, welfare, and all manner of government safety regulations.

All of those things make a very small overlap between people who need to work such low value manufacturing jobs and those who have the skills and personality to do them. In essence, we've settled in to enormous wealth and safety by cooperating with other countries, and you are proposing that we should cooperate less and be poorer.

I'm not convinced that you're wrong, but that's what you're propounding.

Update: In other words, you're asking the national level version of "why don't we move back to the land and become self sufficient and steer clear of industrial ag and make our own food?" Same answer: we like our wealth, comfort, and safety where we are, thank you very much.


In part because we've spent the last two generations scrubbing ourselves of the intellectual capacity to have a coherent dialogue about industrial policy.

Also in part because much of our leadership isn't composed of Americans working for American national interests, it's composed of humanists who perceive themselves to be global citizens and believe in a worldwide frictionless marketplace operating under a universal liberalism that incidentally control American resources.


Leaders who act against the interests of their constituents get voted out. I can’t imagine a majority of US politicians holding the thought that American jobs must be sacrificed for the good of the world. The less convoluted reason is that Corporations make a ton more profit by manufacturing overseas and have directed their lobbying dollars into either making politicians look the other way or prohibit them from taking meaningful efforts to save domestic manufacturing.


When there's the "America is the cause of all evil" guilt (slight exaggeration), you can. A belief that what you do is moral can get people to align against their own interests.


Just because it’s a possibility doesn’t mean that it’s actually happening. If it was this would certainly be covered by the media, Politicians would have a policy platform to address this etc. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence to indicate that’s what’s happening.


Labor costs are too high. Look, once you spend decades paying pennies on the dollar for labor, it’s very hard to go back. It’s the same when people discovered free music via p2p and YouTube. How do you dial that back?

Nothing short of global war will fix this. Enter war with China where all trade is halted, and I promise you we’ll figure out how to on-shore manufacturing in a jiffy. A terrible price, but the only solution.


> Nothing short of global war will fix this. Enter war with China where all trade is halted, and I promise you we’ll figure out how to on-shore manufacturing in a jiffy. A terrible price, but the only solution.

Yes, let’s start a global military conflict between nuclear powers in the hope that an economic activity that’s no longer feasible maybe becomes feasible.


Micron makes RAM in the US


Mushkin used to, but I suspect it stopped quite awhile back now browsing their website. It's apparently now owned by another company as of 2013. I used to exclusively purchase Mushkin memory for systems prior to transitioning to laptops where I rarely swapped memory out. Good to know there's at least something left at Micron.


I'd disagree with aircraft. The modern 737, the NG or the MAX, is a world apart from the plane that first flew in '67. Almost everything except for the seating configuration has been upgraded or changed on the plane. The type-rating laws also provides Boeing with an incentive to keep the plane just similar enough that a crew can transfer from one class to another without too much training. It's also not Boeing's fault that there's a huge international market for a plane of that size and range.

Boeing does have its faults though.


Trimmers auctioned by wires and pulleys, requiring more brute force than a fit male pilot, that is not modern by any standards, it is backward compatibility for profits.


> The US no longer has anybody who makes telephone central office equipment.

You don't need that kind of equipment any more since the advent of VoIP and software-defined radio/networking.

> The US can no longer make smartphones.

Apple is US-based as is the world's leading provider of mobile communication chips Qualcomm (and for what it's worth I seriously believe Apple is going to go vertical on that part too!), and with Google you have a second US-based vendor of operating systems.

Or are you referring to the capability of produce all components of a smartphone on US soils?


I’d say open source software and business models around it. Being a developer today and starting a company is so much more dynamic and accessible today than 20 years ago.

I’d also say the creative works has seen a massive revolution from technology. Anyone can make professional video/audio/graphics today and distribute it.


Long before we were born, our parents and their parents sold us out. This is just the lingering remnants, the propaganda for what was never accomplished, America only produces the carrot as a lure for a nation of endless corruptions.


This has been a deliberate destruction of a once great nation since the moment Kissinger sold the US out to Chairman Mao. The world is now China's bitch but just have woken up to it.


> This has been a deliberate destruction of a once great nation since the moment Kissinger sold the US out to Chairman Mao.

Nope. What has been going on over the last decades is simply the consequence of unregulated capitalism - by design, capitalism seeks to eliminate or reduce cost to increase profit, and China (as well as India and Vietnam) were/are the most cost-efficient locations to produce goods and provide services.


The need for people to have a villain in their stories always disturbed me. I guess it gives people a semblance of control if they “know” something, rather than acknowledging the innumerable causal factors intertwining with each other to create an unknowable future and unattributable past.

I am sure Kissinger played a part in many things, but he seems small pickles compared to labor costs (and hence quality of life) in the US being multiple standard deviations above the mean compared to the rest of the world.

How long did people expect that arbitrage opportunity to not be taken advantage of?


The only reason that this could be taken advantage of in any real sense, was the removal of capital controls, which was very much a political choice.

Also, adding China to the WTO was probably a bad thing for the lower half of the income distribution in the developed world.


Unless your nation is self sufficient, there are always costs to capital controls. The choice is not let everyone live happily ever after and restrict trade. Tradeoffs are made to remain competitive on a global playing field.

If China and other countries are bringing 1B+ people online to make products at a fifth of your wages, then it is only a matter of time before the buyers outside the country start buying from them.


Sure, but that's not what happened.

What happened was that American (and European) corporations started producing their goods in other countries, because it was cheaper for them.

Like, I would have no issue with this in general if China developed their own companies, rather than already profitable US companies slashing their labour costs massively by using cheaper labour. It's super problematic, and while one can argue it's been good for the world, it's been pretty crap for all the manual/manufacturing workers in the US, Uk and other developed countries.

Full disclosure: I'm from Ireland, and this sort of outsourcing was what employed my Dad (and now me).


When it comes to globalization the problem lies in imbalanced trade. If there is no imbalanced trade whatsoever, then globalization cannot cause problems.

Trade surplus nations work more than they should. Trade deficit nations work less than they should. That has strong implication on where "all the jobs" end up.

My favorite example is Greece. "All the jobs" have moved to Germany.


It is true. Capitalism by design seeks that. And you too. And each of us. We seek to live in better conditions.

The side-effect of it is that technology that the day back was not reachable for most is now available for everyone: phones, cheap clothes, cheaper food, hot water, electricity, railways...

BTW I have lived in VN almost 10 years. It is true that VN has factories and workers are much cheaper.

Jobs move there. People buy cheaper products (automatically people that did not have access to something have access to it by the cost reduction).

Workers there get 4 times more of what they would get on their own and an insurance they would not have and do not need to work god knows where, probably selling in the street drinks or similar stuff.

I think that with all its imperfections, capitalism is the better alternative.

Btw we have never had unregulated capitalism... if we had, we would have worse salaries probably but more people could earn a life by themselves. Our friends the politicians are always there to tell you that you have to pay and shut up. For the good of all... lol. I do not buy that.


I'd contend NAFTA was the kiss of death for the US. It's what turned on the country to cheap produce out-of-season, and it got us addicted to cheap electronics. People forget that shit like tape decks and the like used to be prohibitively expensive in the 70s/80s. Nowadays we have people working at McDonalds with $1000 phones in their pockets. I don't think these devices were meant to be had by all. You should have to work for them. Commoditizing electronics looks great from a human rights perspective, sure, but it's proved ruinous for the planet.


> McDonalds with $1000 phones in their pockets. I don't think these devices were meant to be had by all. You should have to work for them.

Aren’t they working for them?? At McDonald’s?? And honestly they’re probably working harder than me, a software engineer, who also has a 1000$ phone. But I also have healthcare, and never have to put up with mopping any flooring.


My point is that electronics should be prohibitively expensive. They have a lot of expensive parts in them. Today's budget iPhone should be something like $2000.


Actually there are less expensive parts. The parts are more expensive per unit mass but I bet an iPhone consumes about 1/10 of the raw materials as a early 70/80s entertainment boxes. It still just plastic, metal, glass, etc. The old electronics probably used worse chemicals in production as well. The lithium ion battery is probably the one outlier in that it's unique to mobile electronics but old portable electronics would use dozens of non-rechargeable batteries every year.


The lithium ion battery is probably the one outlier in that it's unique to mobile electronics but old portable electronics would use dozens of non-rechargeable batteries every year.

Sure, but devices with replaceable batteries are theoretically easier to use longer. The average person buys a mobile phone every other year and discards their old ones. Practically every consumer electronic out there uses rechargeable batteries now which puts a limited lifespan on them.


That’s an opinion; not a point. A point would be some justification for why you think that.


I said it: they have lots of expensive parts in them. They rely on expensive rare earth metals that require lots of capital to extract, and leave wakes of destruction on the landscape. They require lots of plastics that remain inert for thousands of years. If one is spending thousands of dollars on these things, then they better last a long time. Instead we throw them out every other year and begin the cycle anew again.


> Who gets a degree in manufacturing engineering today?

https://www.engineering.txstate.edu/Programs/MFGE.html

https://mime.oregonstate.edu/manufacturing-engineering-under...

Or anywhere that offers both an IE and ME degree, you could likely build your own.


That's Where or How, not Who.


Typically, degree programs don't exist without students. ;)


Yes, and a lot of those come from abroad, especially in STEM fields, and China and India lead the list by a significant margin when looking at where they come from, and the largest share by field go to engineering:

https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF11347 (PDF, 2019, so pre-Corona)

Sure, that still leaves plenty of native US students.


You will be surprised to see where you see American process, and manufacturing engineers today.

We had not a few 6 year degreed engineers from USA working in China full time.

Similarly in semiconductor manufacturing, quite a lot of US semiconductor process engineers were working in Taiwan, with its really low salaries, long before the TSMC made advances into the US market.


Would you rather watch cabletv or YouTube?

Would you rather fish out a map and look for directions or simply ask your car for navigation directions?

Would a cancer researcher use his library card and read literature or simply Google it?

Would you like to solve the protein folding problem?

All of these have been paid for by advertisements.


>Would you like to solve the protein folding problem?

Isn't Deep Mind a british company that Google bought it? Seems to me that most of the credit should go to UK society/education and just a bit to advertising industry.


What was the endgame for Deepmind, a company with no revenue stream? Geoff Hinton was also hired via acquisition.


I do not know, but let's give the credit to the educational system and country of origin too , I see a lot of people give credit to US or SV for shit that is bought by the giants.

Or I see arguments like "why there is any non US company for X ?" and the implication is that SV is the best where in fact SV has the money to buy anything that is promising and sometimes kill it but sometimes like in DeepMind case managed it good enough ot to waste it.


The point is, ads engineering is about 10% of Google's engineering workforce. The 90% remaining are producing products like organic search, YouTube, maps, shopping, picasa, gmail, deepmind, Google brain, voice recognition that actually works, self driving, automatic translations and captions etc. Google produces the maximum amount of published research by far.

How do you think these free products get paid for? By the 10% of engineering that does ads. The engineers optimizing ads are actually getting everything else in the company funded, including revenue less Deepmind, which would have folded years ago unless it was purchased by Big Tech.

Sure give credit to the government and educational system, but what is the point of denigrating ads engineers who are funding all of these while also optimizing ads results so that they are relevant to users. Would you rather have them work on cancer research? Do you really think cancer research is desperate for machine learning engineers to help them out?

Or would something like DeepMind, Google brain, automated medical report analysis, smart search of medical archives help them better?

Edit: as an aside, its presumptuous to say that the best minds of our generation are ML and systems engineers. ML engineers are good at math, programming and optimizing models. This doesn't automatically make them great biologists, oncologists, physicists or even mathematicians.


I could imagine an alternative universe where big companies would pay fair taxes to UK and then those taxes would have paid more research into protein folding.

I don't have an issue with a honest ad, what I have an issue is on team of people focusing on manipulating others to watch more videos, or stay more on a page, or write a giant comment so they can place more ads(or similar with shitty video games). Money from this evil operations are dirty. You could have won this money in a better way in a better world, we should strive for that better world and at least we can do is give the credit properly.


From Deep Mind wikipedia

"Major venture capital firms Horizons Ventures and Founders Fund invested in the company,[18] as well as entrepreneurs Scott Banister,[19] Peter Thiel,[20] and Elon Musk.[21] Jaan Tallinn was an early investor and an adviser to the company.[22] On 26 January 2014, Google announced the company had acquired DeepMind for $500 million,[23][24][25][26][27][28] and that it had agreed to take over DeepMind Technologies. The sale to Google took place after Facebook reportedly ended negotiations with DeepMind Technologies in 2013"


The following technologies have been researched between 1900 and 1990 almost entirely with *tax money*:

Semiconductors, computing theory, GPS, GSM, satellites, airplanes, X-ray, optical cables, analog radio transmission and spread spectrum, industrial chemistry, solar power, nuclear power, vaccines, genetic research, and much more.

Private companies putting together a search engine or uber or deliveroo are sitting on the shoulders of giants.


Outside of protein folding, each of these has been solved for 15+ years.

And protein folding isn't exactly solved.


YouTube was solved 15 years ago?


> February 14, 2005; 16 years ago

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YouTube

It had a lot of content back then.

Work since has gone into scaling and transcoding, but much more work has gone into ads, platform stickiness, music rights management, abuse detection, etc. Not really solving problems at the forefront of humanity.


Well, SpaceX is in the U.S.


Yeah, and who knows, soon might even manage to get to the moon, something we already did in 1969. But now better and cheaper (with tech made 50+ years after the last mission, it would a challenge not to do it better and cheaper - but is it half a century worth of better and cheaper? Considering the dreams then was a moon base and mission to mars coming in the next decades, something that never came to be).


The space race was possibly the pinnacle of the principle that government spending can accelerate technological progress in particular fields by raining money on those fields. The progress puts it way ahead of what could be expected and occurs to the detriment of sectors from which the money was taken.

We now have a good understanding of just how far ahead we pushed ourselves beyond what market forces were going to pursue: 50-60 years, which is pretty cool.


> The space race was possibly the pinnacle of the principle that government spending can accelerate technological progress in particular fields by raining money on those fields.

Actually, that might be electronics and computers. The basis for Silicon Valley was created during WWII - by unrestrained debt-based government spending.

https://youtu.be/ZTC_RxWN_xo -- "Secret History of Silicon Valley"

Of course, maybe trying to rank the developments by industry or sector makes no sense, sooo much was influenced by what happened in that period. Agriculture too, if what I read and remember correctly a lot of WWII chemical industry was reused for things like fertilizer, but I don't have a good (i.e. direct and good quality scientific study instead of some blog post or pop book) source for that.

I dislike this separation of "government" vs. "business". I remember an MIT biology course (genetics) where the professor explained Gregor Mendel (the guy with the beans) a bit more - his circumstances. That man wasn't some random person who purely by chance happened to be interested in biology and inheritance. Turns out he was part of a far wider effort of church, state and industry to produce economic progress. Historically, even looking at how England became a world power, there never was such a separation. Government always acted as an extension of economic interests in combination with the merchants, later with the capitalists.


> - Semiconductors. Does anyone in the US still make commodity RAM?

Mikron Technology Inc


The truth is that we're always in late stage capitalism, except for when we can creatively destroy something well enough to keep our minds off of that reality.


> more unicorns are becoming public. but what's not spoken about a lot is how most of these companies are running on fumes. read any tech company s-1 that's posted on hn these days, high chances the company is cash flow negative. which means if investors withdraw funds the company goes belly up in a day, leaving the regular employees i.e holoi polloi holding the bag.


FYI its "hoi polloi":

- Hos is the Greek definitive article (i.e. "the")

- Pollos is a Greek word, most generally, meaning "many'

- They are used with the nominative plural ('oi' ending)

- In Greek, the article delclines with the noun so "hos" -> "hoi"


> if investors withdraw funds the company goes belly up in a day

Investors can't withdraw funds from companies by design. When you sell shares in a public company it's another investor buying it from you.

Runway is runway, it can be looked as a glass half empty ("running on fumes") or half full. If a company runs out of time/funding rounds it can cut costs. It's easier to make a profit when you have high revenue, brand recognition, fewer competitors. That's why growth companies run for years on losses.


pulling funds, as in the 'cash from financing activities' yeah that can be withdrawn. shares are different, in that investors can sell the shares at a loss.


let's not confuse profits with cash flow. yeah, it's okay to be running losses, if you're reinvesting the money like amazon did. however cash flows are different. will re-check if amazon was cash flow negative


This is often intentional for tax reasons, see palintir and Spotify.


You just noticed?

Snark aside, this trajectory has been clear as day since the 1990s (for anyone willing to broach this question) and brazenly undeniable since the early 2000s.


Judging by my limited knowledge of US industrial history, that title needs an "again" added at the end.

I vaguely remember Edison fighting AC solutions (as opposed to his DC solutions) by spreading FUD instead of attempting to compete on technical merits. So, no news here?


Are you over a hundred and forty years old? The 1880's-90's is when this took place. To vaguely remember, you'd need to be at least a teen during the era...


Vaguely remember READING about it. If you actually need that spelled out.


"... and Apple is reportedly building a search engine."

Often Ive wondered they dont build a social network.


Doesn't feel like that would be in Apple's DNA at all. A lot of their brand identity is a certain Disney-like pristine safeness, and they use it to sell lifestyle products that allow customers to associate with and embody that identity. A social network is all about self-expression and human mess.

Just compare customization/personalization options in Apple software and other software, historically. MySpace it ain't. Apple products are not the ones you import your personality into.

They've certainly dabbled in social features here and there, but none of them have been useful enough to be a hit with customers, I'd argue because what they're willing to do within the limits of their brand guidelines doesn't make for easy social success. Unclear if a working formula exists somewhere in that space on the spectrum.


They’ve tried a couple of social networks around iTunes but they failed.


They don't (want to) understand that social network means that users talk to each other.

The iTunes stuff was unidirectional from 'artists' (i.e. ad-agencies) to users.


> They don't (want to) understand that social network means that users talk to each other.

No, I think they perfectly understand that. The iPhone is their social network. You can use it to manage your contacts, call, send messages(both long and short), share photos and videos, and video chat. What more else do they need that they don't already have?


MobileMe included user-to-user communication (iChat), as well as a Gallery that could host publicly-accessible pictures. If you squint a bit, those were social network features. Unfortunately, MobileMe bombed pretty badly - and very publicly.


I think they do have one, it just doesn't look like a feed. It is "built in" across a number of apps on Apple devices like iMessage, Photo Streams, Memojis, Calendar, and Facetime. They're even adding Status to iMessage in iOS15.


They already have a social network. It just requires a hardware purchase to actually join it.


Thats more or less what Ive thought about. But then there was this bit about opening up FaceTime to people who dont own Apple hardware.


They didn't open up FaceTime to people who don't own Apple hardware. They extended the ability of owners to contact those outside. I cannot initiate a FaceTime session. I can only participate if invited. I am still an outsider looking in. It helps to keep those invested stay invested.


Thats more or less what Ive thought about. But then there was this bit about opening up FaceTime to people who dont own their hardware.


Because building a social network is hard. Not technologically, any half decent coding school grad can put out a basic Twitter clone in a week worth of coding... but you have to spend lots of money to get users (either via advertising or via developing features no one else has), and the larger you get the more you have to spend on moderation.

Apple markets itself as family friendly, which directly collides with the tendency of people to post copyright-protected content, abuse of all kinds, pornography and similarly disgusting content, and not to mention consumers of CSAM who will invade any new platform that crops up to avoid getting booted off in seconds.


They sure do have a social network! iMessage, FaceTime, etc. Even email is a social network. It doesn't need to look exactly like Facebook to be a social network.


The reason why I pondered this question is the "disagreement" between Zuckerberg and Cook. Apple could capture some of Facebooks market if Cook was so inclined.


Yes. It's impossible to do battle with an entrenched industry. Just don't. That's why every startup these days is trying to find a niche the entrenched industries missed.


Idk about America but The Economist is getting more boring each day.


The 90's was their integrity apex, and it's been downhill since.


America is becoming more isolationistic, in everything, but economy.

The manufacturing is unfortunately not only not returning to the US, despite efforts of 3 previous administration, but is leaving at the accelerated pace, faster than even at the "peak outsourcing."

Having no real economy, but banks, and McKinsey, while being in a such dependency on imports is a recipe for nothing good. US trade deficit has passed $70B, and we are on the route to see it pass 100 this decade because of enormous government borrowing to fight covid, and stimulate the economy.

Why it is so bad? Because, it tends to spiral out of control, when your only means to pay for basic living necessities is to spin the printing press, and kill the economy even more, precluding any chance at repayment.

People wee saying that US is facing the worst balance of payment crisis in eighties, when it just passed $10B, and the White House was in total panic. Now, fancy economists are now coming, and saying "nah, $70B is normal, we can always print more"


"enormous government borrowing to fight covid and stimulate the economy" is by no means the reason the trade deficit is what it is or what it will be. The trade deficit is the product of 40 years of policy that promotes outsourcing and does little to nothing to protect domestic manufacturing. The only thing that is protected is shareholder profit and tax schemes that protect it at the expense of the rest of society.


You are mistaking a cause, and effect here.

40 years of "misplaced policy," were a 40 years of actually very deliberate, and well placed policy called "monetary expansion."

Everything to facilitate the sale of US debt around the world, probably including a conscious effort to open door to foreign creditors at the expense of US industry was taken.

Chinese call this schema "You make all the work, and I make all money"


> foreign creditors at the expense of US industry was taken.

Inbound capital transfers aren't “at the expense of US industry”.


Loans, are not capital, by the definition.


Well we saw last election how even mentioning the idea of preferring american business makes you apparently a Nazi. For the past forty years, almost every single american president, regardless of party, has been more than happy to sell out the country's manufacturing base and the media applaud and reward them for it.


Could you provide a citation for your first claim?

Definitely agree with the second, and you can add “CEO” as well.


My citation for the first claim is the trump campaign. Trump made china's trade with the us a centerpoint of both his campaigns and was called a racist for it. We were told it's just a dog whistle for white supremacy with little evidence, and we saw this line of reasoning continue through the covid pandemic, when reasonable theories, like the lab leak theory, which painted china in a bad light also earned mr trump accusations of racism.

The media cannot stand it when china is criticized. They have a long history of this, like how they hid he one child policy from Americans for years, and then openly persecuted the grad student who uncovered it


> The media cannot stand it when china is criticized.

The same media that has been reporting on Chinese suppression of Hong Kong protests and Uighurs in Xinjiang for several years? That media?


Yup tbat media. The media with a vested interest in ensuring there is always sensational news, but absolutely no interest that its own coverage ever lead to better outcomes.

The media has a vested interest to not only portray china as evil, but to make sure china stays that way, and to thwart american presidents from doing anything to limit china's growth, so that the American media has a powerful short-term source of profits for its owners.

This is not rocket science. Notice how the Hong Kong and Uighur stories are just designed to provoke outrage. The moment anyone suggests a solution or a potential action the US can take, the media fall silent or starts attacking, depending on how likely it is for that action to work.


Not sure to what you are referring, but Biden’s “Buy American” executive order gives preference to American companies.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/biden-sign-buy-...


I'm talking about how for the past four years, import tariffs, which are the same.as bidens executive order were castigated simply for the crime of having been initiated by a republican


Slapping tariffs on steel and lumber was incredibly ill conceived. We should protect industries that are economically or militarily important. But needlessly raising the cost of unrefined materials made zero sense


Steel and lumber are not militarily important? That's news to me.


On-shore manufacturing, automation, and making more than just ideas to sell the rest of the world does seem like a good thing.

I wonder why we can't seem to invest in the future (in the USA).


As a man who worked in OEM electronics for 10 years, I can say, automation will not help USA a dime.

There are far richer Asian countries than China, business people with far more capital to buy fancy tooling. You think they never tried that? They did, and it didn't work largely, or the impact was minimal. Look at Malaysia, or Taiwan.

Hopes on robots, and automation as an economic "Wunderwaffe" is plainly silly, and are largely coming from people who haven't put in a single nail in their life. Don't listen to these men who say that.


100% agreed, as someone who’s automated manufacturing lines, the problem of automation is beyond just robotics. It’s automation with high reliability, yield, less downtime, high throughput, low costs and have to beat humans in the long tail of weird situations. The reason why your home printer can separate sheets of paper and only pick one sheet at a time is nothing short of a miracle backed by thousands of hours of engineering and years of failures. That said, some applications are very easy and we could automate effortlessly (Pick-and-place tools for example in PCB manufacturing).


I don't know about robotics and manufacturing. What i know is that I saved thousands of work hours for different companies by just a few lines of code in the few years I worked in this field.

I don't see how automation will save anyone's economy, but it surely will put a always growing dent in the economy


Electronics are a particularly complicated thing to manufacture, though.

I know an engineer who started a small business (in the USA) that makes specialized types of plastic-coated copper wiring. The process is 90% automated and runs around the clock. He keeps two employees on at all times, but they basically just change spools and then hang out and watch the machines.


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