Tag: silicon valley

Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat from Silicon Valley and vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, discusses the feasibility of re-creating the technology economy in other parts of the United States. Is there room for working with the Trump administration, or are his fellow Democrats preoccupied by Russia and impeachment talk?

Technology + Comedy = Machiavelli

 

In my other haunt, over at The Federalist, I’ve been writing about “Silicon Valley,” the laughingest comedy on TV. I’m talking about Mike Judge, the creator of “Silicon Valley,” and Peter Thiel, the mysterious prophet-billionaire. Well, I’ve got more things to say! I’m moving here from writing on spectacles in the direction of political philosophy–to put some suggestions to that secret teaching I have made into my title.

Everyone knows, the biggest new enterprises are in Silicon Valley. The names of America’s founder-CEOs, princes of our technological future, are household names. But who are these people? Almost nobody knows, although we all vaguely expect that, if there’s any future, that’s where it is going to be made. Views of the future abound at the movies, on TV, and in books, and they are almost always depressive, if not apocalyptic. How about the people by whom the future is supposed to come? Who will give us a good look at them? There’s hardly anything to mention on that subject, let alone something worth mentioning. There’s no Tom Wolfe novel about Silicon Valley.

The best we have, and it’s nothing to sneeze at, is Mike Judge’s comedy show. This is cultural criticism of progress in the service of progress. That’s almost all-American. He deserves our attention, because he’s onto serious stuff about science, mystery, and comedy. He deserves our praise, too, because he does his job well–his comedy makes the dwellers of Silicon Valley seem at home there. He shows their strengths and weaknesses clearly enough for human types to emerge. You get a sense of what these people believe and, partly, how come. This is not merely a man good at telling stories laughing at the vanities and unwisdom of dudes who are too busy with technology to notice human beings. It’s a sustained attempt to show the obstacles faced by imprudent minds. Well, why are they imprudent? Because they believe in progress. Well, what’s wrong with that? Well, let me explain!

America’s Worst Economic Problem Might Be Getting Better

 

The American Growth Machine is badly malfunctioning, at least as diagnosed by official government statistics. US productivity growth — the engine of long-term economic growth — has averaged just 0.5% since 2010 vs. 2.3% over the previous six decades. Productivity growth in 2016 fell to 0.2%, notes IHS Markit, the ninth weakest reading in the postwar era. (And that’s post World War II, not post-Iraq War.) Moreover, when stalled productivity growth meets slowing labor force growth, you get an economy capable only of uninspiring 1-2% growth at best. And growth that slow, especially when combined with greater income inequality, may feel like no growth at all to most Americans. The Great Stagnation.

All terrible news, unless of course the official numbers are wrong. Some economists think current statistical methods badly understate the value of new products, especially in the tech economy, and miss welfare gains from free goods like Facebook and Wikipedia. If they are right, overall economic growth and living standards are growing faster than we think. Then again, some economists think the official numbers are capturing a real downshift. The technopessimists argue today’s innovations aren’t as transformative as past ones. Combustion engine beats smartphone.

Silicon Valley, Economists Worried that Robots Will Cause Mass Unemployment

 

It’s my experience that technologists — at least of the entrepreneurial persuasion — are generally a bit more aggressive than economists with forecasts of rapid tech advancement as well as the potential disruption to labor markets. But maybe the economists are starting to come around to the Silicon Valley view. This from the Bank of England blog:

There is growing concern in the global tech community that developed economies are poorly prepared for the next industrial revolution. That might herald the displacement of millions of predominantly lesser-skilled jobs, the failure of many longstanding businesses which are slow to adapt, a large increase in income inequality in society, and growing industrial concentration associated with the rapid growth of a relatively small number of multi-national technology corporations.

Economists looking at previous industrial revolutions observe that none of these risks have transpired. However, this possibly under-estimates the very different nature of the technological advances currently in progress, in terms of their much broader industrial and occupational applications and their speed of diffusion. It would be a mistake, therefore, to dismiss the risks associated with these new technologies too lightly.

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Tomorrow, when the titans of tech meet with President-elect Trump in New York City, I hope they will talk about how to transform the US federal government to a new operating model, something I call “government-as-a-service.” In the past 15 years, the most disruptive business innovation out of Silicon Valley (and Seattle) has been the […]

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Richard Epstein describes how government interventions have driven the Golden State’s housing prices to extraordinary heights.

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Listening to James Pethokoukis’s podcast the other day, I had a glimmer of hope about the politics of Silicon Valley. After all, this is a innovative culture that is taking on taxi cartels and are rewriting the rules of the labor market. Well, this Wired interview with Al Gore shook me back into reality. Together, they perfectly capture the techy […]

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Why Does Silicon Valley Like Democrats So Much?

 

shutterstock_176341079Over at TechCrunch, Greg Ferenstein — after pointing out how little interest Silicon Valley has had in the 2016 GOP presidential candidates — offers his theory as to why American tech leans left:

I think the more likely explanation is that the nation’s new industrial titans are pro-government. Google, Facebook, and most Internet titans are fueled by government projects: the Internet began in a defense department lab, public universities educate a skilled workforce and environmental policies benefit high tech green industries. The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, is a fan of Obamacare, which helps his entrepreneurial drivers keep their health insurance as they transition between jobs.

In other words, the Democratic party is good for emerging industries and billionaires recognize it. Donald Trump is a candidate known to go after major figures in tech; a trend that may further the Democrats friendship with new industrial titans. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve argued that the modern emerging workforce of Silicon Valley, urbanized professionals, and “gig economy” laborers all represent an entirely new political demographic redefining the Democratic party to be more about education, research and entrepreneurship, and less about regulations and labor unions.

This Is the Attitude America Needs More of

 

twenty20_e53193ea-55f3-4b01-a34e-ed38b3f4f7fe_idea-e1457386612357Y Combinator’s The Macro blog has an interview with Jacob DeWitte, co-founder and CEO of nuclear technology startup Oklo, which is trying to develop “a new kind of nuclear reactor that’s small, portable, and waste- and carbon-negative.” Here is DeWitte on how he ended up in Silicon Valley:

Well to start, we were curious about what YC would be like, because they hadn’t done any energy projects yet. But it ended up being phenomenal. We didn’t really get to benefit from getting specific advice on technical stuff, like some of our peers did – we’re building a nuclear reactor, after all. But it was so helpful on the vision side, and on how to build a great business.

Also, the receptiveness to what we were doing was so different out in Silicon Valley than it was on the East Coast. On the East Coast, we’d often be met with skepticism, people asking, “Is that safe? How is that possible?” Out here, it was like, “How can I help?” The investor discussions were tremendously different. People were so interested in the potential, and the upside, and not getting stuck on the potential difficulties and the time scales. People interested in startups understand that there are always drawbacks, but they don’t have to be deal breaker.

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Our own James Lileks visited Silicon Valley last month and gave a talk before a substantial crowd at The Conservative Forum. And you can see the talk here. But just before, he sat down for an interview on Chris Pareja’s local cable access show The Right Side, and that was just made available on YouTube. Please enjoy! […]

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Where Are the Startups? Maybe the GOP 2016ers Should Start Talking About this Chart

 

Perhaps the next Republican debate will finally have a lengthy, serious debate on economic policy. Really hasn’t happened yet as far as I am concerned. Let’s see the Final Five — Trump, Kasich, Cruz, Bush, Rubio — compare and contrast tax plans, higher-ed reform, fixing Medicare and Social Security, and how immigration can be made to better serve economic growth and worker incomes. I would also love to ask them all about flattish productivity growth since the Great Recession. Amazingly — given that —  there has been little or no talk about this apparent problem, via a handy NBER summary:

The number of start-up firms in the United States has been declining in recent decades. Prior to 2000, the employment effects of this decline were partly offset by the presence of a small number of high-growth young companies. That pattern seems to have changed.skewiness_growth_02112016
In Where Has All the Skewness Gone? The Decline in High-Growth (Young) Firms in the U.S.Ryan A. DeckerJohn HaltiwangerRon S. Jarmin, and Javier Miranda show that the general decline in new firms has been accompanied, since around 2000, by a corresponding decline in the number of high-growth start-ups.

A Silicon Valley Investor’s Bold Essay in Praise of Income Inequality

 

Graham-cover3Venture capitalist Paul Graham has written a lengthy essay on the value of increasing income inequality — at least the kind that comes from founding startup firms that generate consumer-relevant value. Here is some of it:

Since the 1970s, economic inequality in the US has increased dramatically. And in particular, the rich have gotten a lot richer. Some worry this is a sign the country is broken. I’m interested in the topic because I am a manufacturer of economic inequality. I was one of the founders of a company called Y Combinator that helps people start startups. Almost by definition, if a startup succeeds, its founders become rich. And while getting rich is not the only goal of most startup founders, few would do it if one couldn’t. …

I’ve become an expert on how to increase economic inequality, and I’ve spent the past decade working hard to do it. Not just by helping the 2500 founders YC has funded. I’ve also written essays encouraging people to increase economic inequality and giving them detailed instructions showing how. …

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Something doesn’t smell right to me whenever tax-dodging outsourcing billionaires announce that they will give away chunks of their wealth to charity, much less when it gets as much press-coverage as this. (as a contrast, I love Frank Sinatra’s version of charity, mob favours notwithstanding). Mark Zuckerberg, like the rest of them, says he wants to end […]

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Liberal Mob Claims Another Scalp — Jon Gabriel

 

Brendan Eich, a successful developer and tech legend, was recently named the CEO for Mozilla Corporation. The for-profit venture is most closely associated with their open-source Firefox web browser.

But after his appointment, a dark secret emerged about Eich’s past. Was it embezzlement or child endangerment? Terrorism or even murder? Even worse. Six years ago, he donated $1,000 to California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in the state.