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Programming The Almighty Buck

Too Many Smart People Chasing Too Many Dumb Ideas? 376

Posted by timothy
from the your-ideas-might-be-dumb-but-mine-are-great dept.
theodp writes "In The Unexotic Underclass, C.Z. Nnaemeka argues that too many smart people are chasing too many dumb ideas. 'What is shameful,' writes Nnaemeka, 'is that in a country with so many problems, with such a heaving underclass, we find the so-called 'best and brightest,' the 20-and 30-somethings who emerge from the top American graduate and undergraduate programs, abandoning their former hangout, Wall Street, to pile into anti-problem entrepreneurship.' Nnaemeka adds, 'It just looks like we've shifted the malpractice from feeding the money machine to making inane, self-centric apps. Worse, is that the power players, institutional and individual — the highflying VCs, the entrepreneurship incubators, the top-ranked MBA programs, the accelerators, the universities, the business plan competitions have been complicit in this nonsense.' And while it may not get you invited to the White House, Nnaemeka advises entrepreneurs looking for ideas to 'consider looking beyond the city-centric, navel-gazing, youth-obsessed mainstream' and instead focus on some groups that no one else is helping."
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Too Many Smart People Chasing Too Many Dumb Ideas?

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  • Mweeehhhh (Score:5, Funny)

    by kruach aum (1934852) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @09:30AM (#43882393)
    Smart people aren't doing what I want them to!!! Why aren't they making the world better the way I think it should be done?!
    • Re:Mweeehhhh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mrmeval (662166) <mrmeval@NOSPam.gmail.com> on Saturday June 01, 2013 @09:33AM (#43882419) Journal

      NO ONE IS *insert snot spewing sob* FUNDING ME! --Nnaemeka

      Nnaemeka you're a potential demulcent. I'm sure there's billions to be made from people rubbing bits of you on bits of them.

    • Re:Mweeehhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jythie (914043) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @10:03AM (#43882563)
      To be fair, one can look at it as a balance issue. The most capable people tend to shift their focus to the things society values the most, and right now we place a high social value on getting rich quick through finding some narcissistic niche and building something that appeals to it.

      The value of helping others, helping the underclass, solving systemic problems, building shared resources, things that elevate society as a whole rather then the privileged, well, these things are often argued about and I will not even attempt to claim one way or the other is 'best', but I think it is fair to express distress regarding shifts in what people value.

      Essentially, this is the same complaint as people talking about how we do not have enough STEM talent or too much manufacturing+research is moving offshore.
      • Re:Mweeehhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Grishnakh (216268) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @10:26AM (#43882717)

        Essentially, this is the same complaint as people talking about how we do not have enough STEM talent

        From what I've seen, almost all the people who complain that we don't have enough STEM talents are also people who, themselves, are not in STEM fields. If they think it's so important, why didn't they go into it?

        Basically, it's because the people complaining want a larger STEM workforce to make money from, but they don't work in it because they can't make nearly as much money in it as whatever they're doing. So they want other people to work their asses off for mediocre pay.

        • Re:Mweeehhhh (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @12:52PM (#43883701) Journal

          Lawyerly politicians whining about need for more STEM is exactly what both Heinlein, in Starship Troopers, and Niven, in The Mote In God's Eye were sarcastically describing.

          In Starship Troopers (the book anyway), the bugs were non-sentient. But every time a colony was distressed, the workers bred this "brain bug", and then the problem would magically go away. Then the brain bug became irrelevant to it again.

          In The Mote In God's Eye, the Moties are led by a political caste, with other castes obeying them, as they went about their political machinacions and wars. The Engineer caste was ungodly brilliant, but otherwise completely mute, and specifically he juxtaposed it against the yabbering schemes of the political class.

          I hope some of you wake up to the memes of both parties guiding and directing you. You are disposable.

          My point: This guy's bleat is a whine from the political class to come save them from their own idiocies, then shut the hell up once they take credit for breeding brain bugs to solve problems. Do it, but leave them in control.

          Vernor Vinge gets even more sarcastic in A Deepness In The Sky, the sequel to the phenomenal A Fire Upon The Deep, wherein the bad guys use a drug that makes you find whatever it is impossibly seductive and pleasurable. If you do art, you will focus on it and produce world-class works. If science or engineering, phenomenal feats. And so on.

          But you won't dream of resisting their control because you get to do what you want...that it's to your overlord's benefit doesn't enter into it.

          • Re:Mweeehhhh (Score:5, Informative)

            by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @03:42PM (#43884737)

            In Starship Troopers (the book anyway), the bugs were non-sentient. But every time a colony was distressed, the workers bred this "brain bug", and then the problem would magically go away. Then the brain bug became irrelevant to it again.

            Might want to reread the book, if you think that was part of it.

            Hint: it wasn't. Wasn't part of the movie, either, by the by.

            In The Mote In God's Eye, the Moties are led by a political caste, with other castes obeying them, as they went about their political machinacions and wars. The Engineer caste was ungodly brilliant, but otherwise completely mute, and specifically he juxtaposed it against the yabbering schemes of the political class.

            Might want to reread Mote in God's Eye, also.

            The groups you describe as "castes" were actually subspecies. And the Ruler subspecies didn't do the machinations and politics stuff, their Negotiator subspecies did that part.

            Note, for reference, that the Negotiator subspecies was actually a hybrid of the Ruler and Engineer subspecies...

            Come to that, the Engineer wasn't especially brilliant - "idiot-savant" was a description used more than once about them.

      • Re:Mweeehhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Gorobei (127755) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @10:34AM (#43882757)

        To be fair, one can look at it as a balance issue. The most capable people tend to shift their focus to the things society values the most, and right now we place a high social value on getting rich quick through finding some narcissistic niche and building something that appeals to it.
         

        As you note, capable people focus on things that society values most. "Getting rich quick" is the result of producing what society values most, *not* the thing that society values most. So you make Facebook and get rich because society wants Facebook, not because it wants you to be rich.

        So I don't see what Nnaemeka wants to happen: society to invest more money in the underclass, or people to altruistically forgo riches to serve the underclass. Either one may be a noble goal, but he should at least articulate what he wants: he complains about us being to urban-focused, but over 80% of people in America live in an urban environment! And tech apps work better in a dense environment: seamless.com, etc, isn't a business model for a farm community; the big stuff has already been done (amazon.com, youporn.com.)

      • The most capable people tend to shift their focus to the things society values the most,

        What? I don't know about you, but I'm interested in getting rich because I want to have money, so I don't have to work for other people anymore AND can spend my time working on my own projects.

        I don't care at all about 'social value', they're all a bunch of idiots. But getting rich has some real, tangible, objective value.

    • Re:Mweeehhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross@@@yahoo...ca> on Saturday June 01, 2013 @10:42AM (#43882791)

      How is this funny? He is not trolling. If you read the article what he is getting at is that we are not solving the problem that move society forward. Case in point tumblr. Wow, what a piece of effen work! Yippeee! Or look at all of those one day camps of ideas. All related to simplistic systems, where the business model falls into, "lets make this so that we can get bought out." These days the idea is not about actually building a business that makes money.

      Case in point Ubuntu. This is a company that does try to push the boundary and does try to help, all while trying to make a business about it. Same thing with Redhat. Yet are they rewarded like say a Tumblr? I just crack up laughing that a TUmblr is worth a tenth of Redhat. you know a business that is actually making money and solving problems.

      Where is the real innovation? The uniqueness? Where are the plans that drive real businesses? I think that is a valid question.

    • Why aren't they making the world better the way I think it should be done?!

      Because the industrial and economic policies of their governments are shifting them into increasingly valueless industries.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by otterpop81 (784896)

        Why aren't they making the world better the way I think it should be done?!

        Because the industrial and economic policies of their governments are shifting them into increasingly valueless industries.

        It's easy to throw stones and walk away. It's harder to propose solutions. What do you propose?

    • by fredklein (532096)

      "The years passed, mankind became stupider at a frightening rate. Some had high hopes the genetic engineering would correct this trend in evolution, but sadly the greatest minds and resources where focused on conquering hair loss and prolonging erections. "

  • Many younger people are simply interested in innovative and original ideas?
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      Many younger people are simply interested in innovative and original ideas?

      it's the vc's fault for giving money for dumb ideas. the young people just need the work, dumb or not.

    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      Skimmed through TFA, it doesn't seem like he has any suggestions on what to focus on, as long as it's not everyone dogpiling on one thing.

      But the way things are going, maybe we should all be working on building these:
      http://www.designboom.com/design/mobile-homeless-shelter/ [designboom.com]

      • I thought those were called "travel trailers", or "mobile homes"?

      • Hmmm....

        Well, looks like that's not Nnaemeka's problem, given that it's an old dude making it, not some young guy. Still, I have some concerns. In no particular order

        1. Many homeless people in the USA are homeless because of mental problems. Treating said problems is necessary because otherwise they can't take care of themselves, fancy rolling shelter or not. Many will DESTROY said shelter in days, if not hours.
        2. Stove inside is just asking for fire.
        3. Is water shortage really a problem for homeless

        • by tlambert (566799) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @03:29PM (#43884675)

          1. Many homeless people in the USA are homeless because of mental problems. Treating said problems is necessary because otherwise they can't take care of themselves, fancy rolling shelter or not. Many will DESTROY said shelter in days, if not hours.

          It's not very brilliant, but it's a matter of law that both drug abusers and the mentally ill have a right to refuse treatment, and unless you can pin a sufficient criminal act on the former, or demonstrate a danger to society of the latter, then there's no way to force treatment.

          It's also one thing to take a mentally ill person and medicate them to the point that they are stable enough that you are required to release them, and entirely another to implant them with a Norplant-type device to continue to administer corrective drugs after they've been released from protective custody. The second one is illegal enforcement of treatment after termination of medical power of attorney.

          How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? One. But the lightbulb has to want to change.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        Skimmed through TFA, it doesn't seem like he has any suggestions on what to focus on, as long as it's not everyone dogpiling on one thing.

        But the way things are going, maybe we should all be working on building these:
        http://www.designboom.com/design/mobile-homeless-shelter/ [designboom.com]

        that's not a homeless shelter realistically. a true homeless person would sell it for booze.

        to who? some guy who needs it for camping(stick to the back of a pickup) or as a rock festival sleeping area. for that it looks nice and you could make a mint renting those for that. the laptop area in the sketch is just funny - it's certainly meant for some different kind of nonexistant type of homeless person.

    • by g0bshiTe (596213) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @10:37AM (#43882765)
      Where have you been the last X years, when was the last time you saw something truely original or innovative?

      NOTE: Windows 8 doesn't count.
    • Any smart person who is not also a strong idealist is most likely going to go where the money is. This could be on Wall Street, in online advertising, in going to the Moon, or in curing cancer. It is not their responsibility to do something to better the world. The people spending their money in the economy and electing officials who directly or indirectly decide where the money is going to go.

      All this talk about training more people in STEM misses the entire benefit of being in a capitalistic economy. I

  • by waddgodd (34934) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @09:32AM (#43882405) Homepage Journal

    Where does writing inane, self-centric books fit in Nnaemeka's weltanschlung?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      weltanschauung.

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Exactly... what's worse than someone wasting their talents on a dumb idea? Someone wasting their talents writing about someone wasting their talents on a dumb idea...

  • silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @09:36AM (#43882435)
    I think there are lots of smart people helping those that fewer people care about (there are no groups that need help that nobody does), you just don't hear about it because they don't get invited to the White House.
    • by Cenan (1892902)

      Or they don't shout it from the roof tops everytime they take a longer than usual piss. Not everyone have a need to be heard like Nnaemeka.

    • by tqk (413719)

      ... there are no groups that need help that nobody does ...

      Where'd you get the rose coloured glasses?

  • by CmdrEdem (2229572) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @09:36AM (#43882441) Homepage

    the "best and brightest" will just go back to feed the money machine. After all, they are competent and they also need to eat when they`re bankrupt. VCs have money to spare and they will benefit either way.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      the "best and brightest" will just go back to feed the money machine. After all, they are competent and they also need to eat when they`re bankrupt. VCs have money to spare and they will benefit either way.

      the money machine is the dumb ideas.
      that's why they're chasing dumb ideas. because vc's pay them to. because she told them to.

      so the smart people are implementing dumb ideas because that's what pays their living.

    • by number17 (952777)
      The money machine would rather have entrepreneurs fund unsuccessful ideas and purchase the good ones just as they become rising stars.

      The latest dumping of costs from the money machine comes from Air Canada's new airline that will have flight attendants pay for their own training costs.
      http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/blogs/insight/air-canada-rouge-defends-employee-paid-disney-training-202822545.html
  • Faulty premise (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968)

    The smart people don't really want to help the lower class. Ugh, have you actually met any of them? Shudder. If anything they should be vexed even more than they are already.

    What the smart people want is to be seen as helping the lower class. This gives you fantastic social status (among other smart people, naturally) and ensures that you will be invited to all the right parties. The lower class will themselves not be attending these parties. Again, a five minute conversation with any of them is quite

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by justthinkit (954982)
      Replace "smart people" with "1%" and you've got it about right.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by fazig (2909523)
      It is really sad, but I can only confirm this from what I've learned from my peers and me.
      We mostly chose to stay at the university in a laboratory, have comfortable working hours for less pay, but we're surrounded mostly by smart people all the time. The most annoying things are when I have to explain that LIDAR and laser interferometry, which we mostly do here, aren't quite the same to some business representatives, who obviously also lack scientific education. Which is still magnitudes away from the dul
      • Money for nothing and their checks for free.

        I wanted to be a rock star with hot and cold running chicks.
        I became a technologist and I have hot and cold running robots.
        I am happy.

  • He has a point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Typical Slashdotter (2848579) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @09:50AM (#43882499)
    Everyone's so quick to attack, but he has a point. Whatever the cause, the tech industry seems to want its best and brightest to become toymakers. There are a lot a problems that could be helped by new tech, but none of that seems to be as glorious as working on the new iPhone, a better Google Maps, or the next hit app.
    • by Shavano (2541114)
      It's the lure of the $1.1Billion payout for a couple years work that has everybody wanting to be the next Tumblr. Why work on something that will actually do something new and useful when there's $1.1 billion available for the next free porn shovel?
    • Re:He has a point (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pla (258480) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @10:23AM (#43882697) Journal
      Everyone's so quick to attack, but he has a point. Whatever the cause, the tech industry seems to want its best and brightest to become toymakers. There are a lot a problems that could be helped by new tech, but none of that seems to be as glorious as working on the new iPhone, a better Google Maps, or the next hit app.

      Even the homeless and destitute in the US enjoy a standard of living far above that of the average human even a century ago. The middle class lives better than most historical kings and emperors.

      We value toys because we've made life too easy. We need to get up five days a week and spend a third of the day doing something we'd rather not; what then? That leaves a third of each day (not spent sleeping), and two whole days a week where we need to fill the time. Hell, today, I need to go out and mow the lawn, and I've already put it off wasting time online for three hours (and it'll only take me two to do the task) - Oh, boo-fuckin'-hoo, wontcha have some sympathy for poor ol' me, needing to trudge through the Sisyphean task of walking behind a machine that magically makes the grass shorter and packages it neatly in a bag for me? ;)

      Make no mistake, I do not glamorize work or hold the delusion that it somehow counts as in some way noble or good for the soul. But we've already won. We simply don't care about social-issue-X as much as we value cheap tasty calories and cheap immersive entertainment.
      • Re:He has a point (Score:4, Informative)

        by meta-monkey (321000) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @02:28PM (#43884323) Journal

        But we've already won.

        I think that's the point of the article. Some of us have won. Some of us are losing badly.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Even the homeless and destitute in the US enjoy a standard of living far above that of the average human even a century ago.

        The average human a century ago had a home, which might not have been fancy but still better than nothing, therefore your claim is absurd.

        We simply don't care about social-issue-X as much as we value cheap tasty calories and cheap immersive entertainment.

        This has always been the case. Ever heard of the term "bread and circuses"? It has nothing to do with having "already won" and ever

    • You mean companies are hiring smart people to design what other people want to buy?

      Oh, the humanity! The humanity!

    • Re:He has a point (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Grishnakh (216268) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @10:40AM (#43882773)

      There's more to it than that.

      You're right, there are a lot of problems that could be helped by new tech. Just look at transportation for instance: we spend a ton of money on it in the US, and it sucks: it's slow, we spend lots of time idling in traffic or at stoplights, our cars are driven by oil-burning, pollution-spewing horrifically inefficient engines, and 50,000 people die every year in auto accidents.

      Tech could solve a lot of problems outside the online world, but the problem is that you have to have a good government that invests wisely in R&D, or at least you need a regulatory scheme that makes it possible for new tech to improve the situation. Why deal with all that government red tape when you can spend all your time working on a "hit app", Google Maps, a new handheld electronic device, etc.? All those things don't have much red tape at all: you build whatever you want, you put it out in the market, and you make money with it right away. You don't have to deal with all kinds of governmental problems with them.

      Suppose I want to solve the transportation problem. An idea already exists: Personal Rapid Transit, such as SkyTran. It wouldn't be that hard to build; the passive maglev rails have already been built and proven to work, the computer/software tech needed for the cars to be autonomous is somewhat trivial compared to Google's infrastructure, and the cars themselves would be dirt-cheap compared to a modern car (gas or electric like Tesla). However, even if you could get funding for the initial R&D and production, there's more to building and deploying such a system than just getting a factory and building them: you have to get governments at all levels (federal down to local) to agree on it, to standardize on one system (so they can all link up), and new regulation set up to police it all and make sure it's safe, to secure right-of-way, etc. Add to that that it competes with existing technologies (namely GM, Ford, etc.), who have lobbyists who will try to shoot down anything that competes with privately-owned automobiles, just like they've done with various public transit systems in the past.

      Or how about aviation? Think you can invent a better aircraft? Good luck getting past the FAA.

      It's simply much easier to just sit at your computer and write a new software app. You don't have to deal with government regulators (who are applying decades-old regulations to brand-new ideas) when you do that.

      • It's simply much easier to just sit at your computer and write a new software app. You don't have to deal with government regulators (who are applying decades-old regulations to brand-new ideas) when you do that.

        This in a nutshell. Sure, you can solve a lot of those big problems technically. But that's not the real issue. After all, we here at Slashdot have solved the world's problems many times over. In fact, we do it each week.

        But the problems still remain - it's POLITICS folks. To solve societal ills we're talking about capital that dwarfs Bill Gates, Warren, Elon and Micheal Bloomberg together. Getting that capital requires a political will that simply doesn't exist. At least in terms of 'solving societi

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Not getting corrupted is easy. I'm sure I could pull that off. You just have to not be a sociopath or someone with a poor moral compass.

          The problem is that if the kind of person who can't be corrupted, the likelihood of you getting elected is almost zero. The voters don't want such people as leaders, they want people who tell them what they want to hear and fool them with lies. So sociopaths get elected because they're good at lying and deception.

          But yes, your point is correct: the problem with many pro

      • You're right, there are a lot of problems that could be helped by new tech. Just look at transportation for instance: we spend a ton of money on it in the US, and it sucks: it's slow, we spend lots of time idling in traffic or at stoplights, our cars are driven by oil-burning, pollution-spewing horrifically inefficient engines, and 50,000 people die every year in auto accidents.

        New tech isn't going to solve transportation problems. We already know how to solve transportation problems and it comes down to

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          New tech isn't going to solve transportation problems. We already know how to solve transportation problems and it comes down to money for building new infrastructure, e.g, subways, light rail, high-speed heavy-rail, and transit-only lanes. All that is hugely expensive.

          Wrong: those things don't solve transportation problems, because they're all 19th-century technology. Subways only work in extremely dense areas like Manhattan and SanFran, not in Louisville KY or Ames IA. Light rail sucks; it's slow and v

      • Re:He has a point (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Belial6 (794905) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @02:35PM (#43884367)
        SkyTran is a good example of why these things don't get done. People focus on ideas that just won't work. Ideas that claim to solve problems by not even acknowledging that the problems exist. The idea has been out there for years. I don't know when I saw it for the first time, but I'm thinking it as been in the decade range. Even with it being out there for a decade, the site doesn't address significant issues:

        How does it handle people using the pods as toilets?
        How does it handle carrying everything that doesn't fit in that little cab?
        How does it handle fitting 100 fifteen foot pods in 1000 feet of track?
        How does it get people the last mile to their actual destination?
        How does it handle letting people keep their personal belongings in close proximity without having to carry them around?

        Etc...

        SkyTran is an idea to improve public transportation. It is not an idea to replace cars. As it stands, public transportation is only "good" in places that cars are so popular that the system starts to collapse. As the joke goes "No one drives in New York. There's too much traffic.".

        Some of these problems could be mitigate. The ability to call a "Hauler" sized pod when needed could mitigate the problem of the pods being too small to carry your shopping. Other problems really can't with this system. E.g. Last mile.

        The biggest problem for these kinds of ideas is that the people pushing them take the stance that all of society should rearrange itself to fit their half baked solution instead of finding a solution that really solves the problem.

        Right off the bat, I could point out how to solve most of the SkyTrans problems, but the idea would not be considered by those pushing it. Instead of having pods, have platforms. Make a platform that people can drive their car onto with gates that lift to keep anything from falling off. This way, instead of riding in a piss filled capsule where forgetting to pick your phone up off the seat means you no longer have a phone; you take your 'pod' with you. You can actually get that last 1 or 2 miles to your destination, and the system has a built in transition system. Of course, people pushing SkyTrans would generally balk at this idea. Why? Because they are not really trying to solve the transportation problem. They are trying to solve the 'car problem'. The thing is, cars are not the problem. Cars are just the best solution for personal transportation that has yet been devised.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @09:54AM (#43882515) Homepage

    In the USA, it is all about credit (the ability to go into debt for the purpose of buying things) and what you have bought. When we see each other, we assess largely on what they are wearing, driving or have in their possession. Additionally, every time we hear about rich people in trouble or otherwise doing something stupid, we instictively react with "I thought they were [better than us]!!" It's not the presumption that they are just like anyone else and often times dumber, it's the opposite because we pedestrians have been taught to succeed we must be smart or skilled and to work hard. Interestingly, those are the characteristics which keep those "valuable human capital assets" in the trenches where they belong.

    All the money circulates around consumerism. That is where the money is. That is what people study to join in to get a share of.

    Yes, this is NOT a sustainable model. This is why we are in trouble now.

  • Misdiagnosis (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gallondr00nk (868673) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @09:58AM (#43882527)

    The author seems quite intent on blaming individuals for what is a structural malaise.

    There's money in the kinds of fields the author talks about, and it seems a bit harsh to criticize people for trying to make a living. Agreed, Angry Birds isn't pushing the boundaries of human evolution towards a fairer, more peaceful world, but this isn't the 50's - the teet of government research is drying up through constant cuts and marginalisation. Academia and the public sector doesn't seem to have the clout it used to, and as a result long term humanitarian projects are dying off. The death of the public sector is the real reason we've never gone back to the moon. That's neoliberalism for you.

    As for the "underclass" (a word I despise), I've been wondering recently whether we're witnessing the technological trend futurists warned us about; persistently lowering labour requirements. Figures certainly seem to point that way.

    Outside of tech and Wall Street, making a living is quickly becoming harder and harder. There simply isn't the amount of work there was forty years ago. We're looking at genuine human tragedy if the situation is not resolved.

    I feel the only cure is a guaranteed minimum income. Let us solve all these problems at once, forever.

    • by Shavano (2541114)
      Even the high-tech teat will dry up. What happens when most new tech tools and toys that typical people find worth paying for are already last year's news? What happens when a million programmers are all the world needs, and all the goods anybody can afford can be produced by 500 million of the world's 10 billion people? Do you think the other 9.8 billion can be employed providing services to those 5% of people?
    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      I feel the only cure is a guaranteed minimum income. Let us solve all these problems at once, forever.

      Wasn't a society like this depicted in "Judge Dredd" (or rather the newer "Dredd" movie)? 98+% unemployment, everyone living in gigantic public housing buildings, crime rates out of control with ultraviolent gangs controlling things, etc.

      • Western Europe is already a society like this, and the crime rates seem to be well in hand. And before anyone starts talking about Greece or Spain, the Scandinavian countries are more socialised than almost anywhere and are doing just fine.

        • And the small, relatively monolithic, stable social democracies are, unfortunately, not a very practical role model for the Rest of the World. Maybe in a couple of hundred years, if we make it that long.

          Look, the big problem globally is that there are to many of us for the planet to handle it gracefully for any length of time. But the planet will indeed handle it. Most of "us" won't like that, but then again, the Universe doesn't give a shit.

          • And the small, relatively monolithic, stable social democracies are, unfortunately, not a very practical role model for the Rest of the World. Maybe in a couple of hundred years, if we make it that long.

            Why? Other than Norway with its massive oil reserves (the proceeds from which it invests incidentally, rather than pumping them back into the local economy), what's so special about these countries?

            Look, the big problem globally is that there are to many of us for the planet to handle it gracefully for any length of time. But the planet will indeed handle it. Most of "us" won't like that, but then again, the Universe doesn't give a shit.

            Again, why? We have more than enough food, energy is literally falling from the sky, fresh water ceases to become a problem even for areas massively overrepresented visibility-wise like California for that reason, we will see the end of fossil fuel powered vehicles within our lifetimes, all in all the future look

            • by cusco (717999)
              Really? Solar energy can create 1) plastics, 2) fertilizers, 3) pesticides, 4) fuel for ships and trains, 5) medicines, etc. There isn't a replacement for cheap petroleum, and because of the way that fractional distillation works not using it for transportation or energy doesn't automatically mean that there is more available for creating fertilizer. If that's produced from a different fraction of the crude distillate (I believe it is) then you're only going to get x-many tons of fertilizer out of x-many
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well she is (or was) part of the structure.

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      I would support a guaranteed minimum income for the same reason I support the existence of public education, even though I home school my children. Like homeschooling, capitalism offers the opportunity to make things far better, or far worse. It simply puts more power in the hands of the individual, so you move outside of the bell curve.

      Public school offers a floor that the bad side of the education bell curve has a hard time moving past. A determined parent can homeschool their kids and get them a wo
  • by mark_reh (2015546) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @10:07AM (#43882589) Journal

    the less fortunate is that you can't make any money off of them. Guys like Bill Gates, with all the money in the world, can afford to focus on that portion of the human population because they don't have to make money off of them. The rest of us have to eat and feed our families and send our kids to school.

    • That is complete bullshit, and you know it! There are many people who manage to eat, feed their families and send their kids to school, an in general make their living while helping what you call the less fortunate. It is hard work, it is often frustrating because it may often seem like it does not make any difference, but it is entirely possible. Of course, you may not be able to afford your huge house, new car, the newest TV and cable, but it is entirely possible to "make a living" that way.

      • by mark_reh (2015546)

        OK, I see you're a literalist. Let me put it this way: if you're trying to sell a product or service that costs $10, how much effort will it take to get $10 from a poor person who has to work for a couple hours to earn $10 (in the US anyway) vs getting $10 from someone who makes $10 in a couple minutes? It is harder to get a poor person to part with their money than a relatively rich person.

        Slick Willie Sutton summed it up nicely when someone asked why he robbed banks: "that's where the money is".
        (yes,

  • by swillden (191260)

    I have no patience with people who take it upon themselves to tell other people what they should be choosing to do with their lives and their businesses. If someone wants to write silly phone apps and there are enough people willing to shell out their own hard-earned money to buy them, then the existence of the customer base is enough justification for the existence of the apps. Apparently enough people find enough value in them to make them profitable. If not, well, then the "best and brightest" will go fi

  • His entire rant is a string of strawmen, ad hominems, non sequiturs, and question-begging. The problems he mentioned are all either social or political in nature. Otherwise, he's piling a lot of abuse and loaded words on people doing what they want to do: write programs.

    The weird thing is, he identified the sources of the problems right in his rant. Single mothers living at or below the poverty line? The jobs they have don't pay well, are inflexible, and provide no relief for raising kids while trying to ea

    • by taz346 (2715665)
      I think her point is exactly that these are problems that are "social and political in nature," and that our brightest minds are mostly writing inane apps instead of tackling them. Software solutions would help solve many of them but, as she says, doing that work is hard and doesn't offer much of an opportunity to strike it rich.
      • by stenvar (2789879)

        I think her point is exactly that these are problems that are "social and political in nature," and that our brightest minds are mostly writing inane apps instead of tackling them.

        The solutions are simple, he just doesn't like them: more privatization, more competition, more personal responsibility, fewer government benefits.

  • by pla (258480) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @10:10AM (#43882615) Journal
    Nnaemeka advises entrepreneurs looking for ideas to 'consider looking beyond the city-centric, navel-gazing, youth-obsessed mainstream' and instead focus on some groups that no one else is helping.

    Mr. too-many-Ns: Smart people still need to eat. To put a roof over their heads. They may even hope to "get ahead" a bit, enjoy a life of reasonable comfort, and retire early with enough wealth to not end up a decrepit dependent of the state like most people.

    Solving "important" problems doesn't accomplish those goals. Until you want to demonstrate the "importance" of your pet interests by paying me as much as industry does to work on inane, self-centric apps, GTFO.

    That said - Come up with funding, and we can talk. Honestly, I believe virtually everyone would rather work on solving real problems than on building shoddy consumer crap to pad $CEO's bonus this quarter. But Einstein gots ta get paid, son.
    • by Xyrus (755017)

      I'm not sure what Nnaemeka is expecting either.

      We live in a capitalist society. If no one is willing to pay for these important problems to be solved, then no one is going to solve them. And even if someone is willing to pay, they will most likely completely screw over the person/people responsible for coming up with the solution anyway. Capitalism is not about solving the world's problems, it's about making money by any means necessary.

      Maybe when that changes and the world collectively starts working toget

  • She not he.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 01, 2013 @10:11AM (#43882619)

    From TFA: C.Z. Nnaemeka studied Philosophy at Wellesley; logically, she has spent most of her time in finance, beginning at Goldman Sachs. Born in Manhattan to Nigerian parents, she attended French schools, graduating from the Lycée FranÃais de New York. Since then she has alternated between writing, banking, and consulting to startups in Europe, Latin America, and Australia. Previously, she lived in Paris where she founded a political discussion group and was a foreign affairs commentator for the conservative newspaper, Le Figaro. She graduated from MIT in 2010, focusing on Entrepreneurship + Innovation.

    Don't be stupid. If you don't bother to read, don't assume gender in your response.

  • I found this article courageous interesting, though it bogs down in examples it stands apart from a great many rants I see day after day.

    The author is NOT just attacking "silly things"... but referring to a decline of interest in building, maintaining and improving physical infrastructure. That complacency is real, it is dangerous and ultimately fatal.

    Physical infrastructure is the entirety of things that make a comfortable existence possible. Safe drinking water and the system that delivers it, affordable

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      Thank you, where do I find the groups that understand global warming exists but are pushing actual technical solutions rather than moronic and unsustainable cut back and use less messages? Until this grassroots movement starts I'll have to advocate for the deniers. Without real push for nuclear and new hydro electric dams I wont take it serious.

  • VC's want to invest in the next Angry Birds app... short term return, not 20 year return on the creation of a drug that'll cure XYZ disease.

    So where do the 20somethings want to go? Do they want to spend their time sitting in a lab somewhere at Big Pharma researching a drug? Or working for Cisco trying to create 1Tb Ethernet? Nope. Not sexy. Nobody is going IPO there.

    The startup industry has dramatically changed over the years.

    In the 80s and before, the purpose of a startup was to build a successful, long

  • by prefec2 (875483) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @10:28AM (#43882725)

    People who went to university are not smart. They have some more education, and some of them are even brilliant in their distinct field, but beside that, they are morons like everyone else. If you want to help the lower and middle classes, first, you have to provide a decent social security system, like Danmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany and similar countries. Second, you have to train people in a way so that they can find a purpose in life. That purpose is more important, than above minimal-income income. Third, there are people who really are not able to decide what they want in life. They need guidance. SO we as a society have to deliver that. But most prominently, we have to change the primary attitude in society or at least in economy: ME FIRST!

  • I'd expect nothing less from a 1st world culture in general that says "do what YOU want to do," "find YOUR dream," "YOU're the most important to YOU." Reading the comments on this thread so far, it is evident that we'd rather remain blissfully ignorant and shift the burden elsewhere.

    It's gruelling work to sort out the world's problems, and with no one-right-answer, fraught with the possibility of failure, as some commenters here can attest: one commenter demonstrates the core attitudinal problem - it takes

  • We measure success with money and we assume that people are really smart because they figured out how to make money.

    Despite the fact that the author is whining about people not doing what *he* thinks they should be doing, he is assuming that a person with the skill set to create a popular internet application of the year has the same skill set needed to solve real world problems.

  • Perhaps smart people just realize that the progressive refrain of "the sky is falling" and "we so many problems" is bullshit.

    The problems we do have are largely self-inflicted and within people's own control. For example, you can't fix single motherood with an app, entrepreneurship, or government programs. The only way you get fewer single mothers in poverty is if women stop having kids outside of marriage.

    And entrepreneurs can't fix what's wrong with government benefits, retirement plans, or the medical sy

  • by PPH (736903)

    Lets look at two examples put forth by TFA: An app that provides restaurant recommendations based on your blood type. The Department of Veteransâ(TM) Affairs processes 97% of its claims by hand, stacking them in heaps on tables and in cabinets.

    The first one is virgin territory, in development terms. Sure, it might be silly. But if it pays off (think Angry Birds) its all yours.

    The second one is already someone's turf. Sure, I could go in with a team and clean up the VA. Or the IRS, FBI, whatever. B

  • by davydagger (2566757) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @12:03PM (#43883331)
    just like everyone else, people with degrees are chasing jobs. Just an electrician or a plumber who has to take a job where their skills lie, so do graduates out of top schools. I hate to say this, but they need to make a living too.

    So this entire article is like an article saying "too many skilled workers are working at wal-mart".

    Also, when you talk about solving either social or political problems as a nerd with the only social status you have is dependant on whatever patronism you give to established players, and as little as they can give you, and they are always looking take it away, how are we expected to solve problems.

    What do you think happens to the first nerd who solves a problem that someone in washington, or big business uses to either make money, or stay elected, or get them whatever extra-legal favors they want?

    Don't blame us, blame pop culture, and the social latter, which has the best and brightest subserviant to the worst and dumbest.

    I also like how the article has a bit of remorse for how they "use to shovel money for wall street", because I think what is going on now is still a vast improvement.
  • by AdamHaun (43173) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @12:18PM (#43883449) Journal

    Not really relevant to the topic; just wanted to point this out since a lot of people are referring to the author as "he".

  • by hey! (33014) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @12:45PM (#43883645) Homepage Journal

    I developed a very serious mobile app back way in the mid-90s for public health and disease surveillance. Let me tell you from experience why an app that people rely upon every day for critical work is no way to strike it rich. People *need* a lot of support for that kind of app. Support equals labor, and labor is expensive. Businesses with high expenses don't get rich unless they can command huge prices.

    When smartphones came along, my partner used to gnash his teeth at stories of developers scoring windfalls with ringtones or stupid little games, and here we were doing *important* work and only making an OK living. I pointed out that if somebody pays $1.99 for something to amuse himself, he's never going to call tech support. When something represents a total investment of fifty to a hundred thousand dollars in hardware, software and system integration services, he damn well is going to call tech support. But 50K isn't really that much money if you include hardware, third party software licenses, QC'ing the client's existing data and converting it, training the administrators and end uses, and negotiating with IT gatekeepers. That's what you have to face when you do work that everyone agrees is important. Yes, people are willing to spend real money on important problems, but they also subject you to higher standards, intense scrutiny, and exacting ongoing demands, and those things eat into your profits. And the only way to get rich in business is to generate profits -- and salary you pay yourself for your labor IS AN EXPENSE.

    That's why the $1.99 app somebody buys on a whim to amuse himself is bound to be more profitable than *important* software that somebody relies on to do something important -- no matter how much you charge for that software. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Software that is a cheaper, more convenient alternative to something someone already has (e.g. Skype) is practical because what it does may be important, but that software itself is at first dispensable.

    Look at the vast amounts of cash going into develop "social media"; it is no accident that most of it goes to support is so trivia. Trivia is profitable. It's easier to try radical new things in the trivial. A lot more people have an early adopter stance towards a service like Facebook than they do to towards things they regard as critical. They take convincing and hand-holding. That's why something like Google Wave couldn't get off the ground, you have to approach something as important as collaboration much more conservatively, usually working around how people already do things (e.g. Sharepoint).

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @01:03PM (#43883783)

    People who will change society by orders of magnitude a few decades or centuries down the road are considered borderline insane today.

    Actually, by the usual measure they often _are_ borderline insane. RMS is a great example. His ragging on about GNU/Linux instead of Linux etc., his appalling table manners (I've heard first hand that they are bound to make you throw up), etc. are mannerisms that cloud the greatness of the ideals he holds dearest. His deed of introducing the GPL and putting is power where his mouth is ang giving us the GPL and the GNU Toolkit will have more positive consequences for humanity further down the road than a Mark Zuckerberg could only dream of. And every expert knows this.

    It's quite common that people really helping humanity move forward become famous only after they've died - if at all - and society gradually grows to see what they did for us all or what they saw coming (Ada Livingston, Tesla, ...). And if they do experience fame themselves, it's not unlikely that they are in trouble for their ideas and insights (Galilei, US founding fathers, founders of the German republic, etc.). ...

    That all been said, I have to second the initial claim that there basically is a solid measure of decadence, especially in the field of IT, that is leading us nowhere. I've spent my recent years scrum mastering for browsergames, fiddling with FOSS CMSes (and we all agree that the world surely does not need any more of those) and now techleading the development of travel booking sites. With all the power as a developer and IT expert at my hands today nothing to brag about, really.

    However, I *do* have a daughter and she needs to be put well on her way, and if assigning tickets to webdevs for the next generic webapp is what helps me follow through with my responsibility, I guess I'll have to swallow my pride until she's out of the house and on her own. Then I might actually finally drop IT as a main career all together and put my skills into action for some greater cause, such as protecting/defending the environment or pushing for some advancement in womans rights somewhere or something.

    My 2 cents.

  • by mordred99 (895063) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @02:01PM (#43884145)

    The simple answer to all of this is choice, and the consequences of choice. I consider myself one of the "best and brightest" and why don't I go out and do what author is describing? Simple, myself subscribed to the philosophy that I needed to make a decent living (aka, I made a choice to live comfortably). I then chose to have a child with a woman who eventually split with me. I chose to get full custody of my son. Based on those choices, I was then told by society (a judge) that I had to live in central Indiana, and not in Washington, if I was to have my son live with me. Now Tell me how I can sit here with all those choices, and tell me how my life is going to work out.

    I cannot work on the coasts, I cannot travel, I have to be home every night at 5-6pm, I want to live comfortably, I have to work in central Indiana. Tell me what a highly intelligent person is to do if they want to "change the world" or "help the underprivileged". Straw men such as the original author stated only work when things can work out for the person doing the work's favor.

    Lets go with another example. Smart person wants to do a company which helps people. Great. They need money. They go out and they have to get into bed with VC or some angel will give them money for costs. This is great until said money giver now wants a return or worse yet, profit. So they have to find a way to make money. Giving things away does not make money (as poor, disadvantaged don't have a lot of excess cash to pay for things). So that means, companies who have altruistic intentions, must create a marketable application/device/item/widget and then sell that, make money, pay back the original shareholders, pay expenses/taxes, invest in R/D, and then finally with what ever is left, give money away for the original altruistic intentions were to begin with.

    I cannot stamp my feet in the street and say "I want millions of dollars to create a company to help poor people, with no chance of paying back the original investors." The only way I can see that is if you hit the lottery.

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @02:56PM (#43884481) Homepage

    The author has a point. A shorter version is from Jeff Hammerbacher at Facebook: "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks." I've been to venture capital presentations, and too many of them are for incredibly banal applications. I've heard a pitch for a social network for cats. (It wasn't funded.) Even venture capitalists are unhappy with this situation.

    As the social networking boom collapses (Facebook traffic and ad revenue peaked a year ago, and everybody else is in worse shape) we'll see a change in that. But it's not clear what comes next.

  • by Goldsmith (561202) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @09:25PM (#43886489)

    The problems of poor education and inefficient military bureaucracy are not solvable by a clever program or a nifty piece of hardware. Entrepreneurship is not a welcome trait in many facets of our society. These are deep cultural differences.

    Solving these types of problems takes a lot more than 2-3 years of work, no matter how inspired it may be. The young people getting into civil service today have 10 years before they're going to be able to make changes. It's going to take patience, stubbornness and a superhuman resistance to cynicism for these young staffers and bureaucrats to solve these problems.

Do you suffer painful illumination? -- Isaac Newton, "Optics"

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