Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Programming The Almighty Buck

Too Many Smart People Chasing Too Many Dumb Ideas? 376

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Too Many Smart People Chasing Too Many Dumb Ideas?

Comments Filter:
  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @10:14AM (#43882625) Homepage

    I realize this is a troll, but there is some truth to this... SOME.

    Smart people do not have children they can't raise in a good healthy environment and can't properly give them all the things they need as they grow and graduate into adulthood.

    Unfortunately, we have far too many non-smart people. Both rich and poor, they have children they can't or won't care for. Both end up spoiled and neglected and this has been going on for 2-3 generations now. Under these conditions, the results are more than predictable. And the poor become a drain on society.

    Now if this notion were followed through and actually happened? Well, that'd be another problem entirely. We need a middle class and we don't have one. The rich send our jobs everywhere else but here and they are slowly running out of people they can sell their crap to. Do you know how poor people are getting their cell phones now? Government subsidized service. Seriously. Welfare mobile phones. And of course they are on welfare everything else as well.

    Most of us here on slashdot don't really know what it's like to be poor and on welfare. I've had unfortunate times, though, and I know it all too well. To me it was a nightmare, but most of them were extremely comfortable in their misery. Extremely comfortable.

    Shit lost a healthy balance long ago. There is no limit on greed and no limit on laziness. Why there is a dwindling middle-class is partly because they have lowered the measure of what middle-class is and largely because of wealth distribution problems. Like global warming, I think we've gone too far already.

    "we live in interesting times."

  • Re:Faulty premise (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fazig ( 2909523 ) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @10:29AM (#43882727)
    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 dull conversations I can have with real 'lower class' citizens because of the huge educational gap.
    A short conversation with those 'lower class' people may also reveal that their perception of the 'smart types' often isn't that good anyway. There is a lot of envy because the smart types apparently don't have to work that much, but instead sit in front of a computers and play their little games, write numbers and talk with nerd words all day, and of course they earn a ****load of money for doing 'nothing'.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by cusco ( 717999 ) <brian.bixby@gma i l . c om> on Saturday June 01, 2013 @01:55PM (#43884107)
    There are an awful lot of people who are homeless because the bank took their houses away, not because they're junkies or winos who live in the street. The annual Seattle census of homeless people for the last several years has found that the number of people living in their cars in the suburbs, away from the stereotypical urban shelter residents, has been rising dramatically.
  • 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?


    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 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.

The absent ones are always at fault.