Tag Archives: silicon valley

The Moral Decay Conundrum

A commenter writes

Yeah, but the rapid fall here bugs me. We went from a moon shot to mass rape in the town square within 50 years. I thought we should have had at least a couple hundred years of coasting.

Hmmm…the weird thing is that while America has evidence of social decay, economic and technological progress has not stagnated. Computers keep getting smaller and faster. Important discoveries in physics have been made in recent years. After many decades research, chronic myelogenous leukemia, like Lymphoma, has effectively been cured. Recent inventions also include: flat screen HD TV , the world wide web, active matter, apps, smart phones that have as much computing power as supercomputers decades ago, drones, 3-D printing, image recognition, MRI, genome sequencing, Elon Musk’s Tesla and space-x program, and so on. Technological progress has gotten smaller, but it’s still there. Instead ring worlds, flying cars, and ecology skyscrapers, it’s nanotechnology, computing, and biotechnology. The moon landing is sometimes seen as the ‘pinnacle’ of human achievement or the high water mark of American ingenuity, but it was very expensive, not really needed, and unprofitable. Maybe the debt it created helped the private sector of the economy via Modern Monetary Theory. But the private sector is better at innovating.

One reason why moral decay and technological progress can coexist is because the private sector, which is the source of most innovation, still has a lot of autonomy, although welfare liberals like Sanders want to impose more regulation and taxes. As president, Bill Clinton, to his credit, understood the importance of the private sector, whereas Sanders doesn’t. Same for STEM in the research universities, another major source of innovation, which seems to be immune to moral decay.

This is why the concept of ‘exit‘ or ‘secession‘ is so appealing to Silicon Valley, as I write:

But it’s not that I want the government completely out of the picture – I’m not a libertarian anarchist – but resource optimization is needed. In much the same way that a company restructures to become more efficient and productive, America needs a similar restructuring. Silicon Valley has proven again and again adept at weathering all macroeconomic storms – from recessions, to financial crisis, emerging markets busts, to oil crashes – while other regions struggle with chronic stagnation. Maybe this is a testament to the efficacy of high-IQ and ingenuity of Silicon Valley, combined with a free market and meritocracy, and if the ethos of this technology subculture is applied to broader governance, maybe America will reach its full potential.

If not exit, put the geeks in charge. If the private sector is what’s holding America together, why not let them run it, instead of wealth spreaders like Obama and Sanders that will hold America back? But that won’t solve the moral decay problem, and some companies profit from decay. Heavily restricting the private sector may result in technological stagnation, economic weakness & job loss, and lower standards of living. So something to consider.

STEM, Immigration, H-1B Visas, and Wages

There is no diversity crisis in tech:

Repeat after me: there is no “diversity crisis” in Silicon Valley. None. In fact, there is no crisis at all in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is doing absolutely gangbusters. Apple has $200 billion in cash reserves and equivalents — and a market valuation of about $630 billion. Amazing. Facebook now garners a billion daily users. This is a nearly unfathomable number. Google is worth nearly $450 billion and has $70 billion in cash on hand.

This is not a crisis. Silicon Valley is swimming in money and in success. Uber is valued at around $50 billion. Companies like Airbnb are remaking travel and lodging. Intel is moving forward into the global Internet of Things market. South Korea’s Samsung just opened a giant R&D facility in the heart of Silicon Valley. Google and Facebook are working to connect the entire world. Netflix is re-making how we consume entertainment.

Silicon Valley is home to the next phase of the global auto industry. Fintech and biotech are transforming banking and medicine. The success of Silicon Valley is not due to diversity — or to any bias. Rather, to brilliance, hard work, risk taking, big ideas and money.

Want to be part of this? Great! Follow the example of the millions who came before you. Their parents made school a priority. They took math and science classes, and did their homework every night. They practiced ACT tests over and over. They enrolled in good schools and focused on English, Political Science and Humanities.

Okay, that last bit is not true. They took computer programming, engineering, chemistry — hard subjects that demand hard work. They then left their home, their family, their community, and moved to Silicon Valley. They worked hard, staying late night after night. They didn’t blog, they didn’t let their skills go stale, they didn’t blame others when not everything worked out exactly as hoped.
Are you doing all of these? Are you doing any of these? Do them!

This is hilarious to read and also true. Some people insist the economy is weak because of too much wealth inequality or not enough job creation, and here we have Silicon Valley in a wealth-creation boom. If you’re failing to participate post-2008 tech boom, maybe blame low-IQ, majoring in a low-ROI subject, or a lousy work ethic – not discrimination, crony capitalism, or other imagined roadblocks. Not to make this too political, as epitomized by the likes of Sanders, we’re becoming a nation of crybabies looking for excuses and scapegoats for our own failings, while wishing ill upon the successful. We want to believe IQ is not important and that the only way people get ahead is through connections, not competence. People are getting rich for being smart and creating economic value, not by sitting around and whining all day.

We keep hearing about how foreign tech workers are displacing native tech workers and suppressing wages, so I decided to investigate the veracity of these arguments.

A report from Brookings sheds doubt on the belief that foreign tech workers are undercutting wages of American tech workers:

H-1B visa holders earn more than comparable native-born workers. H-1B workers are paid more than U.S. native-born workers with a bachelor’s degree generally ($76,356 versus $67,301 in 2010) and even within the same occupation and industry for workers with similar experience. This suggests that they provide hard-to-find skills.

And from a report, H-1Bs Don’t Replace U.S. Workers:

Furthermore, foreign workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher actually had 4 percent higher median earnings in 2013 than native-born workers, which discredits the idea that foreign workers are“undermining” the wages of Americans.

Also from the report:

If employers were turning to H-1Bs to cut labor costs, we would expect petitions to rise during times when employers are laying off experts in computer and mathematical fields, which include 60 percent of H-1Bs. This classification includes computer and information scientists, computer systems analysts, software and web developers, computer programmers, actuaries, and other similar positions. It excludes positions at tech companies that do not involve mathematics or computer expertise.

Chart 1 compares the unemployment rate in these occupations to the pace of H-1B applications, as measured by the number of months before the cap on visas was reached. If the H-1B opponents’ theory is correct, we would predict that the cap would be reached faster as the unemployment rate increases when companies are looking to cut back on labor costs. But the opposite is true. When companies begin to shed workers, they also decrease their requests for H-1Bs.

The number of H-1B visas has stagnated due the cap which is limited to 65,000, relative to the much more common D1 visa:

Also, the quantity of H-1B visas has been stagnant for over a decade. And STEM jobs are hard to fill, further lending credence to a shortage:

In a statistical analysis of over 50,000 openings, we find that those requiring STEM knowledge take significantly longer to fill, even controlling for requirements for education, experience, training, and managerial knowledge, as well as wage rates and metropolitan area location. The most commonly requested H-1B occupations in each metropolitan area also take longer to fill.

From US News and World Report: Short on STEM Talent

Moreover, many people are economically better off with STEM skills. It’s often noted that college graduates out-earn those with only high school diplomas, and among workers with college degrees, STEM majors earn some of the highest salaries.

Likewise, jobs are more plentiful in STEM fields, which is why the unemployment rates are low for grads with these degrees. According to the Conference Board, there are currently three job vacancies advertised online for every unemployed computer worker; by contrast, there are more than six unemployed construction workers per vacancy.

It pays to be smart. STEM jobs, unlike most blue collar jobs, pay well, have comfortable working conditions, and are impervious to macroeconomic swings. The housing sector was roiled in 2006-2008, resulting in the loss of many construction jobs that have not returned since due to the vast oversupply of housing that remains to this day. A lot of low-IQ but well-paying clerical jobs in the housing/financial sector were lost in 2007-08, which too have not returned. Ditto for the manufacturing sector, which has been in decline since the 60′s:

Then in 2014-2015, the oil/energy sector imploded, resulting in the loss of even more blue collar jobs. A lot of low-IQ but high-paying clerical jobs in the housing/financial sector were lost in 2007-08, which too have not returned. Meanwhile, despite a small overblown hiccup in 2001-03, the quantity and salaries of STEM jobs keep rising, with no obvious headwinds:

High IQ jobs pay more and offer superior job security. Software developers, for instance, saw salaries soar 26 percent over the same period, culminating in an average of $82,000 in 2013, up from $48,000 in 1980, which agrees with the post-2008 theme of competence, IQ, and technical ability being more valued more than social skills.

The Daily View: Privacy, Silicon Valley Housing, The Failure of Democracy, Gender Achievement Gap in the Sciences

This is being passed around like an STD: What Happens Next Will Amaze You

The infamous dating site for married people Ashley Madison was hacked, revealing personal information and and easily-cracked passwords for millions of users. Some of these users are already the subject of active extortion.

Australia passed an incoherent and sweeping data retention law, while the UK is racing to pass a law of its own.

The horrible Hacking Team got hacked, giving us a window into a sordid market for vulnerabilities and surveillance technology.

The 2014 Sony Pictures hack exposed highly sensitive (and amusing) emails and employee data.

According to the left’s logic, the hacking of Sony emails is amusing, but the hacking of Ashley Madison is a crisis and a crime against humanity. Passwords don’t matter if the database is compromised. The liberal ‘sanctity of privacy’ in regard to infidelity, cookies, and celebrity nudes apparently doesn’t apply to the NSA or corporations like Sony. And people who are on Ashley Madison, just like celebrities who post salacious photos on their phones and cloud storage devices, deserve to be exposed for living immoral, depraved lives. If you care about privacy, stop using cloud storage and buy a thumb drive. Very simple solutions.

The left tries to present privacy as an all-or-nothing issue; either you have full privacy or totalitarianism. I’ll sacrifice a little freedom and privacy if it means not being blown into smithereens when flying. I support free markets, but am not one of those nutty civil libertarian types.

The same liberals who pretend to care about the troops oppose technology (drones) that would result in fewer deaths of servicemen.

Soon the web was infested with all manner of trackers, beacons, pixels, tracking cookies and bugs. Companies learned to pool their data so they could follow customers across many sites. They created user profiles of everyone using the web. They could predict when a potential customer was going to do something expensive, like have a baby or get married, and tailor ads specifically to them.

They learned to notice when people put things in a shopping cart and then failed to buy them, so they could entice them back with special offers. They got better at charging different prices to people based on what they could afford—the dream of every dead-eyed economist since the dawn of the profession.

Heaven forbid corporations try to make a profit, and – gasp – make our user experience easier?

If at the height of boom times we can look around and not address the human crisis of our city, then when are we ever going to do it? And if we’re not going to contribute to our own neighborhoods, to making the places we live in and move through every day convenient and comfortable, then what are we going to do for the places we don’t ever see?

The San Francisco housing affordability situation is a supply and demand problem, not due to ‘greedy’ tech capitalists. There is a scarcity of home in this sought-after region, and second, as I explain in an earlier article, zoning and other costs make it difficult to establish new housing. The slideshow also fails to mention efforts by Google to make housing more affordable:

Google Offers Affordable Housing
Google offers free Fiber internet in public housing
Google invests $28 million in affordable housing

Up to 400 housing units, targeted toward low-income and median-income households, could be built in the area, depending on how much building allotment Google is granted. (The location would be 4.5 acres of land that Google purchased last year for $98.1 million, and is outside of North Bayshore, bordering Sunnyvale.)

But of course, we can’t let counter-evidence get in the way of the left’s anti-technology narrative. The author also fails to mention that most of San Francisco often doesn’t allow residential building rise higher than four or six stories, making it hard to accommodate a lot of people at low cost. Instead, thanks to policy enacted by liberals, workers who cannot afford to live in the city are forced to commute for hours. Whether it’s bank bailouts, high tuition, or the lack of affordable housing, the left is often responsible for the problems they complain about.

I went to school with Bill. He’s a nice guy. But making him immortal is not going to make life better for anyone in my city. It will just exacerbate the rent crisis.

The left also fails to understand that capitalists want to make technology accessible, provided they can turn a profit – and sometimes they still do so at a loss. Making Bill immortal, which I’m highly skeptical is possible, will open the door to making more people immortal.

Here’s Elon Musk.

In a television interview this week, Musk said: “I’m trying to do useful things.” Then he outlined his plan to detonate nuclear weapons on Mars.

These people are the face of our industry.

Another shot by the left at great capitalist Elon Musk. Some on the right say that the left loves Elon Musk…hardly; the left whines constantlyalleged crony capitalism, as well as attacks on Mr. Musk himself. In 2013, with an intentionally botched ‘review’ of the Tesla roadster, the NYT tried, and ultimately failed, to defame Tesla:

Recall in 2013 the increasingly irrelevant liberal rag The New York Times tried, with much desperation and futility, to defame Tesla and Elon Musk in an editorial where avowed liberal auto reviewer John M Broder deliberately ran his test Tesla out of electricity in order to write a bad review. Tesla stock was trading at $40 at the time; it’s now at $210, to the chagrin of the liberals who wanted to see Tesla fail, and another defeat for the wealth spreading left in their war on success and capitalism.

But, also, let’s face it: It’s a great time to be rich and smart, especially in the Silicon Valley. This is the new ‘enlightenment’ or ‘renaissance’ before our eyes, on our phones, at Caltech and MIT, online, and at the molecular level with the second biotechnology boom.

Peter Thiel has publicly complained that giving women the vote back in 1920 has made democratic capitalism impossible.

He asserts that “the fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.”

I’m so tired of this shit. Aren’t you tired of this shit?

I’m not tired of this ‘shit’; we need more people to speak up against the failure of democracy, suffrage, and political correctness. Peter Thiel is right. Look at how Obama got the majority of the female vote and what a disaster that has been. The problem with democracy is people voting to expand the welfare state and, second, people voting on charisma, not policy, both of which helped Obama get into office against the more experienced and competent Hillary, Romney, or McCain.

Let’s look at the data. In 2005, Larry Summers was infamously forced to resign from his post as president of Harvard for merely stating what many suspect to be true but are afraid to say: women tend to be underrepresented in STEM due to cognitive differences at the ‘high end’, or according to his full statement:

“It does appear that on many, many different human attributes — height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability — there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means — which can be debated — there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population. And that is true with respect to attributes that are and are not plausibly, culturally determined. If one supposes, as I think is reasonable, that if one is talking about physicists at a top 25 research university, one is not talking about people who are two standard deviations above the mean. And perhaps it’s not even talking about somebody who is three standard deviations above the mean. But it’s talking about people who are three and a half, four standard deviations above the mean in the one in 5,000, one in 10,000 class. Even small differences in the standard deviation will translate into very large differences in the available pool substantially out.”

Although men and women have roughly the same mean IQ (around 100), they differ in variance, in that women have a smaller variance than men, and hence there are fewer ‘genius’ IQ scores among women, which can explain the gender gap in the sciences.


The funny thing is this is from Britbart London…Americans, who are too brainwashed by political correctness, including even the right, won’t touch the subject of HBD, but the Brits will. The Enlightenment, which brought evolutionary science to the forefront, originated from Western Europe, not America. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said what American politicians are too spineless to admit, and predictably the left was outraged that someone would make an inference between IQ and socioeconomic outcomes. That would mean that some people are born ‘better’ than others, in refutation to the left’s belief in the ‘blank slate’, limiting the effectiveness of wasteful taxpayer-funded liberal social policy to create equal socioeconomic outcomes.

As shown below, women tend to dominate low-IQ majors, in agreement with Summers’ statement:

And women have less variance of IQ scores:

The same liberals who insist that sexuality is biological or that humans are causing global warming refuse to accept the science of gender as it pertains to cognitive ability. Again and again, the ‘pro science’ left picks and chooses the science they want to believe in, rejecting all the science that doesn’t agree with their egalitarian, ‘blame the rich’, blank-slate worldview. Putting people of average of below average IQ in positions of power, or giving such individuals power over high-stake outcomes, is why there is a ‘war on boys’ in the public schools, why there was a financial crisis, and why Obama was elected – twice.

The fate of the world may not depend on a single person, but maybe a handful of smart people who create the technologies that advance civilization, which from the caveman who tamed fire to the scientists who are harnessing hydrogen fusion, is the same as it ever was.

The Meritocracy We Don’t Understand

From Wired: Silicon Valley Isn’t a Meritocracy. And It’s Dangerous to Hero-Worship Entrepreneurs

The meritocracy is alive and well, but it’s the meritocracy we don’t really understand. Many are producing merit, but their efforts are wasted because they don’t know the rules. I guess what I mean is that you have industries and regions in America, such as the Silicon Valley, where the meritocracy and capitalism is alive and well, but this is only for a small fraction of the country. More than a trillion dollars of wealth from web 2.0, rising stock prices, and Bay Area real estate has been created since 2009. Coders strait out of college or even high school are making 6-figures, but too many people are pursuing dead-end endeavors, their efforts wasted because capitalism is becoming much more myopic, with few winning sectors, industries, and companies (like web 2.0 & coding) and many more losers.

Wages in San Francisco and for software engineers are surging:

So this is evidence that at least in some regions and industries, merit is being rewarded.

Even right now, you have the S&P 500 just 7% from record all-time highs, yet over 50% of stocks are 20% or more below their highs – again, lots of losers and few winners. We expect this trend to continue, with the stock market making new highs and GDP holding steady even as fewer and fewer companies and sectors participate. This is because fund managers have gotten better at allocating money, choosing sectors such as large cap information technology that are the most impervious to macro-conditions, and ignoring weak sectors like emerging markets, commodities, and energy. It’s the winner-take-all, bigger-is-better theme in overdrive. If you’re not in the shrinking winner’s circle, you’re probably gonna be a loser. This blog, to it’s credit, has done a good job of knowing which sectors to to choose and which ones to avoid.

Some say the American dream is dead, but, I suppose, it depends for whom.

So many are fooled that the American dream is still attainable that they’ll leave us little guys alone to subsist somewhat happily under the radar.

It’s attainable for some, but for many not. It’s more likely attainable if you major in STEM and or have a high IQ; much less so if you major in a low-paying subject and are reckless with money. As shown below, it pays to be in high-IQ sectors like computer science:

So this is the meritocracy, but maybe not the one we would like. If you are smart and get a STEM degree, you are rewarded with more money. ‘Effort’ and merit are not mutually inclusive, meaning that just because you try hard doesn’t mean you will achieve as much as some who is smarter and doesn’t expend as much effort. That’s why working smarter is more important than working harder. If you are smart and ambitious, but are working in the wrong sector/industry, you may also find yourself falling behind.

Due to the normal distribution of IQs, poor decisions making in life, the winner-take-all economy, and the dearth of capitalist opportunities, the majority of people may feel like the American Dream is dead even though it is alive and well for some.

Related: Is Capitalism Dead? It Depends, I Suppose

Embracing Modernity, Part 2

From the infamous Nov. 2013 Tech Crunch article Geeks for Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries that introduced thousands of people to NRx:

Neoreactionaries believe that while technology and capitalism have advanced humanity over the past couple centuries, …

The veracity of this statement is questioned among many reactionaries who argue that technology and free market capitalism has made things worse by disrupting the ‘social order’, a view held by many paleo conservatives. Based on my own readings and my involvement, it definitely seems like NRx is rejecting the ‘Silicon Valley/technology’ subculture and putting much more emphasis on tradition and ethnocentrism, and this is especially evident in 2015 with ‘black lives matter’, the Confederate Flag, Donald Trump and immigration, and other social/culture issues that are on the forefront of the National Debate, pushing ‘technology culture’ to the periphery.

The technologists, while rejecting economic liberalism and some elements of social justice, aren’t really culture warriors. With the exception of the anti-feminist traditionalist George Gilder and others, the ‘culture wars’ are not their domain and they tend not to get too involved with those issues. But even George Gilder, who is a free market capitalist and anti-SJW, would disagree with the dovish ‘alt right’ over Israel and foreign interventionism, as well as issues such as immigration, since Gilder is notably pro-immigration. There is some acrimony by the right towards Silicon Valley over the later’s push for more immigration. Pro-immigration conservatives have faith in the rule of law to keep the state cohesive, despite the influx of new people, and see the free market has having precedence over ethnic interests. This divide between techno-capitalists and traditionalists on the rights just goes to show how diverse right-wing politics can be, even within the broader ideology conservatism. Among the the left, a similar divide exists among neo liberals, who support policy to create equal equal opportunities within a meritocracy, and welfare liberals, who want equal outcomes and for the system to be changed completely to achieve this goal.

Throughout this blog, I’ve argued against stagnation and in support of modernity, a version of NRx which puts me among a very small minority of the fledgling movement, which now seems to have become a dichotomy. There is even a Wikipedia entry for this – Reactionary Modernism – which embraces technology and modernity but rejects liberal ideals, so to some extent that’s what I am, but with more emphasis on personal freedoms and free markets.

Technology is how civilization advances, and if society fails the biggest losers will be the most productive and competent, who have the most invested intellectually and financially in Western civilization succeeding. Modernity, whether it’s the invention of fire in ancient times, to quantum computers today, is how people control their environments instead of merely being subjected to the whims of them, and it’s our ability to not only understand abstract concepts like mortality and finiteness but also take active steps to control it, is what makes modern humans unique from any other animal. Dinosaurs could not control their fate, and they had no such concept of mortality. We, as humans, do. And perhaps the onus is on the best and the brightest among us to create the technologies to save future generations from the unknown, future disasters that loom.

Charles Hugh Smith in an article, One Word Defines This Era: Stagnation laments how progress has stagnated, writing:

How many of you can honestly claim that the services you get from government or global corporations are better now than they were in 2000, or 1985? Get real, people; more often than not, the service has declined or stagnated rather than improved.

But there are improvements, it’s just they they don’t get as much media coverage as doom and gloom.

One examples is that Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) can be cured or put into long term remission, whereas in 1985 the mortality was much higher.

For example, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center recently analyzed 1148 CP-CML patients and showed that the 8-year survival was ≤ 15% before 1983, 42%-65% from 1983-2000, and 87% since 2001.6 Therefore, the projections for the next decade, taking into account the recent progress with second-generation TKIs, are for the life expectancy of CML patients to be close to that observed in the general population.


Thanks to the drug Gleevec, Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), which was one nearly 100% fatal, is now a chronic, manageable disease like AIDS:

Gleevec, marketed by Novartis, kicks chemotherapy in the ass, and is an example of how the free market improves lives.

Wages may seem stagnant but you also have to take into account new technologies and increased entitlement spending, although I do concede that the later is problematic and needs to be addressed, but solutions will be hard to come by. A problem that is decades in the making isn’t going to go away overnight. But when the left complains about paychecks not rising, they have to realize that everything from education to healthcare is being increasingly subsidized by taxpayers and employers, with out of pocket costs historically low. New technologies means you get more utility for your dollar. With Netflix, for $20 a month and the cost of internet, you can stream unlimited entertainment, whereas a generation ago entertainment options were much more limited. Americans are so well-fed there’s an obesity crisis.

That’s why I’m a little more hesitant to dismiss modernity and join the everything is doomed/sucks chorus. There is bad, but there is also good.

If you read Moldbug’s April 2007 essay, A Formalist Manifesto, while he rejects progressivism (and it’s modern liberal and conservative offshoots), moderation, libertarianism, as do I, his solutions are incrementalist – making small adjustments instead of creating a whole new system – which, is somewhat similar to my approach of optimizing cognitive and financial capital through better policy with our existing mixed economy.

But three, which is the real killer – so to speak – is that we are not, in fact, designing an abstract utopia here. We are trying to fix the real world, which in case you hadn’t noticed, is extremely screwed up.

So he says he’s not trying to make a Utopia, only fix our existing system from the perspective of how an engineer would do so so.

The goal of formalism is to avoid this unpleasant little detour. Formalism says: let’s figure out exactly who has what, now, and give them a little fancy certificate. Let’s not get into who should have what.
To a formalist, the way to fix the US is to dispense with the ancient mystical horseradish, the corporate prayers and war chants, figure out who owns this monstrosity, and let them decide what in the heck they are going to do with it. I don’t think it’s too crazy to say that all options – including restructuring and liquidation – should be on the table.

Essentially, this is propertarianism, which is kinda similar to the minarchist or ‘night watchman’ state approach. He’s not rejecting technology, but rather the liberal/democratic values of ‘the Enlightenment’, which I agree with. This is also the view shared by Michael Anissimov, a NRx blogger who is pro-technology and anti-egalitarianism.

Technology may actually be a tailwind for the NRx cause, hastening the decline of democracy and egalitarianism, with IQ as the new caste system in our hyper-competitive post-2008 economy.