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The Rise and Rise of the Cognitive Elite 671

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-goes-up dept.
hessian writes "As technology advances, the rewards to cleverness increase. Computers have hugely increased the availability of information, raising the demand for those sharp enough to make sense of it. In 1991 the average wage for a male American worker with a bachelor's degree was 2.5 times that of a high-school drop-out; now the ratio is 3. Cognitive skills are at a premium, and they are unevenly distributed."
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The Rise and Rise of the Cognitive Elite

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  • Class Difference (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dintech (998802) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:15AM (#34992826)

    In 1991 the average wage for a male American worker with a bachelor's degree was 2.5 times that of a high-school drop-out; now the ratio is 3.

    Isn't this more an indiciation of a widening income gap between working class and middle class backgrounds? There are a lot of not-so-smart people with degrees.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But those people are still working at McDonalds, or at 7/11, or pumping gas, even with their degrees.

      Just having a piece of paper from some academic institution, even if it's "reputable", means little in the real world. Just having a degree in art history, English, sociology or psychology won't get you a well-paying job. You'll just have knowledge that's generally useless, or otherwise widely known by most people in other fields, too.

      It's not just a problem in America, either. Indian-trained software develo

      • by olsmeister (1488789) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:26AM (#34992920)
        It may not get you the job, but it will get you interviews and consideration, which gives you a leg up on people that lack similar 'papers and documents.' Don't underestimate how important getting your foot in the door is. If you're lacking a degree, it's much more difficult to get people to take you seriously.
      • by muindaur (925372)

        You need to do well in the history program, and hope the CIA wants you as an Analyst(or if you were are fit enougn a field agent.) It's one of the few careers that a history degree is good for(history is required so you can make sense of cultural/historical context in codes or conversations.) You also need to be fluent in a foreign language for all the really good history programs(if you take middle eastern history the program will require Arabic or Pashtu etc depending on the region.)

        I looked at the CIA ca

        • by vlm (69642)

          It's one of the few careers that a history degree is good for(history is required so you can make sense of cultural/historical context in codes or conversations.)

          Also excellent preparation for special forces, if you want to go military. So said my ex-coworker with that exact background.

      • by ArcherB (796902) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:45AM (#34993104) Journal

        It's not the degree that shows competency. It's the drive required to get the degree that tells you what you need to know about a potential employee. For example, a high school drop out is probably not a high school drop out because he's stupid. He's a high school drop out because he is lazy, has a problem with authority, can't/won't follow rules or some other issue that prevented him from finishing high school. (Yes, I understand that there are special circumstances that force some people to drop out of high school that are beyond the person's control; like a sick mother or something.)

        On the other hand, take your typical liberal arts graduate. Sure, they may not have learned how to perform advanced math on hex numbers while in college, but they have shown that they are willing to learn new ideas, do the hard work, follow the rules, see a task through to completion and generally put up with the bullshit that you have to put up with in order to get the degree.

        It's not the degree itself that matters. It is what getting the degree says about the person who got it.

    • by FictionPimp (712802) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:24AM (#34992896) Homepage

      I think it's the fault of HR departments. They refuse to believe you might be intelligent without a degree. Which is why I'm trying to get the degree that goes with my job. Hopefully this debt I'm building is useful.

      • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:29AM (#34992958)

        The problem is that HR departments are home to some of the least cognitive people on the planet.

        Want to know how you get through the HR "filter" to someone who can actually make a hiring decision? You fill your resume with meaningless garbage, "certifications" from overglorified cert-mills and degree-mills, pad your experience by about 3-5 years, and do whatever else it takes to fit the computerized filter. And you do this not because it indicates any ability to actually do the job, but because the first thing the HR idiots do is stick all the resumes for a given position in a pile and order a computerized filter to drop all the ones that don't have a precise combination of keywords.

        Ability to adapt to new jobs/situations? Not looked for. Have 20 years in the field but been working all that time rather than building up student debt? Sorry, guess you didn't match the keywords they wanted in the "education" field.

        • Re:Class Difference (Score:5, Informative)

          by fulldecent (598482) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:50AM (#34993136) Homepage

          For advice on stuffing your resume with keywords and experimental results, see

          Classic and modern job searching tips.
          http://fulldecent.blogspot.com/2010/10/classic-and-modern-job-searching-tips.html [blogspot.com]

        • You got that right, although it isn't always HR. I have a friend who was hired by another friend from high school who was the son of the owner of a small company (and whose father had been a friend of my friend's father for years). They promoted him to run one of their divisions. After about five years they decided to get rid of the division that my friend was running to concentrate on their core business (mostly as a result of much larger companies expanding into their region in the industry that division
        • Re:Class Difference (Score:5, Interesting)

          by quetwo (1203948) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @10:17AM (#34993442) Homepage

          But the big problem with HR departments is all the unqualified people who do apply for a job.

          I just filled a position for a telecom tech. Our simple requirements were that they had to have at least 5 years experience with voice, 1 year of data, and not a convicted felon.

          I got > 300 resumes. I think it was closer to 400 actually. But what it all boils down to is, when you get me your resume, you have 30 seconds to impress me -- for it go to into the "I'll look at this one more closely" pile. Not having a college degree makes you much less impressive when I have a stack of 200 people who do. Unless there is something else extremely impressive about you, you won't get a second look.

          For me, a person who has finished college tends to be a much more rounded individual. Sure, the guy who dropped out of high-school may be the brightest guy on the block, but I don't know that, and I don't have the time to find out. Espically in my field, education is very important (not just higher learning, but simply learning new technologies), and if you don't seem willing to even learn anything past the basics, it makes you a much less qualified applicant.

      • by Kelbear (870538)

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signalling_(economics) [wikipedia.org]

        In a nutshell, imagine the pool of potential hires all standing next to each other in a big auditorium. It's just a giant faceless mass of people who /might/ be "intelligent".

        But how do you know? Should HR just start from the front and work to the back going over every single one just in case they're intelligent?

        The pool of potential hires are competing to get hired, so they will work to get noticed. So some of them might get a certification, the equivalent

        • In a nutshell, imagine the pool of potential hires all standing next to each other in a big auditorium. It's just a giant faceless mass of people who /might/ be "intelligent".

          But how do you know? Should HR just start from the front and work to the back going over every single one just in case they're intelligent?

          Isn't that the whole point of having HR?

      • by drerwk (695572) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @10:58AM (#34994010) Homepage
        I think one of the key traits the degree shows is the ability to work hard enough and long enough to earn one. A coach of mine told me a man with a plan will beat a genius 90% of the time which is similar to Edison's quote of 99% perspiration. Being intelligent is not enough if you can not finish the work.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by horigath (649078)

      On Slashdot we don't like to talk about class. We'd rather just pretend it doesn't exist, it makes ineffectually complaining about the government while continuing to support the status quo easier.

      Srsly though, not a troll. Come on guys.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        We don't have a class (aka caste) system.

        If we did, you would be born a commoner and spend the rest of your life there, never able to rise to the level of Bill Gates or Barak Obama or one of their assistant managers. Those jobs would be reserved for the nobles while you would be stuck in the factory/office as a laborer.

      • by ArcherB (796902) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:54AM (#34993174) Journal

        On Slashdot we don't like to talk about class. We'd rather just pretend it doesn't exist, it makes ineffectually complaining about the government while continuing to support the status quo easier.

        Srsly though, not a troll. Come on guys.

        Earning a degree has nothing to do with class. Anyone can get into college. Can't afford it? Join the military, get loans, scholarship or work three jobs while going to school. I served two years in the US Army, took out loans and worked two jobs to put myself and my wife through college. I have a bachelors and my wife earned her masters. We were both raised by single parents who worked multiple jobs to put food on the table. Neither of our parents paid for our education.

        Of course, it helps to have mommy and daddy pay your way so you don't even have to hold a job while in school. I knew some of these people, and frankly, I got much more out of college than they did. Sure, they may have better stories to tell as they were available for every kegger on campus. But I learned how to work to midnight on the far side of town, complete my assignments and still make my 8:00am class.

    • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:32AM (#34992982)

      In 1991 the average wage for a male American worker with a bachelor's degree was 2.5 times that of a high-school drop-out; now the ratio is 3.

      Isn't this more an indiciation of a widening income gap between working class and middle class backgrounds? There are a lot of not-so-smart people with degrees.

      It isn't so much a widening gap between working and middle-class...

      Once upon a time, skilled labor was the middle class. But the middle class is slowly disappearing. We're outsourcing and offshoring everything we can. All the skilled labor jobs are going overseas.

      Here in the US we've basically got unskilled labor, and management.

      And that gap is widening. We replace more and more labors with machinery. We make individuals more productive with technology. We offshore what we can.

      And the laborers become less and less skilled, and more easily replaced. So they can be paid less.

      And the managers we actually have left here in the US are those that are harder to replace. So they must be paid more.

      And eventually we have just the upper and lower classes.

      • Wealth envy. Let's look at the stats:

        - 90% of the US income tax is still paid by the top 10%. i.e. 3% of the burden per million wealthy persons.
        - The remaining 10% is spread-out over the other ~270 million..... or less than 0.04% per million taxpayers.
        - Source: irs.gov

        Now I'm certainly not a defender of rich people (I hate corporations and CEOs) but to say the rich/upper middle class are not paying their burden is an untruth. They are being taxed approximately 80 times the rate as the rest of the americ

        • Re:Class Difference (Score:4, Informative)

          by Nadaka (224565) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:01AM (#34994066)

          that isn't even true. The top 10% do not pay 90% of the income tax.

          As of 2008 the top 10% pay 70% of the income tax and earns more than 75% of the income.

          Meanwhile they possess 73% of net wealth or 83% of financial wealth and that percentage is increasing (mostly in the top 1%).

        • by hedwards (940851)

          They are being taxed approximately 80 times the rate as the rest of the americans. If the top 10% fled the country, the government budget would collapse.

          I say good riddance to bad rubbish. They're basically parasites that are sponging off the production of the working class while shipping jobs over seas. They should be taxed heavily, and I'd argue that the taxes on them aren't high enough where they are.

          The assumption that if they'd leave that something bad would happen really demands a citation. As it is they're sending jobs overseas and doing whatever they can to ensure that workers can't compete with the workers of other nations so that they can get u

    • by chemicaldave (1776600) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:33AM (#34992996)

      In 1991 the average wage for a male American worker with a bachelor's degree was 2.5 times that of a high-school drop-out; now the ratio is 3.

      Isn't this more an indiciation of a widening income gap between working class and middle class backgrounds? There are a lot of not-so-smart people with degrees.

      I think that's what the article is trying to point out. Take this statistic FTFA as an example.

      In America, for example, in 1987 the top 1% of taxpayers received 12.3% of all pre-tax income. Twenty years later their share, at 23.5%, was nearly twice as large. The bottom half’s share fell from 15.6% to 12.2% over the same period.

      • by CptNerd (455084)

        I think that's what the article is trying to point out. Take this statistic FTFA as an example.

        In America, for example, in 1987 the top 1% of taxpayers received 12.3% of all pre-tax income. Twenty years later their share, at 23.5%, was nearly twice as large. The bottom half’s share fell from 15.6% to 12.2% over the same period.

        Who cares about pre-tax, the important question is "what about post-tax income on those groups?" Gross pay isn't what you put in the bank or pay your bills with, it's Net that's important.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by martas (1439879)

      There are a lot of not-so-smart people with degrees.

      Claim: Statistically speaking, the difference in intelligence between those with and without college degrees is large. Do you deny this claim? Because if not, your statement quoted above seems meaningless.

      • by Eivind (15695)

        Claim: Statistically speaking, those with a degree today, are less intelligent than those with a degree a decade, or two, or 3, ago.

        Rationale: Back then, a small fraction of the population had a degree, there's less weeding going on when a larger fraction of the population have higher degrees.

        Thus, you have a widening salary-gap despite a closing intelligence-gap.

      • by vlm (69642)

        There are a lot of not-so-smart people with degrees.

        Claim: Statistically speaking, the difference in intelligence between those with and without college degrees is large. Do you deny this claim? Because if not, your statement quoted above seems meaningless.

        Not meaningless, it means there are a whole heck of a lot of people with degrees (way more than necessary for job training, which is a whole nother topic) thus 10 percent of a very large population, remains a large number.

    • Re:Class Difference (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tverbeek (457094) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:34AM (#34993004) Homepage

      I strongly suspect that the gap is widening not because "smart" people are more in demand, but because "not so smart" people are becoming less in demand.

      Take one economy. Remove the manufacturing jobs. Watch as the percentage of jobs held by people with college degrees goes up, and the wages on the rest of them go down due to the oversupply of people without.

      • Indeed. And foreign "not so smart" people are cheaper (for the right value of "foreign"). That this causes unemployment and therefore poverty and places a large burden on society is apparently somebody elses problem.

        I suspect there once was a time that economy was merely a tool to run society, instead of society being merely a tool to run the economy.

  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:20AM (#34992860)

    ...the more I look to hire high school drop-outs and illegal immigrants.

    Seriously, don't Kids These Days want to put in a full day's work and pay some dues any more?

    • ...the more I look to hire high school drop-outs and illegal immigrants.

      Seriously, don't Kids These Days want to put in a full day's work and pay some dues any more?

      Seriously, who would like to do that?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by MLCT (1148749)

        Seriously, who would like to do that?

        The response of the college grad would rather be:

        "seriously, dude, like, who, like, so, like, whatever, like do that?"

        i.e. most college grads I have met, particularly in the last five to ten years, are basically unable to speak, read or write in a coherent and grown-up manner - let alone do a proper days work.

        • by Chowderbags (847952) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @10:27AM (#34993550)
          And the won't get off your lawn, either!

          Seriously, are college grads today really any worse than the counterculture from the 60s/70s? Or Gen X'ers in the 80s/90's? Or pretty much every generation in history (Back through at least the Ancient Greeks, and probably beyond)? It is in our nature to assume that our cohort is the pinnacle of human thought, and all generations before and after had, have, and will have mannerisms that are contrary to what "decent people" should aspire to. Don't blame this generation, your generations was probably just as stupid (and just as reviled) as this one when you were 20.
    • by nomadic (141991)
      Many of them have learned it's a sucker's game since they're being asked to pay dues that previous generations did not have to. Why kill themselves working 80 hours a week for a few years when they know the company will likely just boot them out after they get burnt out? It used to be graduating with a bachelors almost assured you of a white collar job somewhere. Now, chances are good you're going straight to retail.
      • Higher tuition (Score:4, Informative)

        by Beerdood (1451859) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:04AM (#34994094)
        Another related point here is the overall cost of tuition and how it affects the supply & demand of educated workers. As tuition fees are rising (much faster than inflation [wikipedia.org] ), there's going to be less and less people deciding to go to school at all. From the link, "Cost of living increased roughly 2.5-fold during this time (1978 - 2080); medical costs inflated roughly 6-fold; but college tuition and fees inflation approached 10-fold". This isn't just the states either - every year I went to University in Canada they raises the tuition by about 7 or 8% per year. And wasn't it just tripled in the UK?

        Well, it comes as no surprise then that less people decide to get a bachelor's degree, the demand for these workers goes up. No higher eduction or taking a trade just seems like a better option to most people than spending tens of thousands of dollars on education (and risk not finding a job after that). They see a bachelor's degree as the new sucker's game.
    • And youngens had more respect in your day too I'll bet.
      And the colours were sharper.
      And the world was safer.
      etc

      if anything younger people in the profession are more willing to work insane hours for far too little.
      It's the older ones who've gained some sense and know their health isn't worth the non-existent reward for working massive amounts of unpaid overtime.

    • by oodaloop (1229816) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:29AM (#34992948)
      Look, all I want is an honest week's pay for an honest day's work. Is that so much to ask?
    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:30AM (#34992960) Homepage

      As one of those Kids These Days: When I was in the "paying some dues" stage of my career, I didn't mind putting in a full day's work. I did mind putting in 14-18 hours a day 7 days a week for pay that amounted to about $7.50 an hour for months on end. Call me unreasonable if you like.

      • Contrast your story with my hiring experience: posting 20hr/week intern positions. Occasionally we'd get "volunteers" who wanted an unpaid position, for the most part we got what we paid for, though occasionally (almost predictably, I think) we'd get a valuable personal referral out of one of these people for a kid who was really productive.

        As for the "hired gun" interns who came for the money, we couldn't get anyone in the door for less than $20 per hour, and those that came for that money were more i
        • by twoallbeefpatties (615632) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:27AM (#34994380)
          Occasionally we'd get "volunteers" who wanted an unpaid position, for the most part we got what we paid for, though occasionally (almost predictably, I think) we'd get a valuable personal referral out of one of these people for a kid who was really productive.

          The story goes, as I've heard, that one day a work consultant came to my company and offered to analyze their work practices to see if they could discover any positive or negative patterns. One thing they noted in their survey of the staff was that the more productive employees, the ones who had stayed on with the company for a decade, were the ones that had been referred to the company by a current employee. Since then, the company has offered a generous referral bonus for signing up friends.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:37AM (#34993026)

      ...the more I look to hire high school drop-outs and illegal immigrants.

      Seriously, don't Kids These Days want to put in a full day's work and pay some dues any more?

      You tell'em! These whipper snappers think that they can go to school, party, come out with a degree and automatically get a decent paying job!

      Back in my day, we didn't have all this Globalisation! All we had to do is compete with Japan and Germany and they cheated with their efficiency and better quality - I tell you!

      Now, we have these trading "partners" like China where we can get the labor done for a fraction of the price! And I tell you me, it's been helping ALL of us! Just look how our standard of living has increased! Why the cheap products available in the China Outlet Store (Walmart) have never been cheaper!

      Can't compete with China or India?! Well something wrong with you, kid! In my day, we had to compete with those damn cheap Southerners - you know, that cheap labor in the Carolinas, Georgia and other Southern States. They were paid a whole 1/4 less and we did it! So can you. So what that a Chinese man makes less than a tenth of what you do! You just need to be 10 times more productive!

      Job went to India!?! Well, you just need to learn more skills and get them up to date and be 10 times more valuable! All you got to do it work harder - just like the CEOs! Why they busted their ass to have their Father get them into Harvard! An then they had to network constantly at keggers so that they can make the contacts to get those CEO jobs when they get out! It's hard for them to ship jobs overseas so that they can ruin a company and then get their 100 million dollar bonus!

      I tell ya! Kids these days!

      Now, get back to work and fund my Social Security and Medicare! I have to go to the doctor and then the Cadillac dealer because there's a new model and it'll look good in my Second home in Florida!

    • by wjousts (1529427)
      Is there an app for that?
    • Business is business, Why should I care about the company "paying my dues" if, when the times get a little tough they lay off employees to increase the share price. Their responce, business is business. My responce, I'll put in 40 hours of hard work a week, but I want an equitable work contract. My first job out of university was 70 hours a week, for six months, then they laid everyone on the project off. I was not upset with the company, any other american company would have done the same. I then ( six ye
    • by ArcherB (796902)

      ...the more I look to hire high school drop-outs and illegal immigrants.

      Seriously, don't Kids These Days want to put in a full day's work and pay some dues any more?

      If they were willing to put in put in a full day's work, they would have probably graduated high school!

    • by bughunter (10093)

      What are you offering in terms of compensation for "a full day's work?"

      I certainly understand your frustration with the work ethic of some young people, and the sense of entitlement that many new grads bring with them. But smart people who understand that they're well-compensated *will* go the extra mile for you. Not just monetary compensation, but benefits and social intangibles as well. It also helps to be a good interviewer and learn to identify the honest hard-workers who enjoy their work, and not ju

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:24AM (#34992900)

    This is an alternative interpretation of the data:

    In 1991, the average American with a bachelor's degree earned 25% (?) of what the top 1% earned. Today, the fraction is 7% (?). Cognitive skills are no longer valued as much as they were.

  • by necro81 (917438) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:24AM (#34992902) Journal
    Another contributor to the increasing ratio of college-educated salaries to those without has been the decline of manufacturing. There was a time over the last 2-3 generations when someone without a college degree could still get a decent job in manufacturing with benefits and good pay. There was value in skilled trades. The specific example I am thinking of is the automotive industry, where an assembly-line worker could make $20-30 an hour with benefits, and a good machinist could earn as much as a white-collar. Whether that was prudent or sustainable economically or socially is another matter, but it was the case.

    With the decline in manufacturing jobs and labor unions, brought on by increased productivity, increased global competition, and the economic downturn generally, it is harder for the uneducated to find jobs that don't have shit conditions for a shit wage.

    More recently, the economic downturn has hit those without college educations disproportionately high (manufacturing, construction, etc.), which would tend to depress their median income level, leading to a greater skew that might not otherwise be there.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      The decline of the trades has had an interesting effect. It's now difficult to get skilled weldors, so the pay for good ones (plus tasty per diem) can be quite nice.

      • You're right -- that's one of the biggest issues my employer has -- we can't get welders work anything. That 8/10 don't pass our weld test doesn't help, either. It's just a 4G 6" S80 position weld already fit and in the positioner for you. It's subject to visual testing and RT. I'd include our starting wages for welders, but they'd seem off since we're in a pretty low cost of living area (that also managed to more or less bypass the real estate bubble entirely, both the inflation and the pop)

    • A good fitter turner or welder still gets a very decent salary+benefits. At least all the ones I know do. And by decent I mean they are getting paid more than me, and i have a PhD.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      This is an excellent point. It's not really the numerator of this ratio that's changing much (actually, if anything it's going down), it's the denominator that's been dropping steadily since 1980 or so.

    • I did a summer internship at an electronics factory in 1987, then and there the floor people would tell the managers "be nice to the interns, they'll be coming back in a couple of years as your boss." At that time in that place, that was entirely possible, though there were better opportunities available for most college grads than being front-office engineering managers at a factory, especially that one.

      What I've experienced in the macro-economic picture since then is that I have steadily increased my
  • I call BS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:25AM (#34992908)
    In my experience (WARNING! ANECDOTAL! WARNING!) I have found that intelligence and money are not closely correlated (except possibly in an inverse relationship). For instance, coders who can't code get the fast track into management. Sales guys often get paid many times what the company's top engineers make.. Hell, I had one coworker who couldn't sit through half a f*cking meeting, but got paid 5 times what I did to go to conventions and schmooze.
    • Re:I call BS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by chemicaldave (1776600) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:29AM (#34992952)

      Hell, I had one coworker who couldn't sit through half a f*cking meeting, but got paid 5 times what I did to go to conventions and schmooze.

      Clearly you're underestimating the value of a good schmoozer. Connections are very important in business, as important as the quality of your product.

      • Re:I call BS (Score:4, Insightful)

        by SquirrelCrack (522382) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:43AM (#34993090)

        ^THIS^

        I can't stress this enough, emotional IQ is as important if not more important to success as technical intelligence. The best built software in the world is useless if nobody can sell it. It's really time for technical folks to stop bitching about how unfair this is and start trying to teach themselves interpersonal skills and sales skills. Get a job in consulting where both are highly valued. A good technical person that can also schmooze, sell and build relationships is worth their weight in gold.

      • Re:I call BS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @10:04AM (#34993312) Homepage

        Schmoozers are their own pricey little bubble. The only reason you need schmoozers is to connect with other schmoozers. If we all chopped the schmooze department off the balance books, we could get back to doing real business deals without all the pomp and fluff.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      This is the Dilbert Equation in action: Money = Work / Knowledge. Also identified by Lawrence J Peter as what he called "percussive sublimation", a.k.a. being kicked upstairs.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by HungryHobo (1314109)

      A good coder might produce a few times his salary in profit for the company. (a great coder even more) but a really fantastic salesman who can get the really big projects or negotiate a 10% better price on a big contract can make the company more money in a day than the coders can in a year.

      now of course without the coders he doesn't have anything to sell but it's basically a matter of being in a position where your actions have an immediate and massive effect on the bottom line.

      Someone who can schmooze wit

    • This has already been circled around by the other replies, but let me say is explicitly: being good at sales, schmoozing, etc requires a certain type of intelligence. Just because someone is not good at coding does NOT mean they are unintelligent. It means they are bad a coding. Point being that there are multiple types of skill sets and intelligence and one can be good in one and poor in another and still be intelligent/useful.

      In fact, I would argue (as others have here) that it is the management/schmoo

    • Social skills are hard as hell to master and are at a premium. Many brilliant workers never get anywhere because they aren't good at office politics or client relations. At the end of the day, making money matters to a business--it's the only matter, in fact. The brightest engineer may not be able to get a client to sign a multi-million dollar contract whereas a "dumb frat boy" can get that deal done. The next time you see that coworker of yours, ask yourself whether or not you like him a lot as a person; d

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:29AM (#34992946) Homepage

    Okay, I understand the need and usefulness of "bright people." But then the summary goes on to discuss a person with a college degree vs. a person who dropped out of high school. That's where it loses me because there is no shortage of moronic idiots with degrees and there are a number of people who dropped out of high school for reasons other than they couldn't handle the mental strain. (In fact, all that going through high school proves is that they can complete their work as cognitive skills are simply not required!)

    There needs to be another measure as attending school does not make anyone a better thinker... at least not in today's environment.

    Could that be the case? Yes. If schools did more to teach people to think better, then yes. But tons and tons of people simply don't want to take "irrelevant courses" where they complain "when will I ever get to use this?" Okay, so they drop philosophy and geography and foreign language courses. So once these "irrelevant" classes are pruned, what's left? "Job training." Great. Now we have worker drones instead of thinkers.

    • by aclarke (307017) <spam AT clarke DOT ca> on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @10:23AM (#34993510) Homepage
      Of course there are a lot of people who dropped out of high school who are smarter than those who attended college. If you'd read and understood the point of the article, you'd realize that this is an innately obvious piece of information that in now way detracts from the point of the article.

      Statistically, people who attended college now are more likely to make more money than high school dropouts than was the case in 1987.

      Firstly, the point you should have been making if you'd wanted to be at least partially on topic is that there are high school dropouts who make more than people with college degrees.

      Secondly, the term "more likely" does not mean that ALL college graduates make more than ALL high school dropouts. Therefore, pointing out that you know high school dropouts who make more than college-educated people should elicit a "yeah, so what" response. Of course that's the case. These are statistics we're discussing, not anecdotes.

      The article also doesn't state that people who go to college are smarter than people who drop out of high school. In fact, it attributes the inequity to a number of factors, including school quality, education of parents, upbringing, geographic region, and yes, intelligence. The point really is that on average, from a financial point of view, sucks more to be smart, born to poor parents, and living in a poor area than it does to be dumber, but born to rich parents in a good neighbourhood.
  • huh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:29AM (#34992950) Homepage
    Are we sure that this is a result of the "cognitive elite" being more in demand, or high school dropouts' demand plummeting slightly faster than bachelor's degree holders? From what I've seen education and skills are less important than luck--you know the right people, you managed to pick a major that's temporarily in demand, etc.
  • but who is having more offspring? (insert idiocracy joke)

  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:30AM (#34992964)

    ... just because you have a lot of smart people does not mean they will be put to use.

    A lot of ideas from the mythical man month also apply to clever people and large intellectual projects from various sectors. That being one largely of scalability.

    http://www.amazon.com/Mythical-Man-Month-Software-Engineering-Anniversary/dp/0201835959/ [amazon.com]

  • "Cognitive skills are at a premium, and they are unevenly distributed."

    So are physical skills. Which is why there are only a couple hundred guys in the world good enough at catching a football to do it for a living.

    Life is unfair and uneven.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:36AM (#34993024)

    I work at a typical institution that shall not be named. It's a fucking diploma mill and the grads can't do much of what high school grads back in The Day took for granted.

    Two-year degrees mean so little that I would ignore them and test the applicant thoroughly.

  • An educated fool is more foolish than an uneducated one.

    Can't remember where I read that, but it chimes true. Lord help you in an argument against someone who has been brainwashed to think they know their god's honest truth.

    *disclaimer - I have my associates so I am only half a fool ;)
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:46AM (#34993112) Journal
    The pessimist might point out that this so called "hugely increased availability of information" has simply increased the amount of information available from "more than even the brightest human could assimilate in a two dozen lifetimes"(have any of our brave techno-futurists tried walking into a good-sized library sometime in the past few centuries?) to "some factors of 10 more than used to be available, much of this 'new information' being data-mining junk like credit card records and Wal-mart's inventory."

    The news isn't so much that bright people are at a premium(society has always had its technocrats, going back to when "technocrat" meant "literate, probably related to some priesthood and keeping accounts for some king"); but that the bottom has absolutely fucking fallen out of the market for everybody else at approximately the same time that any legal, social, and cultural brakes on how much the people on the top can make have been removed.

    There was a period(in retrospect, quite possibly a historical anomaly) where "blue-collar, single income" might have meant some hard physical labor and some risk; but it didn't mean that you had totally fallen off the bus compared to everyone else. People raised families, owned homes, that sort of thing. Thanks to a mixture of robots and offshoring, the number of such jobs has been sharply reduced(not to zero, at least during housing booms, skilled but 'blue collar' tradesmen often do ok or better); but job availability and pay across the highschool or less sector, as a whole have fallen like a rock and show no signs of ever recovering.

    In fact, the fact that the ratio of high-school drop-out to BA/BS holder has only moved from 2.5 to 3 likely supports the pessimistic hypothesis. Despite the fact that the supply of good blue-collar jobs has been absolutely gutted, the ratio has only climbed slightly. That isn't "cognitive elite" money, that is "I'm white collar because I work in a cube, not a jiffy-lube" money. There is an elite in the US, possibly created in part by certain cognitive attributes; but it is so stratospherically above the dropout/BA/BS divide that it isn't even relevant.

    In terms of net worth, the top quintile holds ~85%, the bottom four the remaining ~15%. If you restrict that just to "financial wealth"(ie. ignoring largely illiquid assets like houses and cars that are held mostly for use, and considering cash, financial instruments, and the like) the top 1% hold ~40%, the top quintile ~90% and the bottom four quintiles, together, less than 10%.
  • I've known a number of rich kids in my life. Some of them are the most lazy useless wastes you'll ever meet. I've also been to 3rd world slums, some of them full of the most hard working people in the world. Why is this?

    Do the rich deserve to be rich, and the poor deserve to be poor? No, most of the discrepancy in wealth is not due to hard work, but class structure: nepotism, corruption, who you know rather than what you know or how hard you work. I'm not saying that some poor don't rise up, and some rich don't sink down, as is deserving of their character. And in fact the USA does a better job of meritocracy than most other countries. But so much else going on is NOT meritocracy, clearly.

    For that reason, many libertarian beliefs only serve to reinforce existing class structures, because so many libertarians don't understand how unfair the distribution of wealth is. In a just society, you NEED to artificially distribute wealth down, because the existing structure naturally concentrates wealth up.

    Libertarian philosophy starts with this insane assumption that society is a meritocracy, when all evidence is to the contrary. I agree that society SHOULD be a meritocracy, but to make it a meritocracy, you need to artificially counteract the natural tendency of wealth to attract more wealth.

    Libertarians: class structure is real, and growing in the USA. Now you can deny that, or you can do something about that. But making castle-in-the-sky pronouncements about adhering to a meritocracy that doesn't fully exist is just an exercise in fooling yourself.

    Some people need to read less Charles Darwin, and more Charles Dickens.

    • Actually, you have the wrong idea about libertarianism.

      The term libertarian referred to anti-state socialists (anarchists) for a century before the word was hijacked by pro- laissez-faire capitalist right wingers.

      Anarchism is at it's core, not so much anti-government (Proudhon's biting and brilliant "to be governed" aside) but opposed to all coercive forms of hierarchy such as the state, organized religion, capitalism, racism, patriarchy, etc. Anarchists envision and support various forms of non-hierarchica

    • by JamesP (688957)

      This is very interesting...

      Note: I am a Libertarian

      I've known a number of rich kids in my life. Some of them are the most lazy useless wastes you'll ever meet. I've also been to 3rd world slums, some of them full of the most hard working people in the world. Why is this?

      Do the rich deserve to be rich, and the poor deserve to be poor? No, most of the discrepancy in wealth is not due to hard work, but class structure: nepotism, corruption, who you know rather than what you know or how hard you work. I'm not saying that some poor don't rise up, and some rich don't sink down, as is deserving of their character. And in fact the USA does a better job of meritocracy than most other countries. But so much else going on is NOT meritocracy, clearly.

      True, but get this. The rich KIDS are exactly that. They got their wealth from their parents. And maybe a good job (like a job as PotUS =P). That's when the unfairness begins. Their parents probably were not rich, and worked a lot, and of course, got lucky.

      For that reason, many libertarian beliefs only serve to reinforce existing class structures, because so many libertarians don't understand how unfair the distribution of wealth is. In a just society, you NEED to artificially distribute wealth down, because the existing structure naturally concentrates wealth up.

      Don't blame (all) the libertarians. IMHO libertarianism should mean a FAIR playing field, not a 'no rules' playing field. Of course there are extremists.

      Libertarian philosophy starts with this insane assumption that society is a meritocracy, when all evidence is to the contrary. I agree that society SHOULD be a meritocracy, but to make it a meritocracy, you need to artificially counteract the natural tendency of wealth to attract more wealth.

      Libertarians: class structure is real, and growing in the USA. Now you can deny that, or you can do something about that. But making castle-in-the-sky pronouncements about adhering to a meritocracy that doesn't fully exist is just an exercise in fooling yourself.

      Some people need to read less Charles Darwin, and more Charles Dickens.

      Well, for example, you could move to Cuba, where a

  • Old Man Rant (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mattwrock (1630159) <mattwrock@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @12:27PM (#34995326)
    I have been in the IT field for 20 years. It's not about how hard you work in school or at work. It is getting the job done on time, making your boss look good, and social networking. If you are a nice guy who can explain technical issues in a non-technical way, you will have many more opportunities for advancement. On the college side, the problem isn't the students, but the parents. I walked to school everyday rain, snow, or shine until I got my driver's license. It wasn't a big deal though, all of my friends did it too. Somehow though, they bought into this nonsense that nameless faceless people would steal their children. Maybe they have extremely low self esteem and live vicariously through their kids. Parents today do not let their kids out of their sight for more than 15 minutes. I see too many "helicopter" parents hovering over their children and their friends. Part of critical thinking is learning from mistakes. Parents have to let their children be independent and make some mistakes so they can figure out how the world works.

"Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it." -- Marvin the paranoid android

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