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A Tale of Two Countries 518

theodp writes "Over at TechCrunch, Jon Bischke is troubled by the growing divide between Silicon Valley and unemployed America. While people who spend most of their days within a few blocks of tech start-up epicenters are enjoying a boom/bubble, the number of unemployed now eclipses 14 million nationwide, labor under-utilization is 16.2%, and the mean duration of unemployment has spiked to 40 weeks. 'Which bring us to an important question,' writes Bischke. 'Should Silicon Valley (and other tech clusters throughout the country) care? After all, as long as people in Nebraska or the Central Valley of California have enough money to buy virtual tractors to tend their crops in Farmville, should the tech community be worried about whether those same people are getting paid to do work in the real world? Is what's best for Silicon Valley also good for America?'"
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A Tale of Two Countries

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  • by Bloodwine77 ( 913355 ) on Monday July 18, 2011 @06:36PM (#36804996)

    The software development, technology, and IT industries have been under attack for quite some time now. Automation, outsourcing, H1B visas, and now the cloud.

    It is a testament to the technology-related fields that the workforce keeps adapting and evolving to keep pushing forward amidst adversity.

    While I feel for all those unemployed, I have worked very hard to not only stay up-to-date and relevant, but to also keep pushing myself forward. I am not saying I am better than anybody else, but I have more than paid my dues and continue to do so. Perhaps the technology-related fields fare better because it has always been a moving target. Before you had worries about job security you had worries about your tools becoming obsolete or deprecated. The entire mindset is to keep learning new languages, concepts, and technology. Never rest on your laurels.

    • Learning IPv6 for this reason :P
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rkww ( 675767 )
      > I am not saying I am better than anybody else Yes you are.
    • I imagine at the heyday of auto manufacturing in the US, people were saying the same things about Detroit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by erice ( 13380 )

      Perhaps the technology-related fields fare better because it has always been a moving target. Before you had worries about job security you had worries about your tools becoming obsolete or deprecated. The entire mindset is to keep learning new languages, concepts, and technology. Never rest on your laurels.

      Who is resting? Most of those whose skills are obsolete got that way by serving their employers interest rather than their own. There is often a dilemma: what is most needed at your current job isn't necessarily useful for the next and for many fields there is no equivalent to working on an open source project on your spare time. If you can't get your training on the job you can't get it at all. Hedging means steering your experience to something less useful to your current employer but more marketable

  • The scapegoat is hiding behind that MBA wall over there.

    (Serious note: What a troll story. Of course, everyone should care about unemployment rate, but should software engineers (and you Flash idiots) care more than others about it? Probably not.)

    • Yeah. They needed something for all of those "liberal arts" types to do.
    • It's a serious enough issue that sci-fi has considered it for decades - what if automation makes many people unnecessary? What do all those people do? If their economic worth is less than the cost of food and shelter for them, then political instability is sure to follow. Don't just debunk silly "solutions" you think people might have in mind, like ludditism or marxism - do you see a workable solution? Or a good reason to continue to think it's an unfounded fear?
      • Well, in the eighties some politicians here in Norway suggested a ban on robotics. It probably seemed like a nice way to save jobs (and votes.) Now, all politicians like to have a piece of the high tech cake, and claim their policies made it possible. (Our biggest claims to fame is OO, the paper clip, a cheese grater and a supposedly very efficient sea missile.)

        But yes, all people should fear redundancy. I am a software engineer above the mid thirties and I fear redundancy big time. But, I do read a lot of

      • Well, as your reply really posed a few good questions, I would like to refer to the poster below mentioning the difference between US and most European countries.

        We do have safety measures for all people, so in principle you are never in the risk of having no shelter (or a home, as we call it in Norway) and not having food on the table. Really. Most right wingers in the US would call it socialism, but here we just pay our taxes and enjoy a nice safety net. Heck, we will even pay for your reeducation to a di

        • Yet there have been big riots in countries because they're trying to lower the "safety measures" because they're too expensive.

      • Science fiction has considered the problem and offered solutions before. []
      • by green1 ( 322787 )

        It's not just sci-fi, I know I've been saying this for years too.

        I truly believe that eventually society will end up in some variation of the sci-fi utopia we see so frequently, where automation and technological progress allow people to no longer worry about financial burdens, and simply do whatever they enjoy, or work to better themselves and humanity. A world where everyone is "wealthy" and where money no longer rules our lives.

        Unfortunately, I also strongly believe that things will get much much worse b

  • by Conception ( 212279 ) on Monday July 18, 2011 @06:44PM (#36805110)

    I remember back when granddad had a computer. He'd add up all the coins and do the math required for the accounting for the business. Then silly technology came along and now we have "calculators" and "computers". What happened to the real faces behind these jobs?! How many people are out of work that have the skills to do long division -JUST LIKE A COMPUTER-! It's a terrible thing and we should at once do away with progress. It's far too damaging to the economy.

    • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

      At least granddad didn't have a floating point precision bug! Progress eh?!

      • Mine did. He often had hard-to-find errors after the first several digits after the decimal point. He often had rounding errors as well.
      • Granddad just called floating point precision bugs thieves and had them flogged. Same bugs, more entertaining.

  • by decora ( 1710862 ) on Monday July 18, 2011 @06:45PM (#36805118) Journal

    look, no offense.

    but a lot of people whose life is a never ending string of relatively well paying jobs, "interesting" work, conferences, tech seminars, etc, tend to lose their ability to empathize with the rest of us losers.

    • by Capt.DrumkenBum ( 1173011 ) on Monday July 18, 2011 @07:42PM (#36805752)
      How dare you suggest I can't empathize with you losers!
    • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Monday July 18, 2011 @08:12PM (#36806044)

      Except the Bay Area is also the most socially liberal and philanthropic regions of the country.

      If you want rich conservatives look to Wall Street (which is in an even larger bubble than Silicon Valley right now). Even more impressively, they have been able to convince middle America (the ones hurting the most from the recession) that the government social programs that can and are helping them out right now are evil and should not be funded by those experiencing said economic bubbles.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

        Except the Bay Area is also the most socially liberal and philanthropic regions of the country.


        Socially liberal, I get. I have met very, very few non-religious 'social liberals' who are philanthropic, unless we're talking about "I support taking money from the public coffers and giving it to others".

        But that's largely besides the point. The Bay Area, like almost no other part of the US, is incredibly myopically focused. The Bay, one of the richest regions of the world, is the center of the world. All that sits outside its cultural realm are where the barbarians live. As someone who has lived thr

  • It would be prudent to move where the jobs are but those of us that got suckered in with a mortgage are now upside down and unable to move. We're locked into living in a dead/dying economy (Michigan) by a mortgage that is sinking further year after year. Those of us mortgage-locked would sure benefit from telecommuting positions but they seem more of a fairy tale than reality. If only companies would realize that they could give us VPN access to their infrastructure and we could do the work from home, we do
    • If you have no equity in your house, it makes sense to get up and leave and stop paying, because one thing is certain: it will not get better because people want politicians to solve their problems, rather than shoeing the politicians away with brooms and taking matters into their own hands in terms of the economy, security, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      you can make a change if you really want to.

      i lost over $80,000 in value in 2 years on a chunk of my "American Dream".

      this is exactly what i did and i just closed my short sell a few weeks ago. some how i actually got a check from someone for getting it sold. rofl. suckers.

      1) stop paying your mortgage and put the money in a bank account (this is the beginning of your new savings account).
      2) wait for your bank to ask you if you need help
      3) activate the bank assistance programs if you quality
      4) start the sho

    • by superdave80 ( 1226592 ) on Monday July 18, 2011 @07:15PM (#36805442)

      ...those of us that got suckered in with a mortgage...

      How exactly were you 'suckered'?

    • Pakistan is not in the Middle East. It is in South Asia.
  • So, what is he saying here? Everyone who works in an industry that produces only luxury items should feel sorry for those that dont and devote a portion of their income? That we should immedially stop producing all luxury items until everyone that desires to be employed is? All sports franchises are immeditly disbanded. All Television and Media production is halted. All motor vehicles greater than 20k USD will be discontinued. Yeah, I am sure that will help unemployment.... Yeah, it sucks that the economy i

    • He's not saying any such thing. He's saying, simply, "This is a problem and we should talk about possible solutions," and there's no implication that any of the proposed solutions should include any of the absurd measures you came up with out of thin air.

  • The central theme of the article is whether or not tech companies should continue try to grow their business, or should they decide to not compete with established industries. A specific cited example is that Apple created a net job loss through iTunes by ruining Tower Records. The summary makes it sound like the article is asking whether or not tech companies should feel bad for the fact people play Farmville rather than look for a job.
  • There are plenty of private charities they can send their money to. Or they can outsource a startup to Iowa - the big state schools do produce plenty of quality engineering talent, and you can pay them less, but it's still less of a headache than going to India.

    All in all, America has pushed into a high-expertise economy. No matter where you are geographically, you can do pretty well for yourself with a competent tech background. It's less about Silicon Valley versus Iowa than it is the guy with the BS vers

  • Shitty article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by andsens ( 1658865 ) on Monday July 18, 2011 @06:51PM (#36805190)
    Wow, this was one hell of a crap article. Who does this guy think he is, trying to guilt trip working americans in silicon valley because they are, well... working. I mean WTF?!
  • Yes. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Monday July 18, 2011 @06:53PM (#36805222) Homepage Journal
    Income disparity was what made roman population lose interest, hope and eventually, participation in the roman republic, leading to deterioration of not only state but also culture in just a hundred years or so :

    rich were flooding the market with cheap grain, causing the small farmers not to be able to make a living because the crop they produced ended up more expensive in cost than rich, big farm holders. in turn, they had to sell their farms to rich farmers and migrate into cities to make a living. increasingly roman agriculture had come under the control of very few, rich landowning aristocrats. these farms were called latifundia.

    since the backbone of the country, the small free citizen landholders were gone, public services and military continually deteriorated. the 'barbarians' (non-romans) who were increasingly conscripted to the army had less incentive than a citizen soldier to defend anything. moreover, the disillusioned citizenry, who could get nothing out of the society at that point, cared much for any intruders - whomever invaded, they were just replacing existing elite with their own, little was changing in the case of ordinary citizens. (except for exceedingly vandal barbarians and similar - vandals were also a barbarian tribe, as a sidenote).

    the rich, who held all the resources had little use for anything of the sort like republic or democracy. and when augustus and later emperors started to dismantle last vestiges of republic, noone cared. now, the citizenry had no say or share from society as a whole. and from that point on it all disintegrated.

    the irony is, this process started around the peak of roman momentum - late republic era. the very era in which triumvirate (caesar pompei and crassus) were waging their civil war against each other. the empire didnt instantly disintegrate - it had momentum to take itself comfortably forward at least 100 years more. everything then started to directly crumble.

    today is no different. back in roman times, the poor had at least the chance to engage in trade and arts/crafts. today, even those fields of life are 'latifundiated' by the rich just like how roman agriculture (then the backbone of economy) was consolidated in the hands of very few elite.

    i would like to alert you to the fact that, this situation that destroyed roman empire, had later also become the causes that led to the birth of aristocracy in middle ages and on. in fact, the entire system of feudalism, is a system of property ownership - the difference with our current capitalist system is, now everyone is able to own property (land in this case), while back then, only aristocrats could. however this doesnt change one fundamental fact - this system eventually leads to a minority having and controlling everything (yes, including politics because resource is power - just like how senate had to accept subjugation in front of those who had the funds to muster legions), and ends up in an aristocratic hierarchical society.

    in short - yes, they should care. for the sake of their own freedom too.
    • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by lennier ( 44736 ) on Monday July 18, 2011 @10:15PM (#36807056) Homepage

      Income disparity was what made roman population lose interest, hope and eventually, participation in the roman republic

      Well, that and the little detail that "the Roman population", the poor included, was itself a tiny minority at the top of a machine built on massacring, enslaving, and torturing the rest of the world for their own enrichment and amusement.

      But I'm sure the foreign conquered provinces felt much more happy and free when they were invaded and enslaved and crucified by an equitable Roman Republic rather than by a Roman Empire ruled by a few rich guys.

  • For a self-motivated individual of at least average intelligence there is a shrinking number of excuses for not possessing in-demand skills.

    let me know how your self motivated learning gets you past the "HR wall" where if you don't have x years of industry experience in language/environment y your resume goes to the trash pile...

    When pretty much every entry level job is outsourced and ageism not being unknown in the tech sector, it seems really difficult for anybody in their 30s/40s to "self motivate" thems

    • I want the job as SI swim suit edition butt sand artist. It's what I think I'll be good at, love your work and all.

      I just want to live comfortably licking super models butts (there is no such thing as a male super model you perverts), then applying sand. Is that too much to ask?

      Lot's of kids are good at playing video games? Should they be able to make a comfortable living at it?

      Eating pizza and drinking beer?


      Plenty of supply, little demand.

      • seems like you, like a lot of other people, assume that people can only love idle pursuits. What if you love and are good at building violins (say)? it's not an easy job, it takes dedication and a lifetime to master, but could you do it? could you make a comfortable living at it as things stand now?

        Can society as a whole survive and improve where if you aren't sitting in a chair in front of a computer you can't pay your bills?

        Like you say, supply/demand, why shouldn't there be focus on increasing demand for

  • They'll start to care when they start being killed as food in the streets. In any event, people in the US have no idea what serious unemployment is like. In some areas elsewhere in the westernised world it's headed for the 50% mark and more.
  • The question "should someone care" is meaningless.

    The question is, should they take action.

    The effect of caring without doing is the same as that of not caring.

    So, what is it that prospering hi-tech startups should actually do about unemployment such that it is in their interest, and not merely charity?

    I can't think of it.

  • by tchdab1 ( 164848 )

    SV's dream is to find and develop an idea for a product that's hugely useful to a community. Then they patent it, monetize it, and monopolize it/defend it in direct proportion to its usefulness. Their assembly line takes truly good ideas out of the public sphere and changes them into privately held things that are much less useful but much more profitable. The forces that benefit are mostly the forces that are wealthy to begin with.
    If SV cared they would be trying to build systems that took ideas and kept t

  • The main reason we're still seeing high unemployment since the "great recession", is that everyone is still paying back or defaulting on their debts. Before this financial crisis Americans were adding about 1 trillion dollars a year of private debt growth to the demand in the economy. Now the level of private debt is falling rapidly. So instead of having all that extra spending power fueling growth and jobs, we have lots of debts being repaid and a massive reduction in spending power.

    It's the 1930's all ov

  • Should Silicon Valley (and other tech clusters throughout the country) care?

    I think most people care, and maybe I'm being naive, but the subset that consists of tech clusters probably cares more in aggregate. The real interesting question is, what can be done about it? if you have no power (and the majority of tech people *don't* have much power), then it doesn't matter how much you care. I'd suggest asking the people who are outsourcing jobs and fucking over our economy how much they care, but I'm pretty s

  • Companies that do business internationally or those suppliers or vendors to said companies are doing great. Retailers with international sales are fine, those without are hurting. Apple for instance makes 50% or more of it's sales internationally.

    China's economy is booming, as is Korea, Germany, Australia, Brazil.

    If you want to find work, look at the companies with greater than 30% of revenue coming from outside the US. The company I work for has 200+ open positions in the US. The majority of those are not tech related, ~40 are (ecom, IT, logistics and data). We just hired a language specialist for QA we're doing so much translation work.

    There are jobs, and yes you may have to relocate to find them. Sign on with a staffing company and check that travel box. Agreeing to travel is your best bet to get work.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost