Tag Archives: united states

They’re Wrong: The Sun is Rising, Not Setting on America


We have moved from the Great Recession to the Great Malaise. Despite massive government stimulus, the world’s largest and most advanced economy continues to limp sideways. Unemployment remains stubbornly high. Growth remains slow and prospects for employment growth remain bleak. Wages continue to stagnate. Recent college graduates and young professionals may well be the first generation to live a life inferior to those of their parents, conventional wisdom holds. The United States has entered a period of slow decline, much like the sun finally setting on the British Empire in the 20th century.

And that’s not all the pessimists say. They also argue that while the United States continues to dominate in the emergence of new technology powerhouses, the biggest IPO of the decade belongs to Facebook, a social network that is more media company than technology innovator. Stifling red tape and regulations has driven costs of testing new medicines and medical devices so high that many drug companies have shifted testing regimes and market focus to Europe and Asia. Despite mounting evidence that skilled immigrant entrepreneurs have delivered a wildly disproportionate share of the country’s technology innovation and technology job growth, the powers that be in Washington, D.C. have, even with broad bipartisan support, not mustered up the votes to reform the country’s regressive and punitive immigration policies. Add to all of this an aging populace requiring more and more support from younger workers, ballooning health costs and a tax structure that beggars the young to underwrite benefits for the aged, and the United States looks more and more like a historical footnote than a superpower.

Peel back the layers of the onion, and the reality appears quite different. In fact, the United States stands on the cusp of a dramatic revival and rejuvenation, propelled by an amazing wave of technological innovation. A slew of breakthroughs will deliver the enormous productivity gains and the societal dramatic cost savings needed to sustain economic growth and prosperity. These breakthroughs, mostly digital in nature, will complete the shift begun by the Internet away to a new era where the precepts of Moore’s Law can be applied to virtually any field.

Computer-assisted design and fabrication will reshape manufacturing forever. These technologies will slash waste and replace nearly all conventional manufacturing with more environmentally friendly and cost-effective additive manufacturing run with robots and computer programs. Complex systems resistant to modeling will succumb to advances in big data that allow mankind to finally make sense and improve upon the most intricate multi-faceted interactions. Where big data fails, ubiquitous crowd sourcing will harness untapped brain cycles to train systems and solve problems, one small activity at a time — on a global scale.

In this massively digital world, A/B testing or parallelization of R&D processes will become commonplace for just about everything from airline design simulations to online advertising to artificial organ construction. This will, in turn, allow for far more rigorous testing of products and processes. Dirt-cheap digital delivery platforms for educational content and improvements in the understanding of the way the brain learns will yield a sea change in how we gain knowledge. This will result in more open, flexible educational systems and structures — and a smarter, more learned, constantly learning populace. While the world will benefit from these changes, the United States is uniquely positioned to lead this sea change.

In the field of energy, even as Silicon Valley has turned cold on green startups, the cost per watt of solar and wind energy continues to fall. GTM research computes that solar has already by dropped by 97.2 percent over a 35-year period. Renewables have undercut old carbon-based power generation in swathes of the country — such as Hawaii and California — where electricity is costly. Less reliable has been progress in algal biofuels but progress in biotech drug development techniques and complex drug manufacturing will likely provide equivalent benefits to manufacturing drop-in carbon fuels based on algae fed with water and ambient carbon dioxide.

In the interim, the enhanced availability of natural gas extracted domestically via new fracking techniques has sent energy costs plummeting and has resulted in the usurpation of old-line coal-fired power plants for gas-fired generation facilities. In turn, this has driven a new wave of construction of high-efficiency steel and chemical plants along the Gulf Coast of the United States, close to shipping lanes and benefitting from cheap natural gas or electricity. Energy efficiency technologies, such as LED light bulbs, improved heating and cooling systems, and Internet-enabled hardware like the Nest thermostat, can save enough money to offset the initial cost – often within a year or less.

The implications of these shifts are tremendous. Manufacturing in this country will rebound. The economies of scale that benefited cheap labor and cheap locations overseas will be stood on their head as the percentage of cost of manufacturing products consumed by labor continues to drop due to automation and mechanization. People will learn more, faster, more easily and with far more enjoyment. Healthcare costs will fall dramatically as the old doctor’s office-centric and one-size-fits-many treatment approaches give way to personalized medicine. Connected hardware – cars, thermostats, cell phones, pacemakers, appliances, heating and cooling systems – will supply an endless stream of useful data that will allow us to optimize for efficiency and live more comfortable lives.

Because the United States continues to lead the world in its ability to adapt to, incorporate and develop new systems and new technologies, we are uniquely poised to reap a disproportionate share of the benefits of these shifts. Even better, these advances will remedy the very weaknesses that have straightjacketed the U.S. economy and confined economic growth to the upper classes while causing income and life expectancy to stagnate for the lower 70 percent of the country’s population over the past three decades.

The Internet is in the very early stages of driving an exponential economic growth curve akin to what electricity earlier wrought during the later half of the Industrial Revolution. Let us remember that the Internet only achieved semi-mass adoption a decade ago. (We say semi because, unlike electricity, not everyone has access to the same quality of Internet and that is, actually, an area where the United States lags the rest of the developed world).

We have exponentially increased our ability to access knowledge. Search engines we take for granted deliver access to knowledge that would have been unimaginable two decades ago. Social networks have increased our ability to reach out to millions of people to request information and advice. Everything from real-time stock prices to reviews of consumer electronics to food safety violations for restaurants is now online and available virtually anywhere on Earth to anyone with a mobile device. As Peter Diamandis writes, “A Masai warrior on a cellphone in the middle of Kenya has better access to knowledge than President Reagan did 25 years ago.”

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This is coauthored with Alex Salkever. Alex and I are also authoring a book on how technology will transform our lives. This is expected to be published in Fall 2014.

You can follow Alex on Twitter, and you can follow me and read more of my articles on my website: www.wadhwa.com.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Posted by:Vivek Wadhwa

How the United States is reinventing itself yet again


Guest Post

January 4, 2014 1:00 PM
Vivek Wadhwa & Alex Salkever

Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever are authoring a book on how technology will transform our lives, which is expected to be published in fall 2014. Wadhwa is a fellow at the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke’s engineering school, and distinguished scholar at Singularity and Emory universities. Salkever is a writer focused on cloud computing and new technologies.

The sun is rising, not setting on the United States.

We have moved from the Great Recession to the Great Malaise. Despite massive government stimulus, the world’s largest and most advanced economy continues to limp sideways. Unemployment remains stubbornly high. Growth remains slow and prospects for employment growth remain bleak. Wages continue to stagnate. Recent college graduates and young professionals may well be the first generation to live a life inferior to those of their parents, conventional wisdom holds. The United States has entered a period of slow decline, much like the sun finally setting on the British Empire in the 20th century.

And that’s not all the pessimists say. They also argue that while the United States continues to dominate in the emergence of new technology powerhouses, the biggest IPO of the decade belongs to Facebook, a social network that is more media company than technology innovator. Stifling red tape and regulations has driven costs of testing new medicines and medical devices so high that many drug companies have shifted testing regimes and market focus to Europe and Asia. Despite mounting evidence that skilled immigrant entrepreneurs have delivered a wildly disproportionate share of the country’s technology innovation and technology job growth, the powers that be in Washington, D.C. have, even with broad bipartisan support, not mustered up the votes to reform the country’s regressive and punitive immigration policies. Add to all of this an aging populace requiring more and more support from younger workers, ballooning health costs and a tax structure that beggars the young to underwrite benefits for the aged, and the United States looks more and more like a historical footnote than a superpower.

Peel back the layers of the onion, and the reality appears quite different. In fact, the United States stands on the cusp of a dramatic revival and rejuvenation, propelled by an amazing wave of technological innovation. A slew of breakthroughs will deliver the enormous productivity gains and the societal dramatic cost savings needed to sustain economic growth and prosperity. These breakthroughs, mostly digital in nature, will complete the shift begun by the Internet away to a new era where the precepts of Moore’s Law can be applied to virtually any field.

Computer-assisted design and fabrication will reshape manufacturing forever. These technologies will slash waste and replace nearly all conventional manufacturing with more environmentally friendly and cost-effective additive manufacturing run with robots and computer programs. Complex systems resistant to modeling will succumb to advances in big data that allow mankind to finally make sense and improve upon the most intricate multi-faceted interactions. Where big data fails, ubiquitous crowd sourcing will harness untapped brain cycles to train systems and solve problems, one small activity at a time — on a global scale.

In this massively digital world, A/B testing or parallelization of R&D processes will become commonplace for just about everything from airline design simulations to online advertising to artificial organ construction. This will, in turn, allow for far more rigorous testing of products and processes. Dirt-cheap digital delivery platforms for educational content and improvements in the understanding of the way the brain learns will yield a sea change in how we gain knowledge. This will result in more open, flexible educational systems and structures — and a smarter, more learned, constantly learning populace. While the world will benefit from these changes, the United States is uniquely positioned to lead this sea change.
FILE – In this file photo taken March 23, 2010, installers Arin Gharibian, left, Hayk Mkrtchayan, and team leader Edward Boghosian, all employees of California Green Design, assemble solar electrical panels on the roof of a home in Glendale, Calif. Homeowners on the hunt for sparkling solar panels are lured by ads filled with images of pristine landscapes and bright sunshine, and words about the technology’s benefits for the environment – and the wallet. What customers may not know is that there’s a dirtier side. While solar is a far less polluting energy source than coal, many panel makers are nevertheless grappling with a hazardous waste problem. Fueled partly by billions in government incentives, the industry is creating millions of solar panels each year and, in the process, millions of pounds of polluted sludge and contaminated water.

In the field of energy, even as Silicon Valley has turned cold on green startups, the cost per watt of solar and wind energy continues to fall. GTM research computes that solar has already by dropped by 97.2 percent over a 35-year period. Renewables have undercut old carbon-based power generation in swathes of the country — such as Hawaii and California — where electricity is costly. Less reliable has been progress in algal biofuels but progress in biotech drug development techniques and complex drug manufacturing will likely provide equivalent benefits to manufacturing drop-in carbon fuels based on algae fed with water and ambient carbon dioxide.

In the interim, the enhanced availability of natural gas extracted domestically via new fracking techniques has sent energy costs plummeting and has resulted in the usurpation of old-line coal-fired power plants for gas-fired generation facilities. In turn, this has driven a new wave of construction of high-efficiency steel and chemical plants along the Gulf Coast of the United States, close to shipping lanes and benefitting from cheap natural gas or electricity. Energy efficiency technologies, such as LED light bulbs, improved heating and cooling systems, and Internet enabled hardware like the Nest thermostat, can save enough money to offset the initial cost – often within a year or less.

The implications of these shifts are tremendous. Manufacturing in this country will rebound. The economies of scale that benefitted cheap labor and cheap locations overseas will be stood on their head as the percentage of cost of manufacturing products consumed by labor continues to drop due to automation and mechanization. People will learn more, faster, more easily and with far more enjoyment. Healthcare costs will fall dramatically as the old doctor’s office centric and one-size-fits-many treatment approaches give way to personalized medicine. Connected hardware – cars, thermostats, cell phones, pacemakers, appliances, heating and cooling systems – will supply an endless stream of useful data that will allow us to optimize for efficiency and live more comfortable lives.

Because the United States continues to lead the world in its ability to adapt to, incorporate and develop new systems and new technologies, we are uniquely poised to reap a disproportionate share of the benefits of these shifts. Even better, these advances will remedy the very weaknesses that have straightjacketed the U.S. economy and confined economic growth to the upper classes while causing income and life expectancy to stagnate for the lower 70 percent of the country’s population over the past three decades.

The Internet is in the very early stages of a driving an exponential economic growth curve akin to what electricity earlier wrought during the later half of the Industrial Revolution. Let us remember that the Internet only achieved semi-mass adoption a decade ago. (We say semi because, unlike electricity, not everyone has access to the same quality of Internet and that is, actually, an area where the United States lags the rest of the developed world).

We have exponentially increased our ability to access knowledge. Search engines we take for granted deliver access to knowledge that would have been unimaginable two decades ago. Social networks have increased our ability to reach out to millions of people to request information and advice. Everything from real-time stock prices to reviews of consumer electronics to food safety violations for restaurants is now online and available virtually anywhere on Earth to anyone with a mobile device. As Peter Diamandis writes, “A Masai warrior on a cellphone in the middle of Kenya has better access to knowledge than President Reagan did 25 years ago.”

This article first appeared in The Washington Post.

http://venturebeat.com/2014/01/04/how-the-united-states-is-reinventing-itself-yet-again/

Asia shares roiled by risk aversion; gold gains


By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY Thu Jan 2, 2014 9:36pm EST

An office worker walks past the board of the Australian Securities Exchange building displaying its logo in central Sydney April 5, 2013. REUTERS-Daniel Munoz
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, December 27, 2013. REUTERS-Carlo Allegri
A pedestrian holding an umbrella walks past an electronic board displaying graphs of the recenent movement of Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo December 19, 2013. REUTERS-Yuya Shino

1 of 5. An office worker walks past the board of the Australian Securities Exchange building displaying its logo in central Sydney April 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Daniel Munoz

(Reuters) – Asian share markets were under water on Friday after a sudden reversal in some very popular, and thus crowded, trades sparked a bout of global risk aversion.

The net result was a pullback in the euro, sterling, and stocks and a bounce for the yen, gold and bonds. Oil prices had also taken a spill, though for purely idiosyncratic reasons.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS shed a sharp 1.3 percent, with markets from Shanghai to Sydney all in the red.

The various moves seemed divorced from the news flow, which was mostly upbeat with global manufacturing ending 2013 on a strong note as the United States, Japan and Germany all saw demand pick up. <TOP/CEN>

The fly in the ointment was China where a measure of activity in the services sector eased back in December, just as one for manufacturing had on Thursday.

The next hurdle later Friday will be a spate of speeches from top Federal Reserve policy makers, including outgoing Chairman Ben Bernanke. Any comments on the outlook for tapering could affect market sentiment.

On Thursday, the Dow .DJI had ended down 0.82 percent while the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.89 percent. MSCI’s 45-country share index .MIWD00000PUS slipped 1 percent.

Anxious eyes were fixed on Thailand after the stock market sank over 5 percent .SETI on Thursday amid deepening political uncertainty. The Thai currency also took a bath, hitting its lowest since early 2010 at 33.03 per dollar.

Shares in South Korea .KS11 lost another 1.2 percent, though there the problem was one of a strong won and a weak yen undermining the competitiveness of the country’s huge export companies.

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) was down over 1 percent, on top of a 5 percent decline on Thursday, and at its lowest since August.

The country’s Finance Minister, Hyun Oh-seok, reiterated that they were closely watching the won and the ongoing depreciation of the yen, but went no further than that.

EURO SETBACK

In currencies, the euro took a spill as speculators booked profits on long positions after a strong 2013. The single currency was stuck at $1.3657 after shedding a full cent overnight.

The same forces gripped sterling, another strong performer in recent months. The pound peeled away to $1.6441 from a 28-month peak of $1.6605.

That in turn lifted the U.S. dollar index, a gauge of the greenback’s value against six major currencies, by the most in five months. On Friday, the index was at 80.595 .DXY compared to a trough of 80.083 the day before.

Going the other way, the yen enjoyed a short-covering bounce. Borrowing in yen to buy higher yielding assets has been a vastly popular trade, leaving the market vulnerable to sudden, if usually brief, reversals.

In this case the dollar came off to 104.65 yen after being as high as 105.44, its strongest level since October 2008. Likewise, the euro retreated to 143.00 yen from a peak of 145.12 on Thursday.

The short-covering theme extended to U.S. Treasury debt, which has been under pressure for pretty much all of the past two months. Yields on the 10-year note dipped to 2.99 percent from a top of 3.04 percent, which had been the highest since mid-2011.

Gold was another beaten-down asset to get a reprieve. The metal swung up to $1,229.84 having been as low as $1,183.80 early in the week. <GOL/>

Oil prices steadied after taking a fall on Thursday as Libya prepared to restart a major oilfield and on speculation of a sharp rise in crude stockpiles in the United States.

Brent crude edged up 32 cents to $108.10 a barrel but that followed a drop of $2.98 on Thursday. U.S. crude was up 20 cents at $95.64, having shed almost $5 the day before.

(Editing by Eric Meijer)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/03/us-markets-global-idUSBRE96S00E20140103

Light, Love, and Los Angeles. Start here and chase the shadows.


Ten years ago, I had been living in Orange County for just over six months. Costa Mesa, to be precise, even though I was going to school at UC Irvine. I would live there another five years. I never loved it, and at times I hated it. The first time I ever visited UC Irvine, before I accepted the university’s offer and enrolled as a PhD student, I burst into tears as the plane landed. I don’t think I ever got over that immediate, visceral reaction to the feeling of being exiled to an unfamiliar land, cast off into an exurban blightscape. I’d never lived in the suburbs, let alone the strange continuous megalopolis of centerless suburban cities that stretches from Seal Beach to Coto de Caza, Buena Park to Mission Viejo, Brea to San Clemente.

Although, to be fair, it’s not like it was truly exile: Have you seen Laguna Beach?

Many, and maybe most, of you have never really been to Orange County—even those of you who have spent any time living in Los Angeles—and it’s unlikely you’ll ever go, because why would you? Everything you need to know about Orange County you learned on TV, and plenty of that isn’t exactly off the mark. There are unappealing housewives and there are banana stands, and there are appallingly rich people who behave in appallingly awful ways. There are also not-at-all-rich people whose behavior is legendarily terrifying and bad, all manner of everything else that makes people say with a visible cringe “Oh, yes. OC. I can’t believe you survived five and a half years there!”

But I did. I found plenty to hate about Orange County. Sometimes I still like to read Gustavo Arrellano’s 50 Reasons Why Orange County Is The Worst Effing Place In America (and I encourage you to read it too). Yet despite myself, like Gustavo and the OC Weekly crew I found things to love too. Maybe not as many, and certainly not anything that could have gotten me to stay there.

What do I miss most about Orange County? There’s the warmth and the light (and I miss those most of all), but alongside those: The food and the proximity to LA. OC has the best sushi I’ve ever eaten in my life, and so many izakaya. Amazing Vietnamese food. Southern California’s tacos are better than Northern California’s, end of argument. Even more than that: During my time in OC, I cooked and baked more than I ever have in my life, and I discovered photography when I lived in a condo that was full of light. I spent a lot of time outside, and whenever I could I escaped to LA, where I learned to explore that giant city bit by bit.

Being in LA this past weekend for the first time since 2011 reminded me how much I love Southern California, and how wonderful LA is. It also reminded me how the air can be warm in a particular way, about the quality of the light that creates a perfect glow while also defining the shadows, about wanting to explore little by little. So here we go: words, images, tastes, sounds. A year of Wednesdays.

 

Instructions for anyone with a burning desire.


This might be the shortest, simplest life advice ever:

If you have a burning desire to do something, for f**k’s sake, do it.

Many of us don’t have a burning desire and that’s fine. It might be something you need to work at. But if you are lucky enough to possess that burning desire, that niggling won’t-go-away calling, that constant dream pulling at you, then please try it, start it, do it.

A desire burns for a reason. It’s calling you to do something about it. And it probably won’t go away until you get started.

I was talking to a friend at a drinks party. Like many of us, she’s found herself doing a job that isn’t really her.

So, what do you really want to do?” I asked her.

I ask this question a lot. Lots of time I hear back, “I don’t know”. Other times you see the person’s eyes light up, their voice get excited and it couldn’t be clearer.

That’s what I saw this time. My friend said her real dream was to become an art teacher. But she acknowledged there are a few obstacles in the way, and understandably, the obstacles had deterred her.

But hang on,” I cut across, “this desire to teach art, is it a burning desire?”.

I could see it in her eyes. An unequivocal yes. It was what she wanted. Now that was established, we talked about how she might be able to knock down those obstacles. We came up with some ideas to start exploring this dream.


The route to your burning desire may not be straightforward or easy. It will probably be daunting. But your passion will provide you with the fuel to get started.

Of course, having a burning desire doesn’t automatically provide a magic wand. Having the dream doesn’t mean you wake up the next morning and start living it. You still have to work at it. JK Rowling was rejected twelve times before she got lucky. My editor at the FT turned me down the first time I suggested I write for the paper. And the same happened the first time I approached the publisher who would end up publishing my first book. I got rejected. But yes, I had a burning desire. To write a book, to get published. And so I persevered.

There is no magic formula — but if there was — it might look something like this:

Burning Desire + Perseverance + Hard Graft = Your best chance of pulling it off.


Ian Sanders is a business storyteller, writer and advisor. His books have helped readers on their journey towards their burning desires.

Further Reading

Ignore your headmaster; Plough your own furrow.

 — I was a latecomer to Doctor Who, Blue Peter and the cream of 1970s children’s TV.

Written by

Business storyteller, Advisor, Financial Times writer, Idea explorer. I help businesses capture & tell their story. Author of: Mash-Up!, Zoom!, Juggle!, Leap!.

 

We can’t give up on university.


“I’m leaving the university at the end of this year.”

I quickly jolted my head up from the floor, suddenly staring my professor directly in the eye.

Over the past semester, this particular professor and I had developed a relatively close relationship, and I had started randomly popping into his office during open hours some weeks ago, originally to ensure I had a bit of an edge over the other students, but kept re-appearing simply because I enjoyed his company.

“Why?” I inquired quietly, suddenly much more aware of my surroundings than before: the empty bookshelves, the boxes, the official-looking paperwork on his desk.

“It’s been a tough year,” he replied, “…there’s just not much of a future for academics, especially in the humanities. These kids… and their parents… they think they’re here to get job training, and that’s ruining the entire system. I entered academia to do research and write, and with my small [design] business taking off, I will continue do that, maybe go back to France, who knows?”

I nodded, a little upset, but facing another example of what I have long known to be the inevitable — this wasn’t the first case a professor has confided to me about his imminent departure, and, as much as I’d like it to be, it likely won’t be the last.


Even as an undergraduate,I see signs of the so-called “fall of academia” — true, honest, liberal-arts-based academia — everywhere around me.

What these professors are facing — what academia is facing — doesn’t live in a bubble. The decline of the traditional liberal arts education has and will continue to send shockwaves across our entire society.

The pundits argue something along the lines of, “why spend thousands of dollars to a university when you can Google that shit or get an internship for free?” On the surface, their argument seems common-sensical, but their assumptions of what knowledge is, what information is, and what it means to be a free society are fundamentally flawed.


Liberal arts” are called that because, supposedly, they make man free. They may not make a man materially wealthy, but that’s not the point. In as early as Roman times, we see stoic philosophers such as Seneca reflecting on this notion:

“I respect no study, and deem no study good, which results in money-making. Such studies are profit-bringing occupations, useful only in so far as they give the mind a preparation and do not engage it permanently. One should linger upon them only so long as the mind can occupy itself with nothing greater; they are our apprenticeship, not our real work. Hence you see why “liberal studies” are so called; it is because they are studies worthy of a free-born gentleman. But there is only one really liberal study, – that which gives a man his liberty. It is the study of wisdom, and that is lofty, brave, and great-souled. All other studies are puny and puerile.”

Throughout the next several thousand years, we find this debate consistently reappearing:

We call those studies liberal which are worthy of a free man; those studies by which we attain and practice virtue and wisdom; that education which calls forth, trains and develops those highest gifts of body and of mind which ennoble men, and which are rightly judged to rank next in dignity to virtue only. (Petrus Paulus Vergerius, 1400)

But those questions are no longer relavant when discussing education. Undergraduates focusing in philosophy or other humanities get a, “what the hell are you going to do with that degree,” while we somehow ignore the fact that a university education was originally intended to be sought by those with a love of wisdom — in Greek, “philo sophia,” or philosophy:

In truth, liberal arts education no longer exists — at least genuine liberal arts education — in this country. We have professionalized liberal arts to the point where they no longer provide the breadth of application and the enhanced capacity for civic engagement that is their signature. Over the past century the expert has dethroned the educated generalist to become the sole model of intellectual accomplishment.

The progression of today’s college student is to jettison every interest except one. And within that one, to continually narrow the focus, learning more and more about less and less; this, despite the evidence all around us of the interconnectedness of things. As one moves up the ladder, values other than technical competence are viewed with increasing suspicion. Questions such as, “What kind of a world are we making? What kind of a world should we be making? What kind of a world can we be making?” are treated with more and more skepticism, and move off the table. (Liz Coleman, 2009)


This, as throngs of venture capitalists with multi-million-dollar checkbooks purport online education will solve everything. But their assumptions are not only unproven, they’re dangerous. In our capitalistic society, education is one of the few remaining purely social institutions designed not for material profit, but to maintain a secular democracy — in a land where all men are created equal, education is designed to be a tool that allows all young people their right to a fulfilling pursuit of happiness.

But there’s something else they’re missing:

The online education utopians ignore the fact that free learning has existed for decades in the form of the public library and despite that availability, every kid within bicycling distance to his local branch didn’t turn into a self taught entrepreneur. Suggesting that online courses are the cure-all for our educational needs is like saying all you have to do to teach kids in the ghetto is give away textbooks on the corner. (Fransisco Dao, 2013)

Education is not about information. Nearly every member of our society has had access to throngs more information than it could possibly handle since the 16th century.

Instead, education is about knowledge and wisdom. While there is measurable debate over what, exactly, defines the essence of “university,” it seems very clear to me that university is not really about the information contained within individual courses. Instead, it is about the pursuit of the information: for instance, writing papers teaches rhetoric, reading Aristotle improves literacy and perspective, and studying European History allows students to understand a world with a very different set of values and social structures.


Unfortunately, like anything in a market such as ours, university is still bound by simple economic principles, and it doesn’t scale well: thanks to cost disease, the more people seeking a degree, the more expensive it will be for each person to receive said degree. Furthermore, the more people that enter the job market with postsecondary education, the more the material value of that education will deflate. What happens when a bachelor’s degree isn’t enough in a highly-competitive job market?


Based on both personal experiences and statistical data, it seems as though most undergraduates are not attending college to learn, or become free citizens. They’re there simply to get a better job. Or hell, any job.

This wasn’t always the case. Historically, university was designed for the intellectually-inclined, and it could support itself relatively well. But since the 1970′s, the number of young people attending college in the United States believing that that it will allow them “to be very well off financially” has risen significantly, while those attempting to “develop a meaningful philosophy of life,” has plummeted. Do these young people care about philosophy, the freedoms of mankind, and the pursuit of intellectualism? Or do they see college as an opportunity to attend a few dope-ass parties and get a degree so they’re job-market-ready? With billions of dollars on the line, these are questions we need to seriously ask ourselves.

Where the pundits are mistaken, and dangerously mistaken, is when the rhetoric they use to push their mission includes notions that university is simply job training that can be easily substituted. It isn’t. University is the pursuit of intellectualism, of developing a full mind, of vibrant debates, critical thinking, and developing a certain self of self-reliance and self-consciousness. Admittedly, you don’t find that in a textbook. And you don’t find it on Google or YouTube. You find that by by arguing against the textbook, by asking zillions of questions, by writing essays, in one-on-one’s with your professor, and yes, maybe by drinking way too much and making a few stupid decisions.


As I exited my professor’s office, I turned back.

“Thank you.”

He was one of the best professors I’ve had. An amazing lecturer. An incredible researcher. Tough, but only because he cared. I could tell this was not an easy decision for him. It causes me great distress to know that others won’t be near as blessed as I was.

But, unlike him, I still have hope.


We can fix academia. We can create a intellectual class ruled not by bank accounts but by curiosity, drive, and intelligence. But it won’t happen with Udacity. It won’t appear on Khan Academy.Where I think it will appear is in Google Hangouts, coffeeshop meetups, and in the minds of young people across the country. It’s a grassroots effort that, by design, no amount of money can buy (although some will help.)

We’re entering a new intellectual age, an age that will rival post-Gutenberg Europe. We can allow our new tools to enable us to create wonderful things, or we can lead ourselves down a path of destruction. We have the ability to control our own outcomes. But we can’t afford to give up on our universities.

Written by

i write software and stories.

 

Why Mashable ♥s New York


Why is Mashable, a news site that caters to the digital generation, based in New York and not the heart of Silicon Valley?

We love the Bay Area technology scene, and when I first left my native Scotland to come to the United States in 2008, I made a beeline to San Francisco. Silicon Valley continues to be a hub of innovation and attracts talent from around the world.

And yet, as the digital revolution continued apace, it began to change every industry: Media, marketing, entertainment, fashion and more. While Silicon Valley is a hub for engineers and technologists, the industries they’re changing aren’t necessarily based up the street in San Francisco.

Mashable’s aim is to chronicle the digital revolution, and many of those businesses now being transformed by digital are right here in New York: The media industry, marketing and advertising.

While Mashable continues to have a San Francisco office that keeps a keen eye on Silicon Valley startups, our NYC headquarters have expanded quickly with an influx of digital journalists. In 2011, I moved here from the West Coast to be at the heart of this expansion into a variety of new verticals.

Of course, our business and advertising operations are here too. As web companies increasingly morph into media companies powered by advertising, I expect we’ll see many opening offices on the East Coast. These days, tech companies need to visit Madison Avenue as often as Sand Hill Road.

What’s most interesting about New York’s tech boom, however, is the number of startups opening engineering offices here. This movement is still in its infancy, but achieving a critical mass of engineers would truly pave the way for an East Coast technology boom.

See other Made in NY posts from LinkedIn Influencers:

Posted by:Pete Cashmore

 

From 0-350 In Three Years


Image from USACS.Rutgers.edu

Image from USACS.Rutgers.edu
https://medium.com/tales-from-the-front/991501eba5c7

How we’ve taken the Rutgers CS community from non-existent to East Coast powerhouse.

Back when I first declared my CS major at Rutgers three years ago, the community was a far cry from the vibrant and passionate one that characterizes Rutgers today. When I started, Rutgers computer science was a disparate collection of students who scarcely got together in groups larger than four people.

Since then, the community has grown by leaps and bounds; its members have launched startups, taken second in the inaugural MLH season, and founded both a semi-annual hackathon and a semi-annual tech meetup. Now that I have 1.5 feet out the door at Rutgers, I wanted to take a look what factors came together these past three years to change Rutgers CS from a scattered community to the massive group of developers it is today. In the process, I hope that our success can provide some ideas for people hoping to create a similar culture at their school.

We got a physical space for students to socialize in

When you hear “campus computer labs”, it generally conjures up unappealing images like this:

Although there is a fair amount of that at Rutgers, one of our labs is quite different. A few years back a Rutgers employee named Lars Sorrenson decided to convert one of our CS labs into a collaborative learning space. The result was the CAVE, a CS lab which looks something like this.

Although the CAVE isn’t exactly a productive work environment, its design has made the room a CS community hub at Rutgers. The CAVE serves as a great place for workshops and tutoring, but its most important role is as a place for students to meet and hangout between classes. Sometimes they’ll discuss programming, but other times they will just play video games or watch the latest Game of Thrones episode on the giant TV. Through it all, familiar faces from class become acquaintances, acquaintances become friends, and those friendships form the basis for a strong community of developers at Rutgers.

What any university can do: Create a comfortable physical space for students to hang out in and get to know each other. If you can convert an old computer lab, that’s great; if not, try looking for other options to get people in the same space together.

HackRU was started and held regularly

Although now there are a fair number of Rutgers students who regularly travel to hackathons, three years ago you would have been pressed to find more than a handful who even knew what a hackathon was. HackRU initially started out as a modest attempt to grow this small handful, but since then it has grown to engage 250+ students every semester. In the process, it has helped hugely in building community by bringing hacker culture to students at Rutgers.

As the attendance at HackRU demonstrates, there is a large group of students who are either too busy, too intimidated, or simply unaware of hackathons that are going on around the country. By creating an on-campus hackathon, the organizers of HackRU have been able to bring these students together and get them excited about building projects in a way that didn’t happen before. This is not only awesome because it grows the skills of young developers, but also because it shows all the attendees that they’re a part of a larger Rutgers developer community.

What any university can do: Throw a hackathon at your school, no matter where you are. Start by targeting just students at your university and then grow it from there. If you don’t think it’s worthwhile, have a look at what a HackMIT organizer had to say about her experiences.

We created culture based on learning and positivity

Tess Rinearson wrote an awesome article a while back about how CS
is a community that is focused on building each other up, and we’ve tried to make that very evident at Rutgers. As many community leaders have grown and become more skilled, they have started to focus on helping underclassmen improve their skills and encouraging them to work on side projects.

From their very first CS course, students are introduced to the idea that
Rutgers CS is a helpful community of students by the peer mentoring program. Through this, upperclassmen are put in charge of running small recitations for CS 111, our Intro to CS course at Rutgers. In addition to helping take some of the load off department TAs and establishing a precedent of helpfulness, the peer leader program has served as a great way for upperclassmen to bring underclassmen into the CS community without them having to attend events.

Over the past three years, the spirit of that program has been taken up and broadened by a couple of on campus organizations dedicated to helping students build their programming skills outside the classroom. One such organization, RUMAD has done this by helping students build mobile applications, a process which includes hands-on workshops and presentations about the latest technology. Another organization called USACS has been offering mentoring, tutoring sessions, and a weekly Hacker Hour series to teach students about topics they wouldn’t learn in class. At the same time, RU Tech Meetup and the Rutgers Hackathon Club have also sprung up as avenues for students to get together and show off what they built, thus furthering the idea that students can, and should, get together to build projects on their own.

Taken together, these efforts haven’t produced a development utopia at Rutgers, but they have produced a community of students who are eager to grow their skills and help others do the same.

What any university can do: Create mentorship programs to encourage young developers and help them feel comfortable. Also, create opportunities where people can be recognized for their hard work.

Leaders stepped up and built organizations which brought people together

One of the biggest problems that faced the Rutgers technology community when I joined was that it lacked leaders who took the initiative in building it. All that has changed over the last 3 years as a handful of leaders have emerged to drive the community to its current state.

The proto-leaders in this sense were V and Sameen, two of the big architects behind HackRU, but they aren’t the only ones. Since HackRU 1, many leaders have stepped up and left a legacy of building community at Rutgers. On the USACS side, after V and Sameen stepped down, Devon served as president and brought his own brand of creativity to the table, and now Billy Lynch is doing the same with his presidency at USACS. At the same time, leadership has expanded past USACS in the form of Swift, who has set the gold standard helping Rutgers students even after graduation, and the RUMAD team: Nis, Dave, and co., all of whom have taken RUMAD from nothing to a 200+ person club in just two years. Without the contributions of these and many other leaders, it is tough to say what the Rutgers community would look like today. However, what’s for sure is that because of these students’ hard-work in building events and organizations, Rutgers technologists have been able to come together in a way that was unheard of 3 years ago.

What university can do: If you feel like your school needs to have a larger community, start planning events you’d want to attend and then market the hell out of them. Communities don’t just magically appear from thin air, it takes people to build them.

Looking back at the past three years, it’s pretty amazing to see what how much the CS culture at Rutgers has grown. While we haven’t built a development paradise, we have taken a community of 10 students and transformed into a group of 350+ developers who are energized about building new projects. Sadly my time as a Rutgers CS undergrad is coming to an end, so I won’t be able to shape the future of the undergrad community anymore. Nonetheless, I’ll be back as an alumnus over the coming years, and I’m excited to see how future students find ways to grow the Rutgers developer community even further.

(A big thank you also goes to Gerard and V for their help in editing these thoughts into a coherent piece)

Written by

Soon to be a proud @RutgersU grad and @Yelp engineer. I think in 140 characters on @maltzj

 

Underestimating clients


How the “Us vs.Them” stigma is muffling creativity, and creating strained relationships.

If  — like me — you have ever worked at an agency, you have most likely also heard statements along the line of “He/she is a project manager at a telco. What does he/she know about creativity?” or “Leave it to the client to ruin a great concept” or maybe even “Clients. Can’t live with them. Period.”

While it is tempting to mock the clients, or harness frustrations when they challenge the concept or solution, it is also a tremendously toxic practice, and we all need to make an effort to steer clear of it.

So how do we do this?

Walk a mile in their shoes

If it were up to me, every young buck starting out at an agency, should be placed in a mandatory internship on the client side. Having to juggle budgets, battle middle management (or even worse be middle management), meet arbitrary KPIs from overseas headquarters and other super fun aspects of life on the client side. I have been there a couple of times. I have left as soon as possible every single time. But I have learned from it. And I do believe it serves me well, when facing clients and listening to their feedback and challenges.

Invite them in

On more than one occasion, I have been part of communities of interest, all with the purpose of heightening the level of creativity and the solutions in the business. Every time, I have been puzzled and amazed that no one thought to actually invite clients. As if they couldn’t possibly pitch in with anything constructive.

Agencies need to face the fact that clients are growing smarter and more creative by the minute. And that there is tons to learn by inviting them in. Let them take part in the creative process. Let them take part in discussions of where the industry is going. And let them talk to each other and share knowledge and challenges. Transparency is key here.

Educate the juniors

But most of all, make sure not to pass on latent frustrations and the mocking jargon to junior employees.

My kid just started school, and one of the most valuable messages from his teacher was that his view of the educational system that he is part of for the next ten to fifteen years is primarily established at home. If we talk respectfully about his school and his teachers, he is likely to approach them with the same respect. Now, I don’t mean to compare junior employees to school children, but I do believe that you can draw an important parallel here. If all you ever hear is your CD, PM or CEO bad mouthing clients, you grow up in the business thinking that that is how things are supposed to be. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

So should we always all just get along?

No! By no means. This is not a question of not arguing. One of the most important roles on the agency side is to push back, challenge and try to move the boundaries. But we need to figure out how to do it without establishing an unhealthy “Us vs. Them” discourse.

There are probably tons of other ways to go about it, but the common denominator here is mutual respect and an understanding that most people are really just trying to do their very best. Agree?

Further Reading

Underestimating clients

 — How the “Us vs.Them” stigma is muffling creativity, and creating strained relationships.

Written by

Founder & Creative Strategist at Magic People * Voodoo People. Father. Husband. Friend. Football fan.

 

WikiLeaks for Sailors


When Oracle Team USA defended its control of the America’s Cup during what became a blowout racing series on San Francisco Bay it confirmed a troubling narrative: the richest guys wins. While in sailing that is frequently true, it is an increasingly dangerous theme in America.

Oracle Corp., the American team’s title sponsor and a company with a market capitalization of approximately $154 billion, has become a major player in the open-source software business by acquiring other firms. The open-source software movement was founded on the principles of trust and faith, as well as the long view that we are all better off if we can share our talents. That is an unwelcome view at the pointy end of the world’s most competitive sailboat race and is a departure from Oracle’s original business model.

Oracle’s founder, Larry Ellison, has become one of the wealthiest men in the world, reward for his time at the helm of the Redwood Shores, Calif. company. His wealth affords him the top perch in American sailing. Yet Mr. Ellison should consider applying the open source software movement’s philosophy to his passion for sailing and the America’s Cup. There is no older, or more prestigious, trophy in international sport and certainly no other that can confers such prestige within the conclaves of plutocrats. The world’s tycoons are watching his next move very closely.

The laconic and hard-charging sailors of Emirates Team New Zealand, Mr. Ellison’s opponent in the one-on-one racing series for the Cup, fought to bring the prize back to their nation of 4.4 million people. Their campaign was a popular effort, largely funded by the government, a Middle Eastern airline and a canny move to sell their boat design to a rival team in order to build a faster version. Without hocking their boat design, they would have had no shot at winning.

With Mr. Ellison’s net worth, estimated at $43 billion by Forbes, greater than New Zealand’s per-capita GDP, no such sacrifice was needed for the American team. New Zealand’s loss is a source of national sorrow. More so because of the way Oracle Team USA steamrolled through the Kiwis’ seemingly insurmountable lead of 8-0 in the series. The triumph of one of the top 1% of the 1% over the “rest of us” was fulfilled on a perfect fall day in San Francisco.

If the America’s Cup is to survive that narrative must change. Mr. Ellison is the perfect person to do it and the answer is right in front of him. He ought to give away the plans for his boats to help make the America’s Cup what could become a more competitive open-source event.

Mr. Ellison’s investment in his America’s Cup campaign reportedly ran north of $100 million. Few individuals can manage that kind of outlay, let alone entire countries debating about how to care for the old and sick or how small can they shrink their military.

A good chunk of that money was spent on developing and building a pair of extraterrestrial racing catamarans so fast the entire crew wear crash helmets. At first glance, the boats are hard to relate to, even for a sailor, until you watch them sail at two to three times the speed of the wind. They beautifully skim above the choppy water on a blade-edge of control, with potentially deadly consequences if mishandled even for an instant. It is a metaphor that should not be lost on the race’s viewers in San Francisco, marveling at how so few can spend so much.

What ultimately gave Oracle Team USA such an edge over Emirates Team New Zealand was its savvy band of designers and engineers on shore. Sharing their knowledge with the wider sailing world could have enormous benefits that last far beyond the next America’s Cup cycle. The possibilities to post online everything from detailed design specs of the Cup-winning USA-17 catamaran to the thousands of secret structural analysis models are limitless. Other teams could join in. Mr. Ellison would be making a grand gesture that has never been seen before in this sport, or any other. Think WikiLeaks for sailors, hosted on Oracle servers.

There are many reasons to do this.

If the Cup is to remain relevant more nations must challenge for the trophy. It is too expensive a gambit now, and risks getting out of hand, perhaps only topped by the cost of an American presidential election campaign. If Mr. Ellison is truly enamored with the blazing fast catamaran designs he has pushed to the fore, then he will need to find a way to draw more rivals without bankrupting them. Nothing should be more disappointing than a drought of challengers scared off by the cost of an America’s Cup campaign.

Beyond the narrow world of jibs and keels there would be wider benefits. Science, technology, engineering and math education efforts could get a needed boost, not just in the U.S. but also in sailing-mad nations such as France and Australia. This would offer a hands-on and applied way to virtually play with some of the most interesting machines, and materials, available on Earth.

In San Francisco, a town now accustomed to jaw-dropping prosperity, the celebratory Champagne is by now no doubt flat. Criticism, however, continues to bubble over. From his perch it must have been be easy for Mr. Ellison to duck the venom of the race’s critics but in victory it will be tougher. San Francisco has had plenty of doubters, and their voices are no quieter. “Sea Monster: There’s Only One America’s Cup Winner. But There Are Many Losers” read a headline on SFWeekly.com. In certain corners of the competitive sailing world, such as popular Web site SailingAnarchy.com, you can find deeply disappointed sailors stewing that a rich man’s game is now off limits to mortals audacious enough to try and reach for the Cup.

Mr. Ellison is now a steward of something much bigger than the America’s Cup itself, or even the future of competitive sailing. The American public is familiar with this obscure sport in a way that it has not been in a long time thanks to the excellent TV coverage. Yet our country is also more sensitive to grating issues of income and wealth inequality than it has been in a long time. Mr. Ellison has proven an able businessman and winner of the America’s Cup. What he wants to do with his prize as he considers how he might secure a third victory will say quite a bit about the future of our country.

Written by

Writer and analyst focusing on national security issues. Into books, bikes and boats. Adjunct fellow at American Security Project. Boston.

Published September 30, 2013