by Tyler Cowen
on January 8, 2016 at 1:03 pm
1. School advice from Marc Andreessen.
2. A Hands-On Guide to Google Data (pdf).
3. The decline of LeBron James.
4. Carry your TV shows around with you.
5. The early history of autism in America.
6. “Vancouver Catfé closed temporarily because it’s out of cats”
7. The Golden Mao statue has been torn down.
“Chris Buckley 储百亮 @ChuBailiang
Chinese media can report on demolition of Mao statue in Henan, but (unless I’m mistaken) can’t show pictures. That would be disrespectful.”
Was it a commercial venture? A would-be tourist attraction?
That’s a good question. One of the things that is severely lacking in those Golden Mao statue photos is the context.
When I visited China several years ago, every single university campus that I visited in Shanghai, Wuhan, and ChongQing had a huge statue of Mao. I don’t remember if I explicitly asked but I was under the impression that it’s a required element at a Chinese university. Maybe this Golden Mao statue is on a campus. However all of the statues that I saw had just one head.
On one campus, Mao is standing with his right hand raised, looking somewhat like a traffic cop saying “stop”. There may be some Chinese or Communist symbolism behind the raised hand, but the students there joked that because the statue was on the main quad with lots of grassy space and where the students like to make out at night, it was Mao trying to tell the students to stop and behave themselves.
Isn’t that comparable to the ubiquity of the flag in US culture? I heard they even built a museum to worship it in DC?
A maoist businessman’s idea, it seems.
“According to villagers and reports on online chat sites, the statue was the idea of a local businessman, Sun Qingxin, the head of the Lixing Group, a conglomerate that manufactures machinery and owns food-processing facilities, hospitals and schools. Mr. Sun paid for the statue, they said.” — http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/09/world/asia/china-mao-statue-henan.html?_r=0
4. “So here’s Dish Network’s workaround: HopperGo, a smallish flash drive — “half the size of an iPhone 6,” Dish says — that lets you take the contents of your DVR with you and lets you stream it to any device you want, using its own Wi-Fi network. That is: You can watch anything you’ve recorded on your Dish DVR and watch it anytime you want, even when you’re nowhere near a cable, broadband or wireless signal.’
And to think that merely downloading TV shows onto a flash drive which could then be plugged into any device (including network or wifi capable ones) was the way to do it in the dark distant past, before someone had a device to sell to do exactly the same thing.
Many devices do not allow the use of flash drives, or even SD cards anymore. The device is more of a work-around than a copy-cat.
Dish already lets you pin recorded content to a mobile device. The device has to be on the same wifi network as the DVR when you are pinning, so I also set up a VPN connection to my home router. With this we can pin Dish DVR content to our mobile devices from anywhere. Remotely record something new on the home DVR, connect by wifi to home from anywhere in the world, and you’re good to go.
Also I carry a Chromecast, which can be plugged into any hotel room TV’s HDMI slot if you want a bigger screen and (marginally) better speakers. It also needs internet access, I use my phone as a hotspot connected to the hotel’s wifi.
Okay, I admit that’s more complicated. But you don’t have to be at home to get new content.
“Unintended” consequences of widespread DRM adoption.
Incidentally, much was made of DRM on HDMI – no digital copies. That was hacked some years ago, and apparently it is easiest for Chinese manufacturers to remove / spoof the DRM when making HDMI/DVI or /VGA or /RCA boxes, whether or not they advertise it. So the perfect-digital-copy thing is out of the bag, but no one cares, because who wants to carry around their tv shows when they should just always be available.
Tivo has offered this for several years. And no need for a cable contract if you don’t have cable monopolized content you desire.
1. “If you intend to have an impact on the world, . . . ” What Andreessen means: “If you intend to make a fortune, . . .” Of course, it helps to be at the right place at the right time. And to marry well. Making a fortune has it’s own rewards (I assume), as does making an impact on the world; the former good advice for this life, the latter . . . . I don’t know – although I do know you can’t take it with you. I might lower the bar a bit: “If you intend to have a fulfilled and happy life, . . .”
I don’t think Andreessen’s advice shocks anyone who has come up that path. It probably should not shock anyone at all.
… but follow your dream is still being preached, in part because it is easy, you never have to tell a kid “no, an Education degree is not a safe bet in 2016.”
Agreed. The “follow your dream” became the mantra of the education establishment and it’s widely touted, but it’s not very practical advice. The people who’s dreams correlate well with success and are talented do well from that advice, but that’s a small subset of the population.
“The people who’s dreams correlate well with success and are talented do well from that advice, but that’s a small subset of the population.”
Unfortunately, telling the American people that following your dreams only works for the upper class – or that you have to suffer an extended period of poverty before you get anywhere with such advice – would be extremely unpopular.
It would be nice if our culture could inculcate a respect for more modest and non-prestigious careers and occupations. You’d already get something like that if you consume e.g. reality TV shows about pawn shop owners and long-haul shippers. In fact, downscale Republicans watch TV exactly like that. Downscale Democrats watch Lifetime Network, which hypes the same focus on prestigious careers as shows watched by more upscale types – office-based and in NYC and the like – but with an added cheesiness factor.
“Follow your dream” is especially bad advice for the wealthy. That’s how we wind up with trust-fund art history majors and squandered fortunes. Even the children of the wealthy are well-advised to dream about degrees in economics and engineering.
“You’d already get something like that if you consume e.g. reality TV shows about pawn shop owners and long-haul shippers.”
None of them is a real career, they are jobs one all may in, but not careers. Being a doctor is a career. And I doubt America’s great educational/human resources problem is Lifetime Network extolling the virtues of people with Education or Women’s studies degrees (so glamorous! where do I get mine?).
Most truckers I know consider it a career. They’ve often worked for half a dozen different trucking firms. They have their Commercial Drivers License. How is that not a career?
“a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling”- Merriam-Webster
Train: You have to lean how to drive a large vehicle in order to get your CDL. Permanent Calling: If you enjoy (or at least can tolerate) long haul truck and do it for decades, why wouldn’t that be a “calling”?
Mike, Watts is right. I fear you are being rather a snob about careers.
I am being a snob about what words mean.
“Follow your dream” into a low-earning career (such as education) is a post-hoc justification by, um, educators who then pass it on to the children they educate.
Schoolteachers are adequately compensated, can earn in the summer or take the summer off, and usually have pensions adequate to allow them to retire 4 years earlier than the national median. I think they’re doing all right.
In today’s low yielding environment, the value of those pensions (assuming they are actually paid) is pretty impressive in hindsight (although for new teachers they are probably more of a gamble).
Educators should know how few openings thier school has each year, and that sending 10x that number off to major in education does not add up. Demographics.
3. I suspect LeBron being blocked at the rim at a higher rate over the last two years has less to do with decline and more to do with his teammates. In Miami Bosh would often play the 5, which meant good spacing and fewer defenders at the rim to contest LeBron’s shots. In Cleveland though, he’s playing alongside more big men who can’t shoot from range (Tristan Thompson, Mozgov), allowing defenders to clog the paint.
I’m inclined to buy the athleticism explanation based on eyetest, but I also don’t think it’s right that Miami had all that much better spacing. Lebron usually played with one of Haslem/Lewis/Anthony/Birdman on the floor, and Wade was an atrocious spacer at the 2.
Might be a little of both, but both the eye test and the fact that the rate has increased from the jump last year, suggests it is about athleticism.
Still the article blatantly overstates his decline. It’s easier to argue he remains the best player in the league than he is outside of the top 3.
Agree with Aaron, but I do think this is finally the year he is no longer #1 (Steph Curry), he’s finally peaked and just barely started to decline. He’s still one of the best ever, the best since Jordan IMO. It’s interesting how different they are, very little in common between the styles (and body types) of Jordan, James, Kareem, Curry, Magic, etc.
This has more to do with Curry’s amazingness than LeBron’s decline.
Agreed, but not entirely that.
LeBron took of around 30 pounds when he went back to Cleveland. for him, that’s 30 pounds of muscle.
He has a lot less power in situations where he used to use it.
It was too straussian
5. I have noticed (mostly in the course of doing genealogical research) that colonial and 19th century families often had mentally disabled members. In wills, they will normally be remitted to the care of a brother. In censuses or town records, they are sometimes described as “idiots” or “lackwits”; other times, they simply show up as an odd individual (e.g., an unemployed 25-year-old living with an older sister). I believe it was in the early 20th century, but not before, that it became common to institutionalize such people. In part, it may have been easier for people with mental disabilities to function on farms than in urban environments.
Yes, and the most profoundly mentally disabled individuals, who require the most care, probably didn’t survive childhood. Most of them do now, thanks to advances in medical care.
Good point about farmwork.
In the context of a ~19th century family farm, there’s a lot of work that is relatively simple, but time consuming – milk the cows, plow the fields, etc. It still took some skill overall to run a successful farm – farm management. But that could be handled by the family member (father, brother, uncle), with full mental faculties, while the slow witted or otherwise mentally challenged individual had useful things to do, and a hopefully loving environment of family and friends around them to steer them along their way.
In the 21st (and 20th) century, relatively fewer individuals operate their own businesses substantial enough to provide work to the slow-witted relation. The jobs that DO employ large numbers of less skilled workers (fast food, big box retail, some factories, etc), are owned by large corporations and a relatively small number of franchisees, owner-operators and the like. They’re likely to be far less hospitable places, since the family bond to the mentally challenged is unlikely to exist.
Yes. But where large corporations obviously lack the family bond that helps to ameliorate the anguish of being noticeably sub-par in the workplace, but at least they can absorb the cost of doing SOMETHING. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “lackwit” working at some cool indie movie theater e.g., but I’ve seen them at the big chains.
Small biz is overhyped.
They’re all over the place at supermarkets. I don’t know if there’s some specific program at work, or if it’s just a clean, friendly environment that’s not too skill-demanding where good families try to place people.
Supermarkets are the only workplaces I have ever seen them in Brazil.
Good advice from Marc, but he missed one key point. If you want to get a technical degree you can’t be in the bottom third or so of your class when you’re taking the introductory weedout courses that are graded on harsh curves.
I’m not sure any of his advise is applicable to anyone that doesn’t have the ability to be higher than the bottom third of their class. Granted, there are the few odd balls with bad grades but high abilities, but most of them have emotional issues that they’re going to have to overcome in any case.
Refrain heard at engineering school: “D is for Diploma!”
But, yes, you do need to get past the weeders, if only just. My particular engineering school would accept 90% of applicants and then accept a 50% freshman attrition rate. Why bother to guess who will do well in the curriculum when you can just have them come and sort it out themselves.
and bill them for it, too. All things considering, i think thats a pretty good way to do it.
My undergraduate school (RPI), when I went there, gave degrees only in science and engineering. This, I think, was essential for my getting a degree in one of those fields because, if there had been people in my dorm reading novels for credit (and not just for the one non-technical course per semester we were allowed) I wouldn’t have kept plugging away at hard stuff every night, and I’d have drunk a lot more beer as well. So, at least for people as lazy as I am, where you go to study a technical subject is just as important as what you study.
The Andreesen article is really on-point. Most liberal arts majors at good schools go on to be rent seekers (I Bankers, Lawyers, Consultants). People with technical degrees change the world.
And marry threes, fours and fives. Admittedly you don’t want to include that in the sales pitch.
Tell me another one. Clearly you don’t know a lot of bankers, lawyers, or consultants.
If it’s not clear, my point is that the idea that lawyers (for example) have especially comely wives controlling for income, is preposterous.
The median banker, lawyer, consultant has a pretty good life, not as good as the top 0.1% of the profession, but closer to them than to the rest of society. The top 0.1% of technically-skilled graduates make massive impacts and usually get good rewards but the median guy among them has China breathing down his neck. (I see he logically refutes this by saying it’s silliness. Well, fine, but they evidently don’t teach rhetoric at Spectrum College.)
It should be no surprise that a 0.1% guy’s advice should largely talk about what happens if you end up the 0.1%. It should be a big surprise if he were an expert on education, which he evidently is not.
The median consultant has a shitty life. Which is why they all leave after 2-5 years (myself included). Actually even quite a few of the guys I considered to be near the top of the game got sick of it at some point in that timeframe.
As for the median banker, it will heavily depend on your definition of banker. The median IB has a substantially worse life than the median consultant, even.
You’re right that consultants quit more quickly than bankers or engineers. Well, it’s not so much a career as an incredibly well-renumerated series of work placements. Still compared to other 2-5 year roles, I bet you’d rather not have been the typical microchip designer or oil rig specialist! Never mind an econ postdoc…
Perhaps I’m mistaken, but don’t you have to be fairly far into consulting to make the wages of young technical people? Do starting McKinsey analysts even make six figures? And that’s fairly prestigious as far as consulting goes.
My impression is that one of the big advantages of technical careers is that the money comes fast. The typical critique is that there’s less growth opportunity.
I don’t know anything specific about US salary scales, but I would be really really surprised if the STEM graduate equivalent of the McKinsey graduate role earned over $100,000 per annum. Maybe I’m wrong. They’re so different that I doubt they can be compared (and lots of engineers will do McKinsey anyway!).
Yeah, I think you’re way way off base. Consulting starts lower and can go higher if you’re not weeded out.
I don’t mean to say that young consultants make 1e05 (they don’t) but rather that I doubt many chemists/biologists/engineers make 1e05 with equal experience. Two obvious differences are that the latter group are usually much more numerous, and are trained as specialists in their career fields for longer.
At similar levels of eliteness, technical people make far more than consultants, at least at the start of their career. Just to pick numbers I could easily find, the median MIT EECS bachelors grad made $100k in 2014, and the range went to $195k, not counting any bonuses. The below-average kids went to McKinsey (which hired 12 kids out of undergrad from MIT that year, or at least 12 kids who filled out the survey).
Consulting, and especially McKinsey, is notorious for starting low. There is, probably rightfully, some expectation that a successful career will lead to higher numbers in consulting. But then, most kids who start at McKinsey are never making partner.
It depends a lot on the labor market in question. Personally I was always way ahead of what a technical role would have paid but depending on your geography that may not necessarily be the case. Now, if we start looking at the implied hourly pay…
In either case, the real value of the first couple of years of consulting is in the learning and networking opportunity and less so in the pay. This is what will drive the salary progression for the next couple of decades.
Technical people are the ones that change the world. Except it’s 0.1% of 0.1% of them (at most).
Unless you have reason to believe to be in the tiny group, what you call rent seeking (some of it, some of it is not) is much more attractive (I’ve seen all three worlds and they all have their charms, but done right, quality of life is by far best in banking).
Yes indeed rent seekers have a high quality of life.
Back in the 60s and 70s, the liberal arts majors became the computer programmers and engineers.
Classic example of this is Steve Jobs.
Starting after Reaganomics killed engineering, physicists became the rent seeker technologists engineering wealth extraction from workers, creating the CDOs and complex derivatives, crashing the economy in the 00s.
>Reaganomics killed engineering
What do you mean by that?
Now he has to mean something about what he’s saying? THAT’s sure going to cut down on posting.
People with technical degrees work for him, because he invests in startups. As usual, he makes either a self serving argument, or an argument saying ‘everyone be like me’
He’s one of the most overrated writers on the internet, and that’s saying something.
This is a bit of a silly division, similar to the “makers versus takers” business. Very few people in any occupation including technology actually “change the world.” Those who do absolutely need the help of lawyers to protect their intellectual property rights and trade secrets (if they are interested in making money, at least) and depend on finance professionals for raising the capital necessary to achieve their vision. A capitalist society in which property rights and freedom of contract play a crucial role can’t survive without lots of well-trained lawyers and judges. Maybe there are too many lawyers and finance people and not enough potential world-changers but the key word there is “potential.” Most will probably wind up doing things no more or less sexy than office workers or middle managers in any other occupation.
1. Straussian reading: STEM specialists, I don’t want to lower your self-esteem even further, but here is why I think you are inferior to people whose skill bases include liberal arts.
As with most of your comments, I simply can not see how you get such a conclusion from the referenced article.
He does note that combining a technical degree with an MBA is very beneficial. I think most would agree.
Well, it is Straussian so perhaps you are merely not initiated enough. I kid.
Andreesen’s advice column is self-consciously tailored to very high-achieving, ambitious people with an interest in technical stuff; he notes in his introduction that his advice is not relevant to almost any business except computers/net/IT because that’s his speciality and the market structure is so different to other fields. Anyway if you are reading his blog, you are probably interested in Silicon Valley stuff rather than education; he practically says it himself, he doesn’t know much about education.
What he does say is that STEM skills are really employable; you need to be good at WAY more things, typically specialities of liberal arts, that most STEM grads are not good at; even your successful peers will one day fail too. A classic “advice sandwich” where you sandwich the possibly self-esteem-lowering advice between saying really nice things.
So, he’s “negging” us?
1: Andreessen’s essay has many good points (though also a few that I disagreed with). I especially liked his distinguishing between “challenge” vs “hard work”. This may be in the process of becoming a meme (and I don’t mean the kind of meme that’s a photo of a cat with a caption), because in addition to the Brooks essay that Andreessen cited, it’s also the topic of Deresiewicz’s book _Excellent Sheep_. And others too.
I also liked his description of the WSJ’s opinion pages: “those will rot your brain”. I’m not sure about his advice to learn finance by reading the WSJ and FT for five years though; can one learn about say net present value by reading the articles in those newspapers?
Fairly certain you won’t learn much about finance reading the FT (in any case, you would be much better off spending your time reading the first couple of chapters in each a decent corporate finance, asset pricing and investments book , some accounting and econometrics wouldnt hurt, either).
You might learn a bunch of trivial things about the stock market.
 Arguably that would mean Copeland et al; Hull; Bodie.
All the reality economics is wrong in such books. They advocate a form of paradox of thrift: impoverish workers to increase profits by selling at high prices to your competitors well paid middle class workers. Drive up asset prices by not building new assets but instead using profits to buy old assets to enable higher monopoly profits, extracted from government spending.
Why hasn’t the hurdle rate for building new capital assets been reduced to 2-3% along with the cratering of rates paid on savings?
Why should return on capital be as high or higher that it was in the 60s when interest rates were 5 to 10 times higher?
I think the cat cafe model is pretty great. Are there any in the DC area besides Crumbs and Whiskers?
1. Tyler should have included the disclaimers:
#3 Most people get better an better at shooting the longer they play which can counterbalance the physical decline but LeBron’s shooting seems to getting worse.
It has been a great run though.
#7 “Midnight in the Garden of Abandoned Chiangs (KaiShek statues)” http://girlmeetsformosa.com/2011/09/07/midnight-in-the-garden-of-abandoned-chiangs/
3. He’s also the worst volume shooter in the league outside the paint — worse than Kobe! Amusingly, this article has the same picture of LeBron. http://www.complex.com/sports/2015/12/lebron-james-worst-shooter-nba-this-season
Jordan was not the same player his last three years, but he had developed a deadly fallaway jumper at a time when hand checks were still legal. James’ game has always emphasized power and quickness, he doesn’t seem to be adapting quite as well.
It’s Curry’s league now, or Kerr’s.
I had a conversation with Andreesen on Twitter during the brief time I used it. It was a mild objection to his views on illegal immigration. He called me a racist and blocked me. It was one of the few times I’ve been shocked online – and not because I’ve been in an inter racial relationship for years. It was a really mild comment using data from Brookings.
He strikes me as too in love with his own opinions to be a great thinker. This from the FT this year is a case in point:
Regarding illegal immigration: “It’s the best thing that can possibly be happening to us.”
Andreesen says: Early in your career, make sure you are working for a great manager
He doesn’t say how. In the real world, selecting a manager isn’t in one’s control. And getting a bad manager early on can both set back one’s career and be soul-killing. Switching jobs isn’t necessarily going to help, as the new firm isn’t any more likely to let a new hire select their manager as the old one was.
There’s an element of luck (and I’m not talking about talent and skills, which are unequally endowed on people) that these career advice pieces seem unable to acknowledge.
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