2012 January 22 Sunday
Why Apple Manufactures Abroad

This New York Times article underscores why the remaining members of America's middle class should not take their middle class positions for granted.

Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

Read the full article and you will appreciate the scale of the change in America's standing in the world and the power of Chinese manufacturing, engineering, and government finance to make it all happen.

The elites of the United States have made a grave error for the last 40 years or so by importing a large low-skilled labor force. All those cheap illegal immigrant construction workers are useless for high tech manufacturing. The Chinese have a huge labor force advantage for manufacturing. That advantage is going to cost Americans dearly in the years to come.

I will repeat a familiar theme to regular readers: Raise your game! If you are old enough to have grown up in good times, well, that was then and this is now.

You've got a choice: go down or go up. Your odds of standing still are not good. In a world where more people are competing for a declining amount of remaining natural resources you've got to try harder to maintain your current slice.

Maybe cold fusion can save your future old age pension checks from your government. But it would be imprudent to count on LENR to save our bacon. Don't expect the cavalry to come riding over the hill. If you want to do well in the future you've got step it up yourself.

Update: A piece in The Atlantic by Adam Davidson about manufacturing in the United States (thanks TimG for the heads-up) includes a picture of a rather pretty 22 year old single mom, Maddie Parlier, in a Greenville South Carolina manufacturing plant. Her employers think she's a very good worker with lots of promise. Maddie would like to learn more but does not have the time.

At one point, she looked around the office and said she’d really like to work there one day, helping to design parts rather than stamping them out. She said she’s noticed that robotic arms and other machines seem to keep replacing people on the factory floor, and she’s worried that this could happen to her. She told me she wants to go back to school—as her parents and grandparents keep telling her to do—but she is a single mother, and she can’t leave her two kids alone at night while she takes classes.

I am struck by the need for education that comes in smaller bites. Want to raise the skills level of American workers? Provide them ways to learn in small slices of their time late in the evening or while on a work break or on a Saturday morning. The learning has got to be delivered digitally across the web with many automated tests tied to lots of mini lessons.

Our education system is so 19th century. Yet the world is so 21st century. If governments want to craft useful industrial policies my advice would be to make the learning of useful skills (not college humanities classes) easy to do. The technological infrastructure exists for delivering education in bite size pieces. What's needed is the political push to make it happen.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 January 22 04:35 PM  Economics Living Standards


Comments
Daniel said at January 22, 2012 9:50 PM:

>>The elites of the United States have made a grave error for the last 40 years or so by importing a large low-skilled labor force. All those cheap illegal immigrant construction workers are useless for high tech manufacturing. he Chinese have a huge labor force advantage for manufacturing. That advantage is going to cost Americans dearly in the years to come.

It is an error if the elite class had not intended to impoverish the white working class and leave much of the middle class stressed, frightened and compliant. I believe that this had been their intention all along. This is a feature of their plan, not a bug.

solaris said at January 22, 2012 9:58 PM:

>"The elites of the United States have made a grave error for the last 40 years or so by importing a large low-skilled labor force."

Yes. But you neglect to mention that they are also importing high-skill labor, at least in certain areas, specifically in the areas of science and technology. I'd be hard pressed to recommend that a bright young American get a degree in computers or engineering. In some parts of the country these occupations are already "reserved" for non-Americans.

TimG said at January 22, 2012 10:31 PM:

Another good article on the decline of blue collar manufacturing jobs.
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/01/making-it-in-america/8844/?single_page=true

eggwhite said at January 23, 2012 12:34 AM:

And the elites seem to be fretting over our lack of engineers and wonder how to "train more", as if it was purely an education problem. It's also an IQ problem. There is no method to turn lower IQ Mestizos and African Americans into petroleum engineers. I don't know how deliberate this has been on the part of our elites. Some of them truly seem to be naive over the issue (George Bush types). I suspect others are well aware they have imported a low IQ population and hope to use them to solidify their power.

solaris said at January 23, 2012 11:26 AM:

>"the elites seem to be fretting over our lack of engineers"


We don't have a lack of engineers. We have an idiotic government run system for allocating financial rewards for different occupations.

Randall Parker said at January 23, 2012 6:54 PM:

solaris,

Speaking as someone who works in high tech I fail to see why the imported labor is a reason to work in another field. According to this theory I shouldn't be really well paid. Yet I am really well paid. Mind you, I'm really driven to learn more, figure out the business case, do what is important, look for ways to make things go better. Got good advice from mentors and followed it. Will change jobs. Will move and have moved.

Crushed domestic techies? Nope. Look at starting salaries for engineers out of college. They are higher than almost all other fields. The market is talking to you. Listen. I have many techie friends who make between $100k and $200k. My brighter friends making well over $200k. They don't work in podunk. They work in high tech core areas. Got to go where the pay is highest.

Anyone who has an IQ of at least 120 ought to try to do engineering, computer science, or medicine. Anyone in the 110-120 range ought to start studying tech support stuff like Cisco routers and the like. Or go get training for a med tech job. I know nurses making $80k+ per year and they aren't even that specialized.

Really, raise your game. Don't want to raise your game in tech? Better find some other path to higher rewards. It is up or down. There's no sitting still. Plenty of smarter Americans are undertrained for what really pays.

The blue collar workers are road kill. Their plight will worsen. I feel for them. I've got blue collar friends. Don't have much advice for most of them because they just want to go to work and go home and play. Not much interested in learning.

The easy times of things getting better every year for everyone have come and gone. You've got to take action yourself to rise up. You are at risk if you don't try. No one with any chance of getting elected to Congress is going to change the rules so things get better for you. Don't be deer in headlights. Don't rationalize that the deck is so stacked against you there's nothing you can do. It is not true. You can find ways to better your lot. But it will require serious exertion. On weekends I read boring technical stuff so that on Monday my technical tool box is richer. I'd rather be doing something else. But this isn't 1950 and we aren't UAW workers with decades of rising prosperity in our future. The world has changed. You've got to internalize just how thoroughly it has changed and adjust accordingly.

solaris said at January 24, 2012 7:21 AM:

>"Anyone who has an IQ of at least 120 ought to try to do engineering, computer science, or medicine."

These people would be much better off in law or business.

>"Look at starting salaries for engineers out of college. They are higher than almost all other fields."

Starting salaries for engineers are 50 to 60 thousand dollars. That's not higher than other fields which require a similar IQ, even if it is higher than the average sociology major.


>"I have many techie friends who make between $100k and $200k. My brighter friends making well over $200k."

How many of them are Americans? It's a mistake to base your world view on the people you know.


>"On weekends I read boring technical stuff so that on Monday my technical tool box is richer. I'd rather be doing something else."

How wonderful for you. But that is not any sort of argument for opening the borders to more tech workers.


>"But this isn't 1950 and we aren't UAW workers with decades of rising prosperity in our future."

I have to love your casual assumption that what we are is smart go-getters who can have rising prosperity in our futures just by reading technical manuals on the weekend! The exact same forces bringing down those auto-workers are working on ALL workers, even engineers. Your message - "run faster on the speeding-up treadmill" - is not any sort of systemic solution.

solaris said at January 24, 2012 2:49 PM:

By coincidence this story appeared today.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/top-1-earners-majored-163026283.html

College degrees of the top 1% of earners.

Health and Medical Preparatory Programs
Economics
Biochemical Sciences
Zoology
Biology
International Relations
Political Science and Government
Physiology
Art History and Criticism
Chemistry

If you're going to do science, you're better off making it chemistry/biochemistry. The only engineering discipline which made the list was Chemical Engineering, in 19th place.

bbartlog said at January 24, 2012 4:39 PM:

'College degrees of the top 1% of earners' is a pretty backward-ass way of going about the analysis, though. The main conclusion I draw from that list is that if you're very driven and highly intelligent, you can make it with any degree or for that matter no degree (Jobs, Gates etc.). For almost everyone else, an overview of either the average or better yet the median salary for graduates ten years after graduation would be far more informative.

Randall Parker said at January 24, 2012 8:43 PM:

solaris,

Top earners with BAs in biochem: How many then went on to get MDs? That's the biggest path to big bucks in science. Get an MD. Then specialize.

People I know: I was thinking of American born when I referred to higher earning friends.

First off, I'm not saying imported labor in a job category doesn't lower salaries. I'm saying that even after that salary lowering I'm still better off doing what I'm doing rather than all but a few other occupations - which are mostly much harder to achieve (e.g. CEO or exec VP).

Law has high earners. But unless one graduates from a top law school the odds are for very low salaries or leaving the field altogether. Law is not a consistently higher earner the way medicine is. The value of a law degree is oversold by 2nd ranked and lower law schools.

Degrees of people who've made a lot of money: If you can get an MBA after any old college major and work in an industry that will promote you then you can make big money. But how many Art History and Criticism majors make big money? Precious few.

My casual assumption? You are presenting a straw man. I restricted my training advice to those smart enough to get more skills. I pointedly gave IQ ranges. I know what the Bell Curve looks like and I assume anyone who is a regular reader of blogs such as mine know the basics of psychometric research findings. So I give advice about what 110+ IQ people should do. Look, who reads my blog? 100 IQ people? No way. The people reading me who I'm trying to give advice to are substantially smarter than the average American.

What I'm saying: Lots of smarter but not sufficiently commercially oriented people need to reorient their lives and energies toward becoming a lot more competitive. Really, living standards are going down and will continue to go down, especially for the lower IQ rungs. Regards this:

Your message - "run faster on the speeding-up treadmill" - is not any sort of systemic solution.

There is not going to be a systemic solution. I've given up thinking America is going to get fixed. I'm addressing myself to any people smart enough and motivated enough to act for themselves. Thinking about treadmill metaphors is just a recipe for passivity and acceptance of one's downward path. I'm not just saying work more hours. I'm saying learn more and become more productive and more economically valuable. I've made this point before in a discussion thread you were on back in August 2011. I copy from a comment I made from that thread:

Richard Hamming, a very accomplished researcher in communications theory, gave a great talk about how to be a more productive researcher and Hamming's advice can be applied to anyone who works:

Now for the matter of drive. You observe that most great scientists have tremendous drive. I worked for ten years with John Tukey at Bell Labs. He had tremendous drive. One day about three or four years after I joined, I discovered that John Tukey was slightly younger than I was. John was a genius and I clearly was not. Well I went storming into Bode's office and said, ``How can anybody my age know as much as John Tukey does?'' He leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, grinned slightly, and said, ``You would be surprised Hamming, how much you would know if you worked as hard as he did that many years.'' I simply slunk out of the office!

What Bode was saying was this: ``Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest.'' Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity - it is very much like compound interest. I don't want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime. I took Bode's remark to heart; I spent a good deal more of my time for some years trying to work a bit harder and I found, in fact, I could get more work done. I don't like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes; I needed to study. You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There's no question about this.

Get in on that compounding of interest or become a victim of globalization and declining natural resources.

Mercer said at January 24, 2012 8:52 PM:

" Look at starting salaries for engineers out of college. "

Given the cost of college you should also look at the earnings of people twenty to thirty years out of college. One former engineer for Apple in the article now makes $10 per hour and says companies want people in his field to be young and childless. He would make more money now if he had a degree in health or education. I don't work in tech so I can't claim to be an expert but there are far more computer and engineering people who complain of age discrimination on the web and in print then there are in other fields.

If you think young people should go into tech tell them why this guy is wrong:

"Meanwhile, the H-1B program results in many of our own best and brightest U.S. citizens and permanent residents being squeezed out of the market once they accumulate 10 years or so of experience, and worse, many top college students are discouraged by H-1B and offshoring from pursuing the field in the first place."

http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/itaa.real.html#summary

slayer fan said at January 24, 2012 9:05 PM:

Randall,

Your point about upping one's game is no doubt correct (although at some point I'll stop the rat race and just accept a lower standard of living so I can have a family). What fields in IT would you recommend to a person interested in switching careers to that field? Network security? Software development? Coding? I gather coding is all outsourced now, even though foreigners generally write crappy code, is that right?

Randall Parker said at January 24, 2012 9:38 PM:

Mercer,

The guy making $10 an hour was not a degreed engineer. There are lots of "engineer" titles given out for just making people feel good. When you meet people with such titles you've got to do probing to find out just how extensive and deep their skills are.

Really, I know plenty of Americans earning over $100k per year writing software.

slayer fan,

Speaking as someone who writes code and who knows large numbers of people who write code: No, it has not all been outsourced. Salaries in Silicon Valley have gone up over the last few years. LinkedIn has plenty of software dev jobs offered. I've worked as a tech lead for US and India-based devs and worked with devs all over the world. US software dev is still very intense and fresh grads are getting plenty of jobs.

Switching careers: I don't know how smart, motivated, determined you are. I don't know where you live or how much free time yo have on your hands or whether you can make yourself just sit there and study and interact with software and all the rest of what it takes to head into IT. So it is hard to aim advice precisely at you. My advice would be to try various things to gauge your interest, how much of a time sink various paths take, and so on. You could take a community college course in basic programming and then a course in network admin or other basic admin stuff. Just try various things and find out what feels hard.

Regardless of whether you become an admin or dev you should learn some basics. Learn a couple of programming languages and scripting languages. Try to learn HTML. It is pretty easy. Watch some online courses on software dev. You can find lots of stuff on YouTube (e.g. Google Code Channel) and on university sites that includes lectures on computing basics. You should probably start by spending a month or two or three watching and reading lots of free stuff across many topics. Get some free language interpreters installed (Javascript, PHP, Python, Perl all free to install). Try stuff you find described. There are lots of forums online where software devs ask and answer questions. You can get lots of help. Develop a web site. Or develop a little game. Try stuff.

mrm27 said at January 25, 2012 8:04 AM:

I think Randall missed the seedier side of the story. The Chinese platform manufacturing firm was basically created out of thin air by the Chinese govt making loans most likely with inside knowledge of what Apple needed and with the idea that they will figure out the hows and whys and then reproduce knock offs years later. The even worse bits are that 8000 ees are living in dormitories and were given a biscuit and some tea to work a 12 hour shift. How does anyone compete with near slave labor? This is a coordinated event between the Chiense elites and workers willing to accept slave labor conditions because otherwise they would live in abject poverty. This is American multinational executives selling out middle class workers.

I agree many Americans need to raise their game. Maybe that 22 year old single mom should have been thinking about school and long term issues rather than getting pregnant twice with no dad in the picture. That would be a start for many Americans.

solaris said at January 25, 2012 3:04 PM:

>"My casual assumption? You are presenting a straw man."

That's a very casual assumption indeed. It would be more accurate to say that we are presenting different arguments. You argue for the small high-IQ "tech elite" to buckle down and work harder to save themselves and let the rest of the world go hang, while I argue against that position. Setting aside the fact that I think your position is morally suspect, I think it is ultimately doomed to be unsuccessful even on its own terms. American "software engineers" or whatever they call themselves are not in any better position than the steelworkers of the 1970's. In the long run they face extinction from cheaper foreign competition. And "the long run" is not measured in generations.

solaris said at January 25, 2012 3:27 PM:

>"College degrees of the top 1% of earners' is a pretty backward-ass way of going about the analysis, though. The main conclusion I draw from that list is that if you're very driven and highly intelligent, you can make it with any degree or for that matter no degree (Jobs, Gates etc.). For almost everyone else, an overview of either the average or better yet the median salary for graduates ten years after graduation would be far more informative."


If you're not very driven and highly intelligent, you're not going to make it in tech/programming/engineering either. That's Randall's point and I agree with it as far as it goes. I just don't think the argument should end there. So, given that you're very driven and highly intelligent, where should you apply your efforts? There are better places than in tech work.

Troy said at January 25, 2012 4:49 PM:

"Learn a couple of programming languages and scripting languages. Try to learn HTML. It is pretty easy. Watch some online courses on software dev. You can find lots of stuff on YouTube (e.g. Google Code Channel) and on university sites that includes lectures on computing basics. You should probably start by spending a month or two or three watching and reading lots of free stuff across many topics."

Randall,

What's a good language to start with for a beginner? Is Perl good?

And I appreciate your advice and presume that you know what you're talking about since you're in the field. But how is leveraged into employment or a career? I mean, I've never heard of any industry, especially tech oriented, accepting people based on the fact that they've watched free lectures online.

In said at January 25, 2012 6:57 PM:

On weekends I read boring technical stuff so that on Monday my technical tool box is richer. I'd rather be doing something else.

I find it interesting Randall that your solution for the individual mirrors the solutions you focus on for society: technical progress.

I don't think that is a very palatable pastime for most people. So how about some alternative ways to "raise your game". For example one could save money and improve health by learning to cook cheap healthy stuff. Or learn to garden, or improve people skills to get ahead in our potentially dystopian future.

Or better yet increase self-awareness. There is a certain type of wisdom that I think will help people thrive in the twilight of western civilization. So many things aren't that hard to grasp, but few minds get there. Best of all this is not only good for the individual, but good for society.

In said at January 25, 2012 7:01 PM:

BTW - Randall - if we were to make more money now as you suggest, how would you suggest we invest it?

Part of my issue with your advice is that I don't trust the monetary system as it is. Where do you put your money when it is slowly pilfered away by inflation? Will our dollars still be worth something 20 years down the road?

Randall Parker said at January 25, 2012 7:55 PM:

mrm27,

I caught all the seediness. I read the articles. But if the fundamentals were not so overwhelmingly in favor of Chinese manufacturers the help they get from their government would not by itself make them successes on such a huge scale.

Regardless of how much of their success is ethical it is a fact of life. We've got to adapt. I'm personally trying much harder to adapt. I've moved and majorly changed my career direction. I've upped my game and will continue to do so. Read above my quote from Turing award (highest computer science award) winner Richard Hamming.

That compounding of interest in skills development can even help people who do physical labor if they improve their skills. Become a far better wood worker. Become a far better machinist. I've recently tried (probably unsuccessfully) to convince a tile layer he's got to find a higher craft sub-specialty. The supply of laborers for doing tile has become far too great. Compensation for tilers is way down around where I now live.

We are not going back to the good old days. Those days are in the rear view mirror. Look at the rear view mirror and watch them fade from view. Nobody's putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. There's no happily ever after.

solaris,

I do not see how telling smart people to learn at a faster rate and to work harder and more aggressively pursue opportunities is unethical.

As for the rest of the population: I personally spent years telling them what's going wrong and so did many other blogging realists. I did this without hiding behind a pseudonym at some risk to my career. I've done far more to try to get the truth out than 99% of the population. My conscience on this is very clean. I do not think I've got any more moral responsibility to tell people the truth if they are too lazy, stupid, or biased to listen.

The not-so-smart Americans: Sorry, they now compete against Chinese, Indians, etc. As I've tried to explain, we are competing with large and growing populations for dwindling natural resources. Every now and then a suppressed report from some government (in this case Australia) leaks part of the truth.

The less smart in America would be relatively better off (i.e. their living standards would decline more slowly) if the smarter shifted toward more productive occupations.

Morally suspect: Um, telling people to go into law isn't exactly doing the nation any favors. Glass houses and rocks come to mind. We need more productive workers creating more products and services of value. I encourage people to do engineering because it really is productive and it pays way better than most jobs.

Troy,

No, I would not advise Perl. It peaked back in the 1990s. Languages worth learning:

- C++.
- Java.

Beyond that consider some specialty languages depending on what you want to do:

- Javascript for browsers.
- PHP, Python for a web site or maybe Ruby.
- C# if you want to do Windows. I think Windows has peaked. But lots of companies use it.
- Objective C for iPhones and iPads.

I think Flash Actionscript's value is in decline. Not going to recover.

There are lots of things to learn beyond languages. API sets. Algorithms. Design patterns.

You can also learn admin stuff. You'll start off at much lower pay than a software dev. But I know computer admins making like $80k and $90k. You can go higher by developing highly specialized admin skills and doing admin management. Start racking up lots of certs and work in corps that pay well for those certs.

Tim said at January 25, 2012 10:56 PM:

"You can also learn admin stuff. You'll start off at much lower pay than a software dev. But I know computer admins making like $80k and $90k. You can go higher by developing highly specialized admin skills and doing admin management. Start racking up lots of certs and work in corps that pay well for those certs."

Randall, have you seen this recent article:

http://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/unchartered-waters/what-i-learned-from-google-you-get-fifteen-years/

It suggests that tech is not as secure a field as you're making it out to be, even at top firms like Google.

bbartlog said at January 26, 2012 6:44 AM:

@solaris: 'If you're not very driven and highly intelligent, you're not going to make it in tech/programming/engineering either.'

Define 'make it'. I'm highly intelligent but frankly pretty lazy. I was able to make $75K in the software industry with no degree and mundane effort levels (excepting the first two years, when I did have to bust ass to establish myself in the field). If I had applied myself to the same degree in most other areas, I would have gone nowhere or else made half as much. Now, Randall and others could certainly look at my situation and say $75k is peanuts, I haven't 'made it' and so on, but that is missing the point. I'm explicitly pointing out that I'm *not* the top 1% in aggregate intelligence-and-drive, but that technology was still a fairly good choice. I would probably have failed had I tried to become a doctor (it also sounds like a miserable job to me, but that's another matter). Likewise with art history and criticism.

'So, given that you're very driven and highly intelligent, where should you apply your efforts? There are better places than in tech work.'

We can agree on that up to a point. For people in that position I think Jobs' Stanford graduation speech is fine advice - though of course for some people that *will* mean tech work or whatever.

moonlight said at January 26, 2012 11:27 AM:

@ solaris:

Don't call us, we'll call you.

solaris said at January 26, 2012 11:56 AM:

>"I was able to make $75K in the software industry with no degree and mundane effort levels"

Define "was". Back in the late nineties anybody who could write two lines of BASIC was making $75k. But if you're trying to tell todays college students that the same outcome awaits them, you're telling them big stinking lies.

>"technology was still a fairly good choice"

"Was" being the operative word which you use a lot. All sorts of different jobs "were" a good choice at various points in the past. You might as well be saying, "I was able to make a good living making horse-drawn buggys. Why can't today's young whippersnappers do the same?"

Fo' Shizzle said at January 26, 2012 1:52 PM:

"I agree that African Americans need to raise their game. Maybe that 22 year old black, single mom should have been thinking about school and long term issues rather than getting pregnant twice with no dad in the picture. That would be a start for many African Americans."

There, fixed that for you.

Randall Parker said at January 26, 2012 11:54 PM:

In,

Investments: Companies that own a lot of valuable stuff in the ground (as a percentage of total market cap) are one choice. Also, invest in companies in industries that are squashing other industries. If USPS was a stock I'd short it. Ditto other industries being squashed by digital communications and computers. What's going to happen to car companies when oil production starts declining? I'm thinking another round of bankruptcies. First figure out industries to avoid. Then figure out which industries are eating into the dying ones.

Technological solutions: Look, more advanced tech is better than less advanced tech. The problem is that things are going wrong faster than technological advances can compensate. But without technological advances things would be going wrong much faster. Drain off natural resources without technologists developing substitutes and the world of hurt we'd find ourselves in would be pretty severe. I'm not arguing for how to create a global rosy scenario. I'm arguing for how to make things less bad than they'll otherwise be.

Tim,

I've got exceptional software dev friends in their 30s and 40s making over $200k per year - most not even in Silicon Valley. I've known them for years. They are great talents. I think I also know people who make even more. But they don't talk about it. The death of the American programmer really has been exaggerated. That's not what I'm seeing at all. The opposite's happening as far as I can tell. While my most highly paid best friends are really really smart even fairly bright 120 IQ people are doing quite well writing software.

The problem is the less talented and lazier ones complain. The really successful ones don't talk much about how well they are doing. I'm telling you how well they are doing: really well. The salary spreads by talent ranking are getting wider. Can't see that as a bad thing. I hated working in old corps where the most and least talented made within 10% or 15% of each other.

There's lots of brain work to be done. Follow Richard Hamming's advice. Start accumulating intellectual interest as fast as possible.

bbartlog,

Yes, $75k is chump change. Out of people who've been doing software for more than a decade I only know part-timers who make so little.

Steve Jobs at Stanford: Keep in mind that Steve Jobs never would have tolerated anyone else at Apple acting like he did. He gave great advice for Steve to be Steve. Meaning: his advice was bullshit.

Fo' Shizzle,

Why don't you click on the link and correct your mistaken impression?

bbartlog said at January 27, 2012 7:14 AM:

Randall - if I had been willing to relocate away from Pittsburgh to either coast (or I guess more precisely to within 100 miles of one of Palo Alto, NYC, Seattle or DC) I could presumably have made six figures. But in any case I didn't reach the ten year mark before dropping out and taking up farming.
In re Steve's advice, I think it's clear that someone who took it would likely not have gone to work at Apple. It is of course still bullshit for 99% of people and the other 1% don't really need it, so a bit of a waste.

Grey said at January 27, 2012 12:47 PM:

"The elites of the United States have made a grave error for the last 40 years or so by importing a large low-skilled labor force."

Judging by their ever-increasing share of the national wealth it wasn't an error. It was a quite deliberate betrayal.

.
"Raise your game! If you are old enough to have grown up in good times, well, that was then and this is now."

This is bull. The same elites who destroyed the blue-collar jobs will import as many H1Bs as are neccessary to destroy the livelihoods of any but those career niches which the elites fill themselves.

The only way people are going to save themselves from the evils of globalization and their traitor elites is through collective, political action to change the rules of the game back in their favour.

solaris said at January 27, 2012 1:45 PM:

>"I've got exceptional software dev friends in their 30s and 40s making over $200k per year - most not even in Silicon Valley. I've known them for years. They are great talents. I think I also know people who make even more. But they don't talk about it. The death of the American programmer really has been exaggerated. That's not what I'm seeing at all. The opposite's happening as far as I can tell. While my most highly paid best friends are really really smart even fairly bright 120 IQ people are doing quite well writing software."

"The problem is the less talented and lazier ones complain."


Sounds a lot like saying "I know people doing really well in the construction industry. Only the lazy and talentless are complaining".

"I'm all right, Jack" is not an argument.

Mercer said at January 27, 2012 1:51 PM:

The Atlantic article mentions higher math as a requirement to do well in factories today. Has anyone seen data on what percent of the population knows or is capable of learning calculus?

bbartlog said at January 27, 2012 4:54 PM:

If they say you need 'higher math' to work in a factory, I doubt they're talking calculus. Algebra and/or trigonometry, maybe. I did use trigonometry a few times when I worked as a machinist... but really you only need one guy in five or ten to know it, it just doesn't come up that often and when it does they should be able to run and ask the guy who knows trig/algebra/whatever to solve their problem.

MarkyMark said at January 27, 2012 5:14 PM:

One thing that complicates "chasing the money" so to speak is that it's hard to be successful at something which you fundamentally don't enjoy. There's the old saying to the effect of 'pick a job doing something you enjoy and you'll never work a day in your life'. Now Randall is saying that maybe many americans can no longer afford this luxury.

I worked for a big law firm in the City of London for a while and while the money is great you get used to the salary straight away but you don't get used to the stress. People think 'ah yes, he/she didn't like the stress but that's them, i'll be different, i'll be able to cope with not too much trouble'. Wrong. The blackberry has killed any pleasure in practising law by making it a 24/7 365 day a year job.

I now have a Government job at a fraction of the salary with almost no stress, 9-5, and no blackberry. It is interesting and in many ways as challenging as what i was doing before.

That said, my time in the law has given me savings which enable me to invest/speculate in the markets.

Bertie Wooster said at January 27, 2012 8:18 PM:

The eternal political contradiction:

1) The US needs millions of Latin immigrants to fill the unskilled jobs that Americans don't want.

2) American students need to be better educated, because all the unskilled work is disappearing due to technology and cheap imports.

I have never understood how more people can't grasp that we're being lied to. If unskilled jobs are going unfilled, then we shouldn't worry so much about high school dropouts. If unskilled work is disappearing, then we should stop importing illiterate peasants. When "Latino leaders" bitch and moan that they need help raising the abysmal Latino high school & college graduation rates, they should have it pointed out to them that they're the ones who keep saying that we need Latinos to fill the low-skilled jobs.

not anon or anonymous said at January 28, 2012 2:14 AM:

bbartlog, the article mentions programming CNC machines as a possible career path. That definitely requires trig on a regular basis, and calculus is not out of the question.

MarkyMark, lots of people trade a stressful job for a higher salary. The trade-off can make sense, especially if you need to build a savings cushion.

Bertie Woster, Latin immigrants are far more effective at doing unskilled jobs. Some folks have tried hiring Americans for the same jobs - it doesn't work out. They can't handle the work, even at higher wages, because they're simply not used to that kind of work. Yes, some unskilled work is disappearing. But a lot of "unskilled" work is far too complex to automate.

Grey, solaris, H-1B and migrant workers tend to fill lower-skilled positions. Many H1-B supposedly have specialized training of some sort, but evaluating the quality of their training is very hard or impossible. By contrast, domestic workers can easily get reputable certifications.

Fo' Shizzle said at January 28, 2012 8:50 AM:

Fo' Shizzle,

Why don't you click on the link and correct your mistaken impression?
------

Just pointing out what 12% of the population is doing in this nation. And yeah, I'm a racist. Just be careful when buying those new Air Jordans...

In said at January 28, 2012 12:42 PM:

Randall
Thanks for the tips.

I agree that we will likely be in trouble without better tech. However just as there are more ways to attack societal problems than better, just wanted to point out that there are multiple ways for the individual to prepare for the future.

In said at January 28, 2012 12:55 PM:

my 2 cents on the software world: just like anything else, for those with the right temperament and aptitude (a potentially big if) it is a good way to make a living and it does not require a great deal of drive or effort to get by. There is too much tech work out there and the competition isn't that great. I agree with Randall that there is a lot of opportunity in IT right now. I don't think the outlook is bad. The smarter you are the easier you will have it. The harder you are willing to work, the easier you will have it. My advice for anyone considering that would be to avoid donating your free time to your employer and avoid loser employers that pressure unpaid overtime. The exceptions to that are if you do so to learn new skills or also I suspect there are lucrative consulting positions out there that require very long hours, but if you want the pay, that may be justifiable.

Something I noticed that has been stated is that a lot of people end up getting out of hard headed tech work into IT management. Partly it seems that a lot of people don't like to stare at code all day, but also management seems to get paid more. IT managers have more responsibility and, from my limited vantage point, overall have more demanding jobs.

Mercer said at January 28, 2012 9:23 PM:

A former trade negotiator makes several valid points about the NY article. A sample:

"The Apple argument is that the U.S. schools and education system are not turning out the kinds of workers with the kinds of skills we need. So, we have no choice but to go overseas. But the truth is more nearly the opposite. It's because the companies are moving the jobs overseas that no Americans are learning the necessary skills."

prestowitz.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/01/23/apple_makes_good_products_but_flawed_arguments

Randall Parker said at January 29, 2012 1:04 PM:

Grey,

The only people doing collective action are the OWS folks and they aren't protesting about immigration policies. There really isn't going to be collective action to fix what is going wrong. You are on your own. I'm not telling you what I want to believe. I'm telling you what I've had to accept because truth is what it is.

Your message here is really self defeating:

This is bull. The same elites who destroyed the blue-collar jobs will import as many H1Bs as are neccessary to destroy the livelihoods of any but those career niches which the elites fill themselves.

My peers are 6 figure income Americans. I even know one percenters. They are all very busy. While H1Bs are a fact of life they haven't forced people I know down into the 5 figure income level.

Hanging your hopes on collective action effectively renders you powerless to do anything for yourself. I'm telling you all that you can't afford that luxury.

Mercer,

Clyde Prestowitz has been wrong for a long time.

Guys,

Look at all that's going wrong. It is not just 1% people getting more. The economic development of Asia has increased competition for increasingly scarce resources. You've got to produce more yourself in order to get the same amount of resources you used to consume. This is due to physical constraints, not just a consequence of ravenous bankers. The competition for resources has increased. You've got to raise your game. Ranting about unfairness or calling for collective action to people who mostly aren't going to listen is not helping you as much as increasing your own skill sets.

If you want to rant, organize, protest and boost your own productivity then I'll morally approve and cheer you on. But the idea that you can shift the blame and then need for action up to the political level is the real bullshit.

solaris said at January 31, 2012 1:43 PM:

>"My peers are 6 figure income Americans. I even know one percenters. They are all very busy. While H1Bs are a fact of life they haven't forced people I know down into the 5 figure income level."


Why do you persist in believing that "people I know" constitutes any sort of rational argument?


>"The competition for resources has increased. You've got to raise your game."

You have this habit of switching back and forth between "It's easy to make massive amounts of money in IT - just look at me and all the people I know" and "you have to raise your game to respond to the incredible amount of competition".


>"Ranting about unfairness or calling for collective action to people who mostly aren't going to listen is not helping you as much as increasing your own skill sets."

Increasing your skill set is not going to help you in the long run. Google "Obama Tells Woman: "Interesting" Unemployed Husband Can't Find Job" and click on the Real Clear Politics link. There are already 900 comments on that story there about an unemployed semi-conductor engineer. I have read only a small fraction of them, but this is the sort of thing which comes up over and over.


"I've had to pleasure of working in an environment that was OVERRUN with H1B visa workers.
Once the H1B worker and his family makes it to lower management, guess what?
-- the only people that get hired are "colleagues" of the manager, meaning; friends, wives of friends, wives of other "colleagues"."


"I have two Bachelors degrees. Over 10 years experience
as a semiconductor engineer. I have been unemployed for two
years."


"I too 'worked' in IT until I was 50, then I trained and was replaced by 5 Indian offshore engineers.
I have advised my son and daughter (anyone whom else would listen) not to pursue a career in
engineering since the 'Machine' is against you."


"As another very well qualified, unemployed semiconductor engineer actively seeking work for 2+ years I can
attest to the fact that the jobs are not there."


"I have two engineering degrees (including a Masters in Electrical Engineering), an MBA from a top-10
Management School, 20 years of experience, AND I live in Silicon Valley. That still hasn't prevented me
from spending most of the last 4 years un- or under-employed. I'm now working for a company
with a job title I held 10 years ago, but hey, it's a job!"


"same here, w 36 years in IT. I'm current, not dated. Have to be or I'd be unemployed. But I had to close
my business and take a perm job at 45% of what my self employed income earned"


"My daughter is an Engineer (as are many of her friends) and there are NO jobs out there."


And much, much more of the same. This is a political problem. If there is no political solution then there is no solution. Telling these people to work harder makes as much sense as telling laid off construction workers to work harder.

solaris said at January 31, 2012 1:55 PM:

>"Grey, solaris, H-1B and migrant workers tend to fill lower-skilled positions."

Indians here on H1-b's fill management positions in top America companies. If they are so inclined the companies lean on the government to give out expedited green cards to some of these people. I know for a fact that the IT department of Fitch Ratings in Manhattan is headed by an Indian (I know him personally) and staffed by Indians almost exclusively. They do not fill "lower-skilled positions". They are senior DBA's, senior sys admins, senior programmers, senior management. IT in NYC is an Indian ghetto - but a very well-off ghetto.

Randall Parker said at February 7, 2012 10:34 PM:

solaris,

I really know a lot of software engineers in an assortment of companies, mostly on the West Coast. I also know ones in Europe, the US East Coast, and other areas. What I hear from them is consistent with what I read about software dev salaries.

I've also worked with large numbers of devs with a broad range of levels of ability. The better ones spend more of their time employed and get paid more than the lousier ones. I'm shocked with the quality of some hires and some places I've worked. They are in denial about their ability (and laziness in some cases) and I always wonder when I hear about long periods of unemployment whether the complainers have lower levels of ability.

We have certainly gone thru times when engineers got laid off in large numbers. That happened when the space race wound down in the 70s for example. Happened when the 90s internet bubble burst. But I know too many old friends and colleagues who are busy and I get too many LinkedIn suggestions for places to apply for me to think jobs are rare in sofware dev in NorCal certainly and even in parts of SoCal.


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