18 votes

America is running on fumes | In film, science, and the economy, the US has fallen out of love with the hard work of ushering new ideas into the world

14 comments

  1. [12]
    Thrabalen
    Link
    America has fallen out of love with the idea of paying people what they're worth, and that's translating to apathy and stagnation.

    America has fallen out of love with the idea of paying people what they're worth, and that's translating to apathy and stagnation.

    25 votes
    1. [5]
      teaearlgraycold
      Link Parent
      It seems like only people that manage wealth and write software are treated well.

      It seems like only people that manage wealth and write software are treated well.

      10 votes
      1. [4]
        mtset
        Link Parent
        And even then, they're essentially given golden handcuffs - help your employer profit, don't make too much of a splash, and you'll be taken care of; try to change any aspect of the system and...

        And even then, they're essentially given golden handcuffs - help your employer profit, don't make too much of a splash, and you'll be taken care of; try to change any aspect of the system and you're out on the street.

        19 votes
        1. [3]
          teaearlgraycold
          Link Parent
          Yeah. Even Google employees are getting robbed. They might make $300k/year but generate $2MM in revenue for the company.

          Yeah. Even Google employees are getting robbed. They might make $300k/year but generate $2MM in revenue for the company.

          13 votes
          1. Marian_Rejewski
            Link Parent
            They might "make $2MM in revenue" according to some way of looking at it, but still be easily replaced by someone else for $300k. The $2MM in revenue is a result of the seat they're allowed to...

            They might "make $2MM in revenue" according to some way of looking at it, but still be easily replaced by someone else for $300k.

            The $2MM in revenue is a result of the seat they're allowed to occupy, not some magical internal property of their soul.

            7 votes
          2. skybrian
            Link Parent
            It turned out the stock options were worth more than the salary, especially if you hold onto them. I don't know if that will last, though.

            It turned out the stock options were worth more than the salary, especially if you hold onto them. I don't know if that will last, though.

            5 votes
    2. [2]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. Thrabalen
        Link Parent
        I consider tax-fed benefits part of the "America paying them" thing. We can do it with good benefits or good salaries. Right now, we have neither.

        I consider tax-fed benefits part of the "America paying them" thing. We can do it with good benefits or good salaries. Right now, we have neither.

        2 votes
    3. [3]
      Halfloaf
      Link Parent
      As someone that worked for a long time in consumer goods, I agree. I do think the problem is a bit more complicated than that. When a person buys a good, it’s difficult to understand exactly what...

      As someone that worked for a long time in consumer goods, I agree. I do think the problem is a bit more complicated than that.

      When a person buys a good, it’s difficult to understand exactly what the exchanged money is going towards, and that leads to a few different problems.

      That, paired with the complexity and difficulty of scientific discovery and product development, leads companies to often pick the easier route of putting money into marketing and promotional material, rather than said development.

      I’m saying a lot of vague stuff because I’m on mobile over my lunch break. However, I would be happy to go into more detail in my thoughts if there’s interest!

      6 votes
      1. [2]
        mundane_and_naive
        Link Parent
        More details please!

        More details please!

        3 votes
        1. Halfloaf
          Link Parent
          Okay! Apologies for the quite significant delay! In my eyes, the combination of capital investment and product branding makes the evaluation of a proper price really difficult. For instance, it...

          Okay! Apologies for the quite significant delay!

          When a person buys a good, it’s difficult to understand exactly what the exchanged money is going towards, and that leads to a few different problems.

          In my eyes, the combination of capital investment and product branding makes the evaluation of a proper price really difficult. For instance, it can take around $1 billion USD to develop a new car model. That’s hundreds of engineers and millions of dollars in prototyping and fixed costs. I’m not specifically in vehicle development, but in similar fields you have two to four full prototype revisions, with anywhere between twenty-five and a few hundred units at each revision. A new model line will often be really expensive, and part of that is offsetting the huge capital investment.

          Now, once you have something stable that you like, you can then shift the majority of the engineers to other tasks, making future iterations of the brand a little cheaper to develop. Manufacturers may not sell quite as many of the future iterations, but the cost saved in development will allow for higher profit margins. Also, to try to squeeze out as many iterations on this as possible, you push a much higher percentage of your budget to marketing and brand presence.

          For these later iterations, the new models will feature lower-cost brand buzzwords - things that often don’t have much physical cost, but can be a note-worthy selling point. Something like advanced cruise control, or heated seats - comfortable additions that have a tiny cost compared to the development of an entirely new chassis. These can be flashy selling points, but they’re rarely going to be large improvements over the base model. However, people are willing to pay for flashy things. The inflation of a price due to good branding can be successful, because price isn’t a good indicator of cost. At times, it’s even a poor indicator of value, and that can be hard to gauge in the year or so immediately following the release of a product.

          Ultimately, I think it’s really tough to spend money in a way that directly supports scientific discovery and product development, because to a company, a branding spend is usually the safer choice. That, and as a consumer, it can be difficult to tell the difference between innovation and good brand management.

          8 votes
    4. [2]
      noble_pleb
      Link Parent
      Is it really that different than before though? I'm not from the US but from what I've heard, today's Silicon Valley Engineers earn way more than those who founded the Tech companies. Michael Dell...

      Is it really that different than before though? I'm not from the US but from what I've heard, today's Silicon Valley Engineers earn way more than those who founded the Tech companies. Michael Dell literally worked out of his basement before forming Dell company! Same goes for the Hollywood stars too. We had people like Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, etc. who used to contribute heavily to open source while living in minimum wage conditions while people hardly do that today unless it's to polish their own resumes! My own opinion is that today's generation has become more self centered and demanding the moon.

      1 vote
      1. daedalus
        Link Parent
        I'm sorry, but your comment is not connected to reality. Wanting to afford rent is not entitled. The average rent in San Francisco is $2,900. If you make 100,000 a year in SF which is about double...

        I'm sorry, but your comment is not connected to reality. Wanting to afford rent is not entitled. The average rent in San Francisco is $2,900. If you make 100,000 a year in SF which is about double average annual US wage, you're paying going to pay around 30k in taxes. You would literally pay half your post tax salary into rent. How are people supposed to contribute to open source when they are just trying to survive. So many of the people you mention were only able to create these companies because they had support systems to lean into. You might not be from the US, but here wages have been stagnating for decades. If anything, today's generation is the one that is finally demanding what it deserves.

        13 votes
  2. simplify
    Link

    Throughout the 20th century, Hollywood produced a healthy number of entirely new stories. The top movies of 1998—including Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, and There’s Something About Mary—were almost all based on original screenplays. But since then, the U.S. box office has been steadily overrun by numbers and superheroes: Iron Man 2, Jurassic Park 3, Toy Story 4, etc. Of the 10 top-grossing movies of 2019, nine were sequels or live-action remakes of animated Disney movies, with the one exception, Joker, being a gritty prequel of another superhero franchise.

    Some people think this is awful. Some think it’s fine. I’m more interested in the fact that it’s happening. Americans used to go to movie theaters to watch new characters in new stories. Now they go to movie theaters to re-submerge themselves in familiar story lines.

    A few years ago, I saw this shift from exploration to incrementalism as something specific to pop culture. That changed last year when I read a 2020 paper on the decline of originality in science, with a decidedly non-Hollywood title: “Stagnation and Scientific Incentives.”

    “New ideas no longer fuel economic growth the way they once did,” the economists Jay Bhattacharya and Mikko Packalen wrote. In the past few decades, citations have become a key metric for evaluating scientific research, which has pushed scientists to write papers that they think will be popular with other scientists. This causes many of them to cluster around a small set of popular subjects rather than take a gamble that might open a new field of study.

    5 votes
  3. streblo
    (edited )
    Link
    I think it’s easy to blame Hollywood for being risk averse; while to some extent that’s largely true, people are rewarding their behaviour. When I look at all the nostalgia-driven burrows I’ve...

    I think it’s easy to blame Hollywood for being risk averse; while to some extent that’s largely true, people are rewarding their behaviour.

    When I look at all the nostalgia-driven burrows I’ve explored in the past two years can I really blame them? In the last two years I can recall doing/playing: BG:EE, BG2:EE, WoW Classic, Skyrim SE, OpenMW, falling back in love with paper MTG, trying my hand at painting 40k again, numerous Xbox backwards compatible titles, Halo MCC, Black Mesa, and probably others I’ve missed. As much as I’d love to try out some new titles I think I’m also part of the problem and I don’t think my situation is very unique either, given how everything is getting remastered these days.

    4 votes