We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters

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pages: 559 words: 169,094

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer

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Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, bank run, big-box store, citizen journalism, cleantech, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, deindustrialization, diversified portfolio, East Village, El Camino Real, Elon Musk, family office, financial independence, financial innovation, Flash crash, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, housing crisis, income inequality, informal economy, Jane Jacobs, life extension, Long Term Capital Management, low skilled workers, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, market fundamentalism, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, new economy, New Journalism, obamacare, Occupy movement, oil shock, peak oil, Peter Thiel, Ponzi scheme, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, shareholder value, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, single-payer health, smart grid, Steve Jobs, strikebreaker, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method, too big to fail, union organizing, urban planning, We are the 99%, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, white flight

“The anthology of the top twenty-five sci-fi stories in 1970 was, like, ‘Me and my friend the robot went for a walk on the moon,’” Thiel said, “and in 2008 it was, like, ‘The galaxy is run by a fundamentalist Islamic confederacy, and there are people who are hunting planets and killing them for fun.’” Together with Sean Parker and two other friends, Thiel had started an early-stage venture capital firm called Founders Fund. It published an online manifesto about the future that began with a complaint: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” There was no single cause of the tech slowdown. Perhaps there were no more easy technological problems, those had all been solved a generation ago and the big problems left were really hard ones, like making artificial intelligence work. Perhaps science and engineering were losing their prestige along with their federal funding. The libertarian in him pointed to overregulation of things like energy, food, and drugs—it wasn’t a coincidence that the fastest growth had come in one of the least regulated industries, computers—and the kind of narrow environmentalism that wanted all the solutions to look like nature, so that hundreds of new nuclear reactors were not on the radar.

.: Work and Memory in Youngstown (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002). John Russo, “Integrated Production or Systematic Disinvestment: The Restructuring of Packard Electric” (unpublished paper, 1994). Sean Safford, Why the Garden Club Couldn’t Save Youngstown: The Transformation of the Rust Belt (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009). PETER THIEL AND SILICON VALLEY Sonia Arrison, 100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, from Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith, with a foreword by Peter Thiel (New York: Basic Books, 2011). Eric M. Jackson, The PayPal Wars: Battles with eBay, the Media, the Mafia and the Rest of Planet Earth (Los Angeles: World Ahead Publishing, 2010). David Kirkpatrick, The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011).

To get things running, he looked around for a number two—someone who knew how to make his boss look good. His eye fell on Connaughton. Clinton had banned top officials who left the administration from contacting the federal government for five years. The rule applied to Quinn but not to Connaughton, who wasn’t senior enough. So, at the age of thirty-seven, he joined Arnold & Porter and launched a new career: as a lobbyist. SILICON VALLEY Peter Thiel was three years old when he found out that he was going to die. It was in 1971, and he was sitting on a rug in his family’s apartment in Cleveland. Peter asked his father, “Where did the rug come from?” “It came from a cow,” his father said. They were speaking German, Peter’s first language—the Thiels were from Germany, Peter had been born in Frankfurt. “What happened to the cow?” “The cow died.”

pages: 235 words: 62,862

Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Workweek by Rutger Bregman

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autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, Bartolomé de las Casas, Berlin Wall, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, Branko Milanovic, cognitive dissonance, computer age, conceptual framework, credit crunch, David Graeber, Diane Coyle, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, full employment, George Gilder, happiness index / gross national happiness, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, income inequality, invention of gunpowder, James Watt: steam engine, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, low skilled workers, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, minimum wage unemployment, Mont Pelerin Society, Nathan Meyer Rothschild: antibiotics, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, precariat, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, wage slave, War on Poverty, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, wikimedia commons, women in the workforce, working poor, World Values Survey

The more wealth is concentrated at the top, the greater the demand for corporate attorneys, lobbyists, and high-frequency traders. Demand doesn’t exist in a vacuum, after all; it’s the product of a constant negotiation, determined by a country’s laws and institutions, and, of course, by the people who control the purse strings. Maybe this is also a clue as to why the innovations of the past 30 years – a time of spiraling inequality – haven’t quite lived up to our expectations. “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters,” mocks Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley’s resident intellectual.16 If the post-war era gave us fabulous inventions like the washing machine, the refrigerator, the space shuttle, and the pill, lately it’s been slightly improved iterations of the same phone we bought a couple years ago. In fact, it has become increasingly profitable not to innovate. Imagine just how much progress we’ve missed out on because thousands of bright minds have frittered away their time dreaming up hypercomplex financial products that are ultimately only destructive.

Alfred Kleinknecht, Ro Naastepad, and Servaas Storm, “Overdaad schaadt: meer management, minder productiviteitsgroei,” ESB (September 8, 2006). 14. See: Tony Schwartz and Christine Poratz, “Why You Hate Work,” The New York Times (May 30, 2014). http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/opinion/sunday/why-you-hate-work.html?_r=1 15. Will Dahlgreen, “37% of British workers think their jobs are meaningless”, YouGov (August 12, 2015). https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/08/12/british-jobs-meaningless 16. Peter Thiel, “What happened to the future?” Founders Fund, http://www.foundersfund.com/the-future 17. William Baumol, “Entrepreneurship: Productive, Unproductive, and Destructive,” Journal of Political Economy (1990), pp. 893-920. 18. Sam Ro, “Stock Market Investors Have Become Absurdly Impatient,” Business Insider (August 7, 2012). http://www.businessinsider.com/stock-investor-holding-period-2012-8 19.

pages: 437 words: 113,173

Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance by Ian Goldin, Chris Kutarna

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2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 3D printing, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, barriers to entry, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, bitcoin, Bonfire of the Vanities, clean water, collective bargaining, Colonization of Mars, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Dava Sobel, demographic dividend, Deng Xiaoping, Doha Development Round, double helix, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, experimental economics, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial innovation, full employment, Galaxy Zoo, global supply chain, Hyperloop, immigration reform, income inequality, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, information retrieval, intermodal, Internet of things, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, labour market flexibility, low cost carrier, low skilled workers, Lyft, Malacca Straits, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, moral hazard, Network effects, New Urbanism, non-tariff barriers, Occupy movement, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, open economy, Panamax, personalized medicine, Peter Thiel, post-Panamax, profit motive, rent-seeking, reshoring, Robert Gordon, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart grid, Snapchat, special economic zone, spice trade, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stuxnet, TaskRabbit, too big to fail, trade liberalization, trade route, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, uranium enrichment, We are the 99%, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, working poor, working-age population, zero day

Now that Concorde has been shut down, it takes us the same six hours to fly from New York to London that it took them. (We don’t even fly to the moon anymore.) Despite the hundreds of billions of dollars we’ve plowed into medical research in the last 40 years, rich people only live some 8 percent (five years) longer than their grandparents, and we suffer from the same chronic diseases: cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and organ failure. As Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal, put it: “We wanted flying cars—instead we got 140 characters.”36 Figure 6-1. To date, many expectations of the future have been disappointed. Image credit: Bill Watterston (1989). Calvin and Hobbes. Reprinted with permission of Universal Uclick. All rights reserved. Diminishing dreams All the above has sown a deeper doubt: that humanity’s glory days may be permanently past. Is it possible that there are only so many one-time transformations humanity can work upon itself—and that we’ve already made most of them?

pages: 1,104 words: 302,176

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World) by Robert J. Gordon

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3D printing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, airline deregulation, airport security, Apple II, barriers to entry, big-box store, blue-collar work, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, clean water, collective bargaining, computer age, deindustrialization, Detroit bankruptcy, discovery of penicillin, Donner party, Downton Abbey, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, feminist movement, financial innovation, full employment, George Akerlof, germ theory of disease, glass ceiling, high net worth, housing crisis, immigration reform, impulse control, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, inflight wifi, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, invention of air conditioning, invention of the telegraph, invention of the telephone, inventory management, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, jitney, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, labor-force participation, Loma Prieta earthquake, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market fragmentation, Mason jar, McMansion, Menlo Park, minimum wage unemployment, mortgage debt, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, Norbert Wiener, obamacare, occupational segregation, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, payday loans, Peter Thiel, pink-collar, Productivity paradox, Ralph Nader, Ralph Waldo Emerson, refrigerator car, rent control, Robert X Cringely, Ronald Coase, school choice, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, Skype, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Market for Lemons, Thomas Malthus, total factor productivity, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, upwardly mobile, urban decay, urban planning, urban sprawl, washing machines reduced drudgery, Washington Consensus, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, working poor, working-age population, Works Progress Administration, yield management

Alex Field revitalized U.S. economic history by his startling claim that the 1930s were the “most progressive decade.” For us to determine that labor productivity and TFP growth were even quicker during 1941–50 does not diminish the boldness of Field’s imagination with his claim or the depth of evidence that he has marshaled to support it.61 Chapter 17 INNOVATION: CAN THE FUTURE MATCH THE GREAT INVENTIONS OF THE PAST? We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters. —Peter Thiel INTRODUCTION The epochal rise in the U.S. standard of living that occurred from 1870 to 1940, with continuing benefits to 1970, represent the fruits of the Second Industrial Revolution (IR #2). Many of the benefits of this unprecedented tidal wave of inventions show up in measured GDP and hence in output per person, output per hour, and total factor productivity (TFP), which as we have seen grew more rapidly during the half-century 1920–70 than before or since.

The genie in the bottle will not willingly go back in the bottle, nor have we any reason to expect them to be well-disposed to us.42 Just as some inventions have come as a surprise, including the entire electronics and digital revolutions, other anticipated inventions never came to pass. Dick Tracy’s wrist radio in cartoon comic strips of the late 1940s finally is coming to fruition seventy years later with the Apple Watch. The Jetsons’ vertical commuting car/plane never happened, and in fact high fuel costs caused many local helicopter short-haul aviation companies to shut down.43 As Peter Theil quipped, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” THE INVENTIONS THAT ARE NOW FORECASTABLE Despite the slow growth of TFP recorded by the data of the decade since 2004, commentators view the future of technology with great excitement. Nouriel Roubini writes, “[T]here is a new perception of the role of technology. Innovators and tech CEOs both seem positively giddy with optimism.”44 The well-known pair of techno-optimists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee assert that “we’re at an inflection point” between a past of slow technological change and a future of rapid change.45 They appear to believe that Big Blue’s chess victory and Watson’s victory on the TV game show Jeopardy presage an age in which computers outsmart humans in every aspect of human work effort.