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America's Future Is In Software, Not Hardware 630

Posted by Soulskill
from the developers-developers-developers dept.
New submitter tcjr2006 writes "Obama's State of the Union focused on the return of manufacturing jobs to America. This New Yorker story makes the case that the manufacturing jobs aren't going to come back, and he should be focusing on software. Quoting: 'Yes, there are industries where manufacturing jobs can be brought back to America through proper tax incentives and training programs. But maybe he should have talked more about the things that he could do to keep software jobs here. He spoke of federal funding for university and scientific research. But a real pro-software agenda would also include reforming patent law to stop trolling (and perhaps eliminating software patents altogether); increasing H-1B visas for highly skilled coders; stopping Congress from defunding DARPA, whose research helped create Siri, the iPhone’s talking assistant; and opening up the unused, federally owned wireless spectrum. That agenda wouldn’t bring Apple’s manufacturing jobs back, but it would help to keep the company’s coding jobs here. And it would certainly help develop "an economy that’s built to last."'"
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America's Future Is In Software, Not Hardware

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  • Oh yes, software (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:37PM (#38840513)

    We can eat it, wear it, breathe it... What the hell kind of society will this be if everyone just writes software all day?

    • by jcreus (2547928) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:39PM (#38840537)
      Heaven?
      • by Pieroxy (222434) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:56PM (#38840877) Homepage

        In all fairness, there is a heck of a lot more value in software than in hardware. Hardware is now a commodity, nothing more.

        And in other news, this is one of the very very rare piece of wisdom to make it up the front page of slashdot in a long time. It's like there was a disturbance in the force... Did you feel it too?

        • by shaitand (626655)

          If you are referring to in-house code sure. If you are referring to copies of apps being sold I can't think of anything more commodity than free.

        • by fish_in_the_c (577259) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:24PM (#38841327)

          economies are based on the exchange of goods / services are only part of the economy if they produce goods, because wealth is a measure of accumulated material possessions. So if we all want to have more 'stuff' ... someone needs to do the work to make it.

          The problem with our current economy is 70% of our jobs are in service not production. That is BAD, because basically we keep paying each other money ( aka wealth) that we did not create. It just moves around and the actual creation of wealth is being done overseas.

          • by w_dragon (1802458)
            So a movie has no value? Transporting goods has no value? I'm glad I don't live in your world.
          • by hitmark (640295)

            Money is more like a IOU on community wealth than wealth itself.

        • by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:32PM (#38841505) Homepage Journal

          In all fairness, there is a heck of a lot more value in software than in hardware. Hardware is now a commodity, nothing more.

          And in other news, this is one of the very very rare piece of wisdom to make it up the front page of slashdot in a long time. It's like there was a disturbance in the force... Did you feel it too?

          The problem is that in ten years we are going to be reading a headline like "America's future is in project management, not software"... Software jobs "belong here" just like advanced manufacturing jobs "belong here". And there is such a thing as "commodity software", just look at your favorite mobile device's app regurgitation orifice if you think that there is not a market for a thousand programs that really do the same thing. Really good software (just like really good hardware) should stand out from the crowd and that is what we should be encouraging ourselves to make. There is a reason the shiny little widgety things that sell well proclaim "Designed In california, made in [a place where environmental and labor laws are favorable]". It would say "Made in the USA" if we had the guts to actually put up with the production of the things we consume so much of.

          No one is arguing about keeping *every* manufacturing job here, just like they shouldn't waste their wind trying to get every software job to stay here. We should focus on encouraging us to do what we are good at.

        • by AdamThor (995520) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:51PM (#38841879)

          In all fairness, there is a heck of a lot more value in software than in hardware.

          You know why? Artificial scarcity. The more America decides to make it's economy around software, the more software patents we're going to need to set up and defend. Don't Copy That Floppy! I've got a patent on 1-click checkout nobody else can do it! Get used that, if you want an economy based on software.

          And in other news, this is one of the very very rare piece of wisdom to make it up the front page of slashdot in a long time.

          This is a terrible idea. Manufacturing requires tooling and raw materials. And at the end is a physical thing that needs to be sent to wherever it is needed. And that all got sent overseas! All software needs is a computer. Oh, sure, and the knowledge to program it. The USA has an advantage there today, but there's no reason for it to persist. We have a head start over the Chinese, but they're not stupid. They'll have to transition from their cheap labor model to a well-educated labor model to become a software power. That's coming.

          Easier than trying to control ideas (which is all software is anyway), would be to abandon the free trade that has moved out all our manufacturing anyway. Objects are easier to control than ideas. Taxes on imports would bring manufacturing back, and would also cut the power of international corporations over our government. It would be a huge change, and not an easy one. I think we'd be healthier for it though.

    • by Azuaron (1480137)
      Just wait until we have matter compilers. Then the software will pump out stuff we can eat, wear, and breathe.
      • E=MC^2 makes a "matter compiler" a pretty hefty energy investment.
        • by NFN_NLN (633283)

          E=MC^2 makes a "matter compiler" a pretty hefty energy investment.

          m=E/(c^2), phew... looks more manageable now.

        • by AdamThor (995520)

          There's no need to create matter out of pure energy. All that is necessary is to re-arrange it from something you don't want into whatever it is that you do want. Non-trivial, so be sure, but nothing like E=MC^2 would suggest.

      • Just wait until we have matter compilers.

        Except where I come from, we call them "ribosomes".

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hairyfeet (841228)

        While everyone here makes jokes that won't change the fact the H1-B is completely wiping out our ability to compete. the H1-Bs all go home and help THEIR countries to compete while our young folks are rightly steering clear of anything to do with tech fields because they can't shell out $70K+ for a degree to face off with someone who gets paid less than 30k a year off the boat, its no different than how Japan used product dumping to wipe out our electronics industry in the 80s, because with the H1-B their d

        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:05PM (#38843177)

          Oh please. H1-B has its problems to be sure, but you invalidate your entire argument when you claim that they make $30k; all the research shows H1-Bs usually cost about as much as Citizens do. The initial cost is actually more because of all the sponsorship fees and such, and because there's a lot of openings for these jobs (if there weren't, they wouldn't be coming here). Over time they probably end up getting somewhat less though, since they don't have the ability to change jobs quite as easily at citizens, and that part of the program absolutely should be changed.

          Don't forget that a ton of foreign workers got their degrees right here in our own overpriced universities. Half the people in my EE classes in the 90s were foreigners, and that was undergrad; at the graduate level, almost all of them were foreigners.

    • We can eat it, wear it, breathe it... What the hell kind of society will this be if everyone just writes software all day?

      Let's suppose that some time in the next, I don't know, ten or twenty years, the combination of general purpose programmable robots and 3D printers allows you to do anything that might generally fall under the designation "manual labor" more cheaply with a machine than it costs to hire a person.

      You know what kind of jobs that leaves for people to do? Let me give you some examples: Lawyers, corporate managers, stock brokers, insurance salesmen, etc.

      Also, programmers.

      And I've got a punch in the face for anyon

      • by russotto (537200) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:50PM (#38840729) Journal

        Let's suppose that some time in the next, I don't know, ten or twenty years, the combination of general purpose programmable robots and 3D printers allows you to do anything that might generally fall under the designation "manual labor" more cheaply with a machine than it costs to hire a person.

        Not going to happen. It was happening, and then someone realized that there already are plenty of general-purpose programmable organic robots far more flexible than any mechanical implement likely to appear within the next 50 years. And that you can in fact maintain these robots far more cheaply than most Westerners think. Thus, Chinese manufacturing was born.

        • by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:01PM (#38840981)

          That's not how it works.

          Cheap labor impacts the rate at which machines replace humans for manual jobs, because it reduces the incentive to invest in developing those machines (since there are less savings to be had, so the margins on the machines are lower). But that investment has not been zeroed out by any means.

          On top of that, we're talking about American jobs, so who cares what the Chinese are doing? You might as well throw them in the same class as the robots, in the sense that if there is {something} that will do the work cheaper than Americans, Americans had better find some other work to do.

          And as time goes on, the number of jobs in that category continues to increase -- it wasn't that long ago that they put in those hand scanners at the grocery store that let you scan the items in your cart as you put them in and then do nothing more than swipe your credit card as you walk out the door. I'd bet a fair number of checkout clerks lost their jobs over that one.

          • by penix1 (722987)

            it wasn't that long ago that they put in those hand scanners at the grocery store that let you scan the items in your cart as you put them in and then do nothing more than swipe your credit card as you walk out the door. I'd bet a fair number of checkout clerks lost their jobs over that one.

            Nope. They are the ones standing at the heads of these mechanical monstrosities preventing the pissed off customers from beating them to pieces.

            Personally, I never use the silly things and will ask for a human if they do

    • by cfulmer (3166) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:46PM (#38840675) Homepage Journal

      That's silly. Almost nobody is engaged in the production of food, yet it's plentiful and cheap. 100 years ago, well over 50% of the population of the US was engaged in agriculture; today, that number is around 2%.

      The same forces that drove agricultural employment down have also driven manufacturing employment down. US manufacturing output, after adjusting for inflation, is the highest it's ever been (well, in 2007, it was the highest. It's in a dip right now b/c of the economy.) Meanwhile, manufacturing employment has been dropping steadily since the early '50s. That's only possible because US workers are far more productive than they were in the past.

      As US manufacturing workers become more productive, more are freed up to do things which a less prosperous country could not afford to do, like developing software.

      • by masternerdguy (2468142) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:58PM (#38840899)
        With one problem: Our society believes that everyone has to work for their supper. The problem is that as production gets more efficient you don't need as many people. We're going to have some serious problems if we can't get it through our heads that we're going to make a world so efficient that eventually very few people will need to be employed.
        • by cfulmer (3166) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:43PM (#38841699) Homepage Journal

          Oh, they'll be employed. But, many people will be employed doing things that we'd consider utterly frivolous today, just as today, people are employed doing things that our ancestors would have considered to be utterly frivolous. I have no idea what they will be, but people them will consider them valuable.

          Examples of things our ancestors would have considered frivolous? Computer game design, professional "life coaches" & fitness instructors come to mind, but there are hundreds of such jobs if you think about it. Heck, there was a story on local news about a cat that got a knee-replacement -- there were 10 people involved in the surgery. Can you imagine anybody in the 1950s thinking "Oh, yes, our cat can't walk. Let's get him surgery."?

    • by Hatta (162192) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:51PM (#38840753) Journal

      This is such a fantasy, we might as well base our economy on Unicorn horns.

    • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:19PM (#38841241) Homepage

      This isn't a half bad comment, especially for an Anonymous first poster. I see three essential problems with the ideas in the article:

      1) As the parent said, you can't eat, wear, or live in software. It's a great business to be in, but I don't want everyone to be in it. I like food, I like fuel, I like a house... all of these things need to be made. They can be made elsewhere, but when we rely on China to make everything we use day to day, we give China the power to starve us, to make us homeless, to leave us without clothes. I'm not an isolationist, and I accept that we live in a global economy, but do we really want to abdicate *all* of our manufacturing to other countries? Having local producers limits energy needs, reduces pollution and makes sure we still have the capacity when something happens and China can no longer provide something for us. Look at what happened to hard drives when Thailand flooded.

      2) Not everyone can write software. There, I said it. Not every American has the education, intelligence, drive, interest... whatever to be a producer of software or designer of systems. All of these people who want to "refocus" America on white collar, intellectual property type work places seem to overlook this fact. The country will quickly become a place when you are either an elite (a producer, seller, marketer, manager, or owner of some sort of high tech stuff or other, or old money) or a member of a servant class. The only non-white-collar jobs will be in retail sales, restaurants, etc. Maybe construction, so we all still have places to buy stuff.

      3) Not all of these idea will even help all that much with software as a driving force of the economy. Or they they'll help the companies without really helping the US economy. Primarily I'm talking about the H1B stuff here. I'm not suggesting that we stop the H1B program. It's a good thing to try to bring the best and brightest of other nations over; often it's a good thing for both us and the country of origin. Many of these people go home after a while with the experience of having worked in or for some of the largest companies in the world. They carry back useful skills and experience. None the less, this should be a careful and limited program with safeguards in place to make it's not being abused and used to bring in cheap easily abuse-able labor. No one benefits from that (except the greedy bastards abusing the system).

      Having said all of this, yes software needs to be a pillar of economic strength for this country. It's important and it's both a driver of our economy and a part of our overall power as a nation. Some of the reforms listed would be very good for the software industry. Finding the things that will help the software industry does not mean we should ignore manufacturing or agriculture, or any of the other pillars of our economy though.

  • by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:38PM (#38840529)

    increasing H-1B visas for highly skilled coders

    How is increasing the number of workers supposed to decrease the unemployment rate?

    • Try narrowing the angular confinement beam.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:42PM (#38840589)

      That is my concern. We have plenty of people ready, willing, and able to code here in the US. H-1Bs usually are gotten because the phrase "the US doesn't have enough skilled workers" usually means "we can't find a CISSP who will work in the Bay Area for $24,000/year." Couple that with "secret requirements", and it is just a lame end run by companies who want US dollars but are otherwise hostile to the nation.

      • by alexandre_ganso (1227152) <surak@surak.eti.br> on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:45PM (#38840655)

        More skilled workers means that

        - some of them will eventually be enterpreneurs
        - it's easier to find people for specific fields of knowledge

        More foreign people in that case actually means more jobs for the locals as well, as the economy around it grows.

        • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:00PM (#38840957)

          bullshit. every indian I know sends huge amounts of money BACK HOME.

          and they often plan to return home, eventually; so the investment in them is sunk.

          lose/lose for us americans.

          I do not support the US pushing more and more toward software. software can be done remotely and that means we won't have a lot of local jobs, FOR ANYONE, if this continues on.

          I work in software in the bay area. I'm local born and yet I can't find a job. when I go into interviews, I see many foreign faces and this is not at all a balanced system!

          I know very well that almost all of them are overworked and underpaid. but they are more 'abusable' than native-born american citizens. we don't usually 'jump' when the bossman says; but overseas, they feel lucky to have ANY job. they ask 'how high' and bossman loves that shit.

          our jobs are gone. MOSTLY due to software, in fact. if we brought hardware (manuf) back, I don't think you'd see the huge influx of people who want to work those jobs. and we'd also be more self sufficient WHEN the foreign goods' quality gets to the point where its impossible to rely on or use anymore.

          if the president thinks 'software in the US' is any kind of key to our future, he's more lost-in-a-daze than I even thought possible.

          someone's going to make coin from this; but it won't be you or me.

          • by alexandre_ganso (1227152) <surak@surak.eti.br> on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:11PM (#38841139)

            If you only consider "Sanjay-would-do-anything-and-is-grateful-for-any-job", then you are right.

            They certainly send money home. And don't be fooled, they would bring their whole family to live with them, if they could.

            But they spend money locally as well. They also buy ipads, toilet paper and food, like everybody else.

            However, the discussion is not about them. Skilled workers are not necessarily those. Skilled workers, local or foreign, are the ones who can found startups, teach at universities and contribute with taxes. A lot of taxes.

          • by MalleusEBHC (597600) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:54PM (#38841937)

            If you can't find a software development job in the Bay Area, the problem isn't foreigners, it's you. As a developer who just switched jobs in the past year, I can tell you that jobs are plentiful. Tech companies are doing well as a whole, and the success of the biggest employers (Google, Facebook, Apple) has put excellent pressure on the market, from an employee perspective. Yes, even considering their no poaching agreement, they're driving up wages across the valley.

            • by HungWeiLo (250320)

              I agree. Here in the Seattle area, our company's been looking for SW guys and managers for months and months with no luck - even with headhunters activated around the country to assist in our search. It's hard to compete (we're a small company) when Amazon/MS/Google are escalating their wage wars. I hear guys coming out of undergrad start at $95k now with them.

              All the good people already have jobs. Even the people I wouldn't recommend already have jobs.

          • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:41PM (#38842795) Journal

            I work in software in the bay area. I'm local born and yet I can't find a job.

            There are two possible reasons for this.

            A) You suck at programming.
            B) You suck at finding a job.

            If you aren't sending out at least 10 resumes a week, you aren't working hard to find a job. Job hunting is a three step process, if you are missing out on one of the steps, you're going to have trouble. The first is finding jobs to apply for. If you're applying for lots of jobs but not getting responses, then your resume is ugly. Keep modifying it until you get responses. Eventually you'll get it. The next step after that is to do well in interviews. It's a skill like any other; if you're doing lots of interviews but not getting hired, then improve your interview skills.

            If you're doing all of the above and still not finding a job in the Bay Area, you might need to consider that you suck as a programmer. Improve your skill.

    • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:47PM (#38840685) Homepage

      It isn't just the tech industry under attack. Maybe someone can explain why Chinese contractors and workers are building bridges here?

      http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/us-bridges-roads-built-chinese-firms-14594513?tab=9482930?ion=1206853&playlist=14594944 [go.com]

      I'm no "Red State USA1 FUCK YEAH" type of person, but maybe we should start looking into a little bit of economic nationalism. This is anathema to the multi-nationals that own our government though, so we'll just keep importing workers and exporting work till we look like any other third world economy, with a very few controlling all the wealth, and the rest of us eating dirt.

    • by u38cg (607297)
      Your error is called the lump of labour fallacy, the idea that there is a certain amount of work to be done and that a foreigner doing it takes a job away from an American. In fact, the presence of H1-B holders bring new skills and enables the creation of firms that would not otherwise exist, and hence creates new jobs.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Your error is believing that the companies astroturfing for more H1-Bs have any interest in your well being.
      • That argument would hold more water if there weren't thousands of grumpy unemployed IT workers running around the US. Some of them were in the wrong field to begin with, some of them are entry level and don't have enough experience to satisfy the needs of the industry, but a good many of them just want too much money for companies to bother paying because they are so highly skilled and have so much experience.
    • A ton of ways.
      1. Unemployment in software is in the realm of what is usually considered booming economy levels(below 5%).
      2. Every person who actively has a job is contributing to the economy in terms of buying things, investing, etc.
      3. Theoretically,(and I don't really buy this point myself), more (necessary) software means more efficiency in the economy, meaning more is made, meaning prices for consumers go down.
      4. Better competition in the field means better work gets done(maybe?).

      It's easy to see how

  • There really aren't enough sensible ways of doing anything for this to work well.

  • by bmo (77928) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:42PM (#38840591)

    We're already farming out software.

    It's not as if anyone with the means, i.e., money, is trying to reverse the trend.

    This doesn't even pass the bellylaugh test.

    --
    BMO

    • Patents play a role here. Who would want to develop software in this country, when some idiot in texas can patent broad terms and just keep looking for people to sue?

  • by Kenja (541830) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:44PM (#38840627)
    It is far less expensive to have a group overseas develop software. Not better, just cheaper. The same economics apply, but unlike hardware there are zero tariffs or import taxes to pay (not that there are many for hardware).
    • And many companies don't realize what a problem it is to outsource overseas until their product is delivered and it is a buggy piece of junk or missed half the requirements.
    • by oneiros27 (46144) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:58PM (#38840905) Homepage

      I've heard some interesting arguments for putting QA overseas, but keeping the main development folks local.

      Basically, the idea is:

      • Your developers work their normal hours, and commit before they leave
      • The nightly build runs
      • The QA team (in a different time zone) does all of their necessary testing, and enters issues into your ticket systems (while the main developers are sleeping)
      • The developers come in the next morning (not having pulled an all-nighter), and check to see what the QA group found while they slept / went to the movies / had a social life / etc.

      I've never participated in something like this, so I don't know if it's a great idea on paper that sucks in real life, but it seems on the surface that it could be useful.

      Of course, you could probably get similar effects by outsourcing to more than one place with sufficient offset in their time zones.

      • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:50PM (#38841869) Journal

        Or rather I have experience with cleaning up afterwards.

        I seen it all and NEVER in a good way.

        One project saw the creation of a game platform completly outsourced to India with just the content created locally. Delays ran into a year and a half (and in the online game industry that is roughly a century) and when it was done there were HUGE mistakes that took ages to fix. The code was piss poor with gigantic performance issues and a setup requirement that consisted of very specific product versions often not available anymore for download.

        The "problem" was simple, the Indian developers could code but had absolutely no eye for quality beyond making it work for a single scripted demo.

        I have gotten finished web projects from China with chinese comments in the code and every page of a website being its own page, so the menu code was copy pasted in every single page rather then an include. And the menu code had evolved over time so even search and replace couldn't fix it. Spend more on fixing that then it would have cost to develop it from scratch. But hey! Cheap chinese coders!

        As for QA itself... I have seen tests being done by Russians where they completely failed to catch obvious bugs making you wonder what the fuck they tested. Well, the answer became clear, they tested they could run it and labelled anything that didn't work as "oh that probably wasn't finished yet so lets not do it"...

        Are Russians, Indians and Chinese incompetetent and stupid?

        YES, those that work in those kind of firms are. You see, why would ANY competent person work in one of these places? Russia, China, India, they got their own software industry, only the rejects from their own industry would work for foreigners for minimum wages. The idea that you can get the elilte of developing countries working in sweat shops is beyond insane.

        The simple fact is that software development is something you buy around the world so WHY would a company that can deliver quality charge a far lower price just because it is located somewhere else? Since when is capatilism about charging the lowest price you can rather then charging as much as market is willing to bear?

        If someone sells you software development at dump prices, that is probably a good indication of what you should do with the resulting code.

    • by goruka (1721094) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:13PM (#38841159)
      Americans are too egocentric. There's nothing that makes you "the best" at programming software, and there's good and bad experiences with software teams anywhere in the world. As a foreigner, I led and completed several outsourced projects for clients in your country successfully. Doing your job well, so our clients trust us and recommend us to other american companies is the same here as well as everyone else, otherwise software industry here wouldn't thrive as much as it does, and we are not even as cheap as India. Add to that, that high qualty education here is either free or unexpensive, so there is a great amount of supply in highly skilled programmers.
    • by forkfail (228161)

      Never forget, you can have at most two out of three: good, fast and cheap.

      And odds are, if you outsource overseas, good won't be one of the two. Sure, you may launch, but you'll be rewriting the entire product to add features. Meaning that you're down to one out of three: cheap. And really,, not all that cheap.

      Remember, at most two out of three. There is, however, no lower limit; it is quite possible to achieve zero out of three. Or to put it another way, bad, late and expensive.

  • by forkfail (228161) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:44PM (#38840629)

    ... if we don't seriously fund education for the next generation, and stop thinking we can skimp on that commitment to pay for tax breaks for the rich and extended wars of choice.

    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:58PM (#38840917)
      Sorry, the problem with education in the U.S. has nothing to do with lack of funding.
      • by forkfail (228161) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:17PM (#38841219)

        In part, absolutely it does.

        When we don't respect teachers, treat them like babysitters (and expect to pay them a salary consummate with that of a babysitter's), instead of hiring out truly intelligent, motivated folks for the job, and treating them like the professionals they are, we cripple our kid's education.

        When we stuff 40 or more kids into the same class for budget reasons, there is no way that the quality of the education decreases.

        When our textbooks are 30 years old, when they don't reflect recent history or innovations; when we don't have computer access, we are not preparing our kids for modern life and jobs.

        All of these things lead us to solutions such as teaching towards tests, instead of real education. And often in buildings that are falling apart around our kid's ears.

        And then to top it off, we cut pell grants and subsidized loans. We make college education a privilege for the rich, and thus, we limit the scale of the net we throw for those who might truly become of value to society based upon their merit and value as an educated member of society, limiting their potential, and thus limiting our societies potential.

        Throwing money at the problem won't fix all that ails it. But it sure will go a darn long way.

    • by MikeMo (521697)
      It's not the education funding that matters. It's how important education is to society, parents, and our children's peers. Nowadays, it's not "cool" to be smart or do well in school. It just doesn't matter to them, and no amount of funding will change that.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:46PM (#38840667)
    Although Apple didnt invent this category of devices, they figured out how to make and sell tons of them in the last five years. Hardware innovation is very much alive in the USA.

    Paul Krugman correctly points out in today NY Times column that Apple has 45,000 high compensated US employees and 700,000 poorly compensated Asian sub-contractors. Apple does create lots of jobs, with mixed results.
  • by Nadaka (224565)

    Some good, some bad.

    Increasing H1B? They should be decreasing H1B workers for more local long term employment.

    Software patent reform/elimination: good++11

    Dont defund DARPA: good

    Release wireless spectrum: how does that affect software?

    Supporting the software industry does not mean we don't need manufacturing. Not everyone can or wants to work in a creative field. Manufacturing is as important to national and economic security as software.

  • by gmuslera (3436) * on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:49PM (#38840713) Homepage Journal
    Seems that the future of USA is in trivial patents, copyrighting culture, making that lasting forever and pushing that to the rest of the world. Why develop if you already get paid if someone anywhere tries to use common sense to solve a problem in the only possible way?
  • by Junta (36770) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:50PM (#38840737)

    Software is one of the products most amenable to offshoring. Cost savings of manufacturing in China has to be balanced against logistic and shipping costs that fluctuate over time, but software has no such factor to offset. It's also a market rife with potential IP controversy (with patents, it's hard to get started before getting smacked by a big player with tons of patents, without patents it may still be hard to get started as a big player rips off your work, copyright can get messy regardless of patent situation).

    We don't need more work visas, good local developers are in no short supply.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:50PM (#38840741)

    We just need to do away with old labor intensive methods of manufacturing.

    If we mechanize enough then the labor costs become irrelevant and we can bring the manufacturing home.

    To that end, we should invest heavily in additive manufacturing and other technologies that will let us leap frog the competition while rendering their cheap labor irrelevant.

    • by Aggrav8d (683620)

      If we mechanize enough then the labor costs become irrelevant and we can bring the manufacturing home.

      I told a friend about a robot I'd designed that could sew clothing tailored to fit. He said "why not send my measurements to india, have a suit fedex'd back the next day? I don't have to give up floor space, hire a programmer or worry about the thing breaking." Mechanization & automation is not a miracle pill.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Karmashock (2415832)

        For one thing, control. If you're not actually making the product then you don't control it. Why do you think apple had that problem with fake apple stores in China? Those stores were stocked with products stolen from apple factories which apple paid for because they had been listed as defective. They weren't defective. They were stolen.

        For another, there's a big difference between designing something and actually building it as far as UNDERSTANDING what you're building. If you work with fabric all day for

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:54PM (#38840817)
    There's only four things we do better than anyone else:

    music
    movies
    microcode
    high-speed pizza delivery
  • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:54PM (#38840823) Journal
    From these comments by Steve Jobs, and similar by other CEOs [huffingtonpost.com], it seems to me that it could easily be profitable to have manufacturing in the US (and actually, it is profitable for some industries). His remarks seem to say that with some adjustments to the system, we would have a lot more factories in the US. Here's the quote from the article:

    [Jobs insisted to Obama] that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. As an example, Jobs described the ease with which companies can build factories in China compared to the United States, where "regulations and unnecessary costs" make it difficult for them.

    Presumably his point was that he wanted to build factories in the US, but regulations and unnecessary costs prevented him. I don't know what regulations those were, but certainly not all regulations are good.

    Obviously we won't move all manufacturing back to the US, we'll never compete with Vietnam at textile manufacturing, but it seems reasonable that we can do a lot of manufacturing here.

  • Germany - USA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Teun (17872) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:59PM (#38840929) Homepage
    How is it the Germans have a very solid manufacturing base and exporting even to China?
    Is it because workers are treated better or is it because they are cheaper?

    How is it that The Netherlands is the world's 2nd. largest exporter of agricultural products in value after the US, is it because the country is so blessed with it's climate and available space?

    I'm convinced the USofA can be a profitable exporter of manufactered goods and produce providing their managers start looking at the long term instead of just this quarters profits.

    • Re:Germany - USA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:37PM (#38841603)

      One major difference I can tell you that exists between the US and Germany: scope of thinking. And no, not long-term vs short-term. It's about what people consider success, and what people strive for in business. I'll illustrate it with two small business stories.

      Scene: Munich, Germany. 300 year old apartment building with a shop on the ground floor. The shop is a custom boot maker.... who got started about 300 years ago. It's still the same shop, it still makes custom boots, and it has been family owned ever since it got started. Not always the same family, but it's a family business, and doing well enough to support a family for the last 300 years. The current owner has no interest in expanding, of offering funky colors, outsourcing manufacturing to China, or to establish a brand and open branded stores. He just wants to make boots and support his family doing so. Heck, he still works with custom-built wooden boot molds to make his boots, some of which are as old as the shop.

      Scene: Silicon Valley, USA. A friend is starting an online business. It's very niche, but it's pretty much the only one of its kind, with pretty much a monopoly on the market and an owner who knows the market like the back of her hand. She is talking to one of her friends, who is an architect at a very large, very successful, pre-IPO startup. Who proceeds to tell her that unless she is going to take on loans and VCs and try to take over the world in the next two years, she is just engaging in a hobby and might as well call it quits.

      Guess who is going to be around in a hundred years? My money's on the bootmaker.

      • by bar-agent (698856)

        Guess who is going to be around in a hundred years? My money's on the boot maker.

        This is a stupid analogy.

        First, the boot maker has already been around for three centuries, and so could very well be around for a century more. But if some new guy wanted to start up a boot-making business today? Odds are against him having the same three centuries of success to look forward to.

        Second, no online business will ever last for a century. There won't even be an Internet as we know it in a century. Physical manufact

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:16PM (#38841205) Journal

    This guy wants to trade all of manufacturing for a few software jobs? I don't know what koolaid he is drinking but it must a good one.

    Software has the same problem as that other US product, entertainment content, it can be easily duplicated. 1 car designer == 100 factory workers making 101 jobs.

    1 software developer == 1 job. Sure, that salary of that software developer might fund a hotdog stand but if you think that a pyramid with software developers at the top if going to have base of 360.000.000.000 people... you obviously haven't got a proper grasp of how much a software developer makes. MS is NOT going to safe the economy.

    It ain't sex, in an Officer and a Gentleman, the steady (used to be) reliable job in a carton making factory is looked down upon, a place to escape through a husband with a dream job... BUT in reality THIS is what a NORMAL country economy runs on. Yes there are exceptions, oil nations can do quite well without any real economy. Not just the Arab nations, Scotland is doing very well for itself now it can keep the proceeds from its oil and gas industry and not fund the entire UK with it. Scotland would be in the drain IF it wasn't for oil and gas.

    But the US isn't an oil or any other resource rich country, it like my own country Holland NEEDS a solid, boring, unsexy production base. England pre-WW2 thought it could shift farming away from its own land and outsource it completely. It worked... except it didn't. Many thought that it was the u-boats that stopped it but the basic economy also took a nosedive and it started the recession in England that has simply never stopped since, the country is a shadow of its former self with massive un-employment. The only reason figures aren't higher is because non-jobs such as burger flipper are used to keep people out of the official stats. There are entire cities where the norm has been for generations to not have a job.

    Replace all of manufacturing with mere software developement? Software development that can be done anywhere and where 1 persons labour can be infinitely distributed?

    It is as sane as basing the entire US economy on content production like movies and music... oh wait, some people actually suggest this is a good idea.

    Don't get me wrong, a lot of money is made in these industries but the way the pyramid of supply and demand is structured simply means that it doesn't provide a pay check for an entire country.

    Idiots that come up with ideas like this probably look at the food chain and think that if only lions learned to eat plants you can cut out the middle man... NOT HOW IT FUCKING WORKS.

    Even the Nazi Ford understood that if you want the people to buy your cars they need to earn salaries that allow them to buy cars. It is not that complex. Who is going to buy all that software? Chinese workers working for slave wages? The box shifters at Walmart?

    But iPads sell like hot cakes... no. they don't. iPads sell incredibly badly... gaming software is even worse... "what" you say?

    Apple sold 14 million iPads during 2010, WORLD WIDE... that is a market of 6 billion. That isn't a very good market penetration at all compared to something as simple as carton boxes. How many boxes did you buy yourself? If you bought your iPad online, 2 at least. Of course the profit on that box was far lower but the number of US households fed through simple boxes is far far higher then that iPad that came in a box from china and was only handled for seconds at time by minimum wage box-shifters.

    That is part of the problem, it ain't just the production of iPads that has gone to China, it is the box making, the plastic bag making, the packing into shipping containers... it doesn't leave much of the price of a iPad to be earned by US hands. When a factory for making carton boxes shift shores, the machine making jobs, the wood cutting jobs, that cafeteria fan in the parking lot, they all go to.

    This ain't fantasy, Manchester has experienced what Detroit is going through now for decades AND NOTHI

  • opening up the unused, federally owned wireless spectrum

    Spectrum in the US is allocated through an arcane, bureaucratic process that takes years to balance the needs of the government (NTIA) and the needs of individuals and businesses (FCC). Broadband For America, which aims to reallocate 500 MHz of "wireless" spectrum for commercial use will likely cost the DoD alone high tens to hundreds of billions of our tax dollars to implement. It will also take several years, due to the necessity of re-engineering of fielded equipment and software.

    That spectrum which appears to be "unused" may be reserved for equipment in development, experimentation, or wartime uses. It may also be reserved for scenarios where all hell breaks loose here at home (e.g., 9-11) and the goverment can't afford to be competing with Twitter and Facebook for bandwidth.

  • by unixisc (2429386) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:25PM (#38841357)

    This premise is a crock. Software is pretty easy to steal, and w/ all those FOSS licenses, freeware, shareware and similar models running around, it's pretty difficult for any company, except a few like Microsoft or Google, to make money of software. As a result, all the money made from software ain't gonna be enough to purchase the hardware needed to run it. Besides, the expertise for making hardware is still w/ Western companies: while the Chinese & Taiwanese companies may be good @ duping hardware and making it cheap, so far, they're not going to come up w/ hardware solutions that are needed going forward. Don't think that just b'cos China has produced the Loongson - that too a MIPS license - that it is suddenly innovative and capable of inventing anything. And sooner or later, the American work force has to come to terms w/ the reality that while $0.40/hr is unworkable, so is $5.00/hr if things are to be mass produced. Some manufacturing has to be shifted back to countries like America, European countries and so on.

    Fact is that China's labor force can't keep sustaining the production demands on its economy @ current wage levels, and sooner or later, while some of it may be further outsourced to Africa, a lot of it will rise to levels which, while not @ par w/ the US, will still make it a lot less lucrative for manufacturing to be sent there. Also, a lot of contract manufacturers very often find themselves overloaded by demand, and are generally in a feast or famine mode. It's nothing sort of suicidal for US companies to have all their manufacturing concentrated in just one place. Good example was the recent floods in Bangkok, which caused a temporary shortage of hard drives. It makes more sense for companies to have a certain amount of in-house manufacturing to support the minimum quantities they must sell in a quarter, and then have any excess demand offloaded to contract manufacturers both in the US & abroad. They can definitely weight the distribution according to the cost differentials, but still, it makes sense not to be sole sourced.

    Also, it's not in the best interests of countries like China, India, Philippines, Thailand, et al to be totally dependent on sales to the US - that way, when the US economy sinks, they too feel the heat. It makes more sense for them to support domestic demand. In fact, the US too could target some overseas markets and get exports moving.

  • by fish_in_the_c (577259) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:34PM (#38841527)

    1 ) require that any product SOLD in the united states be made under the same EPA and environmental laws we expect from our own manufactures.
    2) require that any produce SOLD in the united states be made under similar OSHA and worker safety constraints, including a 40 h work week, medical benefits, unemployment benefits , and minimum wage adjusted by cost of living in that country.
    3) if a countries laws do not ensure 2. The the company should bind itself to deliver those benefits to it's employees, using applicable contract law in the country it is in , or it will not be issued an import license.

    Here is the reality check, we passed laws about worker safety and pay etc, because it is WRONG to treat your workers like slaves. Why should we permit the sale of things in this country that don't meet that standard.

    We passed EPA and environmental laws in this country because it is WRONG to destroy the earth for future generations for nothing other then temporary profit. If it is wrong in the United states is it any less wrong in China ?

    Either are laws are good laws because they are morally 'the right thing to do' in which case we have not excuse for buying things from people who do otherwise OR we should repeal those laws in this country.

    Either way , if the playing field was equal on labor and cost of production due to regulation , the added shipping cost from a foreign country should make it necessarily to produce many commodity items here. Which would create massive numbers of U.S. jobs.

    ( it is also likely to have the bad effect in the short term of causing serious price inflation ,because all the cheap overseas products will be gone .. so you would have to phase this in slowly enough to allow everyone to adapt.)

  • by PortHaven (242123) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:34PM (#38841541) Homepage

    I'll tell you...

    It's time to jump ship and get out of IT. It's about to crash. No, I don't mean .com style. I mean industry/career-wise.

    I'll explain...throughout modern history, there is a tendency to tout a career choice or field as a long-term career. The truth is, it almost always fails to be and is usually done at the peak of that career's value.

    There was a time that being a butcher was an excllent local career choice. Until suddenly, no one went to the local butcher as the big grocery store became the supplier (this mainly due to the advent of the automobile which made such travel inconsequential).

    In the 70's there was talk of electrical engineering being the field to be. Manufacturing of electronics. In fact, IBM let Microsoft own DOS because HARDWARE was the place to be. Then that all became automated and outsourced, suddenly you can buy an entire computer for less than the operating system. How things have changed.

    The two big ones mentioned now is healthcare (in particular, nursing) and software.

    Let's look at nursing as I believe it's ahead of the IT curve right now. I have been amazed by how many friends I have who are back in school pursuing nursing degrees. At least 6, and I don't have that many friends. LOL

    My wife is a nurse. Let me give you some insights on that career path. Her hospital won't hire any nurse without prior experience. Is this unusual? Nope, come to find out that few are. I've met a number or recently graduated nurses. They've done their four years. Made the grade. Taken on the debt with the thought that they were entering a field in which they'd be guaranteed a job and not have to worry about unemployment. It wasn't a glamorous career, it's dirty, messy and hard work. But at least they'd always have a job, right?

    Well, every nurse I've met who has graduated in the past year is still trying to find a job. That's right, they've sent out resumes to dozens of hospitals. No job. As I said, my wife's hospital will only hire you if you've got a number of years of experience. Right now there are enough nursese floating around many regions that hospitals don't want to hire and train a new nurse.

    Oh and yes, there are many nurse positions in certain cities and regions. Where they hired highly-paid travel nurses.

    But that's changing, and it's also largely because of seasonal clientelle numbers. They don't want to add full time permanent staff. So they bring in an expensive travel nurses to cover 2-3 months when they're more likely to have higher number of patients (summer for accidents) and (holidays for heart attacks).

    http://nursinglink.monster.com/benefits/articles/193-why-cant-new-nurses-find-jobs [monster.com]

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-07-09-1Anurses09_ST_N.htm [usatoday.com]

    I expect the IT industry to soon follow the same slope...

It is clear that the individual who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster. - Voltaire

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