A quarter century ago, Marc Andreessen pioneered the web browser, and as a venture capitalist today he remains a fount of capitalist optimism. In an interview with The Verge, Andreessen says he still hears a “steady drumbeat of empowerment and opportunity coming underneath what looks like a very stressed, very angry time.”
He also thinks the autonomous-vehicle-driven future may take longer to arrive than we expect — the transition will be slow and complex, as NewCo’s John Battelle has argued. But flying cars might well come sooner than you think. “I don’t know if they’ll get them to work,” he admits, but if there’s a breakthrough in battery tech, get ready.
Andreessen argues that the U.S. now has two different economies — one, led by tech, where giant leaps in productivity have transformed work and driven costs down, and the other, concentrated in healthcare and education, where labor costs dominate and keep rising. Startups are beginning to tackle those industries today, and they could start transforming very quickly — or, Andreessen admits, “the other possibility is this is just pure hubris, and five years from now you’re going to play this back and you’ll be like, ‘Aha! Dot-com bubble 2.0.’ “
If a tech-driven productivity boom shakes up the service economy, what happens to all the workers? Andreessen reminds us that the economy is furiously creating and destroying jobs — more than 20 million a year, roughly — so there’s more room to absorb change than we think.
Tech Creates Value Faster Than Jobs
Facebook reached a $200 billion market valuation with fewer than 10,000 employees. That was a remarkable achievement in terms of value-per-employee efficiency. It was less encouraging if you’re eager to see capital create jobs.
The Information charted out different companies’ total payroll size at the time they hit the $200 billion marker. For mainstream corporate and communications giants like GE, AT&T, and Verizon, that number lay in the 200–300,000 range. Most tech industry leaders create jobs at a slower pace, by an order of ten: Microsoft (27,000), Apple (46,600), and Alphabet/Google (54,000). (Amazon’s 165,000 is an outlier — thanks to its labor-intensive retail business.)
Facebook’s lean labor profile suggests that, whatever other benefits the tech industry confers on society, we shouldn’t assume that the industry’s financial success will translate to a better employment picture. We either have to come up with a different way to create jobs — or figure out how people can lead rewarding, fulfilling lives without them.
A New Roadmap For Social-Change Organizations
Companies and organizations whose work involves social change face a sobering environment after the election. What do you do when the voters seem to have rejected your business’s mission? Simone Ross of Techonomy and Sonia Katyal of Berkeley’s Center for Law and Technology offer five suggestions for tech companies facing this dilemma (Backchannel).
Their ideas include: Act locally instead of expecting positive change to come from Washington. Turn to companies rather than government to lead the way. Fund efforts from the bottom up instead of waiting for federal support. Pursue legal challenges, but only when that makes pragmatic sense. And find common ground with the new administration where you can do so without compromising your values.
Sanctuary Policies Pit Cities Against Feds
U.S. cities that have declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants are heading for a clash with new federal policies likely to kick in after President Trump’s inauguration. Those cities are heavily concentrated in California — and, to a lesser extent, Colorado — according to a new study and interactive map from Citylab. Arizona and Texas also have heavy immigrant concentrations, but they’re run by conservatives who have limited the passage of sanctuary laws.
Trump has said he’ll pull federal funding from cities that don’t cooperate with immigration authorities. Sooner than we think, communities and businesses may face a slew of ethical dilemmas around immigration enforcement: Do they protect residents and employees as they’ve promised? Or cave to pressure to save their budgets and contracts?
Fake Reading Opened the Door For Fake News
Social networks have turned headlines into marketing, and that’s a big part of the “fake news” problem, writes Andrew Courter (NewCo Shift): “When headlines are the basic unit of sharing, it’s easy for bullshit stories to spread because hardly anybody even looks at the story.”
The solution: highlight a passage every time you share a story. That tells your friends why you shared it, and gives them something more substantial to think about. (Courter’s company, Highly, makes a highlighting app.)