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    • This past year I've taken to looking at everything differently.

      I drove my three kids 9,000 miles around America, visiting many cities and states. I've been making more friends outside of my usual Silicon Valley bubble. We moved our family to a new community. I completely changed who I was following or friends with on social media, unfriending more than 4,000 on Facebook alone and unfollowing 45,000 on Twitter, among other major changes to find a new pattern to life.

      One of those friends is Grace Livingston. She has been building an entrepreneurial zone in Stockton, California. Most of the people in Silicon Valley, when I tell them they should move their company there, look at me like I just told them about moving to Mars. I hear all about poverty, high crime rates, bad schools, and no good economic activity. 

      But she has a dream and it's better for America than the guaranteed minimum income scheme many Silicon Valley elites are pushing.

      She isn't the only one. On our road trip I visited Nick Smoot in Idaho. He's working with communities around the United States to get them to help build new entrepreneurial zones too. Ones that will satisfy new craving for highly technical jobs. Last week I visited with a manager at a manufacturing plant. He laid out that his plant will soon have huge needs for data scientists and computer scientists to rethink his entire plant network. He's even looking at moving plants to make them easier to reach by autonomous trucks. He sees tons of new jobs, even as older, less skilled jobs will go away or be radically changed through technology.

      A new policy is needed, one that will fund the American Dream 2.0.

      The American Dream 2.0 is a better idea, one based on human happiness science: giving everyone a hand in creating a better USA. Putting people to work gives them a mission. Having a mission makes for happier citizens. Enabling them to stay home leads to unhappiness and poor communities.

      THE POVERTY BEATER

      First, a story. My family, until 1971, was dirt poor. We used to be coal miners. My dad grew up amongst New York's poorest, living in one of its projects with his parents. 

      Yet here I am, one of Silicon Valley's best-known journalists, having interviewed thousands of entrepreneurs. I was the first, or among the first, to see Siri, Tesla, Flipboard, Uber, Cloudera, Spotify, and many others.

      How?

      My dad was the first in his family to go to college. He graduated with a PhD from Rutgers University in New Jersey and then went on to work at Lockheed in Sunnyvale building the radiation shielding on military satellites that keep our nation safe.

      He is a veteran and, since today is veterans' day, I've been thinking a lot about what he did for our family and how he got the money to go to school.

      He got the G.I. Bill.

      Because he gave something to his country, by being in the Army for a few years, his country gave him a fair shot at the American Dream. It paid for his education and that act took our family out of poverty.

      I'm forever grateful.

      A NEW AMERICAN CHALLENGE

      Now we are facing a new age where many people will find themselves jobless due to automation.

      More than a million truck drivers, for instance, will lose their jobs in the next decade or two, maybe less.

      If you are in Silicon Valley you see the self-driving cars and trucks all over the place. On our road trip across America we didn't see them anywhere else, so most Americans don't feel the urgency that we do here in Silicon Valley. If you visit the job site 6figr.com you can even see which jobs are most likely to be replaced by automation. See it isn't just truck drivers that will be disrupted.

      American Dream 2.0 jobs are ones that won't be replaced by automation. We already know which jobs those are. 

      Everyone knows a truck driver's job is f**ked, right? 

      Which is why Silicon Valley elites have taken to thinking so much about dystopian ruin. Futurist philosopher Yuval Noah Harari has been getting lots of audiences here in Silicon Valley and he sees Silicon Valley's technology bringing a new "useless class." 

      "The message is:," he was quoted in the New York Times, “We don’t need you. But we are nice, so we’ll take care of you.”

      How disgusting.

      On this Veterans Day, we think this thinking will lead to far deeper divisions in our country than exist today and far more social unrest. Why? Well, I can tell you what makes life fun isn't the money: it's the feeling you are part of something. It's why Alcoholics are told to get a higher power within minutes of entering the program. It really doesn't matter what you pick, as long as you pick something bigger than you and that isn't you. Humbling yourself is a human value that helps you gain happiness and, even, helps you fit into society at large. It's something I'm still learning.

      Guaranteed Minimum Income will doom many to the same treatment we give the Native Americans. Which is why I posted the photo here of the Navajo store which I passed on our road trip around America. Many Native Americans are given something like a guaranteed minimum income on the reservations America gave them and what has that brought them? Higher rates of alcoholism, for one. Four times higher. Most Silicon Valley elites haven't visited the poorest communities of Native Americans. I have and they are pretty dismal places. Certainly I don't dream of my children ending up in one of them, but that's exactly what guaranteed minimum income will bring: massive numbers of slums with great unhappiness and unsustainable living for either the rich, or those caught at the other end of the economic scale.

      There is a better way.

      LEARN FROM ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

      You might know from my previous posts that I'm an alcoholic, so I've been meeting a lot of other alcoholics and one commonality I've seen in people who stay sober is that they found a mission to life. 

      Jobs. Work. Church service. Community service. Or simply helping some other alcoholic out of the hole that he or she is in. All fit. 

      Sitting at home collecting a check doesn't. If you talk to psychologists they say it goes back to how our brains evolved. Those who helped out survived. Those who didn't had less success in survival. In AA we even use survival terminology. We say "those who stay in the pack stay sober and are happier." We are encouraged to study those who have been sober for years and find out how they made it. In our meetings that's pretty much what we share. What we were like before we drank. What got us into AA. Then what life is like since. Simple sharing helps people improve their lives.

      Many people I talk to in Silicon Valley claim we won't have jobs in the future.

      Don't believe them. They are abjectly wrong. And, in fact, you can use their own job sites to verify this. Many many thousands of jobs are available at tech companies. If you have the skills. This will remain true well into the future. For decades. Why? 

      One guy who was on the Big Blue (Artificial Intelligence) team at IBM once told me "we showed you on TV that Big Blue beat humans at playing Jeopardy. What we didn't tell you is that if you put a human together with Big Blue it beats Big Blue." 

      Most of the talk about AI doesn't acknowledge this. 

      Not to mention that there are many new jobs that will arrive due to spatial computing in the future, but that's a separate post I'm working on. I don't need to show that to show you how many technical jobs are going unfilled in the tech industry. 

      There are TONS of jobs. If we have the skills. And that is where many people push back, but they are wrong again and just haven't considered that even non technical people can be taught to do highly skilled, even programming, jobs.

      A BILLIONAIRE SHOWED ME YOU CAN EDUCATE ANYONE

      When I tell them they could train a truck driver to do many of these technical jobs in two years they say I'm nuts. But a French Man is proving them wrong. Xavier Niel. He's a billionaire and he's built a new kind of school. 42 Silicon Valley. He has a similar school in France.

      When I visited last week I met several people who used to have non-technical careers. One was even a chef before deciding to join the tech world. That student showed me a stealth mode VR startup he's programming that was pretty awesome.

      He went from chef to running a company in less than two years. Which proves it can be done.

      Oh, did I mention this school doesn't have teachers?

      Did I mention that many even get free rent to use while they are studying?

      Did I mention that it works for many students, although it does require immersive focus. Students have to be in the building learning for almost all their waking hours to see these results. The building is provided for students. The computers are provided for students.

      Yes, this requires a new policy, a new dream, a new educational idea that will throw many of your beliefs out the window. Remember, this school has no teachers.

      But then Alcoholics Anonymous has no management structure and it works for the same reason: when people hit bottom and want to change they will find a way to make that change happen inside themselves and will look for new social structures to help them do so.

      THE MANIFESTO FOR AMERICAN DREAM 2.0

      Every American deserves a shot at the American Dream 2.0.Every American should have two years of capital to change careers. That needs to include all cost of living, even for a family of that person, for a period of two years so that person can really apply him or herself to learning this new skill.The only requirement for American Dream 2.0 is you want to learn a new job skill.

      HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

      Less than you might think. 

      Why? Time will solve a lot of problems. Within three years we are getting new computing devices that will help us learn a lot faster than the computers in the current school. Already companies like Caterpillar are using spatial computing glasses to teach people to fix tractors and run job sites.

      Second, these new jobs are the high quality ones that pay hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. So you will see costs recouped through taxes within a decade. Third, well, we are comparing educating people in a teacherless school for two years compared to giving them a guaranteed minimum income for the rest of their lives. Fourth, some of the students start companies that create even more jobs, more taxes, and more paying back of students. Look at Austen Allred. He's started a competitive school, the Lambda School, where students pay back their tuition after they get jobs and he's doing very well with this new model.

      Let's talk about this. Do you agree or disagree with me about the guaranteed minimum/annual income?

      How can we give our kids a fair shot at a healthy economic system whether or not we are liberal or conservative?

    • Fascinating, Robert. I have been worried about this for a very long time.

      For one thing, does technology really lead to mass unemployment? It seems like this fear has gripped us for 200 years — the weavers, the factory workers, the switchboard operators. And yet here we are in desperate need for infrastructure, social workers, teachers, designers...

      It seems what it really means is the coal jobs change to solar, etc., and we need to employ a lot of people to help with retraining and adapting to new industries.

    • Robert, this is well thought out and valuable. I’ll share it widely. I find you father a great man and one of the most caring people I’ve met, you (we all) are lucky to have him.

      The future is coming quickly, and our current global conversation has devolved to X is either good or bad. It is critical to have voices like yours to guide the discussion, for as long as possible, to non black or white consideration. Although most people want good outcomes from technical change, most do not take the time to consider that decisions made early in development and adoption that determine the variation in benefit distribution. The internet, while initially developed for the military and government used an open governance model to deliver a wildly successful demonstration of thoughtful distribution of benefits.

      I look forward to the future. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts and participating in the discussion.

    • First off, I explored the 42 website and found their program fascinating. It provides a chance, for a middle class or better existence, to those who have the talent but couldn’t afford college and are stuck in a low paying job or who lost their job due to disruptive technology.

      It also makes sense for the community to fund this: there’s seems to be a forever shortage for high tech talent and the ROI for each programmer is in the hundreds of thousands or more for startups and established high tech companies.

      In the Rust Belt where I currently reside, I’ve toured one of the local CNC machine training centers that’s sponsored by a manufacturer in the community. Same concept, a lower salary range but the training program lasts months instead of years and there’s a healthy demand for the skill set throughout the region.

      But what about the millions of Americans who don’t have the ability to hold down a high tech job, and the jobs that they can do are being eliminated by technology? A guaranteed minimum income may be the only viable option.

      At the same time, I am completely in favor of full ride retraining programs provided throughout your life since you may have a career eliminated by technology more than once before retirement.

      Thoroughly enjoyed your conversation starter and the great writing above. I see a lot of merit in what you suggest but I also see the need to provide a means of support for those who are unable to take advantage of the tech bonanza.

    • great post!

      The Manifesto is right: a huge invt is needed in reskilling. Not in ed/diplomas — in re-skilling (vocational + self-learning style) by enabling people, not passive learning. 2 yrs is too long (& costly in reality) but 9-12 months suffices. 


      Great idea. Also — society/people should mix in there, just like in the military, to build a stronger sense of belonging and empathy in this ever more divided society. 

    • Until we can overcome Toqueville's "Tyranny of the majority" we are hamsters on a wheel. Technology has the best chance of overcoming this if shareholders could ever realize personal value is as important as monetary value.

    • This is great. I was fortunate enough to be able to do a programming bootcamp in 2013 (Hack Reactor in San Francisco). Going through Hack Reactor boosted me into a great career and my life is much better now for having done it. Having a solid, lucrative, fulfilling career is such an important part of life, as you say.

      I think your idea of the government supporting people doing this kind of thing is good. Everyone should get a shot at getting into a good career. I think a lot of it can happen, and is happening, without government support, as is happening now with Hack Reactor and Lambda School. But it seems like a clear net benefit to boost this trend.

    • Welcome to Cake, coleman. 😁

      When we were hiring our initial team at Cake I posted on AngelList and we got so many applicants from bootcamps. I wasn't sure how they compared skill-wise to people who came out of tradition CS degrees. What's been your experience?

    • I think programming bootcamps are a great start, but just the beginning of learning. Students have to look at it as an opportunity to get a jumpstart on programming. A chance to get good enough to continue learning at a job. Not to think that they can just go through the motions of a programming bootcamp and automatically progress into a career as a developer, without a serious, sustained effort. You have to really devote yourself to it. And take advantage of that special learning environment. And also understand that you are just starting a lifetime of learning.

      I think people that come out of the better bootcamps (like Hack Reactor) are generally pretty strong and can usually be expected to progress pretty quickly as developers. Honestly, I'm not sure how bootcamp people compare to CS grads. I've never seen a CS grad onboarded on any of the teams I've worked on. I've usually seen people join at a more senior level.

      But I would guess roughly equivalent. I would expect the typical bootcamp or CS grad to be able to contribute quickly.

    • I have a completely different view about Universal Basic Income (UBI) than you, because I'm "warehoused" being on disability. With all the restrictions they place on me FROM working (i.e., either take this hand out and stay unemployed; or go cold turkey and die), we need a better system than thinking education will cure the work problems, too.

      For the disabled, who for years been asking "can we have jobs too?" (other than sorting drill bits); or gender discrimination of if you're a women, you can only do sorting jobs?), that never become available because of our conditions. We can't work 40 hr/week jobs. We can work part-time jobs but our health doesn't work on a time clock, either. Some are in remission, but no one knows when a flare or relapse will occur. Those who want to work soon get discouraged by being fired/laid off.

      So we go on SSDI/SSI, which then society calls us "lazy" "work shy" "welfare queens".

      Can you see HOW now UBI is at least a fix for millions who are disabled not because we don't want to work, but employers can't keep jobs open for the disabled?

      UBI offers the "gig economy" so people otherwise who can't work set hours, can work again when their conditions are milder/in remission ... and not feeling worthless getting laid off/fired because our bodies can't maintain that set schedule. We can do the 2 week jobs, sometimes longer, but we set our own schedules and as long as we meet the deadlines ... perfect! The employer gets their work done, we get paid ... and not penalized like the existing social welfare punishes us for trying.

      Why do they punish us for trying? Because that's a job for able bodied people. Thus, we're warehoused so folks who can do the set hours can have that job.

      See THE problem now?

      I see a lot of people saying also, "We can't live without $15/hr wages". How do folks think the disabled live on $800/mon? That's $5/hr for 40hrs a month. Can you imagine why so many of the disabled WANT work now? We don't even make 1/2 that pay to EXIST.

      UBI is the floor income, and people can work on top of it. I want my dignity back with a paycheck. Not more pipe dreams of higher wages, and for only that 1% owning 60% of the world's wealth, too. That's beyond obscene.

      We ALL want the same things in life. The "system" isn't offering it, as the jobs are few and there's many more wanting those jobs, too. We need a better system than what we have currently.

      To me, in my situation, UBI is a solution to one societal ill among the many in the world.

      (And no, I'm not a socialist, I'm a realist. Millions of people wanting jobs already can't, because millions of able bodied people have those jobs. IF AI/Robots do take over the jobs of factory workers and college educated folks [like programmers themselves -- they already did it before with exporting programmer's jobs overseas], what the disabled face already is your future).

    • Hmmm, interesting Kevyne. I grew up believing Ronald Reagan's welfare queen stories, not knowing until recently that there were considerable inaccuracies. His aides sometimes tried to point them out to him but he persisted because he liked the reaction he got from crowds.

      Do you think disability and universal basic income should be different concepts?

    • Robert -

      Just 'reintroduced' to your writing after several years. The revised POV is fascinating considering your background and the experiences you had with the elite you speak of in your post.

      I would love to see a push to have less focus on Silicon Valley bubble-dwellers and more on the people of this still great country. There is unlocked potential all around us and working to 'remove the scales' from those who would not have seen a way forward versus keeping them down in a 'nanny state' is really a good way to be thinking. This can only happen outside of those who have the mindset of Yuval Noah Harari, which is enough to make any thinking and decent person's skin crawl (but I suspect it elicits applause in the Valley).

      So here I am. 54 years old. Able to give my family more than likely 95% of the rest of the world yet by American standards I 'just get by'. I want a better life for my kids but I want to do more with my remaining years than just get a paycheck. I am a sales professional who desires more than the sale. What do you see out there as ways for me to contribute? I can't afford (financially and in sheer time commitment) to re-invent myself with a 2 year immersion program, yet I feel a pent up desire to do so.

      I am happy to see your line of thinking. It looks good on you. Looking forward to learning more about your changes and shifts etc. Best wishes.

    • Yuval Noah Harari

      Hi Frank, welcome to Cake and thanks for posting. It's great to hear your perspective. Harari is quite the polarizing figure, no? I'd love to hear more of your thoughts about him in another conversation.

    • Thanks, Chris. Very interesting to find an uncluttered place where people might be more interested in idea exchanges and growth vs. political rants and puppies. I am a conservative but not an idealogue.

      Also, I am a regular guy and I am open to listening rather than arguing. I think a truly free society allows for idea exchanges and reasonable dialogue which doesn't always require one person winning and another losing. Oftentimes, a civil discussion can result in personal and/or professional growth without a clear 'victor' and that is a very good thing.

    • Thanks Frank. We seriously hope we can get people with very different perspectives talking. I fretted a little when I saw you write this, because it sounded a little like anyone who is intrigued by Yuval is indecent:

      This can only happen outside of those who have the mindset of Yuval Noah Harari, which is enough to make any thinking and decent person's skin crawl (but I suspect it elicits applause in the Valley).

      I'm not sure what to think of him, I can start another conversation about it, but it feels like both sides will have to have some respect for each other to have a productive dialog.

    • Chris, I stand corrected.

      In reading @Scobleizer 's post I assumed that this was Mr. Harari's concept but after reading the Times piece he is simply stating what appears to be the thinking at the top of the tech elite's food chain. It is almost amusing that Harari himself is puzzled by why he is embraced by these people since he is painting a rather dark picture of the future that they are actively pursuing. I think I need to have less Facebook in my thinking (reacting before researching) and truly ambrace this environment where 'thinking first, writing after' which is what I was hoping for anyway. It's Monday ...

      See it works. I wasn't paying close enough attention and now see it is not Harari that is scary. The weird part is those who somehow don't seem to get what he is saying about them. Either I am missing something or these seemingly very smart people are not very alert. If, however, they are embracing him in order to create a 'new system', if the end result is this useless class then we should all be very worried.

    • Thank you, Frank. Great response. I will start a conversation about Harari later tonight because I'm fascinated.

      I don't know if mine is a liberal or conservative viewpoint, but it's that separation of rich and poor has become too great. It's true here in liberal Silicon Valley where two students start a vaping company and become multi billionaires in 10 years while teachers cannot afford a house. It's true among conservatives as well.

    You've been invited!