Feeling Cantankerous

I tried to ask a question on HN and it didn't go so well. Part of what I said was I just don't know how to say this more diplomatically because this is not how YC started and I have trouble with the direction it seems to have taken. The lead mod for HN responded in a manner that has caused me to realize that I need to write about something that has been bugging me. Avoiding it is apparently causing my comments on HN to go weird places.

My remark came across like I have a problem with YC wanting to grow companies to a large size. That isn't really what my problem is. I don't have a problem with the VC model. I am well aware that they need some companies to grow large in order for their investment to pay off. I have zero issue with that.

My real problem is that I don't much like Sam Altman and I worry that the reasons that I don't much like him bode ill for the kinds of companies that YC will produce in the future.

I have already written some about why I don't like the man. I detailed a bit of that in a post called UBI is the PC way for tech giants to tell the little people: Fuck you, got mine! He isn't the only tech giant referenced in the article that inspired that post, but I am far less concerned about what Elon Musk is doing because he isn't playing midwife to the birth of hundreds of new companies every year like YC is doing. (Or, if he is, I am not aware of it.)

To sum up that piece: Tech giants are pro UBI because they expect that robots will take our jobs and they expect this to result in widespread, permanent unemployment. They then tell heartwarming stories about how UBI can supplement the income of low paid jobs, raising quality of life for people doing vital work that just doesn't pay great. They fail to address the detail that if you can't get a job at all, the amount that UBI pays will not remotely support you in some kind of housed, middle-class lifestyle.

The last time that automation was threatening to take our jobs, we unionized and created the 40 hour work week in order to redistribute work and raise the quality of life for the masses. The entire world is talking about the expectation that robots will eliminate our jobs and everyone seems to think that UBI is the answer. I seem to be the only person framing this as The Second Industrial Revolution and pushing for gig work done right in order to adequately distribute paid work and raise the quality of life for the masses.

I dislike the idea that the President of YC being pro UBI implies that he will not make any effort whatsoever to try to make sure the masses have access to paid work. He will not be looking to make sure gig work gets done well and is available to the majority of people in some fashion. He is not framing this as The Second Industrial Revolution. He just wants to cut a check to the sheeple and gloss over what a nightmare that will be for people who have no hope of getting a job and every year that they spend unemployed makes them that much less likely to qualify for paid work ever again.

In fact, this is the opening paragraph of the article that inspired that blog post:

With an impending robot revolution expected to leave a trail of unemployment in its wake, some Silicon Valley tech leaders think they have a remedy to a future with fewer jobs — free money for all.
Later the article says this:

Altman, who is footing most of the bill himself, says society needs to consider basic income to support Americans who lose their jobs to robots and artificial intelligence. The idea, he said at the Commonwealth Club, tackles the question not enough people are asking: "What do we as the tech industry do to solve the problem that we're helping to create?"
This is not the answer. UBI is NOT the answer here. In fact, it isn't an answer at all.

Instead, we need the next stage in the evolution of work, one in which many workers can do work essentially at will and make better than minimum wage if they are good enough at it. This will require a concerted effort by job creators to make that a reality. It won't happen if job creators are focused on making UBI happen.

So, that is my problem with YC. I am kind of hoping that Sam Altman leaves and goes and runs for political office like he recently talked about doing. And then I can hope that his replacement at YC is someone I like better.

Because god knows no one listens to a fucking thing I say.


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