My name has the perfect number of characters.
PETER THIEL: But I think that when you look at this question of how much technological progress has been happening, we get into all these complicated measurement issues. The one that I cite as the big data point is that if you look at the U.S. say in the last 40 years, 1973 to today, median wages have been stagnant. Maybe the mean wages have gone up maybe a small amount, not very much. The 40 years before that, 1932 to 1972, they went up by a factor of 6.
So, if you looked at how people did from ‘32 to ‘72, you had a six-fold improvement, and it was matched by incredible technological progress. Cars got better. You had the aeronautics industry got started. You went from no planes to supersonic jets. You had the computers were invented.
You had all sorts of incredibly important dimensions in which progress took place.And so I agree we’ve had certain narrow areas where there’s been significant progress, but it’s very odd that it hasn’t translated into economic well being. …”
Peter Thiel vs Eric Schmidt on technological progress, or lack thereof, and much else besides. Full transcript here.
This is a very insightful observation. In fact, I asked a related question on Quora about the relationship between income and wealth inequality and technological progress. I wonder if because of stagnant income growth and significant debt for the middle class, then technology companies have focused on free software products. There’s probably a complex relationship here, and it’s certainly not cause and effect. But try to imagine yourself as the median American household earning about $45,000 over the past decade and having about $3,000 in consumer debt. Perhaps your mortgage is underwater. Most of your money goes to food, housing, and entertainment. Now try imagining selling something to this household. If your company is not named Apple or Walmart or P&G or other major consumer brand, you have a problem. You can give away your technology like Facebook and Google and many other software companies.
But I can’t think of a large-scale hardware company solving big problems that can give away or sell low-cost products to feed new research and development. Thus, I am inclined to think that the median American household cannot create enough demand for much new technology. The major exception is Apple, who had $100 billion in worldwide revenue (and maybe $50 billion in US revenue? I hope Google Finance eventually does some cool mining of regulatory reports) in the previous 52 weeks ending September 2011. Amazon and Samsung are also successful, and they both are pushing the envelope. Google is becoming a larger hardware manufacturer and that gives me lots of hope. Elon Musk’s companies are making incredible technology, but I would call their products luxury goods.
The big question: is there a company that can make high-volume low-cost hardware technology that solves big problems, and if not, why, and how can we change that?
CXR 80: from concept to reality (by adminMavic)
This is a very impressive video about Mavic carbon wheels. There’s a short, funny clip of Jonathan Vaughters celebrating after, I think, the Garmin win in the team time trial in the Giro d’Italia.
But back to the wheels, they look very nice. The most impressive thing to me is that there is serious engineering being done for professional cyclists, and this trickles down to recreational cyclists. I cannot think of any other sport where spending $10,000 gets you a machine that is the product of hundreds-of-thousands of man-hours and serious technology and testing. I wouldn’t call myself a gear-freak, but I think it’s special that our sport has an engineering-driven culture. Next time you complain about $3,000 carbon wheels, consider the development costs. Again, thousands of man-hours doing modeling, finite element analysis, wind tunnel testing (which costs thousands of dollars per hour), road testing, materials and manufacturing. There are significant capital costs in engineering a carbon wheel. On the other hand, a company can simply outsource the “engineering” and production to a Chinese factory, much like Boyd, Soul, Williams, etc. If you can’t afford an expensive wheel set, then I say go for a budget 45mm carbon wheel, and you will gain significant aerodynamic benefits in riding and racing, but I believe you get what you pay for.
The video concludes with the claim that the new CXR 80 is the fastest (front) wheel on the market. That might be true for certain conditions. While I just said that cycling has an engineering-drive culture, there is obviously some marketing involved. And by definition, advertising never tells the whole story. Deciding on a carbon wheel set is difficult. The major factors are aerodynamics, durability, handling, clicher or tubular, repairability, and weight. I still believe that the best overall wheel set is the Zipp 404. It’s incredibly light, aerodynamic, and durable, and it handles well. I also believe that the best discs come from Zipp.