Industry Leaders

AI and the Economy Without You

Blake's Blog (CEO, GoDaddy) -

So, I’ve Been Thinking Recently, I had the chance to sit down for a drink with Grady Booch. For anyone who doesn’t know his name yet, he’s a technology pioneer, innovator, and all-around fascinating guy. He was a primary creator of the Unified Modeling Language, and his career has included everything from work at NASA (where he was literally the guy sitting in front of the big red self-destruct button during launches) to his current gig serving as Chief Scientist for Software Engineering at IBM Research. I can also tell you he makes a mean Hawaiian-twist margarita. Grady’s been at the center of some of the greatest developments in coding and technology in the past few decades which makes him a deep well for serious topics. Our conversation touched a lot of areas, but I was most fascinated by his take on one topic that the technology sector wrestles with every day: the ethics of code. I don’t think it’s contentious to say that digital innovations are driving changes in every industry and sector at a pace that we have never seen before. Some of those changes have led to large-scale, fundamental shifts in the business landscape, and some of them have led to smaller, more nuanced opportunities for new and existing businesses. All of those changes, however, have the potential to affect people in more than just the positive ways we have in mind when we code. From the Luddite Rebellion of 1811 to the Lamplighter’s Union fight against the electric arc lamp in the 1890s, worries about automation displacing human jobs has existed for literally millennia. Those fears have been offset by the reality that change typically takes place slowly. Robots, for a more modern example, didn’t take all the manufacturing jobs overnight.  Instead, robotics has gradually reduced the need for “hands on” humans in the factory over the past several decades.  The jobs lost weren’t effortlessly absorbed into the economy, but the shift happened slowly enough that they could ultimately be absorbed. Today, the fear of automation displacing jobs that can’t be absorbed is far more possible. Technology is progressing at a breakneck speed no matter where you turn, and no industry seems insulated from waves of innovation that use automation to do things more efficiently and effectively. What was once just a concern for manufacturing workers is now a concern for everyone whose work has any analytical or repetitive features. Want to build a car with no factory workers? Look no further than the Tesla plant. If you need an appendectomy on the other hand, you’ll still need a surgeon for their dexterity for the very near future. It’s not far-fetched to imagine a future, however, when an attendant might oversee an automated appendectomy like a Starbucks barista making digital selections on a Mastrena Espresso Machine. The work we’re doing in tech carries incredible weight that we may often take too lightly. Factories or hospitals, the work we’re doing in tech carries incredible weight that we may often take too lightly. We are actively finding ways to increase efficiency in every field—and I laude that. But as our enterprise level efficiencies move up the hockey stick, we need to start thinking about jobs the same way we balance environmental impacts of our work. The impacts of our work goes well beyond the innovations we create. If it hasn’t been asked before, it’s time to ask now: what ethical responsibilities do we have as we use code to transform the world? Concern over the ethics of code opens the door to larger conversation about how Artificial Intelligence, along with the changing ways we work, is incubating a new economic model in the West.  It’s a model that requires different competencies and job types, but it also has the potential to empower humans like never before in our history. The Implications of AI Visions of AI have tantalized, inspired and terrified us for years. From Hal 9000 to Ex Machina, we portray AI as a conscious super intelligence or super villain. The reality is much more benign in the Hollywood sense and more insidious in its potential impact to our economy. The AI that’s real today is known as “Narrow AI” or “Applied AI” and it does very specific work like managing your calendar, finding a song that’s similar to others you like, giving you directions that route you around traffic and beating you in chess. It’s what many of us are working on every day, and, despite our fears of super-intelligence, Narrow AI is what is actually changing everything. Dr. Rand Hindi, founder of Snips.ai, broke this down in detail in an article with a title that I love: “How My Research in AI Put My Dad Out of a Job.” Beyond the ethical jam, his point was that we shouldn’t worry about super-intelligence despite all the big names in tech who have come out with dire warnings. The reality is that super-intelligence could be a distant dream, and as Dr. Hindi puts it, we’re “missing the point that in the next decade, Narrow AI will already have destroyed our society if we don’t handle it correctly.” Though the warning is a bit hyperbolic, it’s true that when we focus on super-intelligence (also known as Strong AI for Artificial General Intelligence) we forget that Narrow AI’s inherently limited scope means that coders are working on discrete uses in every imaginable way. Narrow AI will replace or transform any job where information gathering and pattern recognition drive a volume business. That’s not just laborers. That’s accountants, traders, realtors, lawyers, software developers and on and on. The jobs can be low pay or high pay, but either way, AI can do it faster. We’re already beginning to see how AI will become invaluable in these fields. For instance, one Canadian firm – Blue J Legal – is using AI to help accountants and tax lawyers predict how courts are likely to rule on a given set of facts and client circumstances years into the future. A Palo Alto-based legal startup, Casetext, is enabling lawyers to upload briefs and have AI do the case research work of hundreds of paralegals. In Japan, Fukoku Mutual, an insurance firm, is replacing 34 claims adjustors per instance with AI built from IBM’s Watson. In the US, we are particularly susceptible to Narrow AI affecting the industry. PwC found earlier this year that 38% of all US jobs are at a high risk for automation in the next 15 years. That’s just one of a number of studies that have reached the same conclusion: the next two decades will be a wild one for our economy if we don’t make planful changes soon. Immunity to AI That’s certainly not to say that every kind of job in the US is at risk. There is such a thing as “immunity to AI,” at least for the few couple decades. The simplest way to identify jobs that are insulated is to ask, “Does it require emotional intelligence or ‘non-patterned’ based decision making?” Ultimately, that leads to three broad categories of jobs. The first category is jobs that require meaningful creative interactions with other people. Narrow AI can advise on the most successful closing strategies for a particular case, but it’s not capable of making a compelling closing argument in court. Even if we use an AI system to develop an argument based on the court’s preferences, to identify and incorporate all of the relevant case law and to select words and phrases that most people find persuasive – Narrow AI lacks a clear path to replace the human ability to deliver an argument to humans or to adapt mid-stride in reaction to others. The same can be said for any number of professions. Marketing strategy and design will need human creativity and emotion. HR will need people to listen, empathize and make the right, context-based decisions.  Nurses will need to bring humanity to patient interactions and treatment. Teachers will need to bring expertise and learner-specific strategies to education. Even customer service will need humans in place to receive escalations that go beyond an AI’s ability to address. The second category of jobs are those that won’t be replaced (yet) due to limitations of robotics. Our ability to code has progressed far faster than our ability to build machines capable of fine motor skills or dealing with unpredictable physical challenges. Repetitive physical tasks are one thing, but as a report from McKinsey & Company last year pointed out, even maid service in hotel goes beyond the capabilities of autonomous machines. For example, everyone throws towels and pillows in different places, and automated robots simply can’t deal with that degree of difference in a cost-effective way.  And though we are aggressively developing more advanced robots, it’s expensive and time-consuming to build them, meaning fields like on-site construction will largely have security for the foreseeable future even as the tools of the jobs change. None of that is to say that AI will not impact these first two categories of jobs. In fact, the most likely scenario is that many of these jobs will transform to work side by side with Narrow AI tools sooner than later. The third category of AI insulated jobs are entrepreneurs. Be it a startup founder or a food truck operator who works alone, entrepreneurial roles require aspects of the of the first and second categories to various degrees.  Small business entrepreneurs and solopreneurs wear many hats on any given day—be it CEO, CMO, CFO, CIO, etc.  That diversity of work makes entrepreneurial work very difficult to automate. Ethics of Code So on one hand, we have jobs that are “safe from AI” while on the other we have jobs that are likely to be displaced. Where does that leave us as coders and technologists? If you listen to Grady’s Ted Talk on Superintelligence, you’ll hear him say, “The rise of computing itself brings to us a number of human and societal issues to which we must now attend. How shall I best organize society when the need for human labor diminishes?” I don’t believe we should ignore the “I” in that question. The ethical dilemma we face in technology is one of our own creation, and that, to me, means it’s incumbent on the tech community to deliver the solution as well. Said simply, if you’re aware that the work you’re doing is going to displace jobs, you should be intentional in your effort to leverage technology to create new opportunities for the displaced. Said simply, if you’re aware that the work you’re are doing is going to displace jobs, you should be intentional in your effort to leverage technology to create new opportunities for the displaced. Snap.ai’s Dr. Rand Hindi proposes an interesting idea for social and governmental programs that would support an economic framework that will make widespread, AI-driven transformation sustainable. His argument is that the end result of displaced or altered jobs due to AI is a population that must be more educated to do the job of managing or interfacing with AI. That means we need to incentivize people to have ongoing, skills-based education in technology. Dr. Hindi poses Universal Educational Income, a system in which people would receive a monthly salary as long as they are enrolled in some kind of educational program. There are any number of challenges that come to my mind when any universal income is proposed—from who funds that scope of spending to can it ever be enough to make a difference. It’s not an obviously viable policy but I can certainly appreciate the beauty of the idea: create a system that engineers people into the AI equation.  By incentivizing people to constantly learn, you have a more prepared workforce for a new economy. It’s a fascinating possible solution, and I believe the spirit of engineering our culture into an AI fueled economy is the right one. That said, I believe there are better ways to make that happen. Engineering People In First, I believe a simple premise is true: the faster we advance AI, the more we will drive demand for humans to manage and direct what AI makes possible. The reality is we are heading towards a huge supply of Narrow AI in the economy. Look at marketing for example, a field that is seeing a huge amount of investment in predictive AI technologies. Even as AI becomes acutely capable of optimizing ad spend and placement, the two select roles of the Marketing and Creative Directors actually grow in importance. The repetitive work is displaced, but demand for the creative thinking is actually on the rise. In other words, there has never been a better time to have the entrepreneurial spirit because technology and market forces are in place to support you. Steve Case, CEO of Revolution LLC, gave a perfect example of this in a recent LinkedIn post. Two hundred years ago farming represented 90% of the American workforce. Now, that number is less than 2%. Rather than purely displacing jobs, technology made farmers more efficient and productive, and new jobs were created by the need to supply and support modern agriculture. In a modern context, it’s easy to envision new entrepreneurial roles that wouldn’t be possible without AI—ones made possible by bundling creativity and dexterity with deep analytical insights. What jobs will best augment or enhance what AI can do?  How can the tech industry be as instrumental in creating jobs as we are in displacing them?  These are question that everyone driving tech automation should be thinking about.  I’m pushing (at GoDaddy) to drive a platform to empower entrepreneurs to make their ideas real with the help of machine learning tools and predictive analytics to guide their decision making.  I think that’s one important way to help make our economy immune to AI, but I’d like to challenge the industry to think of a hundred more solutions—and then get working to test them. For entrepreneurial options, our goal should be to deploy Narrow AI in a way that encourages more and more people to experiment with the self-driven ventures. If we engineer tools that reduce the barriers to access through elegantly simple systems and widespread availability, then the technology we build for efficiency can help us empower economic participants at the same time. There’s no doubt that we can be the drivers of a new economy with new companies and new careers – but we have to be intentional about that role. Finally, I think the tech industry needs to be a louder voice in the real risks to our economy that Narrow AI is creating right now. Grady Booch and other luminaries shouldn’t be left to carry the entire load. More of us need to clearly articulate why people should be excited about the promise of AI and its real economic dangers. We aren’t building Skynet, but we might be building something just as dangerous for billions of people if we don’t purposefully create new opportunities as the old economy passes. Where I Land Larry Niven once said, “That’s the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers.” That’s a timely and true quip in its own right, but it should also remind us that we are the one’s behind the code. We have an ethical opportunity to consider and attempt to address what will happen because of our code. As we create new applications for AI that make it possible for seemingly once magical automation to happen, we should devote some of our time and energy to figuring out how to make more people magicians. Let’s help more people become builders of the new economy by putting the power of what we build in their hands as quickly and simply as possible. That’s how we’ll begin to see the new jobs and businesses emerge that will drive a new economy forward. No matter what, we need to bring our own humanity to bear every time we type a line of code. If we can do that, there will certainly be no reason to fear Skynet – but there will also be a lot to be excited about thanks to the future of AI. Your Voice Wanted One of the best ways for me to mature my thoughts on the ethics of code is to hear from you.  Please share your thoughts below—I tend to be on my blog in the evenings, so look for my responses then.

WordPress Collaborative Editing

Matt Mullenweg Blog (Founder of WordPress) -

I’m really excited about the new Google Docs integration that just launched — basically it builds a beautiful bridge between what is probably the best collaborative document editor on the planet right now, Google’s, and let’s you one-click bring a document there into a WordPress draft with all the formatting, links, and everything brought over. There’s even a clever feature that if you are copying and pasting from Docs it’ll tell you about the integration. I think this is highly complementary to the work we’re doing with the new Editor in core WordPress. Why? Google Docs represents the web pinnacle of the WordPerfect / Word legacy of editing “pages”, what I’ll call a document editor. It runs on the web, but it’s not native to the web in that its fundamental paradigm is still about the document itself. With the new WordPress Editor the blocks will be all about bringing together building blocks from all over — maps, videos, galleries, forms, images — and making them like Legos you can use to build a rich, web-native post or page. We’re going to look into some collaborative features, but Google’s annotations, comments, and real-time co-editing are years ahead there. So if you’re drafting something that looks closer to something in the 90s you could print out, Docs will be the best place to start and collaborate (and better than Medium). If you want to built a richer experience, something that really only makes sense on an interactive screen, that’s what the new WordPress editor will be for. One final note, the Docs web store makes it tricky to use different Google accounts to add integrations like this one. To make it easy, open up a Google Doc under the account you want to use, then go to Add-ons -> Get add-ons… -> search for “Automattic” and you’ll be all set.

Henry Crown Fellowship

Matt Mullenweg Blog (Founder of WordPress) -

I’m very excited to have been selected to join the Henry Crown Fellowship Class of 2017. Many, many folks I admire including Reed Hastings, Kim Polese, Cory Booker, Aileen Lee, Stephen DeBerry, Deven Parekh, Chris Sacca, Tim Ferriss, Reid Hoffman, Scott Heiferman, Troy Carter, Bre Pettis, Lupe Fiasco, and Alexa von Tobel have been through the program in previous years, and several of those people have spoken highly of it to me. I’m excited to meet and get to know the rest of the 2017 class, and embark on a learning journey alongside them.

Henry Crown Fellowship

Matt Mullenweg Blog (Founder of WordPress) -

I’m very excited to have been selected to join the Henry Crown Fellowship Class of 2017. Many, many folks I admire including Reed Hastings, Kim Polese, Cory Booker, Aileen Lee, Stephen DeBerry, Deven Parekh, Chris Sacca, Tim Ferriss, Reid Hoffman, Scott Heiferman, Troy Carter, Bre Pettis, Lupe Fiasco, and Alexa von Tobel have been through the program in previous years, and several of those people have spoken highly of it to me. I’m excited to meet and get to know the rest of the 2017 class, and embark on a learning journey alongside them.

Trump’s Draft High-Skill Visa Policy Threatens US Economy

Blake's Blog (CEO, GoDaddy) -

Last Saturday a preliminary draft order titled “Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” surfaced that targets H-1B “genius” visas.  The order signals a second wave of the new administration’s immigration agenda—with potentially catastrophic effects to our economy.  I’ve written and spoken extensively on the H-1B topic recently and, based on hundreds of responses, it’s become clear that there is an overabundance of emotion and a drought of hard facts circulating on this critical issue. Many Americans believe that H-1B visas are being used as a cost-cutting measure to hire cheap foreign labor; in reality, most H-1B workers hold elite jobs and earn on average 20% more than their US citizen counterparts for similar roles.  Many Americans believe that H-1B visas fuel the outsourcing of jobs; in reality, these visas bring the foreign talent into the US—many of whom go on to found startups and a shocking number of Fortune 500 businesses.  And most critically, many Americans believe that there exists a ready supply of high-skilled workers in the US that could easily jump into elite tech jobs with accelerated on-the-job training.  The reality is that for every one unemployed tech worker in the US, there are five open tech jobs.  America has hundreds of thousands of technologically brilliant citizens, but the facts show that we don’t have nearly enough to meet demand. Without expanding the H-1B visa program or some other positive reform to recruit foreign talent, the US risks technological stagnation.  And with the draft executive order currently on the table, we risk much more than that.  The most innovative edge of our US tech sector is built on the combination of brilliant homegrown talent and the infusion of equally brilliant global talent.  Take either away, as is threatened by this draft order, and you have a recipe for disaster.  The research that follows will show that the facts outweigh our emotions on this subject on every point of contention. H-1B Visa Jobs Do Not Save Money for US Employers The most popular bromide I’ve heard resurface this week is that a primary use for H-1B visas is to help corporations cut costs. I have seen stories in the news of a few bad players trying to game the system, but in my 30 years in technology leadership, I’ve never personally seen an H-1B visa used to save money.  When we look past a minority of dishonest players (who have been caught, by the way) and look at the whole system, the raw numbers show that H-1B workers earn 20% more on average than native citizens in the same roles.  H-1B visas are not a cost-cutting tool.  The below summary from the Brookings Institution tells the full story. Source: Brookings Institution – H-1B Visas and the STEM Shortage: A Research Brief H-1B Visas Do Not Contribute to Outsourcing It may be that many people simply conflate the concepts of outsourcing and high-skilled visa workers, but it’s important that everyone understand the distinction.  There are currently more than half a million high-skilled IT and computer science jobs sitting unfilled in the US today.  It seems unfathomable to many, but these are jobs that are so technical that there aren’t enough trained workers in the US to fill them all. The H-1B program was created to help bring highly trained foreign workers to the US to fill those roles. It’s important to know that if a worker is not coming to reside in the US, an H-1B visa would not be needed.  It’s not a tool for outsourcing. Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and labor analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies (a non-partisan research firm) Outsourcing, on the other hand, happens when a company creates a job to be filled outside of the US or ships an existing job overseas.  Outsourcing for cost savings is not the issue being addressed by this week’s draft executive order.  The issue in front of us is H-1Bs for importing elite technical workers, and they have the exact opposite effect of outsourcing—bringing skilled workers to the US who then pay the same Federal, State, Social Security and Medicare taxes as their US counterparts. Last year the US only issued 85,000 H-1B visas out of 236,000 requests.  20,000 of those went to foreign recipients of master’s degrees from US universities and the remaining 65,000 were decided by a highly unpredictable lottery.  The simple math suggests that more high-skilled visa holders in the US mean an overall reduced need for hiring talent offshore.  That means that if you’re against outsourcing, you should be for H-1B visas. H-1B Visas Do Not Take Away Jobs or Lower Salaries for Americans First, let me start by clarifying that I know that there are anecdotal cases of bad players. Just like news of plane crashes or bear attacks, you’ve seen these stories because they are sensational and clearly done in bad faith to American tech workers.  But just like plane crashes and bear attacks, data shows that they are exceedingly rare and are the exception, not the rule.  The statistics tell a much more complete story. In 2014, the Brookings Institution published a detailed study which found that, contrary to the popular myth, high-tech jobs requiring STEM degrees all had consistently rising salaries for the period they studied.  If imported talent were driving down salaries, the data would be trending the other way.  It’s not. Even more importantly though, the study found that there were five job openings for every one unemployed computer worker.  That means that if every unemployed tech worker was qualified to fill one open role, 4/5th of the open tech jobs would sit unfilled without the help of the H-1B visa program.  It’s one thing to be protective of the American worker (I think we all should be) but it’s altogether another to leave 4/5th of all open tech jobs unfilled simply to ward off high-skilled international talent. Source: Brookings Institution – Job Vacancies and STEM Skills This week I’ve heard some argue that if we gut the visa system, we can simply retrain US workers to fill the open roles.  Unfortunately, that is incredibly unrealistic.  The skills needed for elite science and tech roles take dozens of years in study and training.  America is a country full of brilliant people, but on the job training or typical job retraining programs couldn’t scratch the surface of the technical skills an individual would need to develop.  Even the most advanced American worker can’t develop master’s degree level expertise in such a short time.  Ideal candidates for these roles start their focus on math and science in their early education and dedicate years of study to reach elite status.  It’s disappointing to face the grimness of our circumstances, but these are just not the kind of careers where on-the-job training will fix the talent gap. High-skilled Immigrants Are Critical for the Health of the US Economy The Partnership for a New American Economy concluded in a 43-page report that more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, and these companies created $4.8 trillion in annual revenue and employed 18.9 million people globally. That data is backed up by a 2016 study from the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank based in Arlington, Va., that found recent immigrants started more than half of today’s wave of US-based startups valued at $1 billion or more. Once one understands that the H-1B visa program as a whole doesn’t take away jobs from Americans, doesn’t encourage outsourcing, fuels American innovation and leads to new immigrant citizens who push our economy forward, it’s easy to spot the serious dangers in restricting H-1B visas as outlined in the draft executive order that surfaced this week. STEM advocate and Physicist Michio Kaku described the danger succinctly in a heated debate arguing, “if you remove the H-1B visa, you collapse the economy.  There are no Americans to take these jobs.  These visas aren’t taking away jobs, they are creating industries.”  Dr. Kaku’s fears strike the core fallacy in this draft policy—it’s designed to protect American workers that, on close inspection, don’t actually exist in our economy today. The Path Forward The immigration reforms I’d like to see would focus on helping the US attract the best and brightest minds from anywhere on the planet—and then find successful ways to help them stay and thrive in the US for generations.  I’d couple that with educational reform in STEM from K-12 so future generations of Americans can engage more successfully in the technology job market at elite levels. I want to see more Americans compete for the most elite technical jobs, and the first step begins with significantly better STEM education from K-12.  Our kids entering high school currently rank 35th in the world in math and they don’t fare much better in science. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have any brilliant US tech workers—we have tons.  But our shoddy STEM education means we have way too few young people pursuing STEM careers and many who do find themselves struggling to compete at the most elite levels.  It’s not fun to have to admit it, but with so much technical illiteracy in the US, the H-1B visa program has become America’s secret weapon warding off economic catastrophe. Though STEM education is the clear long-term solution, the US is not going to see a vastly greater pipeline of domestic technical talent coming from our universities anytime soon.  It will take us years, if not decades, to educate a new wave of students from elementary thru their advanced degrees.  Until that next generation enters the elite technical workforce in mass, the most technical jobs (all 545,000 of them) will simply sit open if H-1B visas shrink or disappear.  The cost to the US will be paid in lost technological progress, lost relevance in the global marketplace and an overall weaker America.  I believe we can turn the tide of STEM education, but it’s going to take years and we need to be thoughtful about what happens in the meantime.  Let’s join forces, set aside our emotions to face the clear facts, and find a better path forward together.

The Assured Cost of Clamping Down On H-1B “Genius” Visas

Blake's Blog (CEO, GoDaddy) -

The entire US economy is at stake with Trump’s draft work-visa order About a month before President Trump was sworn into office, CNBC asked me what I would do if I held the executive office for one day. My answer to Kayla Tausche was that I’d work to fix the growing student visa and H-1B visa problem we have in the US.  Well, the old adage that says “be careful what you wish for” couldn’t be more poignant based on the immigration policy rumored to be rolling out this week. On the heels of an executive order temporarily banning US entry to all citizens from seven countries that have a recent history of training, harboring or exporting terrorists comes a potential policy change that could have immediate and harmful effects on the technology industry as a whole.  This weekend, a preliminary draft order titled “Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” surfaced that, if signed, risks serious consequences for US-based tech companies’ ability to hire elite global talent. To be clear, the entire US economy is at stake with this draft order and tech leaders need to speak out on its dangers. The order specifically goes after the H-1B visas that allow every tech company in Silicon Valley and across the US to hire non-US workers to fill highly technical jobs that perpetually sit unfilled. This system, described by popular theoretical physicist Michio Kaku as “the genius visa,” is a critical vehicle for attracting global talent were not enough US talent exists. “If you remove the H-1B visa, you collapse the economy.” – Dr. Michio Kaku Dr. Kaku described the problem succinctly in a 2011 debate arguing, “if you remove the H-1B visa, you collapse the economy. There are no Americans to take these jobs. These visas aren’t taking away jobs, they are creating industries.” That strikes at the core fallacy in this draft policy—it’s designed to protect a set of American workers that, on close inspection, don’t actually exist in our economy today. An order like the preliminary draft won’t help domestic job seekers and could cripple the US tech industry—that’s clearly not good for America. How H-1B Visas Work There are currently more than half a million high-skill IT and computer science jobs sitting unfilled in the US today. These are jobs that are so technical that there aren’t enough trained and lettered workers in the US to fill them. That gap is a significant problem because every job that sits unfilled is a bit of technological advancement and innovation that we’re leaving on the table. Last year the US only issued 85,000 H-1B visas out of 236,000 requests. 20,000 of those went to foreign recipients of master’s degrees from US universities and the remaining 65,000 were decided by a highly unpredictable lottery. Because the system today is so limited, it’s already needlessly slowing the wheels of progress—but the solution is not fewer visas, it’s more visas—or more immigration reform of some sort targeted specifically at highly-skilled workers. Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and labor analytics Burning Glass Technologies (a non-partisan research firm). Image: Obama White House, 2015 The US Technical Jobs Pipeline Hinges On STEM Education This week I’ve heard a myth resurface suggesting that if we gut the visa system, we can simply retrain US workers to fill the open roles. Unfortunately, that bromide is incredibly unrealistic. America is a country full of brilliant people, but a typical 18-month retraining program couldn’t scratch the surface of the technical skills an individual would need to acquire. The average American worker—hell, even the most advanced American worker can’t develop new master’s degree level expertise in a such a short time. Ideal candidates for these roles start their focus on math and science in their early education and dedicate years of study to reach elite status. “If we want more Americans to compete with elite non-US workers, the solution begins with significantly better STEM education in the United States” If we want more Americans to compete with elite non-US workers (and I believe we do) the solution has to begin with significantly better STEM education from K-12. Our kids entering high school currently rank 35th in the world in math and they don’t fare much better in science. And our high school graduates now compete in STEM skills with some of the most struggling developing nations. With so much technical illiteracy in the US, the H-1B visa program has become America’s secret weapon warding off economic catastrophe. Troublingly, the US is not going to see a vastly greater pipeline of domestic technical talent coming from our universities anytime soon. It will take us years, if not decades, to move a large enough wave of students through primary and secondary schools, undergraduate and advanced degrees to exit the pipeline into the elite technical workforce. Until that day, the most technical jobs (all 545,000 of them) will simply sit open if H-1B visas shrink or disappear. The cost will be paid in lost technological progress, less new energy, less communications, and less commerce and a weaker America. I believe we can turn the tide of STEM education, but it’s going to take years and we need to be thoughtful about what happens in the meantime. Low Hanging Fruit: Stop Sending Technical Degree-earners Home During the final presidential debate, then GOP candidate Trump said, specifically on the question of H-1B visas, “We need highly skilled people in this country and if we can’t do it [with our own citizens] we’ll get ‘em in. We do need it in Silicon Valley. One of the biggest problems we have is people [from outside the US] go to the best colleges—Harvard, Stanford, Wharton—and as soon as they graduate they get shoved out though they want to stay in this country. They want to stay here desperately and they’re not able to it.” On that point, I couldn’t agree more with President Trump. Our culture has made us a magnet—attracting the greatest brains around the world to our universities. It seems patently absurd to train those minds and then force them to go back to their home country when their student visas have expired due to their successful graduation. We need to give everyone who earns a degree from our best technical schools the opportunity to stay and work in the US and this draft order flies in the face of Trumps own (recent) words. Why This Matters to Me  A 2016 study from the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank based in Arlington, Va., found that immigrants started more than half of today’s wave of US-based startups valued at $1 billion or more. The immigration reforms I’d like to see would help the US continue to attract the best and brightest minds from anywhere—and then find compelling ways to help them stay and thrive in the US for generations. I’d couple that with educational reform in STEM from K-12 so future generations of Americans can engage more successfully in the technology job market. As a business, GoDaddy is a global tech company operating in 56 markets around the globe and I want the best for our employees in every country where we operate. The work we do in search, cloud computing, machine learning and predictive analytics requires some of the sharpest, most dedicated and passionate minds out there today. We recruit from the best schools in the US, but some jobs remain open. Much of the R&D work we do at US tech hubs in the Bay Area, Seattle, Cambridge, etc. depend in part on H-1B visas to bring in world-class talent. It’s a critical part of our toolset that I’d like to see expanded—not diminished. We need to be able to match elite technical jobs with elite technical people.  The crippled visa system that could come from the proposed executive order is not a step forward. We can do better. “I want the US to be a place where the best minds in the world want to come to pursue the real American dream” On a personal level, and as a US citizen, I selfishly want America to be a shining star of innovation and technological success. I want it to be a place where the best minds in the world want to come to pursue the American dream of achieving success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. I have every confidence that such lofty goals are possible and I hope you’ll join me in working toward them. Your Thoughts Welcome If you have thoughts on the immigration challenges facing the tech industry, share them in comments below. I tend to drop in later in the evenings to read and respond.

The Assured Cost of Clamping Down On H-1B “Genius” Visas

Blake's Blog (CEO, GoDaddy) -

The entire US economy is at stake with Trump’s draft work-visa order About a month before President Trump was sworn into office, CNBC asked me what I would do if I held the executive office for one day. My answer to Kayla Tausche was that I’d work to fix the growing student visa and H-1B visa problem we have in the US.  Well, the old adage that says “be careful what you wish for” couldn’t be more poignant based on the immigration policy rumored to be rolling out this week. On the heels of an executive order temporarily banning US entry to all citizens from seven countries that have a recent history of training, harboring or exporting terrorists comes a potential policy change that could have immediate and harmful effects on the technology industry as a whole.  This weekend, a preliminary draft order titled “Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” surfaced that, if signed, risks serious consequences for US-based tech companies’ ability to hire elite global talent. To be clear, the entire US economy is at stake with this draft order and tech leaders need to speak out on its dangers. The order specifically goes after the H-1B visas that allow every tech company in Silicon Valley and across the US to hire non-US workers to fill highly technical jobs that perpetually sit unfilled. This system, described by popular theoretical physicist Michio Kaku as “the genius visa,” is a critical vehicle for attracting global talent were not enough US talent exists. “If you remove the H-1B visa, you collapse the economy.” – Dr. Michio Kaku Dr. Kaku described the problem succinctly in a 2011 debate arguing, “if you remove the H-1B visa, you collapse the economy. There are no Americans to take these jobs. These visas aren’t taking away jobs, they are creating industries.” That strikes at the core fallacy in this draft policy—it’s designed to protect a set of American workers that, on close inspection, don’t actually exist in our economy today. An order like the preliminary draft won’t help domestic job seekers and could cripple the US tech industry—that’s clearly not good for America. How H-1B Visas Work There are currently more than half a million high-skill IT and computer science jobs sitting unfilled in the US today. These are jobs that are so technical that there aren’t enough trained and lettered workers in the US to fill them. That gap is a significant problem because every job that sits unfilled is a bit of technological advancement and innovation that we’re leaving on the table. Last year the US only issued 85,000 H-1B visas out of 236,000 requests. 20,000 of those went to foreign recipients of master’s degrees from US universities and the remaining 65,000 were decided by a highly unpredictable lottery. Because the system today is so limited, it’s already needlessly slowing the wheels of progress—but the solution is not fewer visas, it’s more visas—or more immigration reform of some sort targeted specifically at highly-skilled workers. Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and labor analytics Burning Glass Technologies (a non-partisan research firm). Image: Obama White House, 2015 The US Technical Jobs Pipeline Hinges On STEM Education This week I’ve heard a myth resurface suggesting that if we gut the visa system, we can simply retrain US workers to fill the open roles. Unfortunately, that bromide is incredibly unrealistic. America is a country full of brilliant people, but a typical 18-month retraining program couldn’t scratch the surface of the technical skills an individual would need to acquire. The average American worker—hell, even the most advanced American worker can’t develop new master’s degree level expertise in a such a short time. Ideal candidates for these roles start their focus on math and science in their early education and dedicate years of study to reach elite status. “If we want more Americans to compete with elite non-US workers, the solution begins with significantly better STEM education in the United States” If we want more Americans to compete with elite non-US workers (and I believe we do) the solution has to begin with significantly better STEM education from K-12. Our kids entering high school currently rank 35th in the world in math and they don’t fare much better in science. And our high school graduates now compete in STEM skills with some of the most struggling developing nations. With so much technical illiteracy in the US, the H-1B visa program has become America’s secret weapon warding off economic catastrophe. Troublingly, the US is not going to see a vastly greater pipeline of domestic technical talent coming from our universities anytime soon. It will take us years, if not decades, to move a large enough wave of students through primary and secondary schools, undergraduate and advanced degrees to exit the pipeline into the elite technical workforce. Until that day, the most technical jobs (all 545,000 of them) will simply sit open if H-1B visas shrink or disappear. The cost will be paid in lost technological progress, less new energy, less communications, and less commerce and a weaker America. I believe we can turn the tide of STEM education, but it’s going to take years and we need to be thoughtful about what happens in the meantime. Low Hanging Fruit: Stop Sending Technical Degree-earners Home During the final presidential debate, then GOP candidate Trump said, specifically on the question of H-1B visas, “We need highly skilled people in this country and if we can’t do it [with our own citizens] we’ll get ‘em in. We do need it in Silicon Valley. One of the biggest problems we have is people [from outside the US] go to the best colleges—Harvard, Stanford, Wharton—and as soon as they graduate they get shoved out though they want to stay in this country. They want to stay here desperately and they’re not able to it.” On that point, I couldn’t agree more with President Trump. Our culture has made us a magnet—attracting the greatest brains around the world to our universities. It seems patently absurd to train those minds and then force them to go back to their home country when their student visas have expired due to their successful graduation. We need to give everyone who earns a degree from our best technical schools the opportunity to stay and work in the US and this draft order flies in the face of Trumps own (recent) words. Why This Matters to Me  A 2016 study from the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank based in Arlington, Va., found that immigrants started more than half of today’s wave of US-based startups valued at $1 billion or more. The immigration reforms I’d like to see would help the US continue to attract the best and brightest minds from anywhere—and then find compelling ways to help them stay and thrive in the US for generations. I’d couple that with educational reform in STEM from K-12 so future generations of Americans can engage more successfully in the technology job market. As a business, GoDaddy is a global tech company operating in 56 markets around the globe and I want the best for our employees in every country where we operate. The work we do in search, cloud computing, machine learning and predictive analytics requires some of the sharpest, most dedicated and passionate minds out there today. We recruit from the best schools in the US, but some jobs remain open. Much of the R&D work we do at US tech hubs in the Bay Area, Seattle, Cambridge, etc. depend in part on H-1B visas to bring in world-class talent. It’s a critical part of our toolset that I’d like to see expanded—not diminished. We need to be able to match elite technical jobs with elite technical people.  The crippled visa system that could come from the proposed executive order is not a step forward. We can do better. “I want the US to be a place where the best minds in the world want to come to pursue the real American dream” On a personal level, and as a US citizen, I selfishly want America to be a shining star of innovation and technological success. I want it to be a place where the best minds in the world want to come to pursue the American dream of achieving success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. I have every confidence that such lofty goals are possible and I hope you’ll join me in working toward them. Your Thoughts Welcome If you have thoughts on the immigration challenges facing the tech industry, share them in comments below. I tend to drop in later in the evenings to read and respond.

Staying with the US Digital Service

Matt Cutts Blog (Head of Google's Webspam Team) -

A few months ago, I took a leave of absence from Google to do a stint with the US Digital Service. A lot of people know about the US Digital Service because they helped rescue the healthcare.gov website. But you might not realize that the US Digital Service has helped veterans get their health benefits, brought bug bounties to the federal government, and helped the IRS protect taxpayer info. When I joined the US Digital Service, I only planned to stay for three months. That quickly turned into six months after I saw the impact of the USDS. In the last month, I made a big decision. On December 31, 2016, I resigned from Google. I’m currently serving as director of engineering for the USDS. Mikey Dickerson, the first administrator of the USDS, is a political appointee, so he’ll step down on Inauguration Day. When that happens, I’ll serve as acting administrator of the USDS. The work that the USDS does is critical to the American people, and I’m honored to continue that tradition. If you’re reading this blog post, odds are that you might be a tech geek yourself. I’d like to ask you to review what the US Digital Service has accomplished in just a few years. If you’re a more visual person, you might enjoy this short video: Working for the government doesn’t pay as well as a big company in Silicon Valley. We don’t get any free lunches. Many days are incredibly frustrating. All I can tell you is that the work is deeply important and inspiring, and you have a chance to work on things that genuinely make peoples’ lives better. A friend who started working in this space several years ago told me “These last five years have been the hardest and worst and best and most rewarding I think I will ever have.” If you have experience in the tech industry, there’s a decent chance that you have skills that can benefit the American people. If you’re considering joining the US Digital Service, please fill out an application.

Thirty-Three

Matt Mullenweg Blog (Founder of WordPress) -

I’m taking it easy this week, nothing too crazy — just sharing good meals and wine with friends. Which is probably a good example of my goals for the year: putting family and loved ones first, slowing down (to go further), and deliciousness. (Single Thread Farms blew me away.) 2016 was a year of incredible contrasts: it was the saddest and most challenged I’ve ever been with the passing of my father, and while that overshadowed everything there were also bright moments of coming closer to family, deepening friendships, and growing professionally with incredible progress from both WordPress and Automattic. That momentum on the professional side is carrying through and right now I’m the most optimistic I can recall, and thrilled to wake up and get to work every day with the people I do. I talked about trying to spend longer stretches of time in fewer places, and that definitely happened. I flew 162k fewer miles than the year before, and visited 35 fewer cities. My blogging decreased a lot too — from 252 posts in 2015 to 76 posts in 2016, but the posts I did write were at least 50% longer. I made it to 9 more of the Top 50 restaurants and stand currently at 50% of the list. I finished 22 books, including a lot more fiction including my first few graphic novels like Ex Machina, Y: The Last Man, and Watchmen. I watched 35 movies, 9 of which were from the Marvel universe on a single flight from Cape Town to Dubai. Last year I said, “it’s exciting to make the most of the opportunity that the volatility, love, loss, glory, failure, inspirations, and setbacks that 2016 will bring.” I didn’t know how right I would be, and wish I hadn’t been. This year doesn’t start with new plans, but rather three intentions continued from a few months ago. I revealed one yesterday, and promised I would expand today on the others, so here they are: Symmetry — Balance in all things, including my body which is stronger on my right side and much tighter on my left side. We also need symmetry in WordPress between the .org and .com products which differ too much. Stillness — In echoes of Pico Iyer, so much of my life in my 20s was about movement, and “going places to be moved.” In my 30s I’m looking inward. As Saint Augustine said in Book X, chapter 8 of Confessions: “Men go forth to wonder at the heights of mountains, the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the vast compass of the ocean, the courses of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” Yellow Arrows — The idea that there are clear indications of where to go next at every fork in the road, and if not you should paint them. I wrote more on this  yesterday. Previously: 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, and 32.

Thirty-Three

Matt Mullenweg Blog (Founder of WordPress) -

I’m taking it easy this week, nothing too crazy — just sharing good meals and wine with friends. Which is probably a good example of my goals for the year: putting family and loved ones first, slowing down (to go further), and deliciousness. (Single Thread Farms blew me away.) 2016 was a year of incredible contrasts: it was the saddest and most challenged I’ve ever been with the passing of my father, and while that overshadowed everything there were also bright moments of coming closer to family, deepening friendships, and growing professionally with incredible progress from both WordPress and Automattic. That momentum on the professional side is carrying through and right now I’m the most optimistic I can recall, and thrilled to wake up and get to work every day with the people I do. I talked about trying to spend longer stretches of time in fewer places, and that definitely happened. I flew 162k fewer miles than the year before, and visited 35 fewer cities. My blogging decreased a lot too — from 252 posts in 2015 to 76 posts in 2016, but the posts I did write were at least 50% longer. I made it to 9 more of the Top 50 restaurants and stand currently at 50% of the list. I finished 22 books, including a lot more fiction including my first few graphic novels like Ex Machina, Y: The Last Man, and Watchmen. I watched 35 movies, 9 of which were from the Marvel universe on a single flight from Cape Town to Dubai. Last year I said, “it’s exciting to make the most of the opportunity that the volatility, love, loss, glory, failure, inspirations, and setbacks that 2016 will bring.” I didn’t know how right I would be, and wish I hadn’t been. This year doesn’t start with new plans, but rather three intentions continued from a few months ago. I revealed one yesterday, and promised I would expand today on the others, so here they are: Symmetry — Balance in all things, including my body which is stronger on my right side and much tighter on my left side. We also need symmetry in WordPress between the .org and .com products which differ too much. Stillness — In echoes of Pico Iyer, so much of my life in my 20s was about movement, and “going places to be moved.” In my 30s I’m looking inward. As Saint Augustine said in Book X, chapter 8 of Confessions: “Men go forth to wonder at the heights of mountains, the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the vast compass of the ocean, the courses of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” Yellow Arrows — The idea that there are clear indications of where to go next at every fork in the road, and if not you should paint them. I wrote more on this  yesterday. Previously: 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, and 32.

Rebirth and Yellow Arrows

Matt Mullenweg Blog (Founder of WordPress) -

My friend Kamal Ravikant has a new book out, Rebirth, which I highly recommend. I had the good fortune to read it a few months ago and the story of the Camino de Santiago touched and inspired me. Because of the impact of the book, I ended up adopting a few New Year’s intentions long before January 1st — things to ruminate on and keep in mind as the year wound down. The outlook of the world seemed uncertain, and I’m learning to navigate the world without my father. Yellow Arrows The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage path in Spain that people have walked since the 9th century AD. The 500 mile path winds through mountains, fields, and sometimes cities, and many pilgrims take a month or more on it. In some ways it is similar to the Kumano Kodo walk I did with Dan and Craig last year. There are places where the path isn’t exactly clear, either because the trail isn’t strong, there’s been growth, or you might be in a crowded urban area like a city. Over the years pilgrims and people who live on the trail have marked it with yellow arrows pointing the way. If someone gets lost or confused, it’s an opportunity for an additional sign to bring them back on track. When you know the path, is it clear where someone else walking it should go next? It’s an interesting concept that applies across life. In your relationships, does your friend, loved one, or partner know what to expect, and where you’re headed together? Even in WordPress I feel like there are too many places where we bring someone to a fork in the road and there is no clear indication which way they should take. Give some thought to the yellow arrows in your life, and I’ll write more about the other two things I’ve been thinking about tomorrow. Also don’t forget to pick up a copy of Kamal’s book. I loved it and I think it will be one I’m recommending to many friends. (Image from Camino Travel Center.)

Rebirth and Yellow Arrows

Matt Mullenweg Blog (Founder of WordPress) -

My friend Kamal Ravikant has a new book out, Rebirth, which I highly recommend. I had the good fortune to read it a few months ago and the story of the Camino de Santiago touched and inspired me. Because of the impact of the book, I ended up adopting a few New Year’s intentions long before January 1st — things to ruminate on and keep in mind as the year wound down. The outlook of the world seemed uncertain, and I’m learning to navigate the world without my father. Yellow Arrows The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage path in Spain that people have walked since the 9th century AD. The 500 mile path winds through mountains, fields, and sometimes cities, and many pilgrims take a month or more on it. In some ways it is similar to the Kumano Kodo walk I did with Dan and Craig last year. There are places where the path isn’t exactly clear, either because the trail isn’t strong, there’s been growth, or you might be in a crowded urban area like a city. Over the years pilgrims and people who live on the trail have marked it with yellow arrows pointing the way. If someone gets lost or confused, it’s an opportunity for an additional sign to bring them back on track. When you know the path, is it clear where someone else walking it should go next? It’s an interesting concept that applies across life. In your relationships, does your friend, loved one, or partner know what to expect, and where you’re headed together? Even in WordPress I feel like there are too many places where we bring someone to a fork in the road and there is no clear indication which way they should take. Give some thought to the yellow arrows in your life, and I’ll write more about the other two things I’ve been thinking about tomorrow. Also don’t forget to pick up a copy of Kamal’s book. I loved it and I think it will be one I’m recommending to many friends. (Image from Camino Travel Center.)

Christmas Music: Leslie Odom Jr.

Matt Mullenweg Blog (Founder of WordPress) -

I love Christmas music, and most years I like to recommend a Christmas music album that is a bit more jazz or has something interesting about it. This year I want to point you to Leslie Odom Jr., aka Aaron Burr in the hit musical Hamilton, who is a gifted vocalist. Hat tip: Rose Kuo. Check out “My Favorite Things.” Embedded on Spotify below, also on iTunes and Amazon.

Christmas Music: Leslie Odom Jr.

Matt Mullenweg Blog (Founder of WordPress) -

I love Christmas music, and most years I like to recommend a Christmas music album that is a bit more jazz or has something interesting about it. This year I want to point you to Leslie Odom Jr., aka Aaron Burr in the hit musical Hamilton, who is a gifted vocalist. Hat tip: Rose Kuo. Check out “My Favorite Things.” Embedded on Spotify below, also on iTunes and Amazon.

New .org Homepage

Matt Mullenweg Blog (Founder of WordPress) -

For the first time in… many years, WordPress.org has a new home page. What’s on the page today actually isn’t that important, even though it’s better in many ways, the key is that it’s changing again, the stone has been unstuck and can now keep rolling.

New .org Homepage

Matt Mullenweg Blog (Founder of WordPress) -

For the first time in… many years, WordPress.org has a new home page. What’s on the page today actually isn’t that important, even though it’s better in many ways, the key is that it’s changing again, the stone has been unstuck and can now keep rolling.

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