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San Francisco, USA

 

Will Silicon Valley remain the stronghold for innovation

My attempt to answer the question in Quora about Will Silicon Valley remain the stronghold for innovation. Basically I try to demolish the idea that other people will catchup naturally.



The other answers are all base on "The World Is Flat" point of view. The believe is populations, talents, capital, and economic opportunities are spread widely through out the world. United States is all but a small part of the globe. It's leading position is temporary. The rest of the world will eventually catch up. Such is the natural order.

This "The World Is Flat" assumption is intuitive and have some merit. But it is very unsatisfactory. For one thing it fails to explain much of what we observe in the world, that different geographic regions has clearly identified strength and weakness. Its prediction that everything will eventually even out is all but a conjecture. We find no validation of such in the human history. Instead I will pose some questions. I believe a lot more insight can be gain by pondering these questions than assuming things will naturally even out.

Is the world created equal?

The assumption of "the world is flat" view is that there is no inherent advantage of Silicon Valley. The same ecosystem can theoretically be established anywhere in the world. This believe strongly contradict with the reality. Silicon Valley standout by many metrics like the amount of venture capital invested, the number of tech companies and the number tech workers they have. There are a few runner-ups. Otherwise the level of innovation in Silicon dwarf the rest of the country. You can find similar hierarchy elsewhere. In China, there are a lot of innovation in centers like Beijing and Shenzhen, but not so much in hundreds of cities otherwise.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are many very populous countries have make negligible output in innovation, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Bangladesh to name a few.

The world is apparently not created equal (a factual, not normative statement).

How has the innovative industry developed?

The simple answer is to add the ingredient of capital, economic demand, talents, and academic institutes, mix them together and then we get a replicate of Silicon Valley. Many governments have tried to do this top down. They attempt to create their version of "Silicon XX". Most of these effort falls flat.

There are a lot of study in the history and development of a region innovative industry. Many points to the intense interaction of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and academics. There is a cultural aspect of creativity and risk taking. There are also a concept of path dependency that the present is influence by specific sequence of steps taken in the past. Therefore every place have their destiny shaped by their history. Just adding the ingredients is not enough. A lot of circumstance has made Silicon Valley the way it is. It is not a natural path that other regions can follow.

Will the rich get richer?

The World Is Flatter has failed to account for the gravitational pull of innovative industry. Silicon Valley is a better ground for innovation because you are doing it with other creative people. The culture of creativity, the concentration of talents, and the services available give Silicon Valley a distinct competitive advantage to other places. Time and again people predict new companies will choose to start the business in low cost area avoiding the pricey Silicon Valley. Time and again they are shown to be wrong. The truth is these new companies are getting a lot by locating in an innovation center so much that the extra cost is justified. Recalled that "the world is flat" cannot explain the observation that the world is not created equal. "The rich get richer" concept explains it much better.


So will Silicon Valley holds its advantage forever. This is an easy question. The answer is no. Thought out the history we have never seen any group held power for a prolonged period of time. Given a long enough horizon, say in two generations, everything is a fair game. It is very likely this future will be a world we will not foresee today, one that new players will emerge and old leadership will be shuffled.

I imagine some day the Valley may finally done in by the incessant waves of drought and fire, a more biblical ending than just falling behind to Chinese competitors.

2016.08.07 comments

 

Santa Monica Night Photos

One night I was walking around and taking some random picture in Santa Monica. After a few accidental mistakes, I found it fun to take pictures without aiming for clear and sharp focus. These are a few that I like.

Santa Monica Night Shoot
Santa Monica Night Shoot
Santa Monica Night Shoot
Santa Monica Night Shoot

I finally found the words to describe the style. It is avant-garde damn it.

2016.07.10 comments

 

Beyond Homelessness

The Chronicle is running a series Beyond Homelessness. They call the problem a civic disgrace. They have an editorial proclaim the reduction of homelessness to the extent humanly possible must be San Francisco’s No. 1 priority.

I applaud their call of civic duty. I am frustrated by the problem as anyone do. But grandstanding aside, I am not optimistic that the city will make much progress. 10 or 20 years we will revisit the issue. I am afraid what the future may not be much of an improvement of compares to today.

Their language concerns me. We talk about political will, about holding public official responsible. But what if this is a problem so difficult that nobody really know how to solve them? I compare this to some recurrent campaign to "cure cancer". It makes a good slogan for a rally. The problem is, to the best knowledge current science, we do not really know how to cure cancer. Some ambitious politician might "declare war on cancer", or set an arbitrary time line like solving the problem in 10 years. But I can see little scientific basis that would lead to such solution. As much as we wish, these political campaigns, without scientific basis to backup, will just fizzle out sooner or later.

Unfortunately I think this is likely what our current campaign on homelessness heading. If it is about provide enough funding and services, these will be easy problem well within the capability of the politician. After all, we are already pouring sizable resource in the tune of 240 millions dollars a year into this. But I am afraid these resources only scratch the surface. The deeper problem is that some people who has lost their capability to take care of themselves and function in the society. Fixing people is much harder problme than fix things, which mostly call for more funding. I don't even know if the bureaucracy has any place in fixing a person. Much more helpful than the bureaucracy is perhaps the support from a social network.

To further the cure cancer analogy, it is commonly accepted that the best way to fight cancer is to prevent it from developing in the first place. Living a healthy life style, proper nutrition, early screening are way more effective than to treat cancer after it happens. So our attention should go beyond fixing the problem after it happens to minimize someone ending up in the street in the first place. In the long run, if we can reduce new homeless by prevention, it maybe the most effective way to keep the problem under control.

2016.07.04 comments

 

Deck Maintenance

Another year, another home maintenance project. I spent an afternoon to replace some severely rotten deck boards. This is how it looks after.

Deck maintenance

It isn't obvious what I have done. Well look at wreckages that I have pulled out. Now the new boards are safe and sound, amm... sort of. I have enough left over materials scavenged from previous project. The only new material I bought $2 of metal hangers. The job is done for now. Until next time.

Rotten deck board

2016.07.03 comments

 

Bike pit stop

You know how chilly the weather in San Francisco can be. This makes it great temperature for biking though. The air is cool enough I have minimal or no sweat to bike commute to my office.

A little preparation on clothing is useful. I usually wear just a T-shirt year round. This is a right balance between the cold air outdoor and the heat generated from the body exercising. It takes up to five to ten minutes to warm up to this balance though. So I usually start by wearing a jacket. At some major intersection I will hit a red light that stop for some 30 seconds. There I get off quickly, put down my backpack, take off my helmet, put off the jacket, stuff it into the backpack, and put the helmet back on. Usually the light will return to green at this point. So I right the bike, put my toe into the pedal, check that there is no traffic in my way and take off. If the timing is done right, this exercise will not cost me any time, definitely not a complete traffic light cycle.

Now that I think about my quick change drill, it is kind of like formula one pit stop! Not a second to be wasted.

2016.06.30 comments

 

Riding LA Metro

Expo Line

I felt so street smart to get around Los Angeles spontaneously with no advance planning using public transit. This includes a ride down the brand new just opened Metro Expo line to Santa Monica downtown. The whole trip from the fabulous Getty Center to Santa Monica, changing from bus once, took a little more than an hour. The same trip in the morning by Uber was less than 30 minutes. Not bad I guess. I also enjoyed a great talk with a visiting PhD candidate in art history on the bus. A nice trip overall.

2016.06.12 comments

 

Nature Around San Francisco

I have seen some posting of life style guideline around San Francisco Bay Area. One point is that San Francisco is good for young people who enjoy night life. And South Bay is for family and nature lover. People who said that must have some preconceived notion about urban is the opposite of nature. I have lived in San Francisco for years and I rarely go to bar. On the other hand I am completely charm by the nature offer in and around San Francisco. It turns out in some great place, this above idea is just wrong. Both city and nature can present together in one place.

Here are a few natural environment I really enjoy:

1. You are never really far from open space because San Francisco is surrounded by miles of waterfront. At one time my commute was a bike ride along the waterfront route. It was such a blessed commute because everyday I am greeted by the blue sky and the sea view. Sometimes I had stumbled into some sight like a annual herring run which attract large flock of birds and fishermen.

2. San Francisco has some of the best urban park like Golden Gate park and the Presidio. I live tow blocks from the Golden Gate park and it is practically my backyard where I go a few times a week. There are so many activities in the park. Some times you really need to slow down and appreciate the place surrounded by tall trees how special it is.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

3. Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a collection of parks around San Francisco, including some famous tourist attractions like the Alcatraz and Muir Woods. There are so many spectacular sceneries to see. It is one of the most visited park in National Park system. Many parts are actually right in San Francisco or adjacent to it.

4. Point Reyes, my most favorite park just one hour drive from San Francisco. A wilderness area that is so close to the city but feels a world away. A Point Reyes panorama (badly made by me) is the banner that grace my web page above.

Whether it is part of my urban routine or a short trip away, San Francisco is truly blessed with beautiful nature. It is one of the biggest reason I love this city.

2016.05.13 comments

 

My Master Thesis

Master Thesis screen

Thank you CUHK for digitizing my master thesis into PDF and put it online. I thought I spent my two years of master mostly working on part time job and sitting around. It seems I have done more than I remembered. The software looks sophisticated enough and the thesis is not as embarrassing as I thought.

2016.05.03 comments

 

Being Quiet

I am reading Susan Cain's book Quiet. She was talking about how the extrovert ideal is not universal, and that Eastern culture value quiet introspection more. [more...]

2016.04.26 comments

 

Memorial in The Woods

I went to the memorial service for Jan Underwood this morning. I was a little unsure if I should go because I have not met her and the event will be full of people I don't know. But it turned out well and I have even met a few new people. [more...]

2016.04.17 comments

 

San Francisco the Tech Mecca

This morning I was explaining to a lady that I am very grateful to come to San Francisco because it is the epicenter for tech. She is an older lady working in traditional field unrelated to tech. So she seemed to be mystified by the tech activities mushroomed around here and asked me many questions.[more...]

2016.04.17 comments

 

The Trouble with Tenses

As a non-native English speaker, one of my greatest trouble is using proper English tenses. Since there is no verb tense in my native Chinese, I am a little bit like a color blind person trying to convey something I do not deferentiate well. In school we were taught a bunch of grammar rules. And in practice I also go with gut feeling. A lot of times I cannot explain what my gut feeling says by the grammar rules I have learned. [more...]

2016.04.10 comments

 

Scandinavian Films

Movie to Scandinavia is like tech to Israel. Both region have relatively small population. But their have made outsized contribution in the respective industry with many world renowned productions. There are many well known legends like Ingmar Bergman and Lar von Trier. Last year I have enrolled in the Coursera class Scandinavian Film and Television by University of Copenhagen. It is a perfect guide to the Scandinavian cinema taking us through the history and and also across different genres. I have made good on my part to watch a good number of movies. I count 19 movies and 1 TV series in total last year. There are many good ones to share.

Carl Theodor Dreyer[more...]

2016.04.01 comments

 

Vulnerable

This piece below is from my Daily Write Round Robin class, my response to the Brussels attack. [more...]

2016.03.23 comments

 

Pearl of the Orient

Last time I have talked about a movie I love, Woody Allen's Another Woman. It has an inspiring story. You have a rough time. Nothing seems to go right. You start to harbor self-doubt. Your perfect world is crumbling. Then you discovered there was someone who loved you. He is the true believer in you. He knows the real you deep down and he told you how beautiful you are. [more...]

2016.03.08 comments

 

Elegy

Isabel Coixet's Elegy has become another favorite movie of mine that I rewatch every few years (Atonement is another). Consuela Castillo (‎Penélope Cruz) has a mysterious allure. On the surface she is a nice but conventional woman. Penélope Cruz is for sure beautiful and sensual. But there is clearly a character behind her that makes her special. This is the restaurant scene, in which She challenges her beau, that I really like. [more...]

2016.03.06 comments

 

Remember Jane Underwood

I have recevied an email this afternoon. It said Jane, the instructor of our writing class, has passed away. I was left with a feeling of lost and sadness. [more...]

2016.02.05 comments

 

Small Company v.s. Big Company

I have figured out a difference of working in small company v.s. big company. I was working in a small 25 person company before. Sometimes I came into the office and saw a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. I loaded all dishes in the the disk washer, added detergent, and then turned on the machine to clean them. [more...]

2016.02.04 comments

 

Falun Gong creeps me out; so do their enemies

I was doing a vanity search of myself on Google. My profile appears on a whole bunch of social network and websites. One entry looks suspicious though. I appear on what looks kind of like a news website, for some critical comment I have made against Falun Gong sometime ago. Crap, poor judgment of me to offend a religious group. Told you to keep your big mouth shut on the net. Now they are going to want my head. [more...]

2016.02.01 comments

 

Nobody's perfect - great movies endings

A great ending is more than a conclusion of the stories. It elevates the entire experience, distinguishes good movies from great, and leaves us with an impression that last. Here are a few endings that really resonate with me. (SPOILER ALERT) While I am not going into very specific details, these are great movies and I recommend you to watch them first. [more...]

2016.01.30 comments

 

past articles »

 

BBC News

 

Italy earthquake: Search for survivors as death toll tops 160 (25 Aug 2016)

 

Colombia and Farc rebels sign historic peace agreement (25 Aug 2016)

 

Pneumatic octopus is a first for soft robotics (25 Aug 2016)

 

Kabul raid: Seven students among 13 dead in university attack (25 Aug 2016)

 

Get campaigning, UKIP's Farage tells Donald Trump rally (25 Aug 2016)

 

Five die in sea off UK beach (24 Aug 2016)

 

Earth-sized planet orbits closest star (24 Aug 2016)

 

Protests over huge N Dakota oil pipeline (24 Aug 2016)

 

IS conflict: Turkey-backed Syrian rebels 'take Jarablus' (24 Aug 2016)

 

Vietnam woman 'cuts off limbs for insurance payout' (24 Aug 2016)

more »

 

SF Gate

 

Bay Area News (7 Jan 2012)

 

City Insider (11 Feb 2012)

 

Crime Scene (13 Feb 2012)

 

C.W Newius Column (10 Jan 2012)

 

C.W. Nevius Blog (11 Feb 2012)

 

Education News (10 Jan 2012)

 

KALW (11 Feb 2012)

 

Matier and Ross Blog (11 Feb 2012)

 

Menlo Park nears drone ban in parks (24 Aug 2016)

 

Tesla: New Model S P100D now fastest production car in the world (24 Aug 2016)

 

Lawsuit claims loan-service companies overcharged Latino families (23 Aug 2016)

 

Daily Briefing, Aug. 24 (23 Aug 2016)

 

Business News Roundup, Aug. 24 (23 Aug 2016)

 

Pinterest acquires Instapaper (23 Aug 2016)

more »

 


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