Tech layoffs of 2022

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Very interesting article reflecting on the current round of layoffs in the tech industry. The author explains it within the context of the wider economy. I'm surprised that the pandemic is not mentioned, which lead to accelerated growth early in the pandemic, which now hasn't turned out to be sustained. But the other arguments - from low interest rates to constant undervaluation due to the dot com bust around the millennium - this seems to tell a rather coherent story.

One particularly interesting point is the outlook that the tech company has gobbled up so much programming talent that other industries were starved of it. A lot of industries would benefit from (more modestly paid) software engineers, which might stimulate the whole economy to grow. Software might still be "eating the world", but that doesn't have to translate into software companies eating up the economy. There are so many businesses with domain expertise that cannot be easily replaced by some Silicon Valley engineer - but who would benefit from some programmers on staff.

This is especially true with the last decade of AI results. There is a massive overhang of capabilities that we have unlocked, which hasn't found its way into products yet, partly because all the skills necessary to turn these into products at the right places were just concentrated through enormously high wages in a small set of companies. There are so many businesses who would benefit from the latest machine learning methods. But folks prefer, understandably, to work in a place that gives them the promise of revolutionizing whole industries or saving the world.

But there is so much potential value to be generated if we also take some more modest goals into account. Not all of us need to work on AGI, it's also great to use software engineering skills to improve working conditions at the assembly line of a small local factory. With or without machine learning.


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