Sunday, April 4, 2010

Coincidence? I don't *THINK* so (Part 2 of 2)

So, how come y'all are being overrun by foreign engineers? Well, let's look at some options.

The Indians are smarter than y'all? Well, there are certainly some bloody smart Indians, but my experience is that they're much the same as the rest of us. Sure they'll throw up the odd Ramanujan, but they don't have a monopoly on brains. Ditto the Chinese. Smart, but no smarter.

OK, so maybe they're more experienced? Absolutely not. Here, the Americans do win. Experience in semiconductor design means "tape outs" -- or, pretty much, numbers of designs. In my experience, your average Indian (based in India anyway) hasn't had enough time to get as many tape outs under his belt. It doesn't mean they're bad, just young.

So something else that makes them "better" in some way? Better at learning quickly? No. Better at explaining their ideas? No.

No, I think we'd have to conclude that from the point of view of actual ability to get the job done, your average Indian or Chinese engineer is no better than your average American .

So is it cost then? Yes, I think maybe that could be it. It makes sense. If the foreign engineer is pretty much the same as the local engineer in capability, but is lower in cost, then that could account for at least some of the difference, no? But the trouble is, immigration rules are supposed to deal with that. I've hired "foreign" engineers, and the way I hire, the way I advertise, and the way I pay is scrutinized. You can't just pay foreigners $4.00 and a chocolate cookie an hour.

But there's more than one way to skin an immigrant. Let me tell you of my own experience at the hands of US immigration.

Coincidence? I don't *THINK* so (Part 1 of 2)

Let's do an experiment. You can just do it in your head if you like, or go out and do it for real if you're feeling scientisty.
  1. On a clear, starlit night, go stand in the middle of a field, with your arms hanging loosely by your sides
  2. Looking up at the stars, start to spin around (Try not to fall!)
  3. Notice your arms going up. Notice the starscape spinning above you.
  4. Think, "Coincidence? I don't THINK so"
That's Mach's Principle. The arms raising while the starscape spins is not a coincidence. Isn't this fun! Here's another one. You probably won't want to do this for real:
  1. Go find a copy of each of the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions published from 1665 to 1850
  2. Arrange them into piles, against a wall. One pile per decade, with the 1660s on the left and the 1850s on the right
  3. Take a marker, and put a dot on the wall at the top of each pile
  4. Return the journals to from wherever you stole them
  5. Join the dots with your marker
  6. Stand back, and notice the way the piles grow in size (Hint: it looks vaguely exponential)
  7. Think, "Coincidence? I don't THINK so"
That's roughly what triggered Derek de Solla Price to develop a theory of the exponential growth of science. So, the moral of the stories so far is, be careful when coincidences appear, because they're not always so.

So, now consider: