Sunday, May 28, 2023
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In Taiwan’s “holy mountain” of chip manufacturing

Lauren Goode: Yes. This is what Kara Swisher calls “Assisted Living for Millennials”. Here-

Virginia Heffernan: Assisted Living for Millennials.

Lauren Goode: —at the tech companies in San Francisco. Yes.

Virginia Heffernan: It’s perfect. But I said, I said, “So wait, do they get any perks here?” to one of the employees in the human resources department. And they said, “Oh yeah. They get, let’s see, 10 percent off 7-Eleven and 10 percent off Burger King.” That’s another one they get, 10 percent off Burger King. I only love 10 percent. 10 percent!

Lauren Goode: By good old BK. And you drank the 7-Eleven coffee, and it was perfect, you wrote, perfectly drinkable.

Virginia Heffernan: It was perfectly drinkable, and especially knowing the guy got it for a 10 percent discount. I mean it was a dollar and it was 90 cents and I tasted every cent.

Michael Kalore: Pretty.

Virginia Heffernan: So the culture of absolute precision and obsession inside the factories and then this aesthetic that I called “Chabuduo” – it’s good enough whatever outside the factories. Nobody talked about the food. No one said where to get anything, where to eat. Nobody knocked me off my feet for a farm to table thing. It was just mediocre weird flatbread from Starbucks or that thing at 7-Eleven. I just got so used to it. I mean my luggage was lost anyway so I had to wear these clothes I bought at a mall and it was maybe an Old Navy-ish, seconds – the stitches were kind of wrong and I just gave in. I said, “Right, save your energy for the heavy thinking and heavy lifting and try to understand this technique and drop the lifestyle part of things.”

Lauren Goode: Meanwhile, American engineers would say that culture is more of a sweatshop.

Virginia Heffernan: That’s it. That’s what they said. We just opened, you probably know, TSMC opened a subsidiary, great fanfare, but Joe Biden has been there in Phoenix, Arizona, and it’s going into production next year and in Taiwan, again unofficially, I’m just like, ‘They will never handle it. They’re babies.” And as it’s happening, some of the training engineers are already saying, “This is a sweatshop. We can’t do it.” And there is a racist element in the description of “Oh, this work is so monotonous”. Well, it’s monotonous, like something monotonous is when you don’t hear well enough to hear the variety, the symphony in the note. And I feel like it’s a failure.

Lauren Goode: What do you mean by that?

Virginia Heffernan: Well, just as we cannot see the electrons and atoms that are the work of lithography, we cannot hear the rich variety and imaginative possibilities. i know i can’t I have to have them explained to me during atomic construction. Apparently to American engineers it looks like making an umbrella on a line when it’s no greater privilege, no greater privilege for them. I mean, they talked about their work, I’ve never heard people talk about their work like that. I mean, maybe like a poet or a painter who kind of makes a living out of it. no grudges These are billionaires. I said, “Where do you live?” And someone said, “Oh, I don’t know. A condo over there.” No lifestyle. One of the company bosses works in his church. A guy, another billionaire, who developed this particular photolithography had just repaired his own roof. He’s 80. They play tennis. They wear pretty much the same clothes every day, very light – just light, flexible, imaginative, fun, not rushed. I mean I went and went there and thought about Elon Musk as we all are. And I just walked away and I was like, “He’s just not an engineer. It’s not a technology company.” I can’t think of any of those guys saying, “This is my day. Being with my wife, checking on my kids, going to my church, and volunteering. Go study the face of God under a scanning electron microscope with someone else who is just as interested and know that I am doing the right thing. Play a few rounds of tennis with a graduate student and go home and fix the roof and then cook a nice meal.” In a pretty humble environment, and then there’s people with 10 wives who are marrying Grimes and are on Twitter, and we think –

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