Thursday, February 2, 2017

Infrastructure Cuban Style

By Mark Cuban
Dekom: We are $2 trillion behind in deferred maintenance with an archaic and under-performing infrastructure that is literally falling apart. Water systems that leak billions and billions of gallons of valuable water, highways ravaged over time with insufficient capacity to handle existing traffic, dams threatening to crack and release tidal waves of water, levees about to fail, bridges about to collapse or continue to drop steel and concrete on those underneath, etc., etc.
But a man I truly enjoy – Mark Cuban, and he’s got more energy than a nuclear power plant –wants to make sure we understand we also need to build and rebuild our infrastructure for the future, not just based on past assumptions. Cuban, serial entrepreneur and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, blogger, and celebrity is more than slightly opinionated. He is focused on ensuring an American competitive edge which he feels is slipping away. I asked him if he’d be a guest contributor to this blog, and he suggested I use something from his own blog [12/18/16]. Shamelessly, I have. Here is what Mark has to say, and as expected, he presents a view that is uniquely his own:
I happen to be a fan of the government investing money into what is commonly called infrastructure projects.  I strongly believe that any reasonable businessperson, even one who works for the government, should be able to invest money at 1% interest rates and get a better than 2% return on taxpayer money. But I think it’s time to rethink how we spend a big chunk of that money.
If it were me spending the money, I would take 100 billion of the proposed $ 1 Trillion dollars [by Trump] in infrastructure investment and invest it in Robotics.
I would invest it in the companies that do R&D, software, and design for robots and every other facet of the Robotics Industry.
Unfortunately, none of the companies that actually make the robotics are based here in the USA. That’s a problem that needs to be solved.  We need to help develop domestic companies much like we did the electric car and wind and solar industries.  Even if it means trying to help pick winners.
We have to win the robotics race.  We are not even close right now.
A new report says China is spending far more on Robotics than we are. China, Korea, EU are offering billions in credits to support their robotics industry.  We spend about $100mm. That ain’t gonna work.
The good news, if there is any, is that according to the report China is only spending $ 3B dollars a year on robotics.   We need to quickly pass them by.
Why is this so important?  Because technological change always accelerates. It never stagnates over time. Which means we are going to face the fact that if nothing in the States changes, we will find ourselves dependent on other countries for almost everything that can and will be manufactured in a quickly approaching future.
We have to face the fact that countries are going to lose jobs to robotics.  The only question that needs to be answered is which country will create and own the best robotic technology and have the infrastructure necessary to enable it.
Right now it’s not the USA and that needs to change.
Our “infrastructure” spending should look forwards, not backwards so that we can be the robotics hub of the world.
He’s Mark Cuban, and in addition to fixing what really is broken, the United States has to figure out how to get back into technology-development leadership slot or forget about even having a future. Thank you Mark.

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