The Exigent Duality
Economic Mantra - 19:25 CDT, 9/04/20 (Sniper)
The point of a free market isn't to have competition: rather, the purpose is to deliver quality goods and services which meet the demands of consumers-- that's the first principle. Yet for a variety of reasons, people very often erroneously and unthinkingly push competition as the first principle, as if that's somehow the end goal!

The reality is that sometimes markets produce better outcomes with less competition.

The "Linux Tech Tips" guy, and others, have been weaving this tale: "Turing wasn't a big jump in performance over Pascal, because there wasn't any competition. But now with the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 peering over Nvidia's shoulder, Nvidia had to set their greed aside and actually deliver what they'd been previously holding back."

This is completely backwards revisionist history. What actually happened was this: because AMD was not competitive, Nvidia had the leeway to innovate with their Turing transistor budget, versus just deliver raw framerates. This lack of competition in the market is what got us real-time ray tracing, DLSS and so forth-- Nvidia even said so during the Turing unveil: I don't have time to re-listen to the entire presentation, but if you go back and play it, they discussed that because of their market position, they were able to take more risks on features.

In other words, had there been greater competition in the market, the outcome would have been worse for consumers: Turing would have been another boring straight performance increase, and real-time ray tracing would still be the distant, abstract dream it was for thirty years.

Now that Nvidia has laid the innovative groundwork, which they were able to do only because they had such a huge lead over AMD and were thus able to roll the dice on new features versus raw framerate grab, they are able to use the latest transistor count increase on pure rendering performance, building on top of the cool Turing architecture. And these Ampere framerate increases also, by the way, have nothing to do with "competition": it's just the next natural step for Nvidia's engineers to take, since the core architecture is set, and ready to be optimized and squeezed like a lemon.

The reason, by the by, ordinary people blindly push the "competition as a first principle" myth is because they are taught about the so-called "robber barons" and the "gilded age", and how if you don't have competition, greedy capitalists will rape and pillage the countryside, so to speak. The reason CEOs push the myth, is because they are losers in their given market segment due to poor entreprenurial choices, and got their lunches eaten-- so they start reciting the "there's no competition" mantra in an attempt to get the government's "anti trust" regulators to go after the market winner, i.e. the most competent market player.

I just saw this; very phenomenon in a 1992 "Computer Chronicles" episode in fact: you had the CEO's of Lotus, Sun, and Borland of all companies complaining about "wintel". Anyone who followed that show, episode-by-episode from the very beginning as I did, knows how bad decisions led to their downfalls, which incidentally had nothing to do with "monopolies". Just to name one example, "1-2-3 version 3" became a running gag on the show, it took so long to come out! And by the time it did, it was too late: market lead irrevocably lost to competitors with superior products.

None of this is to say that competition is irrelevant: it's generally a good thing, as it increases the supply of goods, creating downward pressure on overall prices. But to some people it's like a religion.