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Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation Paperback – August 26, 2014
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“A lively and worryingly prophetic read… some of the most talked-about issues in present-day America… observations that are genuinely enlightening, interesting, and underappreciated”—The Daily Beast
“A book that is gripping policy makers in Washington… An engaging and eclectic thinker.” —The Sunday Times
“Cowen’s book represents a fundamental challenge.”—Wall Street Journal
“A buckle-your-seatbelts, swiftly moving tour of the new economic landscape.”—Kirkus
About the Author
TYLER COWEN is a professor of economics at George Mason University. His blog, Marginal Revolution, is one of the world’s most influential economics blogs. He also writes for the New York Times, Financial Times and The Economist and is the cofounder of Marginal Revolution University. The author of five previous books, Cowen lives in Fairfax, Virginia.
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Top Customer Reviews
Given the trends from today Cowen's "Average is Over" makes a strong and highly plausible argument for a likely American future. Perhaps even the most likely future.
The good news -
The already expensive, livable, and elite cities become even more so. For those self motivated, hard workers from anywhere in the world and nearly any economic background, the future looks extremely bright. Their tools and access to smarter training gets better and better. Online classes are easy to access worldwide. Smart technology gets smarter becomes "genius" but still works far better with people than without. Productivity (and wages) for these top 10-15% continues to increase. Even if you cannot work with "genius computers" managing, hiring, training, assisting, or coaching those who can will still be lucrative.
The not so good -
What does the rest of Cowen's America 2033 look like?
Older and poorer. Invest in micro housing and trailer parks in Texas. Maybe it won't be so bad. [...] or maybe it will be.[...]
Cowen correctly points out the huge pitfall in online education. "Online education can thus be extremely egalitarian, but it is egalitarian in a funny way. It can catapult the smart, motivated, but nonelite individuals over the members of the elite communities. It does not, however, push the uninterested student to the head of the pack." The remaining 85% stagnate albeit with access to cheap fun and cheap education. Many of the 85% will live quite well as they benefit from the near free services but others will fall by the wayside.
But maybe it does not have to be this way. Cowen himself points to a potential way out. Education has typically failed to motivate. And even the best online courses are probably even worse than most classroom teachers. "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink." There are however a few coaches who have demonstrated the ability to motivate. [...] I never met Coach Fitz but I certainly met mine as a lazy 8th grader on the football field in the form of a 5 foot 4 inch Woody Hayes disciple named John Short. Could this be bottled and taught? The future for your kids and the rest of us American 85 percenters may depend on motivators like these.
What the end of average will look like to colleges.
"It will be a brutal age of good schools and also mediocre schools undercutting each other in terms of price and thus tuition revenue. If it costs $200 to serve a class to another student, how long will it be before an educational institution undercuts a competitor charging $2,000 for those credits?"
This is a highly original book. I strongly recommend this especially for a high school senior or college freshmen.
While Cowen makes a good case for how humans will use the exponentially increasing computing power in the future to produce improved results -- think weather forecasting, auto manufacturing, chess playing, etc -- he never goes very deeply into how this dynamic will play out in the various countries and markets around the world. Nor does he spend much time thinking about how we might include more people in the "winning" category and "power America beyond" this coming worker stagnation. Maybe he is setting the stage for his next book where he gives this more thought. If so, Average Is Over could have been shortened by 100 pages and still conveyed the same message.
If only he had left it at that. Larded on top of this insight is a lot of rambling that just reiterates the insight over and over again. Even worse, Cowen indulges in a lot of weird futurologist speculations that will probably sound silly in a few years, like the hype about virtual reality in the 90s.
Cowen's main thesis -- soon, the haves will be super-productive computer virtuosos, and the have-nots will be everyone else -- is part and parcel of this futurology. My response is: who knows? For example, he doesn't really explain why the have-nots won't just redistribute away the ridiculous earnings of the computer virtuosos. He does mutter a few words about how it's hard to tax the rich, though he doesn't actually provide a review of the data. So, you're still left with: who knows?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
1. The average is over - Cowen introduces the idea your either a winner or a loser.Read more
Key message is that people that learn to interact with intelligent machines will own the future.Read more