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Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation Hardcover – September 12, 2013


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Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation + The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies + Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult (September 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525953736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525953739
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Average is Over

“A buckle-your-seatbelts, swiftly moving tour of the new economic landscape.” - Kirkus Reviews

"Cowen has a single core strength...his taste for observations that are genuinely enlightening, interesting, and underappreciated." - The Daily Beast

"
A bracing new book" - The Economist

"Tyler Cowen's new book Average is Over makes an excellent followup to his previous work The Great Stagnation and I expect it will set the intellectual agenda in much the way its predecessor did." - Slate

"The author roves broadly and interestingly to make his case, outlining radical economic transformations that lie in store for us, predicting the rise and fall of cities depending on their capacity to adapt to this machine-driven world and offering policy prescriptions for preserving American prosperity." - The Wall Street Journal

"Audacious and fascinating." - The Financial Times

"Thomas Friedman - move over. There's a new guy on the block." - Tampa Bay Tribune

"Eminently readable." - The Brookings Institute

"Cowen has a rare ability to present fundamental economic questions without all of the complexity and jargon that make many economics books inaccessible to the lay reader." - The American Interest

 


Praise for The Great Stagnation

“As Cowen makes clear, many of this era’s technological breakthroughs produce enormous happiness gains, but surprisingly little additional economic activity” —David Brooks, The New York Times

“One of the most talked-about books among economists right now.” —Renee Montagne, Morning Edition, NPR

“Tyler Cowen may very well turn out to be this decade’s Thomas Friedman.” —Kelly Evans, The Wall Street Journal

“Perhaps it’s the mark of a good book that after you’ve read it, you begin to see evidence for it’s thesis in lots of different areas… it’s well worth the time and the money.” —Ezra Klein, The Washington Post

“Cowen says over the last 300 years the U.S. has eaten all the low-hanging fruit. We’ve exhausted the easy pickings of abundant land, technological advance, and basic education for the masses. We thought the low-hanging fruit would never run out. It did, but we pushed ahead. And thus Cowen’s understated but penetrating summation of the financial crisis: “We thought we were richer than we were.” —Bret Swanson, Forbes

"The Great Stagnation has become the most debated nonfiction book so far this year." - David Brooks, The New York Times

"Cowen's book...will have a profound impact on the way people think about the last thirty years." - Ryan Avent, Economist.com


Praise for An Economist Gets Lunch

“Part Economic history… part guide to getting a better meal at home or a restaurant. Renowned economist…Professor Cowen is an expert on the economics of culture and the arts.” —Damon Darlin, The New York Times Dining Section

“[a] Calvin Trillin-like ode to tamale stands and ethnic food, the more exotic the better” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times Book Review Section

“If one’s goal is to eat well, Mr. Cowen’s rules are golden.” —Graeme Wood, The Wall Street Journal

An Economist Gets Lunch is a mind-bending book for non-economists.” —USA Today Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

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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Customer Reviews

I found the book to be a bit short as I read it during a business trip but the author does make good points.
Matthew Dovell
The author, based on the above assumptions, posits that at least in the foreseeable future the bulk of the human workforce will not come out well.
Yoda
I think many of the points were very valid however a few pitfalls by the author made the last half of the book pretty painful to read.
Maine Thoughts

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Patrick M. Obriant on September 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tyler Cowen writes the terrific Marginal Revolution blog [...], teaches economics at GMU, and in his spare time writes books. In "Average is Over" Cowen examines the trends of the last 30 years including the introduction of smart technology, polarization of high and low wage earners, outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, wage stagnation. Cowen uses the prizm of chess, chess software, and chess software games as both analogy and predictor for future of how technology and technology / human interfaces will evolving and projecting these trends forward into the next 20 - 30 years.

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.
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108 of 128 people found the following review helpful By Someone is Wrong on the Internet on September 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The real insight here is that the key skill in our economy is and will be figuring how to use computers creatively, even if you don't work in "IT" as such. Cowen's paradigm example is "freestyle chess," which involves using sophisticated programs (or anything else you want) to figure out the best moves. Analogously, professionals rely a great deal on web searches to supplement their expertise, economists now focus on using computers to do creative things with data sets, etc. in my own job as a lawyer, I know I've managed to get out of some tight situations with a few Excel tricks and a knack for database searches. So, this part of the book seems about right.

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?
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50 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Steve T on September 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In Average is Over, Tyler Cowen describes a future in which smart machines help drive us beyond the technological plateau he has written about previously. Much of the book is focused on what jobs will be like in the age of "mechanized intelligence" and robots.

Cowen thinks the answer is that people and machines will collaborate. In the future, people with strong technical skills (programmers, etc.) will do well, but there will also be strong opportunities for people who can leverage smart machines in more general ways. The most important qualities for success will be conscientiousness and attention to detail and comfort with (and a willingness to listen to advice provided by) technology. The ability to use technology effectively as a marketing tool may be the biggest opportunity of all.

(For another perspective on AI/robotics and the future job market, see also The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future).

Cowen believes technology will also be used to intensively monitor productivity and maybe even assign ratings similar to today's credit scores. Those who don't do well from the start, may find it very difficult to recover. Freestyle chess is used to illustrate the type of machine-human teamwork Cowen envisions, and I found this very interesting, although I am not a chess player.

I found the book to be a bit depressing in some of its predictions. Cowen sees increasing inequality as many people are simply left behind. He also sees more very wealthy people. The top of the income distribution will gain even more influence, and won't support an expanded safety net.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Greg K afuso on October 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am shocked to read that many other reviewers think this book is a rosy vision of the future. In my 20's I read every single work of Kurt Vonnegut and the three books that have haunted me throughout my adult life were "Cat's Cradle", "God Bless you Mr. Rosewater" and "Player Piano". All through the reading of Mr. Cowen's, "Average is Over", the same uncomfortable feeling of dis-utopia seeped into my psyche, like Vonnegut's cautionary tales of a society which has forsaken humanism in exchange for personal riches and power. Why 'uncomfortable'? Because the book is so convincing as an inevitable conclusion, like witnessing a shopping cart make its way down a sloped parking lot and into the fender of a brand new car that some schmuck purposely parked away from other cars so it wouldn't get a door ding. And so, according to "Average is Over", in 50 years time the world will see that less will do more, and more will earn less. That an oligarchy of the rich will pacify the underemployed masses with video games, internet, televised sports and cable television. And the un-talented, un-loved and sick will get service jobs in personal care, will form twitter communities and receive subsidized healthcare. On the bright side there's a possibility that some big booboo of historical circumstance might happen to throw the Average is Over equation out of whack...like maybe one day when we might reach the cusp of being unable to sustain 10 billion people on this planet and trigger a Malthusian event that will hit the human race like 'Blue Ice 9'. So, if you are an 'X' like me with little kids, a good education, a good job, money in the bank and little debt, read this book, and see what you get out of it; Maybe you can watch the shopping cart roll down the hill and make sure it's not your car that gets hit.
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