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Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World Hardcover – July 9, 2009

3.1 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this provocative study of behavioral economics, Cowen (Discover Your Inner Economist) reveals that autistic tendencies toward classification, categorization and specialization can be used as a vehicle for understanding how people use information. Cowen spends a great deal of time dispelling autism's societal stigma, arguing that mainstream society is reaping benefits from mimicking autistic cognitive strengths. As stimulating as is the premise, the book often feels like its own long exercise in categorization, with each chapter an analysis of the human mania for classification (e.g., the obsession with ranking achievements and endeavors). According to Cowen, human brains are constantly absorbing bits of information that get smaller and are delivered faster as technology advances. The more information people receive, the more they crave—this shorter attention span is far from a flaw to the author, but a liberating mechanism that allows humans time to contemplate more ambitious, long-range pursuits. The relentless analysis is occasionally overwhelming, but Cowen's illustration of our neurological filing system may help readers understand the mass consumption of information and just about everything else. (July)
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"Patrick Lawlor tackles this study in behavioral economics with ease." ---AudioFile --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton (July 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525951237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525951230
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,332,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This was somewhat of an odd book for a couple of reasons: first, based on the title, I was expecting something on the order of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich or The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked- 21st Century Edition; in other words, a book that gave advice on how to exploit the new economy (create your own economy) to prosper (the path to prosperity in a disordered world). The book is not about either of these. What the book is actually about is hard to pin down, however.

If I understand Cowen, creating your own economy is what you can now do in the world of the internet and new technology, where the number, diversity and accesibility of goods and services has sky-rocketed, particularly those goods and services related to the production of information. You can today decide to listen to very select songs on your I-Pod; read only blogs and receive feeds that suit your very unique tastes; and participate in online groups and activities that also satisfy your own individualized, quirky and even eccentric tastes, all at a fantastically reduced cost and ease of access. At the same time you can contribute to this hyper-personal economy by adding goods and services to it via your own input and participation, like by writing book reviews on Amazon.com, I suppose. As far as I understand it, that's what creating your own economy is about.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tyler Cowen should have followed his own advice and reduced this meandering 228 page book to a 6000 word essay.

What exactly is this book about, and what has it got to do with economics? The main thread of the book is that "autistic cognitive style", by which is meant an ability to focus on details and ordering or arrangement bits of information, is an under appreciated virtue. Cowen suggests that most formal education is about inculcating that approach anyway. Cowen further suggests that a number of real and fictional people (like Sherlock Holmes) are extreme users of that cognitive style and have been very successful. What is the connection with economics? Very little indeed. Cowen touches upon behavioral economics, mainly to suggest that Adam Smith, the father of modern economics might have been a tad autistic and that autistics are less prone to make irrational choices. As regards how to use this style to make a living, well Cowen doesn't have much to say about that, although as a self-diagnosed "autistic" he makes a good living as an economist.

Firstly I do not buy the idea that people who are good with ordering their universe must have an autistic cognitive style. This presumes that people cannot use this style for work and other styles for other activities. There are an awful lot of scientists and engineers who are very good at what they do, yet would not be characterized as being more autistic overall than the average person in the population.

Secondly, does this idea of autistic style actually translate into something useful? While there is a lot of talk about the value of data analysis, to a large extent much of it is relatively easy to do, and hence automate. This means that jobs in this area will be transferable to low wage countries.
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Format: Hardcover
As other reviewers have noted, this book is difficult to summarize. Prof. Cowen insightfully touches on topics ranging from Adam Smith, to contemporary classical music, to facebook. Unlike some books that present one idea in the introduction, then repeat it endlessly, nearly page in prof. Cowen's book contains something new and thought-provoking. I found it difficult to put down.

Most exciting for me was the idea that internet, far from making us more impatient, may allow us to assemble long and valuable narratives from 'small bits'. This idea changed how I think about my time spent online. Rather than feeling vaguely guilty about the time I 'waste' reading blogs, I am thinking about the stories that each individual blog post adds to.

Cowen's notes that the internet (and computers, ipods, etc.) are exceptionally good at helping us to organize information. Intriguingly, Cowen argues that this may in a positive sense be making us all more autistic. Far from a being a distraction, the internet may be enabling us to appreciate culture in individual ways that were not previously possible. (For the economists out there, you need to read the book to see how much of this is explained by the most important theorem you've probably never heard of: the Alchian-Allen theorem.)

Whether or not you agree with all of Cowen's arguments, this book is likely to make you see the world - and yourself - differently. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
After Discover Your Inner Economist, I was really looking forward to this book. I found it to be very self indulgent, with a lot of Cowen's views on autism and not much on economics. I found the linkage to be tenuous at best. Why does the reader have to wade through 14 pages about why Sherlock Holmes, a fictional character, was probably autistic? I'm sorry. I really tried to connect the dots from the author's point of view, but I was ultimately unsuccessful.
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