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Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation Hardcover – September 12, 2013
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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
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.
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.Read more ›
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?
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.
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. Cowen does not foresee a popular uprising because the country is getting older. So what happens to the people who are left behind? Low cost living arrangements will evolve, perhaps even shantytowns or tent cities (which we have already). Public services will be substandard but homes will be cheap.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Three things to know --
1. The average is over - Cowen introduces the idea your either a winner or a loser. Read more
The book is already outdated. Some of the examples of technology from 2011 are laughable. And, every analogy being about computers playing chess got old really quickly.Published 3 months ago by Brian D. Hight
Like most reader mentioned here, the first and last part of the book is where the meat is at, Mr. Cowen had some very sharp findings of how a stagnate economy is producing some... Read morePublished 4 months ago by hellolin
Makes many good points on the future of work, but could have been shorter and still gotten the point across.Published 5 months ago by kedar iyer
Key message is that people that learn to interact with intelligent machines will own the future. Read more
This book explains well what is going on in today's nutty USA for those of us who work for a living (or will be working) and can't make sense of it. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Amazon Customer