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Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation
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Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,963 ratings  ·  208 reviews
Widely acclaimed as one of the world’s most influential economists, Tyler Cowen returns with his groundbreaking follow-up to the New York Times bestseller The Great Stagnation.

The widening gap between rich and poor means dealing with one big, uncomfortable truth: If you’re not at the top, you’re at the bottom.

The global labor market is changing radically thanks to growth a
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 12th 2013 by Dutton (first published January 1st 2013)
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Brendan Shea
Nov 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: economics
I suppose I should preface this (largely negative) review by saying the obvious: Tyler Cowen seems like a perfectly competent economist and all-around smart guy, and I occasionally enjoy reading his blog (Marginal Revolution). However, I didn't find much to be impressed with in this book, especially given its reputation as one of this year's "big books" in philosophy-politics-economics. My thoughts:

1. For a book that is supposed to explain rises in inequality, it relied way too much on questiona
Jul 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Moved to ...more
Andrew Martin
For a book positing the end of the average, Cowen's most recent work is surprisingly mediocre. To be frank, as a fairly devoted Marginal Revolution reader and an enormous fan of Cowen's thinking, I expected a lot more. Digressive and chatty, but not in a good way; Cowen never puts together anything more demanding than what you might read in a Sunday opinion column. Far too much of the book is devoted to the intricacies of freestyle chess -- whatever the strength of that metaphor, Average is Over ...more
Max Nova
Dec 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
In many ways, Tyler Cowen’s “Average is Over” is the book I should have written 2 years ago. In my Grand Strategy class final paper (“Societal Implications of Pervasive Automation”), I traced many of the same threads that Cowen does - from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Player Piano” to interviewing Martin Ford of “Lights in the Tunnel”. Brynjolfsson and McAffee’s “Race Against the Machine” actually came out 2 days before I submitted the paper. Anyways… all that to say that we’re generally on the same page bu ...more
Craig Werner
Jan 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
The rating's for the perspective, not the execution. If you're looking for a clear, unapologetic articulation of the Hayekian economic vision applied to contemporary conditions, this is the book to read. Cowen writes clearly and projects an affable personality. In fact, I recommend that everyone who shares something like my political perspective read this book so you know the smart version of what we're up against.

Cowen's central themes are clear:
1. We're entering, or perhaps already well into,
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Disappointing. It felt like a long-form essay stretched, to its detriment, into a book. I intuitively agree with many of the ideas Cowen puts forth, but for a book envisioning the economy of a technology-centered future, it is fairly weak on technology. The only technology he addresses at any length is computerized chess. It's interesting, but positing that the world will follow the lead of chess does not strike me as the strongest of proofs. ...more
Kaethe Douglas
Sep 12, 2013 marked it as stricken
I heard the chap on NPR this morning talking as if "income inequality" were some sort of physical law utterly unrelated to social policy. I'd call him an idiot, but I think it's clear that he's pushing a particular flavor of economic theory that suits his department's funders, the Koch brothers. ...more
Charles Haywood
Apr 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Tyler Cowen is a popular economist, known for an influential blog (“Marginal Revolution”) and a set of books on economics directed at a general audience. In “Average Is Over,” a book from 2013, Cowen predicts an American future of increased economic (and thus social) division, as new technology enables those most conversant with it to profit, and forces others to be paid less as they become relatively less productive. This is a common historical occurrence, of course, where those whose skills ar ...more
Jan 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
I have to agree with some other reviewers who thought this book spent an inordinate amount of time talking about freestyle chess. When it came up as an example again and again, I began to just roll my eyes. That said, the last chapter, in which he wraps things up and kind of gives his predictions, was most interesting and plausible. His main point seems to be that people who understand machines (that is, computers) and can work with them to augment human capabilities will succeed in future jobs. ...more
John Devlin
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Engagingly written but as I read more of these type works that are supposedly so impressive, I’m struck by how ordinary their insights are or to put it another way everyone’s just writes science fiction.

And rather banal science fiction that’s a little deeper than Star Trek, absent even Treks rather two dimensional characterizations.

To my point, Cowen quotes science fiction writers, ancient ones like Kurt Vonnegut.

These so called experts’ knowledge of science fiction equates to a few 50’s masters
Nov 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: owned
Topic was interesting but the arguments and conclusions were pretty meh.
Aaron Arnold
Whether you agree or disagree with him, Cowen is always worth a read. He's widely read, eclectic in taste, and although a libertarian conservative, he has an admirable willingness to at least listen to opposing points of view (he doesn't always refrain from strawmanning, but more on that later). This is his followup to his 2011 conversation-starter The Great Stagnation, and it's both a look at the trends that will drive America's emergence from our current period of economic malaise and an engag ...more
Patrick F
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I devoured this in two sittings. I really like Cowen, through watching his conversations series on YouTube called well...Conversations with Tyler. He is a voracious reader and an interesting mind. His blog is a good daily read with myriad links and perspectives showcased.

While I don't exactly agree with everything he says in this book, most of what he concludes is hard to refute, imo. For instance, Cowen predicts more income and wealth inequality. However, some of the "los
Michael Huang
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I’m tempted to give this book a 5-Star rating, but it’s a bit too disappointing at places. The title, for one, is not all that comprehensible to me, even after the author explains the inspiration. The sub title is even worse. I confess I haven’t read his previous book and so there might be some clever tie-in there. But based on his title, a not so ridiculous guesstimate of the content would have been “some ideas to power America to some new height, you know, beyond the current age of stagnation” ...more
James Henderson
Tyler Cowen is a writer, blogger, and an economist. It is in the latter role that he is foremost although his influential blog, Marginal Revolution, is renowned and I would certainly recommend it. He has written five books, not counting textbooks, and his latest is Average is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation. While the title tells you about the main theme of the book I found that, beyond the economics of our current snail-like recovery from the depths of the recessio ...more
Scott Wozniak
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book on how the "average" lifestyle is fading away. It's never been a better time to be exceptional and wealthy--and if you don't get those skills or push yourself to do it, it will be harder than ever to enjoy an "average" lifestyle.

He talks about how we got here (from tech to culture changes). He talks about what it takes to succeed (self-motivation, conscientiousness, and interpersonal skills). And he even gives some very thoughtful predictions on where the economy will
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rick Harrington
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: capital
I don't know, I don't know Cowen just seems sort of dim. Without any attributions that I can see, he talks the language of Kuhn (normal science) with even less awareness than, say, Kurzweil (at least Cowen is more intellectually awake than Kurzweil) that he is calling the question when he elaborates on the bureaucratizing of theoretical investigation. Hello, paradigm shift time anyone?

Cowen has no awareness of when he's being metaphorical: "genius computers will see [what dim people can't]" Do t
Graeme Roberts
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read every book and article I can find about the effects of automation, including robots and artificial intelligence, on jobs and the way we will live in the future. Throw in immigration, outsourcing, and low-wage foreign manufacturing and the picture is even more complicated and uncertain. This is by far the best book I have read on this subject, largely because Tyler Cowen, an academic economist, is imaginative, highly creative, and polymathic in his knowledge. He makes credible and well-rea ...more
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Average is Over (2013) by Tyler Cowen is an interesting book about how things are changing in the world economy and that economic inequality will shoot up in the next decades. Cowen is an economist who also writes the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution.
Cowen’s thesis in the book is that the combination of people and computing power will make some people incredibly productive and also remove many middle class sustaining processing jobs. Cowen reaches this conclusion by postulating that ju
Nov 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Three stars for being average.

This book is about how much Tyler Cowen likes chess. No but really, chess is a good metaphor for what he is discussing, that is, machine intelligence and how machines will operate side by side with us meat bags.

First, try to understand what he means by average is over. Since WW2 we have lived in a very average world. General equality, everyone getting good pay and sufficient increases. Free or cheap education, housing and medical costs. Now I know some people will
P.Marie Boydston
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was unfamiliar with many current reads on this subject or author until a radio show on NPR interviewed Cowen on this book and later same week WSJ reviewed this title so I felt at least it deserved my further attention. It's very dense with chess references and chess analogies (which I have on my bucket list to learn), but concepts envisioned by Cowen's prognostications resonated with me as I have seen innumerable changes in technology during my career in legal field. I remember when not too lo ...more
Chris Johnson
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've read probably 40-ish books on economics. Maybe more, if you count college.

This is one of the best because it's USEFUL in understanding the world, and it describes what's likely to happen -in an exciting, yet non hyperbolic way. The gist is something we can easily see: there is going to be an increasing gulf between those of us that can work with (and direct) intelligent machines...and those that can't.

Still, the way the economy *is* remains important. This book feels correct (and its citati
May 20, 2015 rated it liked it
If you like esoteric examples of how chess is a model for our brave new world, this book has them, and annoyingly, in large numbers.

This book, to its credit, also has a fairly reasoned look at the future of work, and how to be successful given the ever-occurring Rise Of The Machines. The basic premise: The successful people are going to be the ones who can work side-by-side with intelligent machines. While this premise isn't terribly different from, say, current life (the one who can work with t
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm a fan of Tyler Cowen's economics-focused writing on his blog Marginal Revolution, and equally enjoyed this book. Cowen does a good job at synthesizing trends and patterns to describe how these point to a future in which 10-15% of Americans will live wealthy, high-standard lives and control the "smart machine/artificial intelligence" ecosystem that today is in its infancy. He elaborates upon the thinning out of the middle class, whereas the remaining 85-90% of the population will experience d ...more
Jan 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Ok book. The beginning and end were relevant to the premise but the midsection spent way too much time talking about computer-aided chess. Felt like the author was trying to pull a Gladwell and look at a single microscopic story and show how it relates to the overall theme and it just didn't work out that well. ...more
Jose Fuentes
Jan 26, 2014 rated it did not like it
Some of the themes here a probably sound, but unfortunately it's a bad book. A classic case of an economist using correlations to make up a story.

The whole thing can be summarized into: if you can program computers plus think critically then you will be fine. If you lack this skills then you are in trouble.
Velton Showell
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Great read for young and old. The ideas and concepts have made me think differently about the present and what is to come in the future. Everyone in a Leadership role or position should read this book. Dealing with individuals and teams is evolving and ever changing. Average is definitely over. It's time to give up good and go for GREAT! ...more
A bit of a mixed bag. There were a couple of solid, fascinating chapters on the implications of machine intelligence for the labour market (i.e. the central thesis of why the author believes that average is over), but the rest of the book went off in odd tangents and left me rather disappointed.
Daniel Frank
Oct 23, 2013 rated it liked it
he raises a good point worth discussing but the analysis of the issue isn't as indepth or insightful as I would have hoped. Lots of stuff that people are already going to know about and it gets pretty repetitive. ...more
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Tyler Cowen (born January 21, 1962) occupies the Holbert C. Harris Chair of economics as a professor at George Mason University and is co-author, with Alex Tabarrok, of the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution. He currently writes the "Economic Scene" column for the New York Times and writes for such magazines as The New Republic and The Wilson Quarterly.

Cowen's primary research interest is

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