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The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-first Century

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  551 ratings  ·  79 reviews
None of us has ever lived through a genuine industrial revolution. Until now.

Digital technology is transforming every corner of the economy, fundamentally altering the way things are done, who does them, and what they earn for their efforts. In The Wealth of Humans, Economist editor Ryan Avent brings up-to-the-minute research and reporting to bear on the major economic que
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by St. Martin's Press (first published April 26th 2016)
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Tom LA
Nov 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I know there are many dedicated people who work there, but if there is a magazine I honestly can't stand, it's The Economist. I must have stopped reading it about 8 years ago. Every now and then I get a copy for a check-in: the unbearable lefty smugness, the moral superiority, and the way they offer idealistic and breathtakingly vague solutions to every problem are still there.

However, I like to think I have a fairly open mind. And in fact I think that, despite being a loyal employee of the mag
David Huff
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
A fine read, recommended by my good friend Graeme; I enjoyed this one on Audible. Ryan Avent, a Senior Editor with The Economist, has presented a well-researched and eye-opening account of the broad and transformative impact of the "Digital Revolution", on the job market, careers, established businesses, entrepreneurs, and much more. The advent of computers, robotics and all things technological is already eliminating jobs (like assembly line work, one of many examples) formerly done by humans, ...more
Graeme Roberts
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: David Huff, Ramo Essawi, Gordon A. Rogers, Stacey Willard, Peter Womersley, Roslyn Gross
Human jobs are disappearing faster than ever, as automation and artificial intelligence move from mechanical tasks into management, knowledge work (lawyers, accountants and doctors are not exempt), and even the deep, creative thinking thought to be the exclusive province of genius and executive. What will we do with ourselves?

Ryan Avent would not presume to foolishly predict the future, but he gives us economic tools to consider how automation will change the lives of people in all social strata
Tom Steinberg
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a very good, disturbing book. I agree with Avent's thesis that we are in a new industrial revolution, with them-there chips and software and all. Turns out that makes most of us redundant, though maybe you are very smart & clever and hooked into a winning corporate culture or at least born in the USA or some other wealthy country. For sure, them that has, gets, and they will keep it, too. Therefore there is considerable trouble ahead unless the world gets lucky -- or, wouldn't it be nice ...more
Daniel Frank
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
I was very excited to read this book but felt quite dissapointed. Ryan tries to be a poor man's Tyler Cowen, but falls short. The Wealth of Humans is about an important subject, but glosses over many important concepts and fails to introduce anything new or interesting. In theory, this book targets those unfamiliar with the topic, but in practice, most people who read this book will know most of its material already.

So if you don't read a lot about economics, it might be a great introduction; bu
Haaris Mateen
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Based on coffee table wisdom in many places when it considers serious empirical questions and resolves them using unrealistic bare bones models. The best chapter for me was the one on Secular Stagnation which was a succinct description of what that concept essentially means, and implies for the world. It's a very good introduction to the facts and debates surrounding the future of labor in the face of automation and for that I would recommend the book. ...more
Laurent Franckx
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Unless you have lived the last five years under a stone, you are very probably aware that advances in artificial intelligence have led to achievements that were considered impossible just 15 years ago, including cars that are (well, at least most of the time) self-driving, computers that beat humans at Go or Jeopardy, image recognition systems that are better at diagnosing cancers than experienced oncologists etc. Book such as "Race Against The Machine" by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee hav ...more
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
A valuable, prescient book.

Can be a little tricky to follow at first. Part of this may be a Britishness this North Carolina born writer brings to the book (e.g mentioning "loos" rather than "bathrooms".)Or it could also be from a certain econ writer mode that, those who have been reading his current employer The Economist, might better understand.

It seems that all my life I've imagined that we were working towards, as a society, a world where all could live as one, something like the world of
Mar 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics, nonfiction
The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-first Century (2016) by Ryan Avent looks at how the author, who works for The Economist, thinks how work will change in the twenty first century. Avent, who works at for The Economist, thinks that many manual jobs may well be replaced by AI.

Avent, while recounting how he works at The Economist, thinks about how other people work when working at jobs that are not at The Economist. Avent got a powerful lesson as a young man, before workin
Andrew Carr
Oct 22, 2016 rated it liked it
The ‘current affairs’ shelf in bookstores is one of my favourite sections to browse. Though the topics are broad, the formula for the books is narrow: find a topic (big & well known, obscure but undervalued), synthesise 3 key themes, and add a subtitle such as “How XX can change the world”.

The Wealth of Humans by Ryan Advent will likely end up on the current affairs shelves in most book shops. But it’s an intriguing contribution that tries to break out of this simplifying formula.

This is a book
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, economics
The Wealth of Humans provides a solid introduction to the economic upheaval that will dominate the coming generation: the erosion of the job market by the march of technological progress, in particular by automation.

Avent describes the economic principles at work, why the incoming job massacre cannot be stopped by normal means, and how this contributes toward the economic in-group erroneously trying to "protect" their society from outsiders (a.k.a. Trumpism). Finally, The Wealth of Humans provid
Felix Nugee
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Best synthesis of the technological age and slowing productivity I've seen so far. The picture Avent paints is both somewhat dystopian and hopeful, I hope the right one comes through in the end. ...more
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my sort of economics text. It describes the world in which we live rather than the world of abstractions in which economists think that we ought to live. The author uses economic theory to explain the features of life, and he draws out attention to the limits of the theory, and the things which we just don't know. I liked the approach that uses theory to explain events, as opposed to using events to justify the theory.

The subject of the book is one over which there is much conjecture - t
Jonathon Martin
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
In this book, Ryan Avent attempts to explain why some countries are rich and getting richer, while others are growing more slowly or hit a ceiling. The new contribution is "social capital"...

The book is well-written - as one would expect from Avent - and it is full of interesting ideas. He has grappled with the issues and avoids easy prescriptions for our troubles. That said, he does have a habit of going off into Economist territory, looking at some issues from the perspective of someone whose
Avent argues that we have barely begun to feel the disruption of the Digital Revolution. That it will shift, shape and change our political and social landscape.

Why I started this book: I have lots of audio books waiting to be listened too... this is the one that I grabbed.

Why I finished it: Looking at the digital revolution thru the lens of the Industrial Revolution to predict future political and social upheaval was interesting and thought provoking. I cringed at some of his predictions and so
The American Conservative
The economy is slowly going digital, workers are losing bargaining power, robots will take all our jobs eventually, and there’s a whole cottage industry of books exploring the various implications of these facts. Race Against the Machine. Rise of the Robots. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy. Average Is Over.

Ryan Avent’s The Wealth of Humans comes not to join these books, but to render them unnecessary. On page 16, after noting all the titles
Graeme Newell
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible
What a delightfully smart book. I found myself continually re-reading pages so I could properly ingest the concepts and observations.

The very essence of society’s contract with labor is being redefined as the waning of growth, globalization and artificial intelligence changes who wins and loses in our economic future. What becomes obvious is that the world has a daunting task ahead of it. Ahead lies granular changes every bit as ground shaking as the renaissance and the industrial revolution.

Tom Plaskon
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book starts off with a good overview of recent economic history. Then it discusses how wage inequality has risen since the 1980s. One of the most original parts of the book looks at the affects of rising inequality on national politics. The book also examines how zoning policies that prevent densification cause house prices to rise and force the middle class out of highly productive large cities further exacerbating inequality. The book spends a lot of time investigating social capital and ...more
May 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
Anyone who has been diligently paying attention to the news about economic developments regarding the future of labor probably won't learn a ton from this book. That said, the section on "social capital" -- by which Avent appears to basically mean culture -- was kind of interesting. Avent's concluding call for redistribution to offset inequality isn't very sophisticated, basically saying we should do it because it is morally correct in his opinion. Personally, I don't find inequality per se to b ...more
Wendy Liu
Torn on this one. I think the author's heart is in the right place, but he takes the standard liberal approach of not doing enough to question the fundamental tenets of the economy even though the entire book makes it clear that we need to. This is not a radical, or even particularly critical, take. Those on the political left (especially the far left) will find little in the way of compelling policy proposals or explanations.

On the other hand, he's a lucid and convincing writer, and this book m
Bridgett Brown
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
This would be a good book, if you are not at all familiar with economics. The Author has a clear opinion about this subject.
This is not a political book. It's more of a philosophy of economics & society book. I really thought this book was more a intro to Economics. The book was well written. But might bore a person well versed in the subject.
Muness Castle
A great discussion of politics, economics, capital and labor. If you're keen on learning about the impact of NIMBYism, inequality, globalization, the sharing economy, immigration or education I recommend this book. Not my favorite narration but it was good enough. ...more
Abhijeet Lele
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for every economist, OB and HR professionals. The book is written on the intersection point where the economy meets humans.
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book justifies why journalists often have to deal with a maximum word count. It’s quite tedious and lacks focus. What point is the author trying to make?

Maybe due to my earlier readings on this subject, but this has been one of the least insightful things I’ve read the past year.
Kim David
Jul 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
I had to stop reading since there was no fresh/deep insight or worthy parts of information. The way of writing, is more similar to column and I've noticed in context that there are too much irrelevant information which not related to subject. ...more
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recently-read
"machines are much better at becoming smarter than people are" ...more
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Clear and insightful, Avent's book addresses the currently emerging trends in technology, the economy and the political scene. Worth reading soon, because much of what he describes is so current. ...more
Catherine (literaryprints)
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
"No one deserves to be poor. No one deserves to be arbitrarily rich. Rich societies can find ways to justify their great wealth relative to others: their members can tell themselves stories about the great things they did that others could not have done that made them wealthy beyond imagination.

Alternatively, they could recognize the wild contingency of their wealth, cultivate human empathy, and do what they can to extend the wealth of humans to everyone."

The title of this is perfect and nuanced
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
For a book that's heavy on economics talk, I blazed through this. Looking back on it, it's hard to summarize all the different ideas but the gist of it is what I got from a Reason magazine article that clued me into its existence: Human labor is becoming less and less valuable and we're going to have to figure out what to do about that.

The book reinforced a thought I have all the time which is: Our lives are ridiculously charmed and easy thanks to the advances of the past few centuries. I poke a
Sandeep Chandrasekhar
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book does a very nice job of explaining the current state of affairs in the world economy. How technological progress, automation and globalization have contributed to an excess labor supply, which has left more people out of work and created an increased political tension all over the world. Mr. Avent continuously refers to the abundance of labor and draws the fine line between output per worker (productivity) and balancing human labor with automation in the digital economy.

Ultimately, the
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