On Google Play, where I bought this book, I wrote the following terse book review;
This is not a book that you understand in the first twenty pages.
The concept is pretty simple – boredom and a want of simplicity are keeping us from working with all of the tools we have to build a better world, a better economy, and a better life. However, the volume of detail Cowen goes into on just how that world might look is compelling, dangerous, and a little scary – but in a good way.
I’ve already recommended this to at least 3 people – and will continue to do so in the future.
The ability to work with and interpret for computers is a big deal – and it’ll continue to be bigger and bigger as computers get better. All those soft skills your councillors tried to foist on you will pay off, if they already haven’t. However they won’t necessarily just pay off with people – they’ll pay off with your ability to be the back-channel between those who understand computer work, and those who do not.
This is a core part of what Cowen is getting at, but the reasoning behind it is very important to understanding the why for why this interpretation is so crucial to developing personal and cultural economic success.
Bizarrely, while this is an economist’s book about computing, and it comes very clearly from a statistical thoroughness I can’t possibly recognize in a book review properly, Average is Over feels very much like a galvanizing agent for knowledge workers. It’s not going to teach you to handle margins, do statistics in any real way, or anything like that. What this book offers is an understanding – from a non-business point of view – of just why the rush in knowledge work is so meaningful, against the backdrop of “normal people living normal lives.” It’s also a fairly damning account of just why the middle class is evaporating – though, thankfully, the book has some things to say about why that’s not necessarily a bad thing either.
What I appreciate most, personally, is that Tyler Cowen is and behaves like a knowledge worker himself.
If you follow him on Twitter, or read the blog at Marginal Revolution, you’ll get a broader sense of what fuels Cowen’s work, and where his passion is; making life better through adding value to information, which should be the knowledge worker’s mantra.
Without becoming too exhaustive, I’ll leave some key thoughts I had from the reading of Average is Over – and hopefully they’ll either spark some discussion or urge you to read the book itself;
- The “average” being discussed is the middle class, without a doubt. Strangely, how I read this is that – and I’m nowhere near equipped to back it against data – there’s going to be far more room to get into the “have” category none the less, for those willing to do so. We’re not all going to like that, on both sides. Barriers to entry to the have-class are going to relate much more to personal effort in the future than legacy advantages.
- Elitism is OK, as long as it puts on a polite face. We see this in gaming culture all the time. Even the most staunch “git gud son” players of online games can be the best of people – if they understand, and have the soft skills available, how to manage their environments and the people in those environments. As a force for internal personal development, or even external encouragement, “good enough isn’t good enough” is actually really powerful.
- Median inflation adjusted income is dropping, have we compared this to an increase or a decrease in consumption? What gets me is that, if needs-and-expenses are also dropping, then inflation might be more related to wants. Again, we’re seeing that “effort” as above, may relate to force of will and personal austerity in some areas. Maybe people who don’t get the Apple Watch are the winners, in other words.
- Your data is your most valuable and irreplaceable currency – and I’ll probably talk about this a little more soon. Tim Cook (Apple) very recently threw a pooh-pooh at Google and Microsoft for making business out of people’s’ data. What’s interesting about this, as relates to the book, is the idea that aggregates most often trump individuals as far as big-enough-data is concerned, and oddly that makes us safer and not less secure.
There’s so much more here as fuel for discussion. What I’m electing to take away from the book en mass though is the idea that setting your expectations, and then learning how to back those expectations out toward reality, is a killer app in terms of thought technology.
Get Average is Over by Tyler Cowan on Google Play Books – or, you know, that other place that used to be nothing but books and now sends you toilet paper overnight.