Who Prospers in the Age of Smart Machines?


The insightful Tyler Cowen has studied the way technology can radically change a wide variety of industries — how smart machines might displace human beings.  But rather than focus on the typical piece predicting the future of work, Cowen penned an intriguing Op-Ed which tries to imagine what sort of characteristics people will need to prosper in a world where machines might just be smarter than they are.

His thoughts are refreshing, unpredictable and appropriately disarming.  For example, he writes:

PEOPLE WHO LISTEN TO COMPUTERS: Your smartphone will record data on your life and, when asked, will tell you what to do, drawing on data from your home or from your spouse and friends if need be. […]

Take your smartphone on a date, and it might vibrate in your pocket to indicate “Kiss her now.” If you hesitate for fear of being seen as pushy, it may write: “Who cares if you look bad? You are sampling optimally in the quest for a lifetime companion.” Those who won’t listen, or who rebel out of spite, will be missing out on glittering prizes. Those of us who listen, while often envied, may feel more like puppets with deflated pride.

Cowen has a new book, Average is Over, which describes the influences which now mold the US economy — one that now creates primarily low-paying jobs and yet both has and makes more millionaires and billionaires than any other nation.  That we are moving from a normal to a bimodal distribution curve is a sobering thought — so if you want the lighter side, you can see Cowen interviewed by TechCrunch, or imagine what he’s like eating lunch – something no smart machine would waste time doing.