My TechCrunch interview about *Average is Over*

by on September 4, 2013 at 2:41 pm in Books, Economics, Web/Tech | Permalink

It was done with the excellent Andrew Keen, here is part of their write-up:

…Cowen isn’t a dystopian and he doesn’t believe that smart machines are taking jobs from human beings. ‘The smartest and most successful people in the future, he believes, will manage the smart machines. And as these smart machines become more central in how we manage our education and healthcare, he says, “human psychology” – the art and science of motivation – will become increasingly valuable. This is what he calls “the next big thing.” In the future, Cowen insists, power will lie with the humans who partner with rather than own the algorithm. And in this age of the smart human/machine partnership, traditional algorithm-centric companies like Google will be old businesses – “like GM”, he predicts.

“Marketing”, Cowen writes in Average Is Over, is the “seminal sector for our future economy.” But Cowen’s intriguing definition of marketing lies in figuring out how to motivate people and to get them to feel better about themselves. Everyone in the future economy – from doctors to educators to entrepreneurs – will be coaches. But who is going to own the operating platform in the age of the smart machine? That’s the trillion-dollar question which even Tyler Cowen isn’t smart enough to answer.

You can pre-order my book on Amazon here.  On Barnes and Noble here.  On Indiebound.org here.  And from Penguin here.

Ray Lopez September 4, 2013 at 4:00 pm

So, does this mean chess master Tyler Cowen endorses centaur chess, which is a game of chess played between two humans but with the assistance of chess playing software? That is the “64″ -square $thousand question!

Andrew' September 4, 2013 at 4:28 pm

“which even Tyler Cowen isn’t smart enough to answer.”

I think he means noone is smart enough to answer. It might be discoverable. Go back and look at the winners. Find the losers. Compare investors.

Never too old to know everything September 4, 2013 at 6:17 pm

But who is going to own the operating platform in the age of the smart machine?

This sentence is the opposite of excellent, Tyler. You say the new future is motivating people and making them feel good about themselves; he responds, Yeah, right, so who’s going to be the Microsoft of that?

Benny Lava September 4, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Wait: Whom will these marketers be targeting? What sort of job will the mediocrities of the world have? That is the real trillion dollar question, not this piffle about selling healthcare and education. Sounds like you should stick to writing about food.

dan1111 September 5, 2013 at 10:07 am

Maybe you should stick to commenting about food. And by that, I mean food that you have actually eaten. Not food that has not even been released on Amazon yet.

Michael September 4, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Great, I’ll be sure to get a copy. I was fortunate enough to get a free review copy of Discover Your Inner Economist several years ago and Tyler might be interested to hear that my 13 y.o. daughter has read it three times. If you drew a Venn Diagram of readers of American Girl and readers of The Economist she is the person you would find at the intersection.

JWatts September 5, 2013 at 10:30 am

LOL, and kudos on raising a smart daughter.

Steve Sailer September 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm

If average Americans won’t be able to make much of living in the future, then, clearly, we must implement Open Borders.

Marie September 4, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I guess I’ll have to get the book to find out how the new economy will bring loads of money to people who can make other people feel good about themselves.

Can’t think of a single product past or present that has succeeded by doing that. The most successful are all about making people feel bad about themselves — you’re nobody without an X.

Frederic Mari September 5, 2013 at 8:41 am

Depends how you view the self-improvement industry…

“You’re feeling low, you’re not getting what you want… Buy this book and we will tell you how to feel good about yourself, how to get the job of your dreams or how to lose all that weight that keeps coming back”…

Marie September 5, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Exactly, you can make money promising people they *will* feel good about themselves, but you can’t make money in mass marketing teaching people to actually currently feel good about themselves.

prior_approval September 5, 2013 at 2:59 am

‘In the future, Cowen insists, power will lie with the humans who partner with rather than own the algorithm. And in this age of the smart human/machine partnership, traditional algorithm-centric companies like Google will be old businesses – “like GM”, he predicts.’

So, Google provides something called ‘Android’ – anybody ever heard of it? Google does not ‘own’ Android in the sense that Microsoft owns whatever it is Microsoft is doing these days. Which just might be why the majority of smartphones worldwide manufactured today use Android. One could argue that Prof. Cowen needs to go beyond Google’s insights – sadly, Groklaw would be helpful in understanding how this works. The site is no longer being updated (thank you, NSA), but the very success of Groklaw illustrates a principle that Google already understood, back in 2003.

‘“Marketing”, Cowen writes in Average Is Over, is the “seminal sector for our future economy.” But Cowen’s intriguing definition of marketing lies in figuring out how to motivate people and to get them to feel better about themselves.’

Wow – such a pithy description of modern America. Still the best satire site on the web.

dan1111 September 5, 2013 at 10:34 am

Due to email privacy fears, the owner of Groklaw chose to stop publishing public material on the internet (and can now only be reached at one of his two email addresses).

Should we blame the NSA or sheer illogic?

ladderff September 5, 2013 at 8:24 am

…Cowen isn’t a dystopian…

‘“Marketing”, Cowen writes in Average Is Over, is the “seminal sector for our future economy.”

The final triumph of bullshit cometh.

dan1111 September 5, 2013 at 10:12 am
Neal W. September 5, 2013 at 8:47 am

If this is true, woe to the introvert. Our fortunes will continue to decline.

fwiw September 5, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Yeah, it sucks, but I really don’t want to talk about it.

Justin Short September 5, 2013 at 10:04 am

I’m the CEO of a company (https://nous.net) doing what Tyler suggests, marrying algorithms with human talents. We crowd-source human sentiment on the financial markets* through a free game-like app. Despite being free, good players can earn money playing the app, thus incentivising honest predictions as well as creating a stronger reason to continue playing. Meanwhile we use that real-time sentiment feed to actually trade our own money, making a profit. Some of that profit is funneled back to the players’ earnings and the virtuous cycle continues. I’m very happy Tyler reached similar conclusions!

One other interesting aspect of our business model is the connection with MOOCs – we are after all, teaching thousands of people how to trade.

(* day-trading: humans predicting human psychology, which is what they are good at)

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