Who Will Prosper in the New World?

by on September 3, 2013 at 8:04 am in Books, Economics, Web/Tech | Permalink

That is a new and short essay from The New York Times, adapted from my almost-out (Sept. 12) book, Average is Over: Powering America Out of the Great Stagnation.  Here is an excerpt from the short piece:

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. “You’ve thrown out that bread the last three times you’ve bought it, give it a pass” will be a text message of the future. How about “Now is not the time to start another argument with your wife”? The GPS is just the beginning of computer-guided instruction.

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.

Read the whole thing, interesting throughout.

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

dearieme September 3, 2013 at 8:16 am

“Read the whole thing, interesting throughout.” Well, I laughed.

Norman Pfyster September 3, 2013 at 8:58 am

Me, too. I bet mosquitos don’t bite him either, out of respect.

Andrew' September 3, 2013 at 10:44 am

The problem with mosquitos is they got no respect.

RZ0 September 3, 2013 at 9:29 am

Not as hard as I laughed. I already have something in my pocket that vibrates to indicate “Kiss her now.”

asdf September 3, 2013 at 10:16 am

Bravo

Yancey Ward September 3, 2013 at 11:39 am

New keyboard needed here.

asdf September 3, 2013 at 8:47 am

Possibly the gayest thing I’ve ever read.

Anonymous coward September 3, 2013 at 9:12 am

> 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.
No thanks.
> “You’ve thrown out that bread the last three times you’ve bought it, give it a pass” will be a text message of the future.
No thanks.
> How about “Now is not the time to start another argument with your wife”? The GPS is just the beginning of computer-guided instruction.
No thanks!
> Take your smartphone on a date, and it might vibrate in your pocket to indicate “Kiss her now.”
No thanks!!
> 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.”
@#$%^&*!!!

What is the point of living as the meat co-processor to a smartphone? Or, if you will, as the physical body of a 1000-multiply-schizophrenic autistic moron — which is what software really is?

JJ September 3, 2013 at 10:52 am

Because it makes your happier.

Anonymous coward September 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Possibly, for some values of “you” and “happier”. I happen to dislike these values.

Axa September 3, 2013 at 3:21 pm

It’s called demand. Even if you think it is the most outrageous and stupid think Tyler could have said, look at the present for one moment: http://www.nerve.com/entertainment/10-dumb-sex-and-dating-apps-for-your-smartphone

Anonymous coward September 3, 2013 at 5:13 pm

So what? Am I supposed to love it because people demand it?

fwiw September 3, 2013 at 4:11 pm

“you”, not “your”

-Your smartphone.

derek September 3, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Where have previous generations learned to navigate the treacherous grounds of relationships? I’ll list a few, then compare them to the smartphone. Movie stars. Parents. Priest or religious teacher (some never married hence experts I’m sure). School peers. Or I suspect most, by trial and error, making a fool of one self until two fools make the right mistakes.

Who was it that said about a piece of software that was being worked on that if it helps a guy get laid it will be extraordinarily popular?

derek September 3, 2013 at 10:15 pm

So I said, narrow the focus. Your “use case” should be, there’s a 22 year old college student living in the dorms. How will this software get him laid?

The link is http://www.jwz.org/doc/groupware.html

Anonymous coward September 4, 2013 at 2:11 am

As I said, a meat co-processor. Will the software also get him married, bring up his children and not get him divorced?

Anonymous coward September 4, 2013 at 2:54 am

What kind of a future does a nation of iphones’ tamagochis have?

spandrell September 3, 2013 at 9:16 am

So it all comes down to constant surveillance and cheap chalupas.

Start with making your books cheaper.

Athrelon September 3, 2013 at 9:26 am

No need, since he’s skilled at marketing!

Axa September 3, 2013 at 9:21 am

“We’ll need a new name for the group of people who have the incomes of the lower middle class and the cultural habits of the wealthy or upper middle class.”

Some people on the NYT site said “bohemians”, i’d just say “young freelancers”, my generation. Freelancers dream about creativity, but their most valuable asset is being young and attractive. They think they hacked the “system”, but the only thing they accomplished is loosing one of the little gifts from XX century: employed-sponsored retirement plans. What will happen with them when we get old and young people offer to do the job cheaper and faster?

Eric S. September 3, 2013 at 9:55 am

These people are called trustafarians.

Axa September 3, 2013 at 11:01 am

Hahahaha, but trustafarians DO have money. Not as the typical urbanite that complains why a doctor gets paid in cash immediately and why a graphic designer has to do a lot of calls before he sees a check.

Al September 3, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I find it pretty hard to believe that these people will successfully spread the idea that working for someone else full time is an abominable idea. It just sounds totally unrealistic. People go to work for someone else full time because they have no other opportunity to make such an income (without the risk of committing various crimes, which risk they cannot tolerate), and because they do not find the cultural habits of the wealthy enjoyable.

These Brookylinites and eastern Berliners will always remain a small sliver of society.

Andrew' September 3, 2013 at 9:24 am

Self-recommending!

mike September 3, 2013 at 10:41 am

literally, in more ways than one

markets in everything, the culture that is there is no great stagnation

Luis Pedro Coelho September 3, 2013 at 9:37 am

Self-recommending.

Andrew' September 3, 2013 at 10:44 am

As I always said, the obvious needs to be said, and often resaid.

RV September 3, 2013 at 10:26 am

Good that you find your own writing interesting throughout.

Nate September 3, 2013 at 10:30 am

Why is someone with Asperger’s writing about social situations?

JJ September 3, 2013 at 10:54 am

What specifically makes you think someone with Asperger’s is more biased about social predictions rather than less biased?

Anonymous coward September 3, 2013 at 1:57 pm

You’d do fine as a stand-up comedian.

robP September 3, 2013 at 10:51 am

Sounds like Tyler has been reading about “Game” (e.g., Roissy). Still, annoying that he is white-knighting re: “lifetime companion.” C’mon Tyler, embrace the “soft harem” — the only way for a man to live in the modern world!

Andrew' September 3, 2013 at 10:59 am

The input problem will (may) always be with us. It’s a pain in the arse. I think I’ll get the “kiss her now” from her lib gloss company, and at best the bluetooth pheromone detector, but probably not from a calculation of my past success.

The problem with the NSA is not that they will be too effective at what they are saying they are trying to do.

Morgan Warstler September 3, 2013 at 11:06 am

Grateful that Tyler learned enough about Internet tech to realize how silly Great Stagnation was.

Let him be lesson to all that argue old dogs can’t learn new tricks.

Azar September 3, 2013 at 11:23 am

I am glad you posted this Tyler… now I know which book I will not buy. I read the whole piece and it is dreadful

dan1111 September 3, 2013 at 11:53 am

It only took me five minutes to write a program that constantly texts me “Now is not the time to start another argument with your wife” over and over.

Your Wife September 3, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Why did it take you 5 minutes? Carol’s husband wrote it in 4 minutes.

dan1112 September 3, 2013 at 2:13 pm

What? Well let me tell you… Oh wait, I just got a text. Hmm. Never mind honey.

Marie September 4, 2013 at 11:09 am

That was beautiful.

Dave September 3, 2013 at 11:53 am

I live in Williamsburg and I don’t understand your point about the neighborhood. It is rapidly gentrifying with real estate prices almost on par with Manhattan. Perhaps its older residents are lower income, but current residents and future residents are anything but.

bob September 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I agree. This sounds more like what popular magazines report about Williamsburg vs what it actually is. Everyone I know that lives there is trying quite hard to make a middle class living or better.

guest September 3, 2013 at 8:55 pm

dont take it so personally, Tyler’s ‘favorite Korean actress’ is the Canadian Grace Park. When you shoot form the hip as often as he does, you are bound to miss a lot of shots.

Nicholas Weininger September 3, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Tyler, this is a nice article and makes me want to read the book, but your “kiss her now” example strikes a sour note. I’m sure you didn’t intend this, but the way you set it up reads as reinforcing the cultural stereotype that tech users are always (straight) men and women the objects of their gadget-enabled actions; and unfortunately, many women in tech-heavy subcultures have reason to fear rather worse than “pushiness” from men seeking to kiss them unprompted, and might well be creeped out by the idea that their date’s phone would give them such advice. If there’s still time, you might consider a pre-publication revision.

Josh M September 3, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I’m not sure the median reader of this site is familiar enough with your source material to get this excellent satire.

Al September 3, 2013 at 12:27 pm

“It was the 1960s, a peak era for manufacturing jobs and the American middle class, that brought so much social turmoil and unrest. The more that work is done by machines, the less compelling is the case for putting your manufacturing in a distant country where wages are low.”

I really don’t get this statement.

It might be a teeny tiny bit less compelling because of the risk of social turmoil and unrest, but this sure seems like a completely insignificant consideration. We want manufacturing jobs in America is so that some of the people who live in America can earn money in America for creating some of the products which are sold in America. Please tell us who is worried about the social unrest which might follow from having additional manufacturing jobs in America.

derek September 3, 2013 at 10:26 pm

I remember as a young man still in high school seeing tear gas being dropped from a helicopter onto striking and rioting workers a block from my home. The labor unrest in union organized manufacturing was real. The aluminum smelter that employed these folks had 6 thousand employees, much manual labor moving materials around. It was dangerous and dirty work. The plant was built in the late 30’s to produce aluminum for the war effort. The labor disputes were bitter, violent and long. The plant was replaced with one that employed a fraction of the old one, all the while increasing production. It is still unionized, but the ability of the company to make 5 out of 6 workers redundant seemed to establish something when it came to labor relations. A similar dynamic happened in the lumber industry where I live now. It at one time employed huge numbers of people, now a mill that produces substantially more has a handful of people. Even organized into a union, 6000 or 600 is a large and powerful political and economic force. Shrink that down to a few hundred or tens and the power shrinks, even if they maintain the ability to shut down the mill with a strike.

Dan Weber September 3, 2013 at 12:36 pm

In Elizabeth’s Moon Vatta series, powerful computers have shrunk to about the grain of rice and there is (somehow, this is the hard part) a good brain-computer interface, so just about everyone has “implants” that guide them along their day.

(There are just about required for the military — but the military academy forces all students to have their implants taken out and to study without them during their enrollment, because they need to be able to function well without them.)

I’d love one of them. It could tell me, for example, exactly when and how much food I should be eating; when to go to sleep and wake up; track notes for me throughout the day; remind me of all sorts of occasions.

Tyler Fan September 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I didn’t think I was going to read Tyler’s book. From the title, I assumed it was some jeremiad claiming our children would plunge into the permanent underclass unless we bulked up on STEM. But it seems more fun than that.

Thank you for posting links to B&N and others. The other day I was ordering a bunch of books off B&N and all the prices were the same as Amazon and there was free shipping on orders above $25, just like Amazon. Only the sales tax (soon to affect Amazon too) made the final price slightly higher than Amazon’s.

I realized my dependence on Amazon was twofold: 1.) all the blogs/websites I read are Amazon affiliates so their links automatically take me there; and 2.) the network effects of my wishlist (which I use solely to remember books).

It made me think 1.) B&N needs to consider a marginal increase over what Amazon pays its affiliates and 2.) B&N needs to develop (or advertise better) a way of exporting all the items on your Amazon wishlist to B&N.

Tiger Tanaka September 3, 2013 at 12:51 pm

You have no idea how difficult life really is and the kinds of issues people face on a day to day basis

Andrew' September 4, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Life is difficult for most everyone, fractally speaking.

Edward Burke September 3, 2013 at 1:39 pm

If the only people to prosper in the new world are those with smartphones, then taking a smartphone on a date looks to become an exclusive venture, in which case emphatically kissing the smartphone for all of its wonderful capabilities looks logical as long as saliva doesn’t disrupt the circuitry.
Note how reliably dining expenses plunge: there’s one advantage already! (without having to enjoy hearing the incessant taptaptap of your date’s keypad)

Master of None September 3, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I am confused why things will be more difficult for the “people who don’t need money”?

Matt September 3, 2013 at 2:40 pm

The shark has been jumped?

Jerome Turner September 3, 2013 at 6:32 pm

If Tyler’s excerpt is correct, then the probability of economists ACTUALLY getting laid just increased.

Maybe.

Bill September 3, 2013 at 10:30 pm

What if her Iphone is vibrating while yours is, and hers is saying: “I just talked to his Iphone and he plans to make a move. Pretend you are getting sick.”

But, hey, let’s just cut out the actors if they are going to blindly follow the Iphones advice, and have the Iphones plan everything. Sort of like an electronic matchmaker–aka “Fiddler on the Roof”

But, what will happen if your Iphone downloaded a virus and sinisterly directed you to do something you would later regret.

Would you be responsible? Could you sue Apple?

That should be in your next book.

Anonymous coward September 4, 2013 at 2:51 am

“Listen, my meat co-processor is starting to feel horny. You’d better bring yours over or both our scores will suffer.”

Hopaulius September 3, 2013 at 10:30 pm

On the one hand, your phone will be smarter than you in deciding when to attempt a kiss. On the other hand, “People with a marketing touch” and “Motivators” will excel in the new world, because computers aren’t very good at marketing or motivating. What is a first kiss but a marketing venture attempting to motivate the partner to kiss back and more?

CBBB September 4, 2013 at 6:10 am

Oh give me a break inequality is the result of some peole taking more advantage of ‘Big Data’ technologies? Come off it Cowen – so all those multimillionaire doctors and lawyers are just the result of people using cutting edge data technologies? Oh no it wouldn’t have anything to do with strict labour market protections for some and not others.

Andrew' September 4, 2013 at 11:48 am

He’s talking about drastic inequality. A surgeon is not primarily the beneficiary of labour market protections. Just look at what is involved in becoming a good surgeon and decide if you are interested in doing it? I’m not talking about a few years of biology, the MCAT, med school, residency, etc. that could be claimed to be at least in part an artificial protection. We are talking decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in apprenticeship. Likely neither are the drastically unequal lawyers who have carved a unique niche in some business. Real estate agents for sure. But since when has the drastic inequality not been either royalty or people exploiting the opportunities of new technologies?

Nikki September 4, 2013 at 9:16 am

MR’s best thread since Justin Wolfers’s Noguchi coffee table.

Jokes aside, I recently heard an IBM executive talk about the wonders of Big Data. He went on for an hour about the awesomeness of it all, how banks will take into account applicants’ social media profiles and computer setup when deciding whether to lend money, how your word processor will count the number of times you press Esc or Del when writing a paper for college, so your professor will know if writing well comes easy to you, and from there on to Minority Report and all the way to Ray Kurzweil, very exciting. There is a price to pay, he said: nobody will invest in you if they know you’ll die from cancer in three years, but overall society will benefit from informed decision-making.

That said, he personally is selective about when to get monitored and when not: for example, it can take him two hours to draft a one-page email for a VIP customer, which may mislead Big Data systems, so he gets off the grid to do the writing. But that’s an altogether different story, of course: it’s not that he is inefficient, it’s just that he wants to get every word exactly right.

So there’s that, too. Big data, huge data: layer the fundamental attribution error and basic caution on top and you are back to square one.

Marie September 4, 2013 at 11:06 am

My consolation is that human incompetence is increasing as data collection increases. I think it’s funny to figure some teacher is going to have the time or ambition to go into someone’s data to figure out how difficult writing is for him. As if he’d even care.

Andrew' September 4, 2013 at 11:49 am

Within the coffee table books about coffee tables genre I’m thinking about producing a Danny Thomas coffee table book.

mrmandias September 6, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Judging by the customized pop-up ads I’m seeing, and by my Netflix recommendations, Big Data has a ways to go.

David M September 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm

I see heteronormative gender roles won’t be changing in the future. That’s a pity.

Ricardo September 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Stop whining and act like a man.

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