My *New Yorker* interview on *Average is Over*

It was with Joshua Rothman, here is one bit:

The whole narrative you unfold—intelligent software, human-computer cooperation, deferring to our smartphones—sounds very futuristic. Do you think we’re living through a historically unprecedented period?

I don’t accept the view that this new era is so different from every time in the past. Consider the industrial revolution, which starts in Great Britain in the seventeen-seventies or seventeen-eighties. For a long time, you had rising inequality, fairly stagnant living standards, a lot of problems adjusting. Of course, we did eventually get over it in the longer run, and it was much better for everyone. But it took, arguably, fifty or sixty years for us to make that transition. I think this future wave of inequality, which is already underway, will be a lot like that. It will take us decades to make the transition. Those decades will bring a lot of problems. But I think that in the much longer run—which is not what the book is about—it will be much more positive than it will seem during the transition era. I think this period fits quite nicely with historical precedent.

There is also this:

In the U.S., New York City is probably the most unequal place we’ve got. And I find it striking how many people believe, first, that inequality is terrible, and that this vision for the future is horrible, and, at the same time, think, “Oh, I love New York City!”

We already have places with extreme inequality, but life there goes on, and we don’t recoil in horror. The non-wealthy parts of New York are very vital, and have the best of humanity in them. We have intuitions [about equality and inequality] that are derived from American post-war history. I don’t want to dismiss those intuitions altogether, but I think we need to be more skeptical of them.


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