Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation

Tyler Cowen, Author
Tyler Cowen. Dutton, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-95373-9
Reviewed on: 07/08/2013
Release date: 09/12/2013
Economist Cowen’s muddled follow-up to The Great Stagnation, is mired in the incantation that human intuition must be sublimated to computer algorithms if we are to overcome America’s dearth of innovation—which the author blames for our shrinking economy. He glibly dismisses chronic unemployment with the statement that these “regular losers” were going to become obsolete anyway, but the good news is that, in his cheerfully libertarian laissez-faire economic model, costs will plummet as automation eliminates workers, and corporations pass the savings to consumers. What is left for human workers is a vision in which they toil in submissive tandem with machines, providing their scant human abilities to augment the superior judgment of computers. Philip K. Dick could not have crafted a more surreal vision than Cowen’s picture of a Siriesque consultant directing our choices in everything from love to medical care. Unfortunately, Cowen relies upon chapter after chapter about computerized chess (“What Games Are Teaching Us”) as support for his arguments, and neglects to provide evidence of how anyone’s life will become better, or how prosperity can emerge from this approach. Agent: Teresa Hartnett, Hartnett Agency. (Sept.)