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Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond The Age Of The Great Stagnation (2013)

Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation (2013)

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3.55 of 5 Votes: 3
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0525953736 (ISBN13: 9780525953739)
Dutton Adult

About book Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond The Age Of The Great Stagnation (2013)

I picked this up expecting something else. I thought I was getting something about the Great Stagnation (referencing another book of Cowen's I haven't read yet). I thought I was getting a contrarian take arguing why technology would not continue to explode in sophistication and why the future we faced was not defined by artificial intelligence. What I got was a book built entirely around the idea that our future will be completely defined by artificial intelligence.Put simply, this is required reading for every American, or, indeed global, citizen. Like Martin Ford's, "Lights in the Tunnel," "Average is Over" is about the impacts of the latest developments in information technology on our near future, based on reasonable extrapolation of trends. All I can say is: I hope Cowen is right. A peaceful, quiet future, with the vast multitudes as non-working poor living in shanty towns with lots of cheap entertainment as an underclass to a somewhat meritocratic and penetrable global elite with satisfying careers and enormous economic and political power is such a hopeful vision compared to so many that I read. That sounds a bit sarcastic, but I don't mean it to be. I can see a future for my daughter in that world, even if it isn't the best future I could have hoped for.The reason to read the book is not necessarily for the end game it suggests, but the advice it offers in how to think about work and skills and a career. Fundamentally, compliment the computer, don't compete with it. Cowen spends a lot of time talking about chess and uses it as a model to define this "freestyle" blend of man and machine producing success. I personally find it a bit optimistic to believe we will always have a complimentary role to play, but as I said, I hope he is right.In general, I think Cowen is overly dismissive of progress in artificial general intelligence (AGI) and the impact that could have on our lives and the economy, But, like I said, I hope he is right. I don't know, I don't know Cowen just seems sort of dim. Without any attributions that I can see, he talks the language of Kuhn (normal science) with even less awareness than, say, Kurzweil (at least Cowen is more intellectually awake than Kurzweil) that he is calling the question when he elaborates on the bureaucratizing of theoretical investigation. Hello, paradigm shift time anyone?Cowen has no awareness of when he's being metaphorical: "genius computers will see [what dim people can't]" Do telescopes see?His thoughts on what technology is doing to the economy seem simplistic to the max, rehearsing old Luddite rage against the machine from the positive side. I should have been alerted when I took the front-page Library book recs, when they paired him with "Marxist" Piketty. You can't depend on anyone to actually read what they recommend!On the one hand, the human mind is not a machine, and on the other Information Technologies aren't just the machines they run on either. Functionally, among many other things, they concentrate wealth faster and more efficiently than any accounting magic accomplished previously. They certainly have created new velocities for troll-hoards of "intellectual property" to slow non-titled thinking.But you'd have to have read Marx at least glancingly to get that capital is a social construct which sanctions power, and is not the accountable artifacts (wealth, machinery, property intellectual and otherwise) which are its instruments. Cowen thinks only in competitive terms. This become painfully clear when he continues the gaming model, drawing on his favorite metaphor, chess, in his treatment of education. He misses an entire body of research on expert practice which elaborates on what machines can't do.Education is fundamentally about induction to some discourse which allows sharing of mental acuity. It is very different from whatever mind-exercise confers puzzle-solving competitive advantage. It is mind sharing which defines humanity, and our collective progress. Sure, there will always be individualistic competition to be the best within whatever disciplinary boundaries, including chess. But standing out also defines the field out of which one stands, and without whose fellow workers, one could have done nothing at all. Naturally – a self-described conservative qua libertarian – Cowen is inclined to understand computing technology as a competitor for human labor inputs to the economy. This is although he does strive mightily to consider humans to be co-partners, challenged to enhance what the computers can never do alone. But he's got the direction between principal and partner reversed just simply because he's in awe of the wrong metaphor for mind.By his dismissal of the possibility for political struggle against what he deems inevitable, Cowen joins the likes of those who thought the debate about same-sex marriage was finished once the vote went against it. Conventional wisdom changes.The book should be read, in other words, to document one branch of mainstream thinking (however shocking one might consider the oxymoron "machine intelligence" to be) so as to be informed about fighting against it. There is nothing inevitable about the ascendancy of "highly motivated" people on the mystical basis of a sort of "merit" which even Cowen questions. Gamers don't always have to be the winners, on Wall Street or elsewhere. Odd really, that this kind of conventional wisdom should be considered informative about the cutting edge.

Do You like book Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond The Age Of The Great Stagnation (2013)?

Interesting ideas and concepts. The chess metaphor woven throughout the book was a bit tiresome.

Poor conservatives futurist. Pathetic and not worth your time

Slow, scatter-brained writing. Very boring read.

Poorly written. Hopeless.

Amazing read.

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