walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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To Succeed, Obey the Robots

jobs
Do what the robots tell you, and you’ll succeed. That’s one of the messages of Average is Over, the latest book from TAI board member Tyler Cowen. The book explores how America’s economy, culture, and politics will be transformed in age in which computers and robots can increasingly do a lot of traditional human tasks. Cowen has a piece in the Times adapted from the book, as well as a great interview with TechCrunch, explaining more.

The Times article breaks people down into two categories: those who will do well in the “machine economy,” and those who won’t. One of the categories here especially caught our attention:

There will be a lot more wealth in this brave new world, but it won’t be very evenly distributed because a lot of human labor won’t seem like a special or scarce resource. Capturing the attention of customers with just the right human touch will command an increasing premium. Don’t forget that Mark Zuckerberg was a psychology major in addition to being a tech genius. Sheer technical skill can be done by the machines, but integrating the tech side with an attention-grabbing innovation is a lot harder

What Cowen calls “the marketing touch” jibes with what we’ve been saying about the service jobs of the future. Cowen is right that technology will increase income inequality, which will leave the 99 percent with two choices: to “club” the money out of the one percent, or “charm” it out of them by offering services presented with a marketing flair. Like Cowen, we think the charmers will do the best in the new economy, and ultimately their success will improve quality of life for everyone.

[Classified ad photo courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I see the Luddites are alive and well.

  • Corlyss

    “to “club” the money out of the one percent”
    I’m betting that will be the Hobbesian preference because it’s a lot easier, as we have seen for the last 113 years, to do that, than it is to be innovated or charming. It’s human nature, don’t ya know, to take the path of least resistance.

  • Jim__L

    Would we actually have this problem with jobs becoming scarce, if America were still the land of the one-breadwinner, one-housewife household?

    For that matter, would places like Italy see their unemployment as a problem if those unemployed were monks and nuns, as they were in previous centuries?

    It seems like our perspective on labor force participation rates are a function of our societal expectations more than anything.

    That said, someone busy making houses into homes, or maintaining the traditions of Gregorian music (to say nothing of devoting their lives to serving God), is a lot more use to society than a slacker spending all day watching 1,000 channels of TV or playing Facebook games.

  • Jim__L

    Cesar Ritz vs. Robin Hood…

    Which one was a more productive approach?

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