What I Learned From Average Is Over By Tyler Cowen

Date Read: 05/31/2018

How strongly I recommend it: 9/10

Basically as I go through any book that I read, I underline interesting ideas/quotes/paragraphs and then later come back through the book to get the lessons gleaned from these underpinnings and try to figure out what they mean to me and apply them to my own life.

 Here were the most interesting lessons in the book for me:


 In today’s global economy here is what is scarce:

  1. Quality land and natural resources
  2. Intellectual property or good ideas about what should be produced
  3. Quality labor with unique skills


Here’s what’s not scarce:

  1. Unskilled labor
  2. Money in the bank or ‘simple capital’ not attached to any special ownership rights.


Humans with strong math and analytic skills, human who are comfortable working with computers because they understand their operation and humans who intuitively grasp how computers can be used for other non-techie tasks like marketing. It’s not just about programming skills, its about developing the hardware connected with software, understanding what kind of internet ads connect with their human viewers, or understanding what shape and color makes an iPhone attractive in a given market. Not everyone will have to become a computer nerd.


Mark Zuckerberg was a psychology major, and insights from psychology helped him make Facebook a more appealing and alluring site.


The ability to mix technical knowledge with solving real-world problems is the key, not sheer number-crunching or programming for its own sake.


Despite all the talk about STEM fields, I see marketing as the seminal sector for our future economy.


It sounds a little silly, but making high earners feel better in just about every part of their lives will be a major source of job growth in the future. At some point it’s hard to sell more physical stuff to high earners, yet there is usually just a bit more room to make them feel better. Better about the world, better about themselves, better about what they’ve achieved.

Brainstorm 10 ideas on services you could offer these people



Chess grandmasters have coined a phrase—“that’s a computer move” —to describe those ugly, counterintuitive decisions made by computers, the moves that surely appear wrong. Yet the machines that produce those ugly moves beat the grandmasters virtually every time.

what are moves that appear to be wrong, but could be the thing that cause you to win


The moves of the machines show, regularly, how puny and unreliable our intuitions are, even if we spend decades studying chess.


It makes you wonder if the same is true about the rest of our lives.


what decisions in your life would probably be made better by a machine, name 10


Imagine using machine intelligence to guide our daily decisions. The program tells Mary to dump John because he is a lying bastard. Another program tells you to tell your stocks or your home. This social side of mechanized intelligence will not be for the faint of heart.


People know that they need to take chances in complex situations, and they will buy tactical computer programs that help them do this. We’re going to generate a lot of hairy, very complicated personal interactions, driven by real-time data analysis and computer intelligence. We’ll use the computers to manage our risk taking and seek out decisive advantages, just as it’s increasingly done on chessboards.


Knowing one’s limits is more important than it used to be.


Human-computer teams are the best teams.


“P versus NP” problem in mathematics, one of the most important unsolved puzzles in computation (in short, the problem asks whether finding a solution from scratch is in principle harder than verifying a potential solution in hand.)


The biggest problem is not out right gross blunders, but rather humans spending too much time thinking about the moves that “look good.” It is precisely our reasoned, considered judgment that we should be more suspicious of.


As players, we are becoming more like the computers. Top chess grandmasters are more likely than before to experiment with “ugly” moves—or at least to give them further study—because now they understand that ugly moves are more likely to work out.


We humans—even at the highest levels of intellect and competition—like to oversimplify matters. We boil things down to our “intuitions” too much. We like pat answers and we take too much care to avoid intellectual chaos.


It’s harder to get outside your own head than you think.


Revel in messiness


The analogy with chess again proves useful. We know how good a chess player is because each player has a numerical rating. Those ratings measure true quality quite accurately.


These ratings are used for many purposes, including the decision of which players to invite to top tournaments, or how much of an appearance fee or lecture a fee a player might deserve.


We can expect to have this practice spread more widely. The next step is to hire individuals to work with genius machines to asses the performance of workers, most of all skilled professionals. I mean the people we depend on, like doctors, lawyers, professors, and our co-workers too.

Think about an app that you open up to look through the ‘ratings’ of these various doctors, lawyers, and potential people you’re looking to hire


Let’s say it’s a lawyer. Potential customers can ask their smart phones where the lawyer went to school, what her class rank was, and what kinds of promotions she has received.


That information will be accompanied by an asterisk “this information explains only 27% of lawyer performance.”

The better lawyers will open up their courtroom performances, their win-loss records, their contract analyses, and their written briefs to computer analyses for more accurate evaluation of professional quality. Siri will tell you “this lawyer’s written briefs are in the top eighty-first percentile of his peer group, that explains 38% of performance on a corporate deal.”


Many of the lesser lawyers will decline to be rated by a computer-human team at all, for fear of getting a bad rap and also because producing the rating will involve some cost. This will hurt their business prospects, especially with wealthier and more educated customers.


Keeping one’s composure, maintaining concentration, and not getting psyched out or intimidated by older or better opponents. These skills are important, and if anything they are more important outside the world of chess, in every part of life.

meditation, journaling, helps all of these things


Expert coaching or motivating will be a competitive growth sector for jobs.


Since the self-motivated will find it easier to succeed than ever before, a new tier of people from poor or underprivileged backgrounds will claw their way to the top.


Worthy individuals will in fact rise from poverty on a regular basis, and that will make it easier to ignore those who are left behind. The wealthy class will be increasingly self-motivated, will be larger over time, and precisely because we are selecting ever more for self-motivation,—will have increasing influence.


The people with the higher incomes have saved more, started more businesses, avoided debt, and perhaps invested more wisely. They have received medical attention when needed and thus maintained their productivity.

investing in your health is the ultimate meta-investment


It might called the age of genius machines, and it will be the people who work with them that will rise. One day soon we will look back and see that we produced two nations, a fantastically successful nation, working in the technologically dynamic sectors, and everyone else.


Average is over.

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