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In the future, only the best young men will do well

In the future, only the best young men will do well

Big Earners and Big Losers are the pattern of the future, according to a new book just published, and MBF Blogs has a look at it and sets out its warnings.

Deceptively Comforting

But first, Google has announced the effects of their new ‘Hummingbird’ algorithm which now covers 9 in 10 web searches and it all sounds strangely calming. It gives users a ‘more natural and conversational interaction’ with their search.

say, ahh ahhh.

The old keyword-based systems are disappearing in order to add meanings on top of mere cold words and depth to concepts. You can ask for specific ideas, such as, ‘tell me how the money supply works’.

You get a range of interpretations of the ideas, rather than just a strict response to the words. It is mainly aimed at the user of phones and tablets rather than the desktop machine. But the point is they are lulling us into a sense of security, that they care and are interested in your search to assist you on many levels at once.

Of course they want to still target the ads at you, but they also want to develop the perfect algorithm to run your world with (for) you.

Average Is Over

So, to the new book, Average Is Over by American economist Tyler Cowen. Toby Harnden analysed it in the Sunday Times (29 September 2013) and said that ‘if you want your child to have a job in 2033 you’d batter start deferring to computers.’

It’s not that machines/computers will replace human labour entirely, but they will change how labour is allocated. So, Cowen’s idea is that from that situation, there will be a ‘hyper-meritocracy’ in which 15% of people will be richly rewarded for their ‘adeptness in harnessing technology’ while 85% will be ‘consigned to a fragile existence.’

Harnden described the book as a conclusion that we are about to enter ‘the age of genius machines and the people who work for them will rise.’ He told the Sunday Times of his ‘humility in accepting that computers usually know best.’ He cited chess as illustration that computer and human working together are stronger than computer alone and certainly than human alone.’

Cowen believes that algorithms are getting better at knowing what we want than we do ourselves.

Oppressive Precision

He rather depressingly pointed out that employers will use computers with ‘oppressive precision’ to ‘ measure output, weed out slackers and spot those who have not always been steady and conscientious.’ Rather chillingly he said that ‘making a fresh start will become next to impossible.’

Some of his other predictions, informed observations include:

  • service jobs that make people feel better will have a premium, like caring for old/young, and these jobs tend to be better done by women
  • he said that in any society with higher inequality, marketing matters more, so the future belongs to the marketer on top of the game
  • teachers will not become redundant as such, but the best motivators/coaches/mentors/role models will prosper – ‘the theatrical side of it is becoming more important’
  • a combination of technical knowledge and the ability to solve world problems will be well rewarded, the study of psychology will be more valued
  • those who are capable of ‘prioritising and sorting’ information for the 15% too busy to do it themselves will be in demand as generalists who filter
  • self-motivation and conscientious people will take advantage of online top class free education that will soon be available, slackers will not
  • social mobility will increase from the middle and bottom as the best surface
  • the biggest losers will be people such as lorry drivers as ‘driverless vehicles are perfected’,  journalist who write basic reports that will soon be done better by computers and young men.

Men Generally?

According to Cowen, men may be creative, smart, energetic, but they’re often ‘not that conscientious’. He wrote that psychology and experience suggests women are more conscientious than men and more likely ‘to follow orders with exactness and without resentment.’

Men, particularly young men, are more likely to be drunk, end up in prison or be ‘irreparably unemployed.’

So, now we know!

Posts on related themes:

Young and Unemployed? You Shouldn’t Be in This Digital Era! 17 September 2013

Computer Grids Could Unlock Power to Benefit Mankind, 10 September 2013

The Digital Economy Is No Longer an Add-On, It IS The Economy, 27 August 2013

There Is No Off-Switch in Today’s 24/7 Connected World, 6 August 2013

YouTube Interview with Tyler Cowen

Image: Graham Crumb