Recently Mr. Cowen was interviewed on NPR concerning his latest book "Average Is Over."
Predictions are never perfectly drawn so of course there will be twists, turns, and surprises along the way. But getting it exactly right is not the point. The digit and the computer have unleashed powerful forces impacting how we are living our lives. Cowen links two themes near and dear; the plight of the middle-class and the continuing upheaval because of all things digital.
Summarized below are a few key points from the interview and Cowen's take on the future.
- Take the concept of middle-class and come up with something else more akin to lower middle-class in terms of income and savings, but more bohemian-esque in terms of lifestyle and perhaps satisfaction
- Everything gets measured, graded, rated, monitored, recorded, tracked, and categorized - ruthlessly
- The HAVES will increase as a percentage of the population from 1% to maybe 15%
- The determining factors in who gets what will be talent and ratings - think Yelp and credit scores
- A new meritocracy will emerge driven by undiscovered individuals suddenly getting a shot - think India
- Inequality levels will increase - and stay there
As for employment in the future if you have (even a few) bumps or blemishes in your background, work history, credit score, or heaven only knows how many other types of measures there will be in the years to come, you will need to find another way to get on in the world. Frankly, taken to extreme lengths, there will be lots and lots of folks in this situation which will give rise to the new categories as noted above.
So, meet the model for your new performance review, one with real sticking potential.
This paradym shift will take years to play out. In the meantime, Mr. Cowen represents another thoughtful and educated voice weighing in on Free Agency. The top tier growth he anticipates from 1% to 15% will come from free agents coming into their own. They'll possess the right mix of talent and entrepreneurial spirit to elevate themselves from the masses.
However I don't see this process in all or nothing terms and I doubt Mr. Cowen does either. What is now considered middle-class will surely evolve but not into a zero sum proposition. There will be lots of room under the Free Agent tent - however, the price of admission will be awakening.
Stay asleep and you'll have to watch the show from the outside - wake up and you'll get a ticket to go inside.
John Jeffrey Lundell