Noted economist Tyler Cowen's Who Will Prosper in the New World discusses what type of people he thinks will win and lose in the new economy. He defines this new economic order as "the machine economy", which he describes as a world where increasingly intelligent machines take over more work and life tasks.
"... machines are providing not only the brawn but the brains, too, and that raises the question of where humans fit into this picture."
Cowen suggests this new world will create human winners and losers (I think machines are the big winners in this world view). The winners will be people who are:
Conscientious: these are folks who are focused and disciplined enough to take advantage of opportunities presented to them both in education and work.
People who listent to computers: I'm not so sure about this one. Cowen claims people who listen to computers will make better decisions, but he also says "Those of us who listen, while often envied, may feel more like puppets with deflated pride." I'm not so sure this is winning.
People with a marketing touch: As a former marketer I agree and I'm happy to hear my former profession will likely continue to thrive.
Motivators: These are people who "cajole us, flatter us and shame us into improving our lives, our work habits and our consumption." Skilled managers as well as coaches of all kinds fall into this category.
The people likely to suffer in the machine economy include:
People with delicate feelings: This group will run into problems because software will be measuring and ranking people based on performance. We use the term labormetrics for this type of software.
People unlucky in health care: Cowen suggests in the new world only the wealthy will have access to excellent health care. I'm not sure how this is different from today.
People who don't need money: These are "people who are bright, culturally literate, Internet-savvy and far from committed to the idea of hard work directed toward earning a good middle-class living." He seems to be referring to the broad group known as "hipsters".
Political radicals: Cowen thinks we're getting too old as a society for radicalism to flourish.
One of the themes that comes out loud and clear in our research on independent workers is the people with the right skills and abilities are flourishing despite the relative overall weakness in the economy.
At the same time, those without the right skills and abilities are struggling. While I'm not sure I agree with Cowen that these are key skills and attributes of the new economy's winners and losers, this discussion is extremely important.
We need as a society to better understand who is going to win and lose, and why.