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Tyler Cowen Talks Technological Divides

Among the many moments that drew comment and questions during our hour-long conversation with George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen on Monday was the author’s thoughts on online education and technological change. Part of the argument in his new book, “Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation” is that technological change will continue to create a stark divide between the haves and the have-nots in America.

“A quality, free online education it’s on it’s way it will mostly be here within five years.  The New York Times had an article yesterday about a 15 year old boy in Mongolia who’s been able to basically prove he’s a genius.

The question here, and here we don’t know the answer: How many individuals can actually adapt to that style of learning? So the stuff will be there, it will be free or be very cheap and we don’t yet know how many winners there will be from this. That from me is really one the biggest questions about our future.

Keep in mind,the more that the top 20-percent are earning, the greater the incentive to become educated, to apply some rigor to what you’re learning. And I’m just suggesting, we don’t know how many people will cross that divide. If half the people decide to do it, it won’t be 80-20 it will be 50-50. That’s the big open question about our future. Plenty of opportunities will be there, they just wont for everyone to be easy to exploit. If you don’t, say, have the right personality type.

Joe [Stiglitz] and I both agree, the key reforms really involve education; but we all know how hard it is to improve education.”

Do you agree? Do you think technological change lifts all boats, or just a few? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook or @OnPointRadio.

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