Complacency with Tyler Cowen

Engineers in Silicon Valley see a world of constant progress. Our work is creative and intellectually challenging. We are building the future and getting compensated quite well for it.

But what if we are actually achieving far less than what is possible? What if, after so many years of high margins, gourmet lunch, and self-flattery, we have lowered our standards for innovation? And if Silicon Valley has been lulled into complacency, what does that say about the rest of the United States?

American exceptionalism has faltered and complacency has risen in its wake.

Today’s guest Tyler Cowen is an economist and author. His new book The Complacent Class is the final book in a trilogy that describes a decline of American output and a decline in American mindset.

Complacent America has lost its ability to assess risk. Children are prevented from playing tag for risk of injury. College students protest against speakers who might present challenging ideas. The number of Americans under 30 who own a business has fallen by 65% since the 1980’s–millennials are too busy going to business school to start businesses.

In his books, Tyler weaves together history, philosophy, and contemporary culture. He presents hard data about many different fields, and theorizes about how the trends in those fields relate to each other.

He also has a podcast, Conversations with Tyler, and in this episode I tried to mirror his interview style. If you like this episode, you should check out his show–he has interviewed people like Ezra Klein, Peter Thiel, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


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