I found this book, The Human Advantage: The Future of American Work in an Age of Smart Machines, in a free library and was intrigued by the author’s goal to establish why machines will not replace humans in the future.

There are three parts to the book and I’m going to describe these parts because, in them, the author, Jay W. Richards, sets out his premise very well. In Part I, Richards examines the concept of “The American Dream” and how this has led to the predicament that many entry level jobs can now be done by smart machines. Smart machines are taking the place of many labourers, raising concerns that many people will go without work in this new era.

In Part II, the author reviews the qualities that humans have and can develop to offset automation including:

“• Courage: the willingness to risk failure
• Antifragility: the ability to learn from failure and suffering
• Altruism: acting for the benefit of others
• Collaboration: working with and learning from others
• Creative freedom: Mastering yourself and the skills needed to create value for others “

All the above definitions are taken directly from Richard’s book on page 58.

This list of qualities and their description is the best part of the book, in my opinion, because they truly represent how humans differ from any kind of machine. If we can develop these qualities, and encourage their development, then we have the necessary tools to succeed in life, including earning a living.

In Part III, Richards examines how we can pursue happiness. As well as defining happiness in this part of the book, Richards reinforces that humans must begin to find happiness in their work. Instead of concisely drawing together all the threads of his premise, and making one clear conclusion, the author tries to put too many concepts into this final section.

This book has end notes and references that are impressive and that help the author to build his argument. While it is my view that Richards brings in too many ideas, they are provocative and it is worthwhile to have such an extensive reference list.


(Note: I read the 2018 Crown Forum edition of this book.)

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