Tyler Cowen Writes A(I) Book

Tyler writing a book has happened quite often, and will happen again. But this is a book written for and in AI. But not, it should be noted, with AI.

Do you yearn for something more than a book? And yet still love books? How about a book you can query, and it will answer away to your heart’s content? How about a book that will create its own content, on demand, or allow you to rewrite it? A book that will tell you why it is (sometimes) wrong?
That is what I have tried to build with my latest work. It’s called GOAT: Who is the Greatest Economist of all Time and Why Does it Matter?


I have not finished reading the book, but plan to do so in the next couple of days. I’ve finished reading the chapters on Friedman, Keynes and Hayek, along with the introductory chapter – but in a manner of speaking, I haven’t even started.

Not because I’m less than halfway through the book (though there’s that too) – but because I haven’t yet read the book in ChatGPT. And that, I suspect, is where the book will really and truly come alive. But even without that mouth-watering prospect being taken into consideration, the book is already well worth my time (and I know one is supposed to say your mileage will vary, but it will be worth yours as well).

Because how many books about the history of economic thought will talk about basketball, peering in through Gottfried Haberler’s window and Edgeworth looking like a Schnauzer Terrier? And all that in just the first chapter!

The first chapter explains, in typically Tylerian fashion what is being supplied by Tyler, and there are four broad things that are being supplied:

  1. The teaching of economics (duh)
  2. Economics as a vehicle for carrying ideas about the world (about which there is a paragraph below)
  3. Economists and how to think about their talents
  4. Tyler’s adjudication for who is the GOAT in economics

I find it interesting that the title of the book is actually his fourth reason for writing the book. Come for the shortlisting and the prize giving ceremony, Tyler seems to be saying, but stay to learn economics (1), learn more about economists (3), and (maybe, and best of all), learn how to carry ideas about the world in your creations (2).

And again, in typically Tylerian fashion, we learn that the inspiration for writing this books comes not from what you and I would have considered the usual suspects – but from some book about basketball. When I say “some book about basketball”, I do not mean to be disparaging about the sport. I mean to convey how little I know about the sport, and about books written about the sport. But the point is well taken – this is a book written by a fan of the subject. I take that to mean that this book is to be taken the way Tyler’s podcast is to be taken – this is Tyler’s conversation with himself about his favorite subject, not the conversation you wish to have with Tyler about his favorite subject.

By the way, in an interesting coincidence, just yesterday I was talking to a friend about a post I’d written on the blog a while ago, about who, in my opinion, was the worst economist of the 20th century. Two people (who will both remain anonymous) told me in conversations that Milton Friedman is their pick for the worst economist of the 20th century. One of them meant it as a joke, and one of them was quite serious. I disagree, of course. Milton Friedman was undoubtedly one of the best economists of the 20th century, and certainly among the top 10 all time, in my book.

But who would be my pick for the GOAT?

So far, Adam Smith.

But I hope to be able to update you by the end of the week, if not sooner, if my answer changes.

7 thoughts on “Tyler Cowen Writes A(I) Book

  1. Thanks for the review of GOAT Adhish. I too want to read it in full. Tyler says the book is a generative book which can be rewritten. How do we do that?
    Ramagopal, retired economics teacher, lifelong student of Economics and a fan of your blog

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