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The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies Reprint Edition, Kindle Edition
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A New York Times Bestseller. A “fascinating” (Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times) look at how digital technology is transforming our work and our lives.
In recent years, Google’s autonomous cars have logged thousands of miles on American highways and IBM’s Watson trounced the best human Jeopardy! players. Digital technologies—with hardware, software, and networks at their core—will in the near future diagnose diseases more accurately than doctors can, apply enormous data sets to transform retailing, and accomplish many tasks once considered uniquely human.
In The Second Machine Age MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee—two thinkers at the forefront of their field—reveal the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, we will realize immense bounty in the form of dazzling personal technology, advanced infrastructure, and near-boundless access to the cultural items that enrich our lives.
Amid this bounty will also be wrenching change. Professions of all kinds—from lawyers to truck drivers—will be forever upended. Companies will be forced to transform or die. Recent economic indicators reflect this shift: fewer people are working, and wages are falling even as productivity and profits soar.
Drawing on years of research and up-to-the-minute trends, Brynjolfsson and McAfee identify the best strategies for survival and offer a new path to prosperity. These include revamping education so that it prepares people for the next economy instead of the last one, designing new collaborations that pair brute processing power with human ingenuity, and embracing policies that make sense in a radically transformed landscape.
A fundamentally optimistic book, The Second Machine Age alters how we think about issues of technological, societal, and economic progress.
About the Author
Andrew McAfee is a principal research scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business and the author of Enterprise 2.0. They are the coauthors of Race Against the Machine. --This text refers to the audioCD edition.
Brynjolfsson and McAfee are right: we are on the cusp of a dramatically different world brought on by technology. The Second Machine Age is the book for anyone who wants to thrive in it. I'll encourage all of our entrepreneurs to read it, and hope their competitors don't.--Marc Andreessen, cofounder of Netscape and Andreessen Horowitz
Excellent.--Clive Crook "Bloomberg"
Fascinating.--Andrew Leonard "Salon"
Maddeningly reasonable and readable.--Thomas Claburn "InformationWeek"
My favorite book so far of 2014. Both hopeful...and realistic.--Joshua Kim "Inside Higher Education"
Optimistic and intriguing.--Steven Pearlstein "The Washington Post"
Technology is overturning the world's economies, and The Second Machine Age is the best explanation of this revolution yet written.--Kevin Kelly, senior maverick for Wired and author of What Technology Wants
Will our new technologies lift us all up or leave more and more of us behind? The Second Machine Age is the essential guide to how and why that success will, or will not, be achieved.--Garry Kasparov, thirteenth World Chess Champion
This provocative book is both grounded and visionary, with highly approachable economic analyses that add depth to their vision. A must-read.--John Seely Brown, coauthor of The Power of Pull and A New Culture of Learning
A whirlwind tour of innovators and innovations around the world. But this isn't just casual sightseeing. Along the way, they describe how these technological wonders came to be, why they are important, and where they are headed.--Hal Varian, chief economist at Google
After reading this book, your world view will be flipped: you'll see that collective intelligence will come not only from networked brains but also from massively connected and intelligent machines.--Nicholas Negroponte, cofounder of the MIT Media Lab, founder of One Laptop per Child, and author of Being Digital
Brynjolfsson and McAfee do an amazing job of explaining the progression of technology, giving us a glimpse of the future, and explaining the economics of these advances. And they provide sound policy prescriptions. Their book could also have been titled Exponential Economics 101--it is a must-read.--Vivek Wadhwa, director of research at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering and author of The Immigrant Exodus
Truly helped me see the world of tomorrow through exponential rather than arithmetic lenses. Macro and microscopic frontiers now seem plausible, meaning that learners and teachers alike are in a perpetual mode of catching up with what is possible. It frames a future that is genuinely exciting!--Clayton M. Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, and author of The Innovator's Dilemma
A masterful job of exploring both the promise of computer technology and its profound societal impact.--Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk
An important book on the technology-driven opportunities and challenges we all face in the next decade. Anyone who wants to understand how amazing new technologies are transforming our economy should start here.--Austan Goolsbee, professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers
In this optimistic book Brynjolfsson and McAfee clearly explain the bounty that awaits us from intelligent machines. But they argue that creating the bounty depends on finding ways to race with the machine rather than racing against the machine. That means people like me need to build machines that are easy to master and use. Ultimately, those who embrace the new technologies will be the ones who benefit most.--Rodney Brooks, chairman and CTO of Rethink Robotics, Inc
Offers important insights into how digital technologies are transforming our economy, a process that has only just begun.--Reid Hoffman, cofounder/chairman of LinkedIn and coauthor of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Start-up of You
What globalization was to the economic debates of the late 20th century, technological change is to the early 21st century. Long after the financial crisis and great recession have receded, the issues raised in this important book will be central to our lives and our politics.--Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University --This text refers to the paperback edition.
- ASIN : B00D97HPQI
- Publisher : W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (20 January 2014)
- Language : English
- File size : 6108 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 320 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 151,235 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Top reviews from Australia
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In the past 30 years, with the rise of computers and other digital technologies, we have moved from overcoming our physical limitations, to overcoming our mental ones. This is the second machine age. Though we are still at the dawn of the second machine age, it already shows at least as much promise in boosting productivity (and quality of life) as the first. Indeed, by various measures--including the standard ones of GDP and corporate profits--we can see that the past 30 years has witnessed an impressive steepening in productivity.
And this is just the beginning. For digital technology continues to advance at an exponential pace; more digital information is being produced (and kept) all the time (all of which has enormous economic potential); and new ways of combining existing (and new) ideas into newer and better ones are ever being found.
Still, what is equally apparent is that the benefits of this steepening in productivity have gone to the few, rather than the many. Indeed, while the top 20% of earners have seen their pay increase since the early 1980s (and the closer you are to the top the more dramatically your pay has increased), the bottom 80% has actually seen their wealth decrease. And the spread is widening ever more as we go.
This is no random, or merely temporary outcome. Indeed, as Brynjolfsson and McAfee demonstrate, the unequal distribution of wealth in the second machine age is a natural corollary of how digital technology works and is used. Specifically, computer technology produces an economy that favors capital over labor; skilled labor over unskilled labor; and superstars (who are able to reach and corner entire global markets) over local players.
And not only does computer technology tend to play favorites, thereby increasing inequality. It also steadily erodes human employment outright. For as computer technology advances, more and more jobs that could once be carried out only by humans, becomes possible (and cheaper) for computers to accomplish. Nor is there any guarantee that new innovations and advancements will necessarily produce new jobs as fast as old ones are being lost (as was once thought inevitable). Indeed, we have already seen signs that this simply cannot be counted on.
The problem with all this is not just that extreme inequality is a political problem on its own. It's that as more and more people are driven out of the economy, the prospects for greater growth are themselves undermined.
Nevertheless, just as wise policies have helped us overcome many of the problems with the Industrial Revolution, Brynjolfsson and McAfee argue that the same can be done with the problems of the Digital Revolution. Specifically, more can be done to ensure that our education systems are geared to the realities and demands of the second machine age; more can be done to ignite and encourage entrepreneurship, which is needed to replace many of the jobs that will be lost; and more can be done to mitigate the inequality caused by the new technology, such as introducing a negative income tax--which preserves a minimal standard of living for all (and keeps people in the economy as consumers), while encouraging all who can to stay in the workforce.
The book is very well-researched, well-written and wisely argued. The authors have taken the facts and the data as they stand, without preconception or political coloring, and have delivered an honest and insightful analysis. Both the bounty and the spread of the second machine age are made apparent, and the proposed approach moving forward is well-measured and judicious. An important book for policy-makers, and the generally curious alike.
Top reviews from other countries
Worth reading, but becoming less and less relevant.
My major criticism is its narrow focus. It's USA-centric, deals predominately with consumer products, and pretty well ignores international political systems. No mention say of China, where digital is aiming to know about every action taken by every citizen.
The summary is simple. The digital revolution is every bit as important as the previous industrial revolution, the one that was all to do with the steam engine and electricity. Those who deny this must consider the evidence. Technology is at the moment truly racing ahead and has started to do things that a short ten years ago genuine friends of the digital revolution considered impossible. The three buzzwords are "exponential," "digital" and "combinatorial."
I did not totally buy this line of argumentation when I read the "Race Against the Machine," but here it's argued a lot better and I must say I was convinced.
"Exponential" is all about how computer power doubles every 18 months. For the last 30 years it has seemed like Moore's Law only has ten years left in it based on what we know about physics, materials etc. and yet human ingenuity has found a way to carry on. Presented with evidence of the above, I've had to concede that the authors have a point and it's silly to bet against exponential growth of computer power. Just when it looks like we've hit some hard limit in the laws of Physics or the science of materials we've always found a way to carry on calculating faster. Which of course means it's a matter of time before computers will be able to do absolutely everything to do with seeing, recognizing etc. that they can't already do. I'm sold.
"Digital" is a big deal too. The idea here is the digitally encoded information (i) ain't going anywhere and (ii) does not get used up. If I use a gallon of oil, that's a gallon of oil that's not available to you. Not so with a song that's saved in 0s and 1s or a book or a beautiful picture. We can share, and we can share it forever.
"Combinatorial" comes to the rescue of those who fear their limited physical existence cannot keep up with the exponential growth of computer power. It's alright if a computer can perform tasks better than you and keeps getting even better because there's one thing that can be faster than exponential growth and that's combinatorial growth. So people who can combine things and can command computer power can combine it all to keep up with the machine. So for example a bunch of OK chess players who have very strong computers at their disposal will beat the world's best computer or the world's best chessmaster. More to the point, there are tons of technologies out there, the value these days is in using more than one at once. The example of a traffic app is given that not only uses good maps and the GPS infrastructure, but leverages the power of the network established by its users' mobile phones (another technology), "network" being the key word here.
So it's fascinating and convincing stuff.
From there the book moves on to the bit that I found to be the true contribution of "Race Against the Machine." New fancy words have been unleashed upon us here: "Bounty" and "Spread"
"Bounty" is the massive benefit of machines allowing us to do more with less, like for example sharing billions of pictures almost for free, or keeping in touch with all of our friends for absolutely free, or taking an MIT class from the comfort of your bedroom in Cameroon without paying MIT tuition, or keeping track of where your daughter's hanging out at three in the morning for a fiver a month--not sure at all about this one! "Spread" refers to the fact that if you were employed in a routine job you're either unemployed or you won't be employed for long, because your job will be taken over by a machine.
And the usual roster of winners and losers is rolled out. So if you play for Manchester United it's fantastic if people can follow you (and pay to watch you) in East Asia, but it's less fun if you are a good but not ManU-level player out in East Asia because nobody's going to come watch. Bounty and Spread in one example here, what with everybody being able to enjoy watching ManU all while Rooney is eating all other football players' lunch. He deserves it, many will argue, but what about them?
So I got myself a comfy chair to read the chapter where the authors explain that, rather than the laundry list of explanations (like for example the overleveraging of the lower middle class or the greed of Goldman Sachs or the "global glut of savings" and so on) the current recession / depression / whatever you want to call it is caused by the machines that have replaced everybody who used to do repetitive mental work. That was surely going to be the most fascinating bit of the book.
But, in the words of Quentin Tarantino, I could not find it because it wasn't there. They took that bit out.
Pity, because it was my favourite bit of the first book. They just mention that it wasn't globalization whodunit because (i) China is losing manufacturing employment as fast as we are and (ii) the most precarious jobs on earth are probably the ones we exported (for example) to India, as the back office / documentation / call center work we sent over there is sooner rather than later going to be done by machines.
But beyond crossing out globalization as a culprit, the authors have neglected the Great Depression MKII part that I was most looking forward to. I really wanted to hear something along the lines of "well, you might be a damn fool, Athan, but your kids, if they are like other kids on the planet, are totally on top of this exponential, digital and combinatorial revolution. Here's a bunch of stuff other kids are doing with their time, you just hang in there bud, do what you can to pass on the baton and watch them little ones and everybody else thrive and kiss this depression goodbye."
But no, I looked hard and that's nowhere to be found in the book.
Instead, there's a very tired list of "long term recommendations" that you could have torn out of Blinder's book. Heck, you could have torn them out of Jeff Sachs's book. Like, for example "Teach our Children Well" and "Restart Startups" and the good-old "Rebuild Infrastructure." Tax proposals galore too, some of them genuinely outlandish. WHAT ON EARTH? Infrastructure! Everybody and his mom knows the stat about how many of our bridges are in bad shape. And please somebody tell me what the connection is between tax and technology. None of those tech companies have ever paid any tax, their IP lives in an Irish / Bermudan / Martian tax enclave, last I checked.
I think they handed over the book to a grad student halfway through. Perhaps they left it to a computer. Now, there's a thought.
But the first 100 pages were damn good, so I'll be very generous and give "The Second Machine Age" four stars...
Beware any seminar where the speaker continually refers to passages in this book. It appears that there is a new sector for people who have been urged to regurgitate (verbatim) most of this content in lieu of any actual experience in the industry.
Great as a reference book though.