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Shortlisted for the 2014 FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
Posted February 25, 2014
The writing is good but the content is bunk. The writer gives specious and shallow prescriptions. He favors big government solutions
without addressing the effect of onerous public debt. He recommends massive, uncontrolled immigration (based on bogus data) without
considering the effects on unemployment, infrastructure, and standard of living. He affectionately quotes John Maynard Keynes without
addressing the folly of his theories. This book is left wing socialist cant masquerading as technological theory. If one wishes to read
about technological innovation, there are better choices that can be.
3 out of 12 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 15, 2014
This book shows the real effects of automation and the Digital age. We need our policy makers to come up with needed changes to our laws to match this second machine age.
It's a compelling read that lays out the history and transformation of the work. This should be a must read for high school and college students as they plan for their careers.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 24, 2014
Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee explain why we may be living through a period of history that begins a major shift in human civilization. There is enough evidence that everyone should sit up, take notice, and take part in shaping our future. While technology will evolve at a mind-boggling pace, and the benefits to society promise to be immense, the transition period will be extremely difficult, especially due to technology’s impact on the dynamics of our economic system.
For me, we need to answer four questions about the digital age:
1. Is digital technology a driving force behind today’s economic condition?
Building on their earlier book, Race against the Machine, Brynjolfsson and McAfee make the case that digital technology is a major force behind our current economic situation. This is a significant shift in economic thinking: there was much less agreement back in 2009 when Martin Ford wrote The Lights in the Tunnel. Consider that as late as 2011 a Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond report on the causes of unemployment did not talk about technology at all.
2. Why is this time different, given that technology has made jobs obsolete before?
Using the insights in this book, people can now discuss the impact of digital technology on the economy without being accused of having unfounded fears. The conventional view was that technology always creates new jobs even though old jobs become obsolete. There is, however, no law of economics that says that will always be true. So, the authors clearly explain why the current situation is different, and why digital technology will have broad impact across the entire spectrum of jobs.
3. How can society cope with the impact of digital technology in the short & medium term?
The authors offer a variety of policy suggestions to help us cope in the short and medium term. They identify the reduced need for labor as a central challenge. Their suggestions, derived largely from any economics 101 textbook, include changing the tax code, reforming immigration, updating infrastructure, improving education, and supporting entrepreneurship. While these are all good, I felt that there were a number of missed opportunities. For example, why keep the income tax at all in a world where the labor participation is shrinking?
4. What will our world be like in the long-term – a world where people no longer have to work?
In the long-term, worrying about jobs is the wrong question. After all, what’s the point of all this technology if it does not relieve us from the burden of doing work? I’m not suggesting that people become idle, but I think the focus needs to shift from “work” to “activity.” In a world of abundance, where work in the traditional sense is rarely needed, then there will have to be new ways for people to earn money. This suggests an evolution for capitalism as well as changes to our social contract. To me, the vision for this future world is still unclear.
The Second Machine Age is not the last word on this topic. Nevertheless, it is a stepping stone and well worth reading. Despite the challenges we face, the book provides an optimistic view of the future that is largely shaped by the observation that, in the long-term, humans have coped with change and improved their condition overall. In this case, people will learn to work with machines, not against them. On my personal blog (AllanRTate dot com), I wrote a more detailed review in May 2014 called “Considering ‘The Second Machine Age’.”
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Posted March 11, 2015
Posted March 13, 2014
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Posted April 20, 2014
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