The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

by Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393239355
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 01/20/2014
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 669,959
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Erik Brynjolfsson is the director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and Schussel Family Professor of Management Science at the MIT Sloan School. He is the author of several best-selling books with co-author Andrew McAfee, and one of the world’s most cited scholars in information systems and economics.

Andrew McAfee is the co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and co-author of the best-selling The Second Machine Age and Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future. He and co-author Erik Brynjolfsson are the only people named to both the Thinkers 50 list of the world’s top management thinkers and the Politico 50 group of people transforming American politics.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Chapter 1 The Big Stories 1

Chapter 2 The Skills of the New Machines; Technology Races Ahead 13

Chapter 3 Moore's Law and the Second Half of the Chessboard 39

Chapter 4 The Digitization of Just About Everything 57

Chapter 5 Innovation: Declining or Recombining? 71

Chapter 6 Artificial and Human Intelligence in the Second Machine Age 89

Chapter 7 Computing Bounty 97

Chapter 8 Beyond GDP 107

Chapter 9 The Spread 125

Chapter 10 The Biggest Winners: Stars and Superstars 147

Chapter 11 Implications of the Bounty and the Spread 163

Chapter 12 Learning to Race With Machines: Recommendations for Individuals 187

Chapter 13 Policy Recommendations 205

Chapter 14 Long-Term Recommendations 229

Chapter 15 Technology and the Future (Which Is Very Different from "Technology Is the Future") 249

Acknowledgments 259

Notes 263

Illustration Sources 293

Index 295

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The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
papadonMI More than 1 year ago
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.
AllanTate More than 1 year ago
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’.”
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is more a review of Barnes and Noble. I purchased this book as an ebook so I can read it. It will not work. I have downloaded Chrome, and Firefox because I do not have IE 9, and Nook for Web will not work. Ironically, the book sample works fine and loads up in Nook for Web instantly, but the library gives me a whole lot of NOTHING. I have been using computers for way too long for this to be a mere case of operator error. Thanks for selling me a load of junk Barnes and Noble. I'm now going to finish reading my $12.99 "free" sample...
COUVMARK More than 1 year ago
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.