The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies
Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
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.
different objects with ‘hands’ ranging from grips to suction cups. The robots aren’t as fast or fluid as a well-trained human worker at full speed, but they might not need to be. Most conveyor belts and assembly lines do not operate at full human speed; they would tire people out if they did. Baxter has a few obvious advantages over human workers. It can work all day every day without needing sleep, lunch, or coffee breaks. It also won’t demand healthcare from its employer or add to the payroll
would worsen the fate of workers, ultimately driving them to a subsistence wage.34 What has actually happened to the relative share of capital and labor? Historically, despite changes in the technology of production, the share of overall GDP going to labor has been surprisingly stable, at least until recently. As a result, wages and living standards have grown dramatically, roughly in line with the dramatic increases in productivity. In part, this reflects the increases in human capital that
markets are often better described by a power law, or Pareto curve, in which a small number of people reap a disproportionate share of sales. This is often characterized as the 80/20 rule, where 20 percent of the participants get 80 percent of the gains, but it can be more extreme than that.22 For instance, research by Erik and his coauthors found that book sales at Amazon were characterized by a power law distribution.23 Power law distributions have a ‘fat tail,’ which means the likelihood of
lobby strenuously to preserve their privileged positions. And third, separate sets of regulations exist at the federal, state, and municipal levels in America, so comprehensive change cannot be brought about by any single entity. The country’s Constitution is clear that most powers related to commerce rest with the individual states, so prospective entrepreneurs can likely expect to face a continued patchwork of regulations in many areas. Still, we believe that it is important to try to reduce
turning our short, self-published e-book Race Against the Machine into a real book, one with a publisher, an editor, a hard cover—the works. Rafe was far too professional to use the word “real,” of course, but we knew what he meant. And we were intrigued, because we hadn’t stopped thinking and talking to each other about the ideas in Race Against the Machine even after the book was done. In fact, we’d only become more interested in the concepts of technological progress and its economic