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Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy

Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy [Kindle Edition]

Erik Brynjolfsson , Andrew McAfee
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

Why has median income stopped rising in the US?

Why is the share of population that is working falling so rapidly?

Why are our economy and society are becoming more unequal?

A popular explanation right now is that the root cause underlying these symptoms is technological stagnation-- a slowdown in the kinds of ideas and inventions that bring progress and prosperity.

In Race Against the Machine, MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee present a very different explanation. Drawing on research by their team at the Center for Digital Business, they show that there's been no stagnation in technology -- in fact, the digital revolution is accelerating. Recent advances are the stuff of science fiction: computers now drive cars in traffic, translate between human languages effectively, and beat the best human Jeopardy! players.

As these examples show, digital technologies are rapidly encroaching on skills that used to belong to humans alone. This phenomenon is both broad and deep, and has profound economic implications. Many of these implications are positive; digital innovation increases productivity, reduces prices (sometimes to zero), and grows the overall economic pie.

But digital innovation has also changed how the economic pie is distributed, and here the news is not good for the median worker. As technology races ahead, it can leave many people behind. Workers whose skills have been mastered by computers have less to offer the job market, and see their wages and prospects shrink. Entrepreneurial business models, new organizational structures and different institutions are needed to ensure that the average worker is not left behind by cutting-edge machines.

In Race Against the Machine Brynjolfsson and McAfee bring together a range of statistics, examples, and arguments to show that technological progress is accelerating, and that this trend has deep consequences for skills, wages, and jobs. The book makes the case that employment prospects are grim for many today not because there's been technology has stagnated, but instead because we humans and our organizations aren't keeping up.

About the Author

Erik Brynjolfsson is a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business, Chairman of the Sloan Management Review, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and co-author of Wired for Innovation: How IT Is Reshaping the Economy. He graduated from Harvard University and MIT. Andrew McAfee is a principal research scientist and associate director at the MIT Center for Digital Business at the Sloan School of Management. He is the author of Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization’s Toughest Challenges. He graduated from MIT and Harvard University.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 517 KB
  • Print Length: 98 pages
  • Publisher: Digital Frontier Press (17 Oct 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005WTR4ZI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #65,533 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good analysis. More of the same solution 5 Oct 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
They give a good analysis of where we are headed with the technology and I like the fact that they are not negitive about that.

Their prescription for the furture is, unfortunately, same as it ever was with knobs on. If we all were a bit smarter and worked a bit harder then it will be fine.

The "free" market is not delivering the products of increased productivity to the majority of the population so it is therefore *failing*. The authors fail to make an adequate case for how more of the same will change that situation. Money will still flow to the 'superstars' in the top 1%.

It would be nice if two academics in this field could suggest some innovative solutions rather than repeating the same economic dogma of the last few years.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The analysis of the problems are very good and are convincing. The idea that the economy will become dominated by many varied highly specialised micro multi nationals is interesting and is supported by a reasonable argument. However, the book gives a list of suggested remedies that read like those a mediocre CEO might come up with. I think that if the first half of the book is right then much bolder prescriptions are called for. I gave the book four stars as I think it makes some unique points and no analysis I've read on this topic has done much better on the solutions side
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just OK, more pamplet than book 10 Jan 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A relatively brief treatment, but then the price reflects this. The authors present some interesting data on labour trends, though it is all drawn from the USA and the book's focus is very much on the US economy.

To me, the big potential flaw in their thinking is that they infer linear or even exponential improvements in machine intelligence. Arguing, for example, that because computers can now do simple pattern recognition or win at Jepoardy, then the ability to solve more complex tasks is just around the corner. In many respects this book could have come out fo the late 1980's when Artificial Intelligence was booming and similar claims were made about chess-playing and robotics. In reality it has taken far longer than expected to produce robust, practical solutions. Natural Language recognition stands out as one of the few technologies that has made consumer-visible headway. Robots still struggle to vacuum a carpet reliably.

I bought the book because I though McAfee's Enterprise 2.0 thinking was interesting, but here I feel he's over-reached and the content is less thought-through. That's not to say that the book is bad, but I had hoped for much original insight.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Technology does reduce demand 12 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee are right to choose the `end of work' explanation of the current economic crisis. It is clear a priori that increased productivity will reduce employment for the same GDP output. This has the further effect of reducing effective demand in the economy. In a thought experiment of a totally automated economy, where a machine could simply be plugged into the earth and generate the total output GDP, there would be no wages and no demand. Distribution of GDP would have to be by government voucher. So ultimately the only solution is a universal credit or a citizen's income. Money becomes clearly virtual in this model - the vouchers are simply printed and destroyed. They do not have to be added as government debt. The only rule is that they must be linked to the output GDP they are distributing. These are important paradigms for policy in the current crisis.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee don't look at these implications or remedies. Instead they advocate that more people become high technology employees and entrepreneurs. But this doesn't address the problem if automation will then render further employment redundant. Unless the result of their prescriptions is taken as infinite levels of GDP?

Geoff Crocker
Author `A Managerial Philosophy of Technology : Technology and Humanity in Symbiosis' Palgrave Macmillan 2012
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book. Everyone should read it. 25 Oct 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
In "Race Against the Machine", economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee ask the question: Could technology be destroying jobs? They then expand on that to explore whether advancing information technology might be an important contributor to the current unemployment disaster. The authors argue very convincingly that the answer to both questions is YES.

The book is very readable and includes lots of links to supporting evidence (both statistical and anecdotal). The authors do a good job of focusing on how computer technology is accelerating exponentially and how computers are a "general purpose technology", in other words, a special technology that can affect just about anything else and have much bigger impact than more narrowly focused innovations.

I thought a really good example involved automated driving. In 2005, two other economists suggested that it would be "hard to imagine" computers ever being able to handle driving in traffic. Yet, just 6 years later, Google introduced automated cars that did exactly that. The point is that progress in information technology is very likely to exceed our expectations and surprise us in the coming years.

While the problems are laid out clearly, I think the solutions offered are pretty conventional. The authors' call for reforming and upgrading schools, for example, is something that just about everyone can agree on. However, even if we managed to do that (and we are not making much progress), those kids would not enter the workforce for many years, and who knows what technology will be capable of by then?

In addition to this book, I'd also strongly suggest reading
... Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
A simply brilliant account of what is going on in the world right now.. Anyone in the world of finance to turns their nose up to the idea "it's different this time" is a... Read more
Published 2 months ago by hedge fund manager
4.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought
Easy to read but insightful. A book that makes you think that we can all benefit from technology and don't have to spend time fearing it.
Published 10 months ago by Miss S R Nowinska
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but short
A very interesting book but inspite of the author's optimism for the future I remain pessimistic about future employment prospects. Rather a short book however - only 76 pages
Published 10 months ago by Tony Skelton
2.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to love it...
While I enjoyed the premise of this book - an exploration of the relationships between humans and technology in this new digital age - I found myself falling asleep after a couple... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Kym Hamer
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but to the point
This is a short book but makes it points well. There does seem to be something happening in terms of the impact of technology on "knowledge workers" and the middle classes in... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Martin DS
5.0 out of 5 stars An insight insight into the impact of technological innovation
This book was recommended to me by one of my professors at the London School of Economics. Brynjolfsson and McAfee are leading researchers in there fields and this book highlights... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Oksana Dubovik
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book: Everybody should read this book, especially when...
This book is looking at how automation is impacting employment, the make-up of the workforce and potential impact of society. Read more
Published 13 months ago by F. Wetzel
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Perspective
Race Against the Machine is a really good synopsis of the effects of increasing technology and digitisation on work and economies. Read more
Published 16 months ago by J H THOMAS
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as dystopian as I had feared.
At first I felt this was going to be some polemic about how computers were going to steal everyone's job and we were going to be left in their wake with no jobs or income. Read more
Published 21 months ago by crob
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughts
This is an excellent contribution to the current post-crash debate, I concur with some of the reviews that it is short and lacks depth when addressing the AI issues and future of... Read more
Published on 18 Jan 2012 by Bob
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Popular Highlights

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“Man is the lowest-cost, 150-pound, nonlinear, all-purpose computer system which can be mass-produced by unskilled labor.” &quote;
Highlighted by 397 Kindle users
The root of our problems is not that we’re in a Great Recession, or a Great Stagnation, but rather that we are in the early throes of a Great Restructuring. &quote;
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They think it’s because the pace of technological innovation has slowed down. We think it’s because the pace has sped up so much that it’s left a lot of people behind. Many workers, in short, are losing the race against the machine. &quote;
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