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The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies Hardcover – 18 Feb 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (18 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393239357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393239355
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Shorlisted for the Financial Times Book of the Year 2014

Although a few others have tried, The Second Machine Age 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

About the Author

Erik Brynjolfsson is the director of the MIT Center for Digital Business and one of the most cited scholars in information systems and economics. Andrew McAfee is a principal research scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business and the author of Enterprise 2.0.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Wilmington on 11 Jun 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading great futurist books like The Singularity is Near, Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think and The Human Race to the Future: What Could Happen - and What to Do I was expecting another eye-opening book on the technologies that will transform society in the coming decades. Instead, the book is merely a summary of a few selected technologies already mentioned in Abundance (like IBM's Watson supercomputer) or that anybody following tech news regularly would have read about countless times, like self-driving cars.

I was hoping for a book that explains more precisely how artificial intelligence, automations and robots will replace people in most jobs, and an in-depth analysis of what jobs will disappear soon and which ones will remain safe for the foreseeable future. I was looking forward to read about how the peer economy, 3-D printers and personal domestic robots will completely change the way we produce and consume. Unfortunately the book does not address any of these. The authors just explain, repetitively and in plain language, that machines will make consumer products cheaper while taking away people's jobs. But who doesn't already know that when it's been discussed countless times in the news?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The thesis of the book is simple but profound, the documentation impeccable with a wealth of data, statistics, graphs, and figures while the writing is clear, concise, informal, smoothly flowing, inviting, and well structured.

The focus of the book concerns our impressive technological progress and explains why the scale and pace of digital technologies is bound to accelerate in the future. The centrality of the book relates to the two economic consequences of this progress namely bounty and spread. Bounty is the increase in volume, variety, and quality and the decrease in cost of the many offerings brought by modern digital technologies. Spread, the negative and troubling aspect of this progress is increasing wealth inequality, progressive unemployment, and reduction in social mobility. Spread has been demonstrated to increase in recent years. It is destined to accelerate in the second machine age unless we intervene. The book stresses that the economic goals should be to maximize the bounty while mitigating the negative effects of the spread. The choices we make will determine the world we are going to live in.

In order to understand why digital technologies are presently unfolding we have to obtain an insight into the nature of technological progress in the era of digital hardware, software, and networks. Its three key characteristics are exponential, digital, and combinatorial.

Exponential growth eventually leads to staggeringly big numbers which defy our intuition and imagination. The critical building blocks of computing - microchip density, processing speed, storage capacity, energy efficiency, download speed etc. have been improving at exponential rates for a long time and they presently are at an inflection point.
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Format: Hardcover
`The Second Machine Age' co-written by two authors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, is a fascinating work that shows how the advancement of digital technologies already has and will have an enormous impact on the economy; the authors managed to show how such exponential growth will result with redistribution of world income, present to which effects will it lead on the issues of employment and education, and generally on the future of human race.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee have called their book "The Second Machine Age" due to some parallels that could be drawn between Industrial Revolution, time of extraordinary change in the past, with times in which we currently live; last few years and present days they consider as the beginning of period with significant changes that only from a time distance would be possible to well assess. What is great is that although their book is full of economic indicators, figures and case studies the book presentation prevents reader to feel bored or tired even for a moment.

As starting point for their conclusions they took the simple and well-known general principle of Moore's law that tells about the doubling of computer power every year and a half, claiming that everything we see around us is just the product of such nonlinear development. Thus it can be concluded, although it is difficult to imagine, what kind of exponential growth in science and technology is ahead of us, its consequences are difficult to conceive even today, let alone it was difficult to imagine a few years ago.

The authors goes a step ahead by giving their own advices how to make transition to the Second Age in the best and least painful way in order to avoid the difficulties that those misfits will soon encounter.
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