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

Erik Brynjolfsson , Andrew Mcafee
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
RRP: 17.99
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Book Description

18 Feb 2014
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 will alter how we think about issues of technological, societal, and economic progress.

Frequently Bought Together

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies + Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy + Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think
Price For All Three: 29.83

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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: 23.6 x 16 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review 10 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

The main argument: In the first machine age--otherwise known as the Industrial Revolution--we humans managed to build technologies that allowed us to overcome the limitations of muscle power like never before. The result, which has reverberated these past 200 years, has been an increase in economic productivity unprecedented in human history. And the corollary of this increase in productive power has been an increase in material standard of living and social development equally as unprecedented.

In the past 30 years, with the rise of computers and other digital technologies, we have moved from overcoming our physical limitations, to overcoming our mental ones. This is the second machine age. Though we are still at the dawn of the second machine age, it already shows at least as much promise in boosting productivity (and quality of life) as the first. Indeed, by various measures--including the standard ones of GDP and corporate profits--we can see that the past 30 years has witnessed an impressive steepening in productivity.

And this is just the beginning. For digital technology continues to advance at an exponential pace; more digital information is being produced (and kept) all the time (all of which has enormous economic potential); and new ways of combining existing (and new) ideas into newer and better ones are ever being found.

Still, what is equally apparent is that the benefits of this steepening in productivity have gone to the few, rather than the many.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read 16 Feb 2014
By Charles TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book states that the greatest known event in human history was the industrial revolution, what the authors call the first machine age, where we learned to use mechanical power to overcome our physical limitations, they believe we are now at a the start of a another revolution, a second machine age where machines gain intelligence and will start to be able to perform mental tasks like driving cars or diagnosing illness, this will cause as massive a change in how we live as the industrial revolution.

Computers are great at following rules, but not so good at pattern recognition.
"For example, a person's credit score is a good general predictor of whether they'll pay back their mortgage as promised, as is the amount of the mortgage relative to the person's wealth, income, and other debts. So the decision about whether or not to give someone a mortgage can be effectively boiled down to a rule", and computers can handle this, but unfortunately certain things that involve more complex pattern recognition cannot be broken down in to simple rules, driving for example. But even here advances are been made, Google are developing a driverless car, it cannot handle complex city traffic (yet) but shows great promise.

Another problem with computer intelligence is Moravec's paradox, "the discovery by artificial intelligence and robotics researchers that, contrary to traditional assumptions, high-level reasoning requires very little computation , but low-level sensorimotor skills require enormous computational resources." this means that although computers might be great at complex high level stuff like maths they are lousy at sensorimotor skills like walking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beware the Second Age... 13 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book teeters between technological boosterism and reactionary skepticism, and is certainly no worse for that. The authors try to make the distinction between the technologies themselves and their development and deployment, making claims that we ought to regulate the latter to get the most from the former. This is fine as far as it goes, but what they miss is that the two things are not separable, and that the very thinking that develops this stuff in the first place is what drives some of its evils. They don't blythely believe that all tech change is positive (even quoting Keynes' famous maxim about this), but nor do the recognise the forces that enable technology are those that give it its darker side. Disappointingly little here about how users sometimes liberate themselves despite and not because of it, and how that creativity is increasingly curtailed by the locked down approach of the companies and engineers who build it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars fab read
Fantastic insight into the world around and how the transformations happening around us. Best book I have read in the recent past.
Published 11 days ago by Ashish
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read.
A good read. I think most people are going to be surprised as to how much emerging technology is going to change our lives. This book nicely captures some of it. Read more
Published 29 days ago by Mark D
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing new
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... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Wilmington
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the most relevant economist on the planet
The most relevant economist writing today. Given the accelerating impact of technological innovation on the economy, we are almost certainly mismeasuring inflation, output,... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Eric Lonergan
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything Will Change
The first machine age was the Industrial Revolution which ran from about 1760 to the middle of the 19th century. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mark Chadbourn
4.0 out of 5 stars A question? why is everyone using the audio CD not reading the book as...
Why is the audio version getting so many listings. I am just reading the book my self. I like this books a interesting easy that complies current thinking. Highly recommend it.
Published 3 months ago by edward
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read
This is a great introduction and overview of the challenges faced by society as machines become increasingly important in our economy. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Someone From London
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
Filled with examples and the deep and very broad implications of technological progress of the last few years, this book is simply outstanding.
Published 4 months ago by A. Whybrew
3.0 out of 5 stars ok
Ok, but not revolutionary. Lots of repetition from other books and not really too much to grab me unfortunately then
Published 4 months ago by Neil Procter
5.0 out of 5 stars Good purchase
Great prompt delivery, quick effective response to my queries that I had, book is descriptive and detailed and has an educational purpose towards the future development of... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mohamad Bheekhun
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