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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 3 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,368 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

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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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Thibeault on 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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