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on 13 May 2017
This is an economists view of the effect of the latest digital technologies on the economy. They characterise the current revolution as a second machine age with the first being the application of steam power to industrial processes started by James Watt with a long consequent tail of dependent innovations that ran right through to the twentieth century changing society, work and economy. The analysis is a bit cumbersome. As engineers we are used to putting concepts from disparate areas and building something that was just not possible before. They look at the effect of the current technology revolution on work, income inequality and try to explain these changes. The most interesting sections for me were when they began to look at how human society might respond and how to educate the workers of the future so that they can work with machines rather than compete against them. This seems to encouraging Montessori style self-directed learning to encourage ideation, large frame pattern recognition and complex communication. They highlighted the failure of graduate education in this respect and this has made me look at my own teaching and assessment methods for future classes I give.
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on 14 September 2017
This book and its successor cover changes in the world which are all too imperfectly understood by those not directly involved in their development and application. It will probably be a generation or more before their impact is generally understood.
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on 31 August 2017
This book gave me a good idea of emerging technologies.
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on 1 July 2017
This book manages to be optimistic about the ways that humans can find ways to adopt technologies to improve the way that people live together. It is short enough, and written so clearly, that I felt as though I could follow the arguments easily.
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on 29 August 2017
My first foray into machine intelligence and how it might affect the future. Has made me consider whether my role in engineering may be optimised by the application of advancing technologies.
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on 3 December 2015
A lot of people picked this as a top book for 2014, but it wasn't as overwhelmingly clever as I was expecting, and didn't rock my world view. Still interesting and definitely worth it, though.
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on 29 June 2017
Very relevant - captures what is happening with the economy and society well and explains the implications clearly. Strongly recommend
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on 30 August 2017
Really nice and informative book.
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on 15 March 2015
The book to read to understand the years to come!
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on 4 March 2014
The future……. We are on the second half of the chessboard.

Headache for clients
It is headache for our clients. For a while we thought it was awareness. Management teams not being aware of the technology changes. We were wrong. They are very aware. They just don’t know what to do with it.

Awareness gap
That does not mean that the whole organisation is aware. There seems to be a massive gap between the awareness of the management team and the rest of staff. Which creates a lot of issues, particularly when you want your organisation to be fluid, agile and responsive.

Opportunity for SMEs
We do find that owner-managers of small companies are very unaware. In fact there is an element of head in the sand and hope it will go away. Which is a pity, because what small business have is agility and fluidity.

The books we use
Dependent on the angles we use a wide range of books. “What technology wants” is a classic. ‘Future files” is a classic. So is “Future minds”. “Future babble” which we use as the anti-book (you can’t predict the future) is a classic. I suspect “The future of the mind” (next on my reading list) will become a classic.

Speed of change
What we never seem to be getting across in our sessions, is the speed of change. Big companies actually think they have enough time to respond. They even get the need to disrupt their own business model. The just don’t get exponential part of change. And the need to react NOW. Which is why we introduced “The second machine age”.

We are on the second half of the chessboard.
Anyone that was taught chess has heard the story of the inventor of chess and the Persian king. He asked as a reward that, starting with one grain of rice, and it to be doubled every square. With 64 squares on a chessboard, if the number of grains doubles on successive squares, then the sum of grains on all 64 squares is: 1 + 2 + 4 + 8... and so forth for the 64 squares. The total number of grains equals 18,446,744,073,709,551,615. weighing 461,168,602,000 metric tons, which would be a heap of rice larger than Mount Everest. This is around 1,000 times the global production of rice in 2010.

Moore’s law is everywhere.
It has happening to computers. It is happening to biology. Engineering. Material science. Robotics. Knowledge. Data. Artificial intelligence. Physics. Sensors. Energy. Speed. Printing. And it is happening to your business. Moore’s law is everywhere.

And things get weird when we are on the second part of the chessboard:

- Twelve years ago one computer hit 18 teraflops. Ten years later 64 million units were sold of the Playstation3, which had the same capacity.
- The iPhone 4S is as powerful as the 10 year old Apple Powerbook
- A human doctor would have to read 160 hours a week to keep up
- Users spend collectively 200 million hours each on Facebook. That is 10 times as many man hours needed to build the entire Panama Canal
- More pictures are taken every 2 minutes, than in all of the 19th century.
- And straight from “What technology wants”; The technetium contains 170 quadrillion (a quadrillion is one thousand million millions) chips. The number of neurons in your brain is similar to the number of transistors in the global network. The number of file links is similar to number of synapse links in your brain. The planetary electronic membrane surrounding the worlds is comparable to the complexity of the human brain. With 3 billion artificial eyes (webcams, phones, etc.) plugged in

Each new development becomes a building block for future innovations. The number of possible (re-)combinations become infinite. Which means innovation will explode. Is exploding.

Business implications
The business implications are enormous. You need to invest in innovation. You need to invest in technology. Which will cost you. For example, for every dollar invested in hardware, you need to invest 9 dollars in software, training and business process. Not to forget the time in which you will have to write it off as speed of development keeps increasing. Depreciation as we know it becomes obsolete?

What is more serious for business is that analog dollars become digital pennies. Which brings us to “Free” by Chris Anderson. The other side of the chessboard puts enormous pressures on pricing and margins. An eye opener for me was the question by the authors on how square that with
economic policy. How do you make “free” part of GDP? Is it value? For example Google saves an average of 15 minutes per query. There is a need to review that in this context. The Bhutan approach (Gross National Happiness) might be an option. It might no be as mad as it sounds.

Labour market
The same “free” effect is start having an impact on the labour market. If you use Google to drive a car, if robots can make cars, and if computers can answer calls and are starting to win Jeopardy and chess, what other types of work can be taken up by machines? Research suggest that 47% of all jobs are now at risk by computerisation.

The book goes a bit dark after that. Because of these pressures, there will be a long tail in the labour market. The happy few who will have a job and have it all. A lot will have no job and no prospects, made obsolete by machines. With all the cost to society you can imagine. Which makes Gross National Happiness as a measure much more important than you think.

It goes dark on the Internet of things. It has elements of “Over-connected” when it starts talking about what can happen when everything is connected. Learned a new term called “cyberbalkanisation”, which is as bad as it sounds. Terminator and Skynet are mentioned.

So how do your prepare? Ideation!
Invest in proper education. Watch Ken Robinson on TED. Ideation will become a key skill. Allow the entrepreneurs to play. They are the job creators of the future. Between 1977 and 2005, existing firms as a group were net job destroyers, losing an average of approximately one million jobs annually. Startups, in sharp contrast, created on average a net three million jobs per year in the USA.

Singularity event
And maybe, maybe we will have the singularity event in 2045 as predicted by Ray Kurzweil and the GPH will sky rocket.
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