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Race Against The Machine

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,992 ratings  ·  171 reviews
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 Ra
Paperback, 98 pages
Published (first published October 17th 2011)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  1,992 ratings  ·  171 reviews

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Aaron Arnold
Sep 04, 2013 rated it liked it
I love short, data- and graph-heavy books like these, that tackle important subjects in greater depth than the blog format allows but at greater brevity than a 400 page tome. Even when I have big problems with them, like I do with this one, they're usually very brisk yet well-written and thought-provoking. The book's central subject is an important one - the effects of automation on the economy of the future (mostly the US, but the results are probably more broadly applicable). It's broken up in ...more
D.M. Dutcher
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Quinn
Feb 02, 2013 rated it liked it
It's hard to call this a complete book. It's much more of an extended essay, with the final chapter substantially deviating away from previously-established themes (it is also self-referential on that fact; the authors acknowledge that they were looking to write something on the Digital Frontier, but they couldn't get over the hurdles that skill-based technological change puts in the labor market). Their recommendations also seem a little trite. Of the 19 listed they focus predominantly on encou ...more
Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, futurism, ai
Just recently Elon Musk tweeted that AI would be able to defeat humans at every job by not 2060 but 2030 or 2040. Well, that's a fascinating optimistic speculation. Over the period of just 15 years (1988-2003), processor speeds have improved by a factor of 1000 and algorithms by 43000. With the advent of fully autonomous cars, IBM's supercomputers and rapidly growing facets of technologies, nearly every task thought to be impossible for computers in the past seems doable in the near future. Howe ...more
Luke Echo
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
I think this sentence sums up the shortsightedness of the authors:

"Thus, we focus our recommendations on creating ways for everyone to contribute productively to the economy."

That we should serve the economy - this ephemeral lord that now dictates our usefulness and salvation.
Jun 17, 2015 rated it liked it
The book presents some of the issues of technology, automation and employment. However, the section on recommendations to alleviate the problems seemed to have too much wishful thinking and "thinking inside the box". He suggests tech start-ups may create new ways of doing things which could provide jobs. Even assuming that, taken as a whole, start-ups created more jobs than they eliminate, he doesn't present a case whether these new jobs will pay less or more than the employees got elsewhere. He ...more
Pete Welter
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
We are in the midst of what - by nearly all measures - is an economic recovery. However, the measure most relevant to many people - unemployment - has not moved. We also find an every-increasing gap between the top-earners and everyone else.

This book posits an explanation for all of those phenomena, and more. The essential argument is that technology has reached a point in it's Moore's Law trajectory where it is finally replacing humans at a rate where we can produce more with less people workin
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a great, fast read. It is very clearly written with clear points and strong, specific examples. There are also several excellent quotes peppered throughout from historical figures like Franklin Roosevelt and present-day economists. This book offers important fodder for all those in the digital technology world, as well as educators, labor leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs. The authors acknowledge that we face a real and potentially worsening "technological unemployment," but also offer ...more
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent short book about one of the most pressing social problems of our time, namely, the technologically-drive end of work. What is odd for me is how much I liked this book, given that I detested their lengthier follow-up effort (reviewed here: B&M's synthesis of the literature on technological obsolescence of work is very good, and their list of policy proposals, focused on improving education and labor mobilization, also make good sense ...more
Fourat Janabi
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
A great, concise, and well-written and well-sourced book on technology. Very much in the style of Kurzweil or Jason Silva, though not as entertaining as either of them. It explains with numerous data-points the correlation over 150 years, of technological innovation, and economic well-being to labour. Using the history of capital vs labour, gdp vs average income, and many others.

Over the last 10-20 years, due to technological advances, overall economic well-being has gone down due to the lack of
May 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Another nice short ebook! A focused argument for the technology determinants of the widening wage and employment gap in the US. The point is to make the argument that technological change can increase overall output and the pay/rewards/growth of the skilled, the superstars, and the technological elite without helping and even while hurting the prospects of those whose jobs are rendered obsolete and who as a result require retraining. The book is really a long essay or summary paper but it is a r ...more
Mar 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting short-read, more of a lengthy article than a book if you cut down on the examples. The examples were quite catchy and helpful in visualizing their main argument and the context; but there were some theoretical gaps that were not addressed as analytically. By trivializing alternative analysis of unemployment due to economic cycles and stagnation, the authrs seem to undermine the importance of historical recurrance of technological unemployment. yes, there were examples of horses being ...more
Dec 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's tough to read this book at the end of 2018. The premise is that economic slowdowns didn't start with the Great Recession in 2008 and were caused in great part by technological advancement, which leaves people behind if they haven't received enough education. I remember being similarly optimistic about the promise of technology back in 2011. I even still agree with some of the authors' policy proposals today (e.g., eliminating the mortgage interest deduction because it's a lousy way to inves ...more
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
As the authors note, this isn't a handbook for how to reorganize companies and the economy. Rather, it's a description of existing trends, some explanations of those trends, and notes towards a larger conversation that needs to happen. Some proposed measures are too glib and vague (replace STEM with STEAM!) while others seem duplicates of existing efforts ("Create clearinghouses and databases to facilitate the creation and dissemination of templates for new businesses" - isn't this already being ...more
I was hoping for a longer book. Or at the very least a book that went into a more detailed discussion of both the theory and provided alternative viewpoints. The one good side to this book is that it links to a lot of data and related articles. The authors write clearly and concisely so that reading is a breeze(not necessarily a good thing) but the book is easy to understand and is more akin to a popular science book meant for the general readers rather than a proper reference.

The main argument
Dec 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Race against the machine talks about how machine is revolutionizing our society and economy. It speculates about the link between automation and few jobs created last years. It seems reasonable and I agree with that. But he misses one point about the race between humans and machine, saying that we are losing the race against the machine. I don't think so, I think the authors doesn't understand how A.I. algorithms works and they don't know how dangerous it would be leave decisions to machines, as ...more
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting on how labor will go down the same path as horses after the widespread adoption of combustion engines - their work wasn't worth enough to pay the fodder. Computers, they argue, take over more complex tasks such as autonomous driving and machine translation at an accelerating pace. This technology-driven economic transition will give rise to ever growing inequalities which calls for political change. ...more
Daniel V
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Incredible read. Crucial for everyone to understand how technological development affects the economy, and ultimately their own lives.

Should be required reading for young people that want to 'Win' in an economy that is becoming increasingly defined by a disparity between the rich and the poor. Understand how to 'race WITH the machines' and you will be a superstar, as this book explains, or be left in the dust.
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was mindblown by the validity of this not-so recent book. A very concise compilation of facts and research regarding automation and its implications for the labor market in a very digestible short read
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Automation is a complicated problem that has been subtly approaching its tipping point for a very long time. I would applaud the authors for taking seriously its acceleration over the last few decades, but perhaps I should just applaud the people the authors quote, since this book does very little of it's own heavy lifting, and little heavy lifting at that. Don't get me wrong, a synthesis of current thought on this predicament would be welcome even if it didn't have an original bone in it's body ...more
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny that this book is just 100 pages, but it contains very intensive information that you would feel you read someone's review from another books of 500 pages.
Short doesn't mean bad, it you are able to put all the points inside.

We all know machines is taking over human jobs, we found the productivity is higher, but wages are lower. The inequality of wealth is getting worse. The author gave us some insights and some suggestions.

Autopilot cars, trucks are already invented, soon it will cause hug
Mbogo J
Sep 05, 2018 rated it liked it
This small book took on one of the biggest problems of our time;the large scale replacement of human labor by machines. The results were mixed. I particularly liked their idea that we can't bench a huge chunk of the labor pool by giving them some universal basic income and sending them into forced leisure. Our economic system needs to be designed in a way that integrates people and machines in the production system.

The bulk of the book was an aggregation of ideas from other books and commentator
Mete Rodoper
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Race against the machine is one of the earlier books which analyzes the influence of recent technological developments on economy and job market. In a concise form, just short of 100 pages, it is a good introductory book to the topic. By collecting several earlier publications by various researchers and combining their conclusions, this book presents a complete picture of the field. There is an impressive analysis that describes the recent changes in the job market and economy, especially in the ...more
Aug 31, 2018 rated it did not like it
Not a good book. I went into this hoping for some information about how jobs are not just destroyed but are produced by the advent of new technology. You would expect more from a MIT scholar.

The premise of the book is that it is the speed of the advance of technology which has caused and is causing mass unemployment. His premise remains completely ungrounded through this work. He never attempts a real life example of how this works. Why? Because the speed in the advances of technology have nothi
Michael Atkinson
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really appreciated reading this book. Nice, succinct, well-thought-out, cogent. Great analysis of how technology is outsourcing many jobs, including ones you'd never imagine (some doctors, lawyers), yet how it's good news because society should be net better off for it. I agree. I wish there were more details of how/why society could be better off, and also more details on who stands to benefit/not be threatened, beside "creative entrepreneurs."

I also don't feel there was tons more expressed
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, technology
Thought provoking short book about the changes that will come regarding to work in the next years due to technological progress. Lot's of 'human' jobs such as taxi-drivers, clerks, will disappear and so far no substitute has come by, the numbers of unemployment are rising throughout the Western world. The authors are somewhat techno-optimistic or techno-utopian and conclude by saying progress is good but they've faled to convince me the better future. The nagging sense became stronger while read ...more
Mar 30, 2015 rated it liked it
This small treatise is a refined simplification of The Second Machine Age, which was published 2 years later after this book. Throughout the 98-page discourse Mr.Bynjolfsson comes straight to the point that the human labours are facing the seemingly invisible challenge posed by the technologies we have created; detailedly explains the benefits and costs of this competition and why a race "with" the machines would make us better off than "against" them. However, when it comes to the fourth chapte ...more
Kasey Yang
Mar 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Read this book for a class about Artificial Intelligence. It was compelling, and provided a very holistic view into what the future of the country may look like, as well as a well-thought out agenda for action to make the most of the rise of technology. I wasn't completely swayed to become excited about the rise of technology, as they focus more on the big picture rather than the individual lives that are going to be affected. Overall, it was extremely informative and insightful, with a very dee ...more
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A very concise explanation of the interplay, both historically and today, between technology, the economy and labor. We forget that we have already been through two prior technology driven industrial revolutions - steam and electricity. Both destroyed millions of jobs, as the digital industrial revolution is doing now. However, these revolutions also created entire new industries, and once absorbed by capital and labor, made a higher standard of living possible for all. The authors argue that th ...more
David Antoš
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
An excellent summary of a very important question - what shall we do if large part of humanity lost 'economic value' due to technology shifts? What if many professions get replaced by computers and in increasing number of industries the winner-takes-all pattern prevails? What shall we do with all the 'losers' when the free-market welfare distribution becomes further uneven?

We are not there yet and this question is being raised again and again over centuries. However, it's a big one and it's good
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