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

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  11,256 ratings  ·  769 reviews
A revolution is under way. 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 retaili ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 20th 2014 by W. W. Norton Company
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Kegan I also don't necessarily think that we will see a decrease of jobs for the new generations. Studies have shown that countries more technologically-dev…moreI also don't necessarily think that we will see a decrease of jobs for the new generations. Studies have shown that countries more technologically-developed actually have lower unemployment rates than countries that are less technologcally-developed. The jobs market will change - don't mistaken me on that. People will start working more side-by-side with technology; digital and mechanical. There will be a shift aware from hard laybour to work next to machinery and automation and a technical engineer (for example). For some people, this will be the best thing since sliced bread; for others it will be a nightmare - but so is the balance of the market of work. I think "concern" are for those not willing to move with the changes; everyone should be aware of their own situation, but those that will move with the times, making the necessary changes to their own behaviour will be the ones who make a difference.
Interesting topic indeed. (less)

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Apr 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
The first part of this book reviews the incredible boom in technologies that are driving much of our economy. After that, the remainder of the book is about "bounty and spread". Bounty is the increased level of prosperity that some--but not all--of the population enjoys, as productivity increases. Spread is the growth of inequality, as much of the increased prosperity goes to the top economic levels, and little gets distributed to the lower economic levels. Thus, there ia a growing "spread" of i ...more
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: work, economics
I’m going to do a more detailed review of another book by these two authors called ‘Race Against the Machine’, which, if you were interested in a quick version of this book, that is the book to read. And this review isn’t really going to cover all of the themes in this book either – as I’m going to try to do that in the other review. What I want to talk about here are some of the ideas the authors have on GDP and how this is being impacted by technology.

GDP has long been a problematic concept. T
Dec 26, 2013 rated it liked it
This book's mission is fairly straightforward: It seeks to convince the reader, by analyzing various economic data, that today's technology is something that is far more marvelous than most of us realize. The argument is that we're in the middle of a second era of unprecedented innovation, much like the first machine age, when population exploded, as did quality of life, earnings, and a number of other life metrics.

Though its mission is vast, the actual pieces of the book are digestible. The op
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first half & even beyond didn't hold much new to me, but it was nicely put together & leads into their premise that times are changing more rapidly than any other time in history. As the book progressed, the authors delved more into economics & what the machine age means for people in general. I don't know much about economics, so I found their views really interesting, especially since they often balanced opposing viewpoints before saying which side they preferred. Sometimes neither, but a ...more
Lilly Irani
Jul 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
I wrote an essay published in Public Books reviewing The Second Machine Age for those interested in a more extensive analysis:

When the robots take our jobs, what color is your parachute? In their book The Second Machine Age, MIT researchers Brynjolfsson and McAfee point to machines that are getting better at pattern recognition and real time processing of complex situations. Machines can now (sometimes) drive cars, (sometimes) beat chessmasters, and (some
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Solid and entertaining overview of high tech robotics, bit of ai and very interesting examples. Not spectacularly innovative maybe, but I founf myself using many examples in conversations with friends.
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched and very interesting--it's a nice counterpoint to Robert Gordon and other techno-pessimists. The most striking insight was their defense of Moore's law and their case for measuring growth by hours saved . The more researchers proposing alternatives to GDP, the better.

However, I don't think I agree with their optimism in the end of the book. They lay out the case well for inequality, but they seem convinced that a UBI can fix it (in fact, I have yet to read a techno-utopian treat
Aaron Arnold
Feb 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
With the proper amounts of bombast and self-promotion, prophecy can be an extremely lucrative field. A lot of books about the future of American economic growth fall into either Stagnation or Singularity camps, trying to show that America's future potential is dismal due to the misguided economic philosophies of the ideological villains of your choice (see the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal's op-ed pages) or simple exhaustion of easy ways to generate sustained growth (see Robert Gordo ...more
Todd N
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
This book was came up during a discussion of Capital In The 21st Century, and I definitely see the broad similarities, especially in (1) its attempts to show how the 1% is pulling away from the 99% (and .1% pulling away from the rest of the 1%) and (2) its recommendation of using socialism as lube so that the whole capitalist machine doesn’t overheat and explode.

But where Dr. Piketty dismisses technology as a major driving force, Drs. Brynjolfsson and McAfee are all about the technology. They co
Bing Gordon
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great insights, but...

This starts with a bang, esp on network effects and geometric growth effects. Humming along, until the book tried to recommend govt policy. Then and only then, the rate of insights dwindled.
Oct 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Having watched Andrew McAfee's presentation at a manager's conference, I wanted to read more of his assumptions: Digitalization capabilities raise exponentially and while we didn't notice much of that explosion previously, right now we are the start of the "second half of the chessboard" where everything can happen and we have to act quickly to not be overrun by the development. One of his main examples wascomputer Watson winning Jeopardy.
It is only now that digitalization and automation will t
Keith Swenson
Apr 27, 2014 rated it liked it
I should start saying I am a real fan of Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson and the book has a lot of good content, I guess I was just a little disappointed because I was expecting more than what was already covered in Race Against The Machine. This expands upon that a bit, but it appears to have been hastily put together. But put that aside for the moment.

The book covers the most important trend of our time: machines, together with information technology, are becoming capable enough to handle
Mar 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Exponential advancement, digitization and recombination are the keystone considerations in The Second Machine Age's evaluation of our prospects in the next decade and beyond. The authors are reserved optimists, and if I had to guess I suspect that they subscribe to the view that an optimistic prediction is more likely to lead to an optimistic outcome. I sort of lean that way myself as long as there’s a sharp demarcation between optimism and hype—which the authors aren't confused by.

That said, fo
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a rather readable book on the impact of technology on people.

I was a little annoyed that the book talks about Kaggle's 2012 competition about the grading of student essays which were sponsored by the Hewlett foundation, and says that "the top three individual finishes were from, respectively, the United States, Slovenia, and Singapore." The finisher from Singapore was born in France and working in Singapore - I'm not sure if I would really say that he was from Singapore.

The start of the
I guess a lot of people made a big deal out of this when it came out a few years ago? That's cool, I guess. Here are some things I found interesting:

Income inequality is a natural outcome of mechanical advantage and technological innovation: the more technology replaces labor, the more wealth accrues to those who control technology, and the less to former human laborers

This is basic Marxism, right? I am not an economist (clearly) so I have no idea how true that is, and I'm not convinced they rea
Jun 05, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this book is terrible: a completely uncritical, technodeterministic paean to cornucopian progress. First of all, it's a paradigmatic example of a business press article that gets puffed up steroidally into a book by adding anecdotes, but without any additional analytic content.

Second, while it does contain some useful insights - for example, that what determines whether a job is subject technological obsolescence via automation is not the cognitive/manual distinction, but the routine/nonro
Muthu Raj
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There was a time when tractors replaced huge amounts of human labor. There were people who gained, and in some cases, technological innovations including farming machinery, ultimately created more jobs then they destroyed. However, with the advent of digital machines, this is no longer true. A single machine that eliminates thousands of humans, doesn't create ten jobs in that place.

More importantly, in a country like India, where it hasn't been so big a factor in employment, the possible influe
Marta Franco
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall a quite interesting read, but I was a bit disappointed by the policy recommendations chapter, which is the topic I was most interested in.

It's ironic how some parts of the book already feel a bit outdated despite it not being old at all. Ah, technology...
Laszlo Szerdahelyi
I honestly could not get through this book to save my life, It's as if someone took all the shitty articles about how technology will save us, wrapped in some centrist-liberal daydream from WSJ, The Economist and Forbes and bundled into a book and presented it as a serious work that explains the relationship between technology and humanity's progress in various social, economic and (less so) political domains.

It's an extremely boring hodge-podge of uncritical anecdotal references, that often glo
Kaspars Koo
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: future, science
Worth reading. A good book on the topic - well written and constructed and the arguments and the ideas seem solid and make sense.
In the beginning after a brief intro in the industrial revolution the author argues that the technologies are now becoming indistinguishable from magic (quote from Arthur C.Clarke) because of the Moore's law and the technological capabilities. That means that often the only boundary to technological progress is our imagination.
The main theme throughout the books is tha
Christina Stathopoulos
Although a bit outdated now, the information and insights still hold true! The Second Machine Age covers everything from Moore's Law & Moravec's Paradox to the effects of digitizing everything, AI, long-term implications, policy recommendations & more. I read the same authors' previous book Race Against the Machine years ago & really enjoyed it, so it's no surprise that I enjoyed this book too. The flow follows very well from the past, present & future of technology and innovation. ...more
Aaron Thibeault
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
*A full executive summary of this book is available here:

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
Clinton Smith
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
The Second Machine Age tries to do two things at once, and does both of them passably well, though with the author’s sympathies clear (in believing in the inexorable advance of technology, and the concept that such advances are good—good enough that any sort of centrally acting control of the advances themselves in the form of effective governance should be absent or muted, and that such central control should instead focus on mitigating the consequences of these advances), there is an incredibl ...more
Ovi Oprea
Jan 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: economics
I enjoyed learning about some new technological advancements, but the economics was rather a hodgepodge of feel-good ideas and buzzwords. You cannot really take an economic analysis seriously when you come across something like this: there is always more innovation when there is population growth. Really? If you have more illiterate people or more people living under the poverty line, you get more innovation?
The recommendation that companies should not pay taxes that fund social security was als
Pramod Biligiri
The Second Machine Age is a must read. I haven't found myself nodding in agreement with so much of a book in a long time. The authors describe how digital technologies have reached an inflection point and goods produced with their help are reshaping existing industries and their labour force at an accelerating pace. Some features of this new age are: increasing automation, companies of a few people achieving great success, freely available goods and the winner-takes-all nature of digital busines ...more
John Gurney
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very interesting, readable look at how technology filters through the economy to impact labor markets. The MIT economists co-authors persuasively argue automation and IT have pressured working class wages in recent decades and the trends will continue, leading to greater inequality (which they call income "spread"). They show previous technological advances, such as electricity, have taken decades to filter through the economy and this is still happening even in our fast-paced age. They show sev ...more
Snorre Lothar von Gohren Edwin
Interested in the future technology and what is to come, this book might give some small drips into the thoughts of the future. But as a person who is interested and working within the technology industry, this book brings up a lot of stuff a I already knew and have thought about. The are some interesting comparisons with GDP and technology which is worth its price. But it was the greatest aha experience.
Oct 11, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were some worthwhile ideas in here, but nothing really novel or deeply insightful, and it could have been communicated in a few pages instead of a book. If you are really interested in TED Talks and feeling important by learning a superficial amount about a new problem and some potential solution, maybe you should read this, but I'd rather actually learn something meaningful and do something with it. ...more
Jose Papo
Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is brilliant. It not only explains how we are really now entering the most important part of an exponential era, but also the impacts this is bringing to humanity. It talks not only about the good aspects but also risks, like job market and end of many types of professions
Carl Lens
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful book. The description of technological trends in it are good but not unique. What makes this book special are the vivid images of future scenarios of economy and society. The authors make an interesting case for the importance of human values in the future. Nice read.
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