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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

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  6,515 Ratings  ·  545 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…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)

Community Reviews

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David
Apr 05, 2014 David 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
Kay
Dec 26, 2013 Kay 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
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Hadrian
I've read a few of Brynjolfsson's early papers in Management Science on how the Internet affects pricing of goods and early descriptions of what we now call 'information goods'. Pretty good stuff for the mid '90s.

So our authors' main idea here is that recent technological advances will lead to massive shifts in the economy on the scale of the first Industrial Revolution after the introduction of the steam engine. The changes of the past twenty years in telecommunications, publishing, manufactur
...more
lilly
Jul 27, 2014 lilly 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: http://www.publicbooks.org/nonfiction...

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
...more
Aaron Arnold
Feb 12, 2014 Aaron Arnold 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
Bing Gordon
Apr 17, 2017 Bing Gordon 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.
Todd N
Nov 30, 2014 Todd N 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
...more
Andreas
Oct 23, 2015 Andreas 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
...more
Ken-ichi
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
...more
Roman Pichlík
Ze začátku je ta kniha výborná a čitvá, ale postupen času se stane dost nudnou a řekl bych, že to je ve fázi, kdy autoři začnou polemizovat nad ekonomicko-sociálním dopadem druhého věku strojů. Konec už mi vyloženě přišel jako utopie založená na spekulací k vy. Přestože jsem měl problém knihu dočíst, oceňuji na ní to, že je v ní dost zajímavých myšlenek.
Keith Swenson
Apr 27, 2014 Keith Swenson 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
...more
Muthu Raj
Sep 29, 2016 Muthu Raj 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
...more
Atila Iamarino
Apr 12, 2015 Atila Iamarino rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excelente livro. Descreve muito bem a situação de mídia e emprego corrente, mudanças tecnológicas e de ensino, bem como perspectivas futuras. Recomendo a qualquer um que trabalhe com algo que esteja mudando com tecnologias recentes. E professores.
Craig Jaquish
Mar 03, 2014 Craig Jaquish 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
...more
Kaspars Purmalietis
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
...more
Aaron Thibeault
Jan 19, 2014 Aaron Thibeault rated it it was amazing
*A full executive summary of this book is available here: http://newbooksinbrief.com/2014/01/28...

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
...more
Clinton Smith
Nov 03, 2015 Clinton Smith 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
Martin
Jul 31, 2015 Martin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Škoda, prvních pár kapitol jsem byl nadšený, autoři velice úspěšně hráli na mou oblíbenou futuristickou strunu s ústředním tématem notoricky známého Mooreova zákona. Poté se však naplno projevilo ekonomické zaměření autorů (koneckonců jak Brynjolfsson, tak McAfee jsou teoretičtí ekonomové z MIT) a ačkoliv se jednalo o kvalitně zpracovaný materiál, přistihl jsem se, že se do zbytku knihy nutím. No, aspoň už vím, co znamená třeba taková Pigouova daň, to se může hodit...

Pokud vám budoucnost není lh
...more
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 John Gurney 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
Ryan Lackey
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.
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.
Max Nova
Jan 17, 2014 Max Nova rated it really liked it
Read this book if you’re trying to understand what the economics of the future will look like. It doesn’t have all the answers, but the authors do a great job in the exposition. Tyler Cowen’s Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation is very similar.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s newest book follows in the footsteps of their last - explaining how advances in computers and robots are putting an increasing strain our society and challenging conventional economics about wo
...more
Amr
Jun 01, 2017 Amr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Andrew McAfee's TED talks are my go-to reference for anyone looking to understand the potential of automation and AI and how it could impact jobs and work. I started reading this book after watching the authors talk at Google, which I recommend as a good overview of what to expect from this book.
This book is a good primer on the current status and potential of automation and AI. The authors think through the possible impact of these changes and offer ideas of how to minimize damage and improve r
...more
Brendan McGill
Jun 05, 2017 Brendan McGill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the mix of introductory economic concepts, real world examples, and policy recommendations. An extremely important topic that is largely missing from mainstream politics.

I also really identified with the authors' defense of capitalism (we need to harness it, not abandon it) as well as their ability to remain rational and non-ideological on hot issues like taxation and the wealth gap. They stay focused on the topic at hand (changes to our economy owing to digitalization and automation) an
...more
Raghu
May 05, 2015 Raghu rated it really liked it
Of late, in economic, social and political circles, the argument has been raging about the prospects for the future of Capitalist economies. The long stagnation in Japan and the persistent slowdown in the EU have given rise to pessimism about the future because of the added markers of an aging population and challenges from Globalization. We see economic growth in the US. The Corporations are making massive profits but incomes for the majority still remain static and jobs are difficult to come b ...more
Zahedul
May 20, 2017 Zahedul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read and definitely worth a try. But would prefer 'Industries of the Future' over this one.
Bryan Murphy
Apr 14, 2017 Bryan Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very stimulating read; just filter out the rose tint.
Ho Manh
Apr 26, 2017 Ho Manh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book for 3 reasons 1) It tells a great story of the counter-intuitive exponential development of technology around the world. 2) It provides explanations for that development based on our best economic theories. In other words, the authors not only tell you what but they also tell you why. 3) The authors also discuss possible socio-economic adjustments that society could do to catch up with the breath-taking paces of technology: how jobs can be created, how wealth s ...more
Marta Franco
May 17, 2017 Marta Franco 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...
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“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” —Albert A. Bartlett” 5 likes
“Technology is a gift of God. After the gift of life it is perhaps the greatest of God’s gifts. It is the mother of civilizations, of arts and of sciences.” —Freeman Dyson” 4 likes
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