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Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,179 ratings  ·  201 reviews
We live in strange times. A machine plays the strategy game Go better than any human; upstarts like Apple and Google destroy industry stalwarts such as Nokia; ideas from the crowd are repeatedly more innovative than corporate research labs.

MIT’s Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson know what it takes to master this digital-powered shift: we must rethink the integration of m
Hardcover, 402 pages
Published June 27th 2017 by W. W. Norton Company
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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Athan Tolis
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: startups, business
Warning! Red Alert! At the end of each chapter this book has summaries of the main points and questions, and in particular questions about how the content of the chapter may relate to the goings on at “your employer.” It is clearly meant to be packaged into “continued education” courses offered by the authors’ employer (the Sloane School of Business at MIT) to middle aged (hence the enormous print) middle managers on a two-week jolly / off-site / executive MBA. This, sadly, I discovered only aft ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I was disappointed with this.

The authors are well known professors/consultants who write a lot about current developments in technology and the workplace. They place current developments in the context of our prior understandings of industry, work, and technology and thus help their readers orient themselves to a fast changing technical environment. I also suspect that these sorts of works are helpful as reading materials for executive education classes and consulting assignments. This is clear
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed it. I do not watch TV and do not read news so i only found out about this couture clothing and accessories renting platforms from this book. Clever. And some items are exposed to particular markets after they served their time in more advanced ones. And too bad the system of purchasing unlimited access to unused capacities of exercise facilities did not survive but I am sure eventually most optimal solution will be found. My own need is for a platform where i can order for a reasonable ...more
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book about our evolving reality thanks to technology. It's divided into 3 parts: Men vs Machine, Product vs Platform, and Core vs Crowd.

1. Men or machine? AI is already making better decisions in investment, medical diagnosis and a host of other scenarios. However, it suffers from Polanyi's Paradox, meaning that there is so much tacit knowledge, AI can't possibly consider them all because it does not know what to know. That's why predictive AI for presidential election can
Tim Pendry

This book is a good run down of commercially disruptive technologies, at least those disruptive as of 2017. Things move so fast that one wonders how long this text will be useful but at the time of reading two years later it still acted as a decent primer.

McAfee and Brynjolfsson are not men to doubt the capitalist paradigm or free markets so they are well into the idea that creative destruction is one of those things we have to live with and that dinosaurs will die and adaptable creatures will t
Narendran Thangarajan
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I see this book more as a revision to "The Second Machine Age" by the same authors. Though the main difference is that in that book, the authors differentiate the societal impacts of the Industrial Revolution from the Second Machine Age. However, in this book, they dive deep into the current Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) revolution and categorize the various rapid, seemingly random innovations under three buckets or re-balancings -- Man and Machine, Products and Platforms and ...more
Vicky Hunt
A Platform of Platforms: The Internet

Machine, Platform, Crowd is an application level guide to implementing available technology into the business place. It seems geared towards workplace staff development for companies, with questions at the end of each chapter that could be discussed in a team read of the book. It is the type of book employees often read to further their own personal development, as well. It is not a work of great vision for the future, or cutting edge tech info, or business
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. I think its a must read for all teenagers >16 or 17 and all the way up to where productive age finishes. The world is changing and fast. This read helps us understand how. ...more
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have the good Fortune of thinking about the future and the implications of technology professionally. Frankly, at this stage of my life, these thoughts are woven into my DNA and all consuming. My only escape is a good (non-tech) book.
So, if you're a curious nerd this (and everything written by the authors) is a must read, ponder, and apply.
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: new-sciences
Machine, Platform, Crowd is more like a "vision" from a "Guru" - heavy with fancy terms, apparently innovative and "true" new perspectives or frameworks, full of examples from the life around and with the messages created for effect. There was an era when such schemas created runaway bestsellers, led to hit management or executive courses and provided another tool to the busy business consultants. The utility is far less, and for a far shorter period, now except perhaps for the technologically-a ...more
Allan Aksiim
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: technium, econ
This is a business book and I will examine it as such. There are three parts:
1) Machine (developments in artificial intelligence and its impacts to companies in the past and present with comparisons to the start of electric era and adoption of computers and internet in 90s)
2) Platform (how the so-called platform economics of Facebook, Uber, Airbnb came to be and who and how have benefited and who have not)
3) Crowd (Examples of Linux, Wikipedia and other decentralized networks that have been succ
Seth Benzell
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
Very well written summary of research and expert opinion on the changing nature of economics and business. Highly recommended to both researchers and the layperson.

The book is divided into three sections based on the themes in the title. The most interesting are the sections on robots and platforms. The section on crowds seems comparitively less important, and is much more thin on material.

In the machine section, three big insights stick with me.
1) Robot decision makers often outperform human
Laurent Franckx
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
When I read Brynjolfsson and McAfee's "Race Against the Machine" a few years ago, it was a real eye opener on the transformative potential of new technologies, especially artificial intelligence. Back then, self driving cars hadn't reached the centre of the public debate yet, and only hypergeeks had an idea what neural networks were. One of the reasons why reading the book was such a disquieting experience was that serious economists were suggesting that there were good reasons to believe that t ...more
Joanna Katelyn
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extensively researched and thoughtful structured, the book explains why specific modern innovations have gained worldwide commercial successes by draiwng references back to classical microeconomic principles. Consider the number of books already in existence on the subject matters (machine, crowd, platforms, AI, etc.) - with the bulk of them focusing on the narratives rather than the analysis - this book stands out with its unique insights and academic rigour. Specific innovations vs economic pr ...more
Tõnu Vahtra
I was expecting more from this book, it felt basically a reference summary of The Platform Revolution, Thinking Fast and Slow (which are both amazing books) and numerous books written on the topic of AI. The authors also tried to bring in basic economic theory to this book (supply and demand relations, consumer surplus, demand curve, supply curve) which was indeed quite basic and did not lead to any new innovative angles. In the end I would not say that it was a complete waste of time due to the ...more
Frank Calberg
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Book extracts I found particularly useful:

Technologies, platforms, digital communities:
- Page 75: Neural networks become more powerful as their size increases. And big data, i.e. the recent explosion of digital text, pictures, sounds, videos etc., has been almost as important to machine learning as Moore's law.
- Page 88: Many transactions and interactions, which used to take place between people in the physical world, are now completed via digital interfaces. An increasing number of tasks are be
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read on the current trends (circa 2010-2020) regarding upcoming technologies, its affect on work and how to begin adapting to the change.
- Machine: AI, Machine Learning, Creativity and combining forces of human thought and machine thought
- Platform: How the traditional products and services have been affected and altered by digital platforms, and how the integration of products and platforms is underway
- Crowd: How collaborative effort across the world is supplementing
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Though intended for a business audience this book offers a lot to readers who want to better understand the revolutionary changes that technology is making in our work lives and in our everyday lives.  Some examples are: 1) explaining why platforms (think apps on the iPhone, Uber, Amazon that connect people with sellers of goods & services without owning much) have taken over so much of our economy; 2) explaining how the technology behind BitCoin, the Blockchain, is being used to decentralize re ...more
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very specific topic - not for every reader - but very interesting and scary. The analysis done by the authors about the powerful trends shaping industry and business is insightful and thought provoking. Worth a read.
Phil Simon
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tech, business
An excellent synthesis of three key trends

I had heard good things about the book but never got around to reading it until I found out that it was on the syllabus for a grad-level class at ASU. I decided to give it a look and I was instantly hooked. The authors write in a clear style that is anything but academic. What's more, they did quite a bit of research. McAfee and Brynjolfsson don't make broad pronouncements. Rather, they back up their assertions and with plenty of examples, some of which
Tony Frantz
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 rounded up to 5 stars.

Buckle up, it's coming!
Hilary Scroggie
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The four stars is mostly for the "Machine" section, which was what I was really interested in, but there was also some really interesting/thought provoking material in the rest too.
Wayne Cheetham
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very thought provoking and changed some of my views on digital. Loved the summary and questions at the end of each chapter...really brought it to life.
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
McAfee and Brynholfsson’s Machine Platform Crowd became a technical overview of modern and coming technology. The authors organized their book into the three categories of Machine, Platform, and Crowd because these technocrats observed a segue from hardware to software sophistication and multi-user networks. A correlation amongst improved machine capacity, computational capability, and user friendly created Watson and Deep Blue thru Uber and the blockchain. Thomas Friedman documented a similar p ...more
Oct 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like a selective techno-historical log for the modern age.

Pros: some good points are made, interesting and strong historical examples of how technological progress happens, some worthwhile thinking on the near future continuation of power accumulation by large internet platforms

Cons: a failure to consider (maybe even to acknowledge or see) any subjective negative outcomes from technological progress and corporate socialism; failure to consider potential short term horizons for socio-technologic
Jul 05, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh. So technochauvenistic. So naive. So enamored with a mythological free market.

How does a book published in 2017 mention advertising in apps but fail to discuss data aggregation? How can it naively espouse that generally, it’s safe to assume that all online actors generally have good intents? Spam and scams and trolls have been around for longer than that...

It’s as if they deliberately ignore any potential issues with their chosen model in order to hype it, complete with discussion questions
Rafael Lucas
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daniel Scott White
May 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
The cover is more interesting than the book.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A splendid book, replete with riches. Vital for understanding where we, as a society and an economy, are and where we'll be heading in the decades ahead.
Frans Saxén
In their latest book, McAfee and Brynjolfson continue to explore the latest technological developments and their implications from an economics and business perspective. Covering similar themes as "The Driver in The Driverless Car" by Wadhwa and Salkever, or the authors' previous "The Second Machine Age," here McAfee and Brynjolfson take more of a macro perspective, as they dive more deeply into the latest developments in machine learning; platforms; block chain, etc. Each chapter ends with poin ...more
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