Books  |    |  January 20, 2014

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

Book by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.
Published by W. W. Norton & Company.
320 pages.

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 retailing, and accomplish many tasks once considered uniquely human.

In The Second Machine Age MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee―two thinkers at the forefront of their field―reveal the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, we will realize immense bounty in the form of dazzling personal technology, advanced infrastructure, and near-boundless access to the cultural items that enrich our lives.

Amid this bounty will also be wrenching change. Professions of all kinds―from lawyers to truck drivers―will be forever upended. Companies will be forced to transform or die. Recent economic indicators reflect this shift: fewer people are working, and wages are falling even as productivity and profits soar.

Drawing on years of research and up-to-the-minute trends, Brynjolfsson and McAfee identify the best strategies for survival and offer a new path to prosperity. These include revamping education so that it prepares people for the next economy instead of the last one, designing new collaborations that pair brute processing power with human ingenuity, and embracing policies that make sense in a radically transformed landscape.

A fundamentally optimistic book, The Second Machine Age alters how we think about issues of technological, societal, and economic progress.

Table of Contents

  1. The Big Stories
  2. The Skills of the New Machines; Technology Races Ahead
  3. Moore’s Law and the Second Half of the Chessboard
  4. The Digitization of Just About Everything
  5. Innovation: Declining or Recombining?
  6. Artificial and Human Intelligence in the Second Machine Age
  7. Computing Bounty
  8. Beyond GDP
  9. The Spread
  10. The Biggest Winners: Stars and Superstars
  11. Implications of the Bounty and the Spread
  12. Learning to Race With Machines: Recommendations for Individuals
  13. Policy Recommendations
  14. Long-Term Recommendations
  15. Technology and the Future (Which Is Very Different from “Technology Is the Future”)

About the Author

Erik Brynjolfsson is the director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and Schussel Family Professor of Management Science at the MIT Sloan School. He is the author of several best-selling books with co-author Andrew McAfee, and one of the world’s most cited scholars in information systems and economics.