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The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies | [Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee]

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

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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 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 audiobook, The Second Machine Age will alter how we think about issues.

©2014 Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

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  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 07-10-14
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 07-10-14 Member Since 2002

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

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    "Upbeat but Limited Survey of Exponential Change"

    This is an upbeat survey of a technical and very rapidly changing field. The field is changing so rapidly some of the technical information in this book was obsolete before it got published. For example there is a section on the Waze GPS mapping system. This was purchased by Google and integrated into Google Maps way back in 2013. As a survey, it provides mostly news stories (computer wins Jeopardy, etc.) and some related statistics, but very little deep thinking or analysis.

    I much preferred The Singularity is Near (which is weird, but thought-provoking) and Race Against the Machine (which is very much like this book, but clearer).

    The authors make a number of policy recommendations all of which seem amazingly short sighted, liberally biased, and basically ignore the authors' own primary hypothesis of an exponential inflection point in technology growth.

    The authors refer to the world being at an exponential inflection point of technical change (that is, the near future is about to be significantly different than the recent past would predict) yet the authors repeatedly indicate while discussing their recommendation, we are not yet on the brink of significant change, pointing out that change in the recent past has not been all that fast. So which is it?

    The authors seem largely to focus on mitigating "spread". Spread is the authors' code-word for income/wealth inequality. Interestingly, the book seems to me to have a strong liberal bias, yet it has been edited carefully so this bias is well cloaked from a casual reader.

    The Authors' make a bunch of policy recommendations:

    Education
    Use technology in education
    MOOCs in particular
    Higher teacher salaries
    Increase teacher accountability
    Increase hours spent in education

    Encourage Entrepreneurship & Start-ups
    Reduce regulation
    Upgrade Infrastructure
    Government support of new technologies with Programs & Prizes
    Use technology to match workers to Start-ups, including foreign workers
    Tax incentives for start-ups

    Raise Taxes
    Raise taxes on the rich and famous
    Increase maximum tax rate
    Increase non-worker tied corporate taxes including VAT
    Increase Pigovian Taxes (taxes on pollution)
    Traffic Congestion Pricing

    Increase Social Support
    Guaranteed Basic Income Cash or vouchers or Negative Income Tax
    Government run mutual fund paying citizens
    Encourage technologies which augment, rather than substitute for, human ability
    Implement Made-By-Humans advertising

    These policy recommendations seem largely unrelated to the technical revolution and include a lot of government control and wealth redistribution. I am somewhat dubious these are great ideas particularly if government uses the new technologies to enhance its already substantial power.

    So many important questions are totally ignored by this book. Is the developed world approaching stuff saturation? If so, how will a new service and entertainment economy work? Will humans be enhanced by technology? Will there be an enhancement backlash? Will nano-technology (or AI, or some other technology) go dangerously wrong? Should we be addressing such risk now? Such questions are raised in other books like The Singularity is Near.

    The narration was OK but not superb.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Lunt Mountain View, CA United States 03-02-14
    Chris Lunt Mountain View, CA United States 03-02-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Good for the periphery"

    Well organized, thoughtfully written, but if you're reading in the space, absolutely no new information. This is a book I'll recommend to readers who aren't already reading blogs and books covering similar topics. I did like the presentation as hopeful without being fervent.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 09-05-14
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 09-05-14 Member Since 2001

    Letting the rest of the world go by

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    "The Androids are coming!"

    Books like this one are easy to enjoy. They are topical, informative and tell their story fairly fast. The digital age with its exponential growth and co-relational development is leading us to an inflection point.

    The authors steps the listener through the changes happening and demonstrates how the old metrics aren't always meaningful. Some of the digital changes such as Wikipedia (who buys encyclepedias today?) or Craig's List (who uses classifieds?) add immense value but they really don't show up in GDP, but yet add immense value to society. Predicting sunspot activities or automobile accidents can be determined better by individuals who aren't experts in the field as stated in this book. The second machine age is affecting change and the book presents many good examples.

    They take their premise to the point where the machines (androids) will start to replace most of what we do now. The authors delve into the economics and what the ramifications will be. The authors give a bunch of prescriptions to solving some of the problems they perceive coming down the pike. This is where the book is weakest.

    I thought Piketty's book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" covered the economic ramifications of capitalism and Tim Wu's book "The Master Switch" covered changes that the digital explosion have brought better than this book did.

    Maybe everything they are suggesting (mostly government intervention of some kind) is correct and should be done, but the authors make a mistake of getting ahead of the conversation. It's good to be right, but one doesn't want to be right to far ahead of everybody else because nobody will hear what you have to say, and that's a problem with the authors prescriptions, and that was the real reason they wrote this book.





    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ben 06-12-14
    Ben 06-12-14
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    "Well Researched and Expansive Analysis"
    What did you love best about The Second Machine Age?

    This is not just another book about artificial intelligence or the pace of technological advancement. It's a very thoughtful treatment of the broad implications for society and civilization.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Second Machine Age?

    The discussion of income disparities and capital accumulation was fascinating. It left me less hopeful about America's future without significant reform but more inclined to acquire equities and real estate.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I found the book very interesting from start to finish. If you like Ray Kurzweil (The Singularity is Near) or Peter Diamandis (Abundance), you should definitely read/listen to this one.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David IDYLLWILD, CA, United States 10-21-14
    David IDYLLWILD, CA, United States 10-21-14 Member Since 2012
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    "STOP! STOP! STOP!"
    Any additional comments?

    Make the pain stop!

    I had no other book in my Audible library so I figured I'd continue listening until I finished raking the leaves. It's the fastest leaf raking I've ever done!

    The first half of this book is harmless enough; a recitation of recent technology that in case you're one of the unfortunate people who have been in a coma the last 20 years, will find informational.But this first half is only a prelude to the main point of the book, which is basically that Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes and the Luddites were right

    I am sorry for not spending the time here to detail the many errors and misconceptions in this book. This is because I don't have the patience to think about this book any longer. It's only by my compassion for other readers that I can send this warning. It would be masochistic of me to spend any more time than necessary, but suffice it to say that practically every syllable endured while racing through the leaf raking was like an icepick to the prefrontal logic and rational centers of my brain.

    There are so many ways to counter the ideas in this book that I would not even know which to select and which to leave out.Of course it would do little good to detail the nonsensical arguments anyway because for those who are not a fan of socialism, then you can probably guess what these arguments are. If you are a fan of controlling other people's lives, then nothing will change your mind, because reason is not automatic -- those who deny it cannot be conquered by it.

    The only specific advice I will include is this. If you have any respect for private property or individual freedom, or any misgivings of government "help," or if you are actually a fan of progress and the advancements of science and technology, then you'll want to avoid this recent update to the Communist Manifesto.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ed POINT COOK, Australia 10-19-14
    Ed POINT COOK, Australia 10-19-14 Member Since 2010
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    "The robots are coming"

    The book covers development of technology from the start and although this is implied by the book's title the author doesn't presume the listener is tech savvy and quickly walks through technical development through to the digital age. The author also explains technical terms well so it is an easy listen but doesn't shy away from getting into details and provides some real world examples. Book is also well written and narrated, easy to follow and well structured.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sam Motes Tampa 04-06-14
    Sam Motes Tampa 04-06-14 Listener Since 2009

    Audible obsessed lifelong learner.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Kurzweil would be proud"

    The author makes the argument that cutting age inventions like IBM's Watson Jeopardy champion, Google self driving cars and augmentation technologies for things things like vision and hearing are just warm up acts for the massive innovations that the second digital age will bring about. He then does a great job of ores anti g both the utopian Kurzweillian singularity view of the bight future ahead as well as the doom and gloom Ludite view of as Keynes called technological unemployment that will come about as we all struggle to keep ahead of the sun setting of jobs robots will be able to do more reliably and cheaper. The author explores variations on guaranteed income that will be required as the machines take over the average jobs that lead to a widening gap between the smaller minority haves and the majority have nots. This is certainly a optimistic leaning wake up call at what our future may hold that is a very thought provoking read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike Johnson Victoria, BC 02-25-14
    Mike Johnson Victoria, BC 02-25-14 Member Since 2004

    rower55

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    "Recommended"

    I follow these issues and am interested in what these authors have have discovered since the release of Race Against the Machines which they also released.
    As such and given the source the positions outlined can be taken seriously.
    Frankly there is a little too much of the soft soap included here so as to avoid upsetting people which is a characteristic of our public opinion shapers in my opinion. However they may know more about the intentions of the USG then they are prepared to share here.
    They are surprisingly weak with respect to taxation policy.
    That being said it is going to be tough to be right over the balance of the century with respect to the pace of automation and redundancy and all will be somewhat insecure in their outlooks.
    Bear in mind that they are relatively well compensated Ivy League academics who might be somewhat unfamiliar with the actual bite of the cutting edge so to speak.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Jim
    Twickenham, United Kingdom
    6/7/14
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    "Important and thought provoking"

    The authors argue that digitial technology (in which they embrace computers, networks, the internet, smartphones etc) is accelerating the pace of tehcnologocal advancement at an exponential rate because of the phenomenon of combinatory innovation. So my laptop may not feel radically different to me compared to the one I had three years ago but a combination of it and the internet made it possible for Audible to create a business selling cheap audiobooks. So I can plough through potentially challenging reads like this in a weekend before moving onto whatever I find useful or interesting next. This in turn not only enriches my leisure time but also helps me learn stuff I can put to use at work for career advancement. The downside of that trend is that a few years after, say, the digital camera is invented Kodak go bust and that's not just bad news for Kodak employees; it's part of a wider phenomenon in which well paid jobs for ordinary people disappear and they're not replaced because the internet based enterprises that replace them just don't employ that many people. Worse still while the overall level of cash in the economy (referred to here as the "bounty") might stay the same or even increase it gets shared out in increasingly inequitable ways (a phenomenon called "the spread"). What does it all mean, where will it end up and what can we do about it?

    What I really liked about this book was the way the authors set out the issues, illustrate the impact they are already having, predict where it will go next and suggest what we should do about it at the level of public policy, education, planning our own careers and thiking about what to tell our kids (postgraduate qualifications may be the new degree). They identify the types of jobs that might be vulnerable (clerical, manufacturing and increasingly professional jobs requiring repetitive tasks fo areas of accountancy, law and medicine could be under threat) and those which look safer (problem solving or creative roles aided by computers or less well paid service jobs).

    Recommended for anyone interested in the future of technology and work.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Marcus Paine
    London
    9/5/14
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    "Everyone should read this book."

    From Baxter the robot, surely the embodiment of Asimov's 3 laws, to IT billionaires, to explaining how superstars make so much money today and dealing with the declining economic power of the middle and lower classes, this book covers a huge range, but never loses site of the authors objectives.

    These are: to let us know what is happening in the world as affected and supported by current technology,IT and the internet, to let us know the implications of these developments and then to gently suggest how we can deal with them.

    If you have even a passing interest in "The Singularity" as described by Verne Vinge, or how we will live with robots and a technological world in the future, then this book is a very real, non Sci-fi handling of the topic.

    I love Sci-fi. I've studied and use economics in my daily work. What the authors lay out and then discuss pulls together lots of interesting developments you may have heard about into a compelling and fascinating narrative. They have a positive view of the future whilst not shying away from the "negative externalities" (human and economic effects) of technology and its effect on local, national and global markets..

    I enjoyed it so much I've ordered the paper copy to read again, make notes in and reflect on

    An excellent book on a vitally important topic. I wish I could make all current and future politicians read it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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