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Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy Paperback – January 23, 2012


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Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy + The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies + Capital in the Twenty-First Century
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 98 pages
  • Publisher: Digital Frontier Press (January 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984725113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984725113
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Erik Brynjolfsson is a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business, Chairman of the Sloan Management Review, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and co-author of Wired for Innovation: How IT Is Reshaping the Economy. He graduated from Harvard University and MIT.

Andrew McAfee is a principal research scientist and associate director at the MIT Center for Digital Business at the Sloan School of Management. He is the author of Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization's Toughest Challenges. He graduated from MIT and Harvard University.

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Customer Reviews

The book is a quick and engaging read.
Jimbo
Will make you take stock of your personal and professional working habits and consider how technology changes are currently and will prospectively impact your future.
R. Michael Willis
Here the authors do a good job supporting their argument based on the observation and ideas of others.
Mark P. McDonald

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

129 of 136 people found the following review helpful By Bill Jarvis on October 23, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
In "Race Against the Machine", economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee ask the question: Could technology be destroying jobs? They then expand on that to explore whether advancing information technology might be an important contributor to the current unemployment disaster. The authors argue very convincingly that the answer to both questions is YES.

The book is very readable and includes lots of links to supporting evidence (both statistical and anecdotal). The authors do a good job of focusing on how computer technology is accelerating exponentially and how computers are a "general purpose technology", in other words, a special technology that can affect just about anything else and have much bigger impact than more narrowly focused innovations.

I thought a really good example involved automated driving. In 2005, two other economists suggested that it would be "hard to imagine" computers ever being able to handle driving in traffic. Yet, just 6 years later, Google introduced automated cars that did exactly that. The point is that progress in information technology is very likely to exceed our expectations and surprise us in the coming years.

While the problems are laid out clearly, I think the solutions offered are pretty conventional. The authors' call for reforming and upgrading schools, for example, is something that just about everyone can agree on. However, even if we managed to do that (and we are not making much progress), those kids would not enter the workforce for many years, and who knows what technology will be capable of by then?

Our children will face an entirely new job market and economy. Everyone should really read both "Race Against the Machine and also another important book, "The Lights in the Tunnel".
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240 of 275 people found the following review helpful By DB on October 26, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Is the book clear? Yes.
Is the book concise? Yes.
Is the book engaging? Yes.
Is the book onto something? Yes.
Is the book well researched? Yes.
Is the book worth reading? Absolutely!

Why on earth did I rate it three stars then? Stick with me here. Because the book tantalizes with its subtitle that accelerating change is "Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy" but just when the book gets going, Chapter Four falls flat and feels like an economic recipe for a by-gone era rather than a roadmap to the economy of "the digital frontier". As humanity moved from an agrarian society to the pre-industrial and then industrial era, modern economic models took hold that allowed diverse suppliers to rationalize their efforts in a common way and leverage that effort through a common currency. In short, barter gave way to the abstract concept of a general currency that could be exchanged for goods.

In that process, the machinery of "GDP" (consumption) and the corporation became all encompassing. With comparatively archaic tools (in comparison to the machines of 2011), human beings were the primary way of creating products for those same humans to then consume. As we began to enter the "information age" in the 80s, 90s and aughts, we created the early incarnations of "the digital frontier" in the model of the industrial era (i.e. we remade the factory). Two examples: Software titans copyrighted their work and big think tanks erected barriers to their information to maintain artificial scarcity that aids in keeping prices up and revenue flowing. This is regardless of the fact that information, once created, can be shared and distributed in an essentially frictionless way.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Mark P. McDonald TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 26, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have created a powerful, concise and informative discussion of the impact of technology on employment, income distribution and macro economics. Do not be fooled by the title, Race Against the Machine is not a neo luddite treatise on the evils of automation and technology. The title is more about generating buzz and attention than an accurate label for what is in this book -- nothing short of the best explanation of the economy we face in the future and the role of technology.

This book is highly recommended to anyone who wants to understand why we can have a recession, a jobless recovery and growing income distribution inequities all at the same time. This book does a tremendous job steering its explanation based on facts, insights from other economists and thought leaders.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee's basic argument is that we are just beginning to see the long term impact of technology on the economy. The authors highlight this using the analogy of Chinese story where the emperor agrees to pay a servant a grain of rice and then doubling that amount for each square on the chess board. That doubling is the foundation of technology's driving forces embodied in the laws of Moore, Metcalfe and others.

The authors believe that we are just getting to the back half of the chess board where a doubling of technology creates gigantic leaps in capability at an unprecedented pace. These leaps are beginning to displace human work as technologies like IBM's Watson and others demonstrate the ability to handle complex work.

The book is divided into five chapters;

Chapter 1. Technology's influence on the employment and the economy. The first chapter provides an overview of the book and its chapters.
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