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Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy [Kindle Edition]

Erik Brynjolfsson , Andrew McAfee
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (218 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Why has median income stopped rising in the US?

Why is the share of population that is working falling so rapidly?

Why are our economy and society are becoming more unequal?


A popular explanation right now is that the root cause underlying these symptoms is technological stagnation-- a slowdown in the kinds of ideas and inventions that bring progress and prosperity.

In Race Against the Machine, MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee present a very different explanation. Drawing on research by their team at the Center for Digital Business, they show that there's been no stagnation in technology -- in fact, the digital revolution is accelerating. Recent advances are the stuff of science fiction: computers now drive cars in traffic, translate between human languages effectively, and beat the best human Jeopardy! players.

As these examples show, digital technologies are rapidly encroaching on skills that used to belong to humans alone. This phenomenon is both broad and deep, and has profound economic implications. Many of these implications are positive; digital innovation increases productivity, reduces prices (sometimes to zero), and grows the overall economic pie.

But digital innovation has also changed how the economic pie is distributed, and here the news is not good for the median worker. As technology races ahead, it can leave many people behind. Workers whose skills have been mastered by computers have less to offer the job market, and see their wages and prospects shrink. Entrepreneurial business models, new organizational structures and different institutions are needed to ensure that the average worker is not left behind by cutting-edge machines.

In Race Against the Machine Brynjolfsson and McAfee bring together a range of statistics, examples, and arguments to show that technological progress is accelerating, and that this trend has deep consequences for skills, wages, and jobs. The book makes the case that employment prospects are grim for many today not because there's been technology has stagnated, but instead because we humans and our organizations aren't keeping up.


Editorial Reviews

Review

"We're entering unknown territory in the quest to reduce labor costs. The AI revolution is doing to white collar jobs what robotics did to blue collar jobs. Race Against the Machine is a bold effort to make sense of the future of work.  No one else is doing serious thinking about a force that will lead to a restructuring of the economy that is more profound and far-reaching than the transition from the agricultural to the industrial age. Brynjolfsson and McAfee have hit the ball out of the park on this one.  It's a book anyone concerned with either business, or more broadly, the future of our society, simply must read." - Tim O'Reilly

"This is, quite simply, the best book yet written on the interaction of digital technology, employment and organization.   Race Against the Machine is meticulously researched, sobering, practical and, ultimately, hopeful.  It is an extremely important contribution to the debate about how we ensure that every human being benefits from the digital revolution that is still gathering speed.   If you read only one book on technology in the next 12 months, it should be this one." -Gary Hamel

"In social science inquiry, we badly need the right people asking, and answering, the right questions.  That's precisely what Brynjolfsson and McAfee do in this important treatise on the intersection of technology and the economy.  Moreover, they're tackling the most important question of the present and the future: where are the new jobs going to come from?" - Jared Bernstein

"Race Against the Machine is a portrait of the digital world - a world where competition, labor and leadership are less important than collaboration, creativity and networks." - Nicholas Negroponte

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 517 KB
  • Print Length: 98 pages
  • Publisher: Digital Frontier Press (October 17, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005WTR4ZI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,110 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
130 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book. Everyone should read it. 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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246 of 282 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Now What? October 26, 2011
By DB
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
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good book!
Published 12 days ago by Rui Deng
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite interesting, but
The authors do a good job of describing the effects of automation on jobs. However, their attempt at the end to put a positive twist on it relies on a lot of coordinated efforts... Read more
Published 18 days ago by renet
5.0 out of 5 stars The elimination of the middle class, through the increased use of...
What an eye opener. Since 2008, average income is dropping. Everyone who knew a Wall St. broker now out of work knows that. Read more
Published 19 days ago by T. Blackwell
2.0 out of 5 stars Quite banal
Very little here that a reasonably well informed layperson wouldn't know already.
Published 29 days ago by David F McMullen
2.0 out of 5 stars Not bad for an UNDERGRADUATE essay, professors should do better.
Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee conduct research (and presumably teach) at MIT. In this book they describe how the increasing power of computers and computing will make many... Read more
Published 1 month ago by albionphoto
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
worthless book
Published 1 month ago by Daniee Calabrese
3.0 out of 5 stars Good casual reading and identified key problems that developed society...
Easy to read and make intuitive sense. But practically speaking the ideas may be difficult to implement given the political backdrop, thus seems a little idealistic in terms of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jeff
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Still working on it.
Published 2 months ago by Sherry Vaughan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Concise and informative. It lets us know where we're headed.
Published 2 months ago by Ernie Hinds
4.0 out of 5 stars The Race for the Future of Work
Ever since the dawn of Industrial Revolution, humanity has faced an increasing threat of competition from machines and other technological innovations. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dr. Bojan Tunguz
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