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

Erik Brynjolfsson , Andrew McAfee
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A New York Times Bestseller

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 book, The Second Machine Age will alter how we think about issues of technological, societal, and economic progress.

Editorial Reviews


“Fascinating.” (Thomas L. Friedman - New York Times)

“A terrific book. Brynjolfsson and McAfee combine their knowledge of rapidly evolving digital technologies and relevant economics to give us a colorful and accessible picture of dynamic forces that are shaping our lives, our work, and our economies. For those who want to learn to 'Race with the Machines,' their book is a great place to start.” (Michael Spence, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences)

“Erik and Andy have lived on the cutting edge, and now, with this book, they are taking us there with them. A brilliant look at the future that technology is bringing to our economic and social lives. Read The Second Machine Age if you want to prepare yourself and your children for the world of work ahead.” (Zoë Baird, president, Markle Foundation)

“How we build, use, and live with our digital creations will define our success as a civilization in the twenty-first century. Will our new technologies lift us all up or leave more and more of us behind? The Second Machine Age is the essential guide to how and why that success will, or will not, be achieved.” (Garry Kasparov, thirteenth World Chess Champion)

The Second Machine Age offers important insights into how digital technologies are transforming our economy, a process that has only just begun. Erik and Andrew’s thesis: As massive technological innovation radically reshapes our world, we need to develop new business models, new technologies, and new policies that amplify our human capabilities, so every person can stay economically viable in an age of increasing automation. I couldn’t agree more.” (Reid Hoffman, cofounder/chairman of LinkedIn and coauthor of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Start-up of You)

“Although a few others have tried, The Second Machine Age truly helped me see the world of tomorrow through exponential rather than arithmetic lenses. Macro and microscopic frontiers now seem plausible, meaning that learners and teachers alike are in a perpetual mode of catching up with what is possible. It frames a future that is genuinely exciting!” (Clayton M. Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma)

“Brynjolfsson and McAfee are right: we are on the cusp of a dramatically different world brought on by technology. The Second Machine Age is the book for anyone who wants to thrive in it. I’ll encourage all of our entrepreneurs to read it, and hope their competitors don’t.” (Marc Andreessen, cofounder of Netscape and Andreessen Horowitz)

“What globalization was to the economic debates of the late 20th century, technological change is to the early 21st century. Long after the financial crisis and great recession have receded, the issues raised in this important book will be central to our lives and our politics.” (Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University)

“Technology is overturning the world’s economies, and The Second Machine Age is the best explanation of this revolution yet written.” (Kevin Kelly, senior maverick for Wired and author of What Technology Wants)

“Brynjolfsson and McAfee take us on a whirlwind tour of innovators and innovations around the world. But this isn’t just casual sightseeing. Along the way, they describe how these technological wonders came to be, why they are important, and where they are headed.” (Hal Varian, chief economist at Google)

“In this optimistic book Brynjolfsson and McAfee clearly explain the bounty that awaits us from intelligent machines. But they argue that creating the bounty depends on finding ways to race with the machine rather than racing against the machine. That means people like me need to build machines that are easy to master and use. Ultimately, those who embrace the new technologies will be the ones who benefit most.” (Rodney Brooks, chairman and CTO of Rethink Robotics, Inc)

“New technologies may bring about our economic salvation or they may threaten our very livelihoods…or they may do both. Brynjolfsson and McAfee have written an important book on the technology-driven opportunities and challenges we all face in the next decade. Anyone who wants to understand how amazing new technologies are transforming our economy should start here.” (Austan Goolsbee, professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers)

“After reading this book, your world view will be flipped: you’ll see that collective intelligence will come not only from networked brains but also from massively connected and intelligent machines. In the near future, the best job to have will be the one you would do for free.” (Nicholas Negroponte, cofounder of the MIT Media Lab, founder of One Laptop per Child, and author of Being Digital)

The Second Machine Age helps us all better understand the new age we are entering, an age in which by working with the machine we can unleash the full power of human ingenuity. This provocative book is both grounded and visionary, with highly approachable economic analyses that add depth to their vision. A must-read.” (John Seely Brown, coauthor of The Power of Pull and A New Culture of Learning)

“Brynjolfsson and McAfee do an amazing job of explaining the progression of technology, giving us a glimpse of the future, and explaining the economics of these advances. And they provide sound policy prescriptions. Their book could also have been titled Exponential Economics 101—it is a must-read.” (Vivek Wadhwa, director of research at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering and author of The Immigrant Exodus)

“Fascinating.” (Andrew Leonard - Salon)

“Maddeningly reasonable and readable.” (Thomas Claburn - InformationWeek)

“Excellent.” (Clive Cook - Bloomberg)

“Optimistic and intriguing.” (Steven Pearlstein - The Washington Post)

About the Author

Erik Brynjolfsson is the director of the MIT Center for Digital Business and one of the most cited scholars in information systems and economics.

Andrew McAfee is a principal research scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business and the author of Enterprise 2.0.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1474 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (January 13, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00D97HPQI
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,587 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
104 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Age of Smart Machines January 13, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
In "The Second Machine Age," Brynjolfsson and McAfee argue that as technology advances exponentially and combinatorially it is taking us into an entirely new era. In the future we can expect more of everything, including both tangible goods and digital products and services, at lower and lower prices. They call this "Bounty." There is a dark side as well, however. Machines and computers are increasingly substituting for routine human labor, and technology is a major driver of increased inequality. The authors call this "Spread".

In addition to this book, I'd also strongly suggest reading The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future. That book takes a somewhat longer view and asks where all this will lead in the coming decades. The answers and the proposed solutions are less conventional and more controversial.

The Second Machine Age gives many examples of specific technologies like robots, AI and autonomous cars, and also lots of data showing how the economy is being transformed. The authors also make a strong argument that the way economists measure things, especially in terms of GDP, no longer does a good job of capturing what prosperity really means in the information age.

The book includes suggestions for both individuals and policy makers. Brynjolfsson and McAfee suggest that workers should learn to "race with the machines" (rather than against them), although the advice here isn't very specific beyond getting the best education you can. The authors are hopeful that innovations like massive free online courses (MOOCs) will help more people to make this transition.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This covers a lot of the same ground as books such as "The Lights in the Tunnel" but in a more pop-academic style: the prose is all very accessible but the information is extensively footnoted and attributed, and there are numerous references to the work of other academics, mostly but not exclusively economists. For anyone who wonders why we're seeing record-high income inequality and jobless recoveries from recessions, this book will clear up a lot of mysteries.

As someone in the technology field myself, I found little to disagree with in the book's treatment of recent and upcoming technological advances, which occupies the first several chapters; the authors have done their homework and have visited enough research labs and company R&D departments to have a very realistic picture of what's just over the horizon. There'll be nothing earth-shattering here for readers who follow technology trends or even who read WIRED magazine, but the book looks at all these things through a somewhat different lens (its impact on human work) than the tech press usually does, and I didn't find myself skimming even when they were covering developments with which I'm already very familiar.

For me, the best stretch of the book was chapters 7 through 11, when the focus moves to the effects of recent technological advances on the economy and on the study of economics itself. The authors build a compelling case that income inequality is much more a consequence of the move to a digital economy than of any particular government policy. I found their take on globalization especially interesting: they view it as a big contributor to the rise in income of the world's top earners, but not for the reasons people usually think.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing -- retelling the race against the machine. February 20, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Brynjolfsson is one of the most forward and provocative thinkers out there about technology and its impact on economics. The book he co-authored with Andy McAfee "Race Against the Machine" is one of the best books I have read in a long time. This book repeats much of what is in Race against the Machine, giving it a more positive spin. If you have read the first book, there really is no reason to read this one. The Second Machine Age rewords much of Brynjolfsson's TED talk of the a similar name. The TED Talk is highly recommended and provides a good overview of what you will find in this book.

Big ideas, like those Brynjolfsson talks about are hard to come by and that is what makes them valuable. I had hoped that this book developed these ideas further, rather than largely restating them. That said if you have never read "Race" this book is just as good as the other.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but long January 28, 2014
In all, a very good and informative read, although the key ideas are not new to readers of Jeremy Rifkin's 1994 book "The End of Work", which, unfortunately, is not mentioned.

I especially liked the argument that "growth" is increasingly inadequately captured by GDP growth, and the point that the present fiscal system is too much labor-oriented. In general, the diagnosis was excellent. The solutions outlined by the authors, however, were much too short-term in my eyes. Especially since the authors stress that we are at an "inflection point" of history, focusing on quick fixes of the status quo (better education etc) is a little myopic. We need to be prepared for a largely laborless society within our lifetimes, which will require huge changes in the distribution of income, as the authors themselves acknowledge. This big transition will take a lot of time, so it must be started now. The authors were too light on outlining the long-term solutions. For example, how are governments going to finance negative income taxes for the legions on un(der)employed, and the necessary investments in science and infrastructure? I would have liked more detailed visions on the solutions for the "android experiment".

Lastly, for a book about technology, the ebook version is funny in that the final 15% consist of a (completely useless because the keywords are unlinked) index; it's also highly misleading as the main text already ends at 67% of the ebook. In general, the book makes the impression that it could have used another round of editing
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Race Against The Machine v2.0
Highly recommended... but only if you haven't read their earlier book 'Race Against The Machine'. If you have, it feels a lot like a revised edition with newer examples thrown in.
Published 19 hours ago by Nat
3.0 out of 5 stars Excdellent first half then tapers off
The insights and analysis of the rapidly evolving tech world are the best parts of the book. They are concentrated in the first half. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Peter M. Herford
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping perspectives - depth of thinking is tremendous
Excellent read... deep insights into what, why, how and forecasts the impacts on many fronts...
If you wish to get an unbiased perspective on the impacts technology and... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Keith
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read!
Authors do a terrific job of conveying their visions.
What is a "winner take all" mkt and why are seeing more of them? Read more
Published 4 days ago by scott shaffer
4.0 out of 5 stars Skynet is not self-aware…...yet!
That’s one of the things we all want to know, right? When will computers & machines take over the world and we begin the battle, Us versus Them, a la the Terminator movies. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Eddie Hutchinson
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most interesting books I have ever read
This book is not for sissies. It is packed with deep, important, and challenging ideas about how technology is changing the world. Read more
Published 4 days ago by David G. Moursund
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read on the interplay of technology and economics
The author lays out a solid history of mechanization, industrialization and computerization as they effect the economy. Read more
Published 5 days ago by JOHN F. MCCARTHY
4.0 out of 5 stars the Second Machine Age
A fascinating book with an emphasis on the advancement of our technology age; intelligent writers who give you interesting facts;
they are clear, very knowledgeable, do not... Read more
Published 6 days ago by gungadin
5.0 out of 5 stars Summary of how we got here and where we are going
This is a good description of the first industrial revolution and how we are entering the second machine age. It is a brave new world!
Published 6 days ago by Robert H Nelson
4.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking
There are more questions than definitive statements in this book, but I think it provokes thought, which was likely the purpose. All in all, well done.
Published 8 days ago by Rosario Navarro
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