267 of 302 people found the following review helpful
, October 26, 2011
This review is from: Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy (Kindle Edition)
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. Bits and bytes are not bound by the same physical rules as traditional raw material like wood or rare earth elements. As we decode the machinery of life (DNA, molecular bonds, nanotechnology, etc), the same will be true for physical things...we'll be able to simply reorder material into a form we want. Early generation 3D printers and tissue regeneration are examples of this trend. Yet we continue to bind these information-era processes to economic models of scarcity.
What we need, and what I was hoping this book would help describe, is a different economic model. An economic model in which the concept of abundance, rather than scarcity, is the central driving force. We have an abundance of people willing to work. We have an abundance of information. We have an abundance of things that need to be done. We have an abudance of ability to connect it all together. We have an increasingly abundant ability to create stuff for virtually free. We have 7 Billion people on the planet for whom our moral and social compact drive us to provide them with shelter, food, and health care yet we have an economic model that rewards hoarding and selfishness and creating products that produce huge profit margins when equally good, or better, and cheaper solutions exist. The successful economic model of "the digital frontier" will decouple supply and demand. Profit on the supply side will be driven by those who can create the most social value at the lowest cost (housing for free for example). "Pay" on the demand side will be driven by rewarding human beings to remain active, productive, engaged, and learning rather than trying to "race [the] machine". And, no, I don't mean Communism, I mean a capitalistic system with different measures and rewards.
There are numerous alternatives to a GDP-based economic model that have been put forth. Examples include "Gross national happiness", "Continuum Development Index", and the "Sharing economy" to name just three. Search for alternatives to GDP for others. Yet "Race Against the Machine" did not explore any of these as possible roadmaps to a world where humans' "requirement" to "work" becomes obsolete. With that said, the book serves as an excellent reference for why these trends are happening and why they are irreversible. Everyone should read this book and then help create an economy of abundance!
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