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

W. W. Norton & Company
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A New York Times Bestseller. A “fascinating” (Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times) look at how digital technology is transforming our work and our lives. 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 alters how we think about issues of technological, societal, and economic progress.

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About the author

Erik Brynjolfsson is the director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and Schussel Family Professor of Management Science at the MIT Sloan School. He is the author of several best-selling books with co-author Andrew McAfee, and one of the world’s most cited scholars in information systems and economics.

Andrew McAfee is the co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and co-author of the best-selling The Second Machine Age and Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future. He and co-author Erik Brynjolfsson are the only people named to both the Thinkers 50 list of the world’s top management thinkers and the Politico 50 group of people transforming American politics.

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Additional Information

W. W. Norton & Company
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Published on
Jan 20, 2014
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Business & Economics / General
Technology & Engineering / Robotics
Technology & Engineering / Social Aspects
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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.
One of Wall Street Journal's Best Ten Works of Nonfiction in 2012
New York Times Bestseller

“Not so different in spirit from the way public intellectuals like John Kenneth Galbraith once shaped discussions of economic policy and public figures like Walter Cronkite helped sway opinion on the Vietnam War…could turn out to be one of the more momentous books of the decade.”
—New York Times Book Review
"Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise is The Soul of a New Machine for the 21st century."
—Rachel Maddow, author of Drift

"A serious treatise about the craft of prediction—without academic mathematics—cheerily aimed at lay readers. Silver's coverage is polymathic, ranging from poker and earthquakes to climate change and terrorism."
—New York Review of Books

Nate Silver built an innovative system for predicting baseball performance, predicted the 2008 election within a hair’s breadth, and became a national sensation as a blogger—all by the time he was thirty. He solidified his standing as the nation's foremost political forecaster with his near perfect prediction of the 2012 election. Silver is the founder and editor in chief of the website FiveThirtyEight. 
Drawing on his own groundbreaking work, Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data. Most predictions fail, often at great cost to society, because most of us have a poor understanding of probability and uncertainty. Both experts and laypeople mistake more confident predictions for more accurate ones. But overconfidence is often the reason for failure. If our appreciation of uncertainty improves, our predictions can get better too. This is the “prediction paradox”: The more humility we have about our ability to make predictions, the more successful we can be in planning for the future.

In keeping with his own aim to seek truth from data, Silver visits the most successful forecasters in a range of areas, from hurricanes to baseball, from the poker table to the stock market, from Capitol Hill to the NBA. He explains and evaluates how these forecasters think and what bonds they share. What lies behind their success? Are they good—or just lucky? What patterns have they unraveled? And are their forecasts really right? He explores unanticipated commonalities and exposes unexpected juxtapositions. And sometimes, it is not so much how good a prediction is in an absolute sense that matters but how good it is relative to the competition. In other cases, prediction is still a very rudimentary—and dangerous—science.

Silver observes that the most accurate forecasters tend to have a superior command of probability, and they tend to be both humble and hardworking. They distinguish the predictable from the unpredictable, and they notice a thousand little details that lead them closer to the truth. Because of their appreciation of probability, they can distinguish the signal from the noise.

With everything from the health of the global economy to our ability to fight terrorism dependent on the quality of our predictions, Nate Silver’s insights are an essential read.
Become a Digital Master—No Matter What Business You’re In

If you think the phrase “going digital” is only relevant for industries like tech, media, and entertainment—think again. In fact, mobile, analytics, social media, sensors, and cloud computing have already fundamentally changed the entire business landscape as we know it—including your industry. The problem is that most accounts of digital in business focus on Silicon Valley stars and tech start-ups. But what about the other 90-plus percent of the economy?

In Leading Digital, authors George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee highlight how large companies in traditional industries—from finance to manufacturing to pharmaceuticals—are using digital to gain strategic advantage. They illuminate the principles and practices that lead to successful digital transformation. Based on a study of more than four hundred global firms, including Asian Paints, Burberry, Caesars Entertainment, Codelco, Lloyds Banking Group, Nike, and Pernod Ricard, the book shows what it takes to become a Digital Master. It explains successful transformation in a clear, two-part framework: where to invest in digital capabilities, and how to lead the transformation. Within these parts, you’ll learn:

• How to engage better with your customers
• How to digitally enhance operations
• How to create a digital vision
• How to govern your digital activities

The book also includes an extensive step-by-step transformation playbook for leaders to follow.

Leading Digital is the must-have guide to help your organization survive and thrive in the new, digitally powered, global economy.
¿Por qué nuestra sociedad es cada vez más desigual?
¿Por qué la proporción de gente con trabajo está cayendo tan rápidamente? ¿Por qué las rentas medias han dejado de crecer?

Según una explicación frecuente, la causa fundamental de estos hechos es el menor número de ideas nuevas y de inventos.

En La carrera contra la máquina, los investigadores del MIT
Erik Brynjolfsson y Andrew McAfee ofrecen una explicación muy diferente.
Demuestran que no sólo los avances tecnológicos no están estancados
sino que la revolución digital se está acelerando. Esto hace que las
nuevas máquinas posean unas habilidades que hasta ahora estaban
reservadas solamente a los humanos. Se trata de un fenómeno amplio y
profundo con serias consecuencias económicas.

Algunas de estas consecuencias son positivas, como el aumento de
productividad, la reducción de precios y el crecimiento de la riqueza en
general. Pero la innovación digital también cambia la manera como se
reparte esta riqueza, y aquí las noticias son malas para el trabajador
medio. Con un progreso tecnológico corriendo más que nunca, mucha gente
se está quedando atrás. Aquellos trabajadores cuyas habilidades han sido
incorporadas a los ordenadores modernos tienen poco que ofrecer en el
mercado de trabajo y ven como sus salarios se reducen y su futuro se

El argumento del libro es que las perspectivas de empleo son negras
para mucha gente, no porque el progreso tecnológico se haya estancado
sino porque los hombres, y las instituciones, no corren lo bastante.
Para garantizar que el trabajador medio no se quede rezagado detrás de
las máquinas más avanzadas son necesarios nuevos modelos de
emprendeduría, nuevas estructuras organizativas y unas instituciones

«Éste es un libro extraordinariamente oportuno, que clarifica la
cuestión económica más seria que nuestras sociedades afrontan y
proporciona una hoja de ruta que nos ayudará a convertir el desafío de
las nuevas tecnologías en una oportunidad.»
-John Hagel, co-presidente de Deloitte Center for the Edge

«Éste es, simplemente, el mejor libro escrito hasta la fecha sobre la
interacción entre la tecnología digital, el empleo y la empresa. […] Si
en el próximo año usted sólo leyera un libro sobre las nuevas
tecnologías y su impacto en las sociedades modernas, debería ser éste.»
-Profesor Gary Hamel, director de Management Lab

«En la investigación en ciencias sociales, necesitamos
desesperadamente que se hagan, y se respondan, las preguntas más
importantes. Eso es precisamente lo que Brynjolfsson y McAfee hacen en
este importante libro sobre la intersección entre tecnología y economía.
Diría aún más, afrontan la pregunta más importante del presente y del
futuro: ¿de dónde van a venir los nuevos trabajos?».
-Jared Bernstein, ex economista en jefe del vicepresidente de los EEUU
Joe Biden

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