In The Second Machine Age, Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson predicted some of the far-reaching effects of digital technologies on our lives and businesses. Now they’ve written a guide to help readers make the most of our collective future. Machine | Platform | Crowd outlines the opportunities and challenges inherent in the science fiction technologies that have come to life in recent years, like self-driving cars and 3D printers, online platforms for renting outfits and scheduling workouts, or crowd-sourced medical research and financial instruments.
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.
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.
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.
Nearly half of all working Americans could risk losing their jobs because of technology. It’s not only blue-collar jobs at stake. Millions of educated knowledge workers—writers, paralegals, assistants, medical technicians—are threatened by accelerating advances in artificial intelligence.
The industrial revolution shifted workers from farms to factories. In the first era of automation, machines relieved humans of manually exhausting work. Today, Era Two of automation continues to wash across the entire services-based economy that has replaced jobs in agriculture and manufacturing. Era Three, and the rise of AI, is dawning. Smart computers are demonstrating they are capable of making better decisions than humans. Brilliant technologies can now decide, learn, predict, and even comprehend much faster and more accurately than the human brain, and their progress is accelerating. Where will this leave lawyers, nurses, teachers, and editors?
In Only Humans Need Apply, Thomas Hayes Davenport and Julia Kirby reframe the conversation about automation, arguing that the future of increased productivity and business success isn’t either human or machine. It’s both. The key is augmentation, utilizing technology to help humans work better, smarter, and faster. Instead of viewing these machines as competitive interlopers, we can see them as partners and collaborators in creative problem solving as we move into the next era. The choice is ours.