The second machine age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies


“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)

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We are well aware that machines can now beat humans in chess or on “Jeopardy!” – that’s yesterday’s news. Today machines, combined with thousands of affordable sensors and immense databases, can drive your car safely and find the best way to get you where you want to go. Machines can translate from one language to another, achieving almost the same accuracy as translators. They can perform complex physical tasks. They can read and grade essays. Even better, they can write them.

It’s these machines that are at the core of exploration in the important book “The Second Machine Age.”

What’s the foundation of the second machine age?

The amount of data available and the speed with which it can be processed has increased exponentially. Along with this, the ease with which these new capabilities and ideas can be combined and recombined is also dramatically upgraded. Breakthrough technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things have now reached the point of ubiquity and flexible application, and can now fundamentally change the way we live and how businesses operate.

This inflection point can easily divide the world into winners and losers. The biggest winners will be consumers, who have access to a wide range of higher-quality goods and services for much lower prices. And, of course, the other winners will be the innovators who create, finance and utilize the new engines of competitive advantage.

One set of losers is clear: businesses that don’t adapt to this new reality. Add to this the many workers who could be displaced by machines. The authors are very optimistic about the demand for labor, arguing that the increased “bounty” that technology creates will simply shift demand to different kinds of work. Many economists agree, while others fear a displacement of up to 40 percent of current jobs within the next 20 years. Time will tell.

The authors of the “The Second Machine Age,” two professors from MIT, believe that we are on the cusp of a dramatic growth spurt. Smart machines will take full advantage of advances in computer processing, AI, networked communication and the digitization of every facet of our lives.

The first machine age ended a while ago. We are in the middle of a revolutionary change.

The first machine age was about doing familiar things in cheaper, more efficient ways. In the second machine age, the great software-defined businesses of tomorrow will deliver breakthrough innovations that do new things entirely. Look for transformative innovation that opens up unforeseen market opportunities: new products, new services, new ways of servicing customers and new jobs. You might not have noticed it yet, but the second machine age is already underway. And the disruptive change it will trigger will surprise and astonish us all.

That’s why it’s so important to start the digital transformation journey now. As Steve Jobs said, “Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”

Are you ready for the new age in machine learning? Start your digital transformation journey at THINK 17.

Buy the book at Amazon.com

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