The Second Machine Age is a thought provoking expose of emerging technologies that are set to shape society over the next two decades. From self driving cars to artificial intelligence, the authors unpick the science behind the stories and make recommendations for the future based on the sweeping implications of a second Machine Age.
The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsen, Andrew McAfee
The Second Machine Age is one of the best books to read on emerging technologies.
This is the book that started the debate about Universal Basic Income, a concept that is now being openly considered as the movement towards job automation starts to take place.
The book itself covers areas like productivity, weak vs strong AI, robotics and the economics of Moores Law – areas that are critical to understand as we enter the 2020s.
Concluding that ‘technology is destiny’, Brynjolsen and McAfee suggest that the Second Machine Age should prompt us to reevaluate the value of work and seize the opportunities that emerging technology will present – as individuals and societies.
Below are some of the key insights I took from this book:
- The impact of technology is always transformative not progressive.
- Moores Law is creating exponential economies of scale, moving the world to the second half of the logarithmic chessboard (Moores Law)
- Digitisation is eliminating replication costs, creating public goods and efficiencies that were previously unthinkable (Digitisation)
- GDP is a flawed industrial age metric, failing to account for free public goods.
- The payoff from technology accrues based on existing winners and losers based on skills and human capital – an increasingly uneven spread.
- We are moving from normal distribution to a power law (Pareto) distribution where relative advantage leads to winner takes all economics.
- Lower wages are no match for Moores Law in the long run.
- To succeed, we need to learn new skills and work with A.I.
- Short term policy recommendations: MOOCs, Infrastructure, Enterprise and Taxation.
- Long term policy recommendations: Basic income, Negative Income Tax, Gig Economy and Experimental ideas.