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The Second Machine Age summary

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

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"The Second Machine Age" by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee explores how rapidly advancing technology is changing society, economy and workforce, and advocates for policies and initiatives to enable humans to thrive in this new era.

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    The Second Machine Age
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    Human progress is linked to technological development.

    Have you ever considered how lucky you are to be alive in this day and age? In the modern world most of us enjoy a standard of living far beyond the dreams of our ancestors. Even medieval kings and Roman emperors would be jealous of the lives we lead today!

    But where has this progress in quality of life come from? From political development? Philosophical pondering?

    Not really – humanity’s progress has been driven by technological development.

    The power of technology can be seen, for example, in the way the Industrial Revolution transformed civilization: In the mid-eighteenth century, Scottish inventor James Watt developed a steam engine that was far more efficient than its predecessors. This development allowed factories to produce goods using steam-powered machines that outstripped the power and accuracy of human workers – which lowered prices dramatically.

    This resulted in a leap forward, and an age we will refer to as the First Machine Age.

    Why the “first”? Because we are now nearing another age of rapid human progress.

    Just as Watt’s steam engine revolutionized the use of physical force, the advent of the computer and other digital technologies is now revolutionizing the way we use our mental capacity. Jobs and tasks that require intellect and have previously always been reserved for humans are now being performed by machines. In some cases, the machines are even doing a better job than people.

    For example, consider Watson, the computer that played the American TV quiz show Jeopardy! and beat two human champions.

    Alternatively, ask yourself who has better skills in spelling and arithmetic: you or the smartphone in your pocket?

    As machines increasingly take over intellectual tasks, we are being ushered into the Second Machine Age.

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    What is The Second Machine Age about?

    The Second Machine Age examines how technological progress is drastically changing our society, and why this development is not necessarily positive. It compares the rapid development of computer technology to the advent of the steam engine, which once catapulted the world into an Industrial Revolution.

    The Second Machine Age Review

    The Second Machine Age (2014) explores the impact of technology on our society, economy, and future. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It presents a compelling argument on how digital innovation is reshaping our world and why understanding it is crucial for everyone.
    • The authors provide convincing evidence and thought-provoking examples that help readers grasp the magnitude of the technological revolution we are experiencing.
    • By exploring the challenges and opportunities brought about by advancing technology, the book offers valuable insights that can inspire and inform personal and professional choices.

    Best quote from The Second Machine Age

    In all the hours people spend looking at Facebook each day added up, you could build the Panama canal.

    —Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee
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    Who should read The Second Machine Age?


    • Anyone worried about machines stealing their job
    • Science fiction fans
    • Anyone interested in the effects of technology on society

    About the Author

    Erik Brynjolfsson is the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Digital Business, while Andrew McAfee is its principal research scientist.

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    The Second Machine Age FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Second Machine Age?

    The main message of The Second Machine Age is that technology is advancing at an exponential rate, transforming society and the economy.

    How long does it take to read The Second Machine Age?

    The reading time for The Second Machine Age varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Second Machine Age a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Second Machine Age is worth reading for its insights on the impact of technology on our lives and the future. It offers a thought-provoking perspective.

    Who is the author of The Second Machine Age?

    The authors of The Second Machine Age are Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.

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