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

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

4.5 out of 5 (4 ratings)


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 will alter how we think about issues of technological, societal, and economic progress.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 320 pages, black & white line drawings, figures, graphs
  • Publisher: WW Norton & Co
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Economics
  • ISBN: 9780393239355



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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

The best version of the techno-optimistic case, The Second Machine Age is about machines that replace cognitive tasks, after the first machine age developed machines that replaced physical tasks. Eric Brynjolffson and Andrew McAfee discuss the conditions they believe will lead to ever faster technological change, specifically Moore's law for hardware, costless replicability of digital information and recombination of ideas. They are optimistic about everything from Google's self-driving cars to IBM's Jeopardy-playing computer Watson. And they believe that these manifest themselves in "the bounty" (i.e., growth) and "the spread" (i.e., inequality), with a particular fear that inequality could manifest itself as large-scale joblessness as robots take all the jobs. Ultimately their policy prescriptions are relatively standard, including more education and a tax system that rewards work--and maybe even a full-fledged negative income tax. I would recommend reading this in conjunction with the other side of the argument, best captured by Robert Gordon in his recent papers.

Review by

Brilliant but disturbing view of how our society and economy are changing in front of our eyes.

Review by

I work in IT and have spent most of my career working to stay ahead of the awesome creative destruction that pretty much defines the industry. This book rang true.<br/><br/>The authors set out to give the lay of the land - and do so quite well - and then compare it to previous bursts of innovation (industrial revolution, electricity). They build a compelling case for what is yet to come and back up their conclusions with mountains of data.<br/><br/>There's a lot of optimism about what the future of technology looks like. There's a lot of hard news for people whose job can be easily replaced by a machine. And there's a lot of advice for how we can best prepare.<br/><br/>If this book was written in the late 18th century, it would tell us that our career as a field laborer might not be the best option, but that now would be an excellent time to invest in steam engines and railroad stock.<br/><br/>If you're already in the workforce, this book will give you a valuable glimpse of what is coming. If you're in high school and are taking the important first steps of the rest of your life, drop what you're doing and buy this book right now. It may well change your life.

Review by

Ok ... not much else to say.

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