Race Against The Machine by Erik Brynjolfsson
How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy

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Synopsis

Why has median income stopped rising in the US?
Why is the share of population that is working falling so rapidly?

Why are our economy and society are becoming more unequal?


A popular explanation right now is that the root cause underlying these symptoms is technological stagnation-- a slowdown in the kinds of ideas and inventions that bring progress and prosperity.

In Race Against the Machine, MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee present a very different explanation. Drawing on research by their team at the Center for Digital Business, they show that there's been no stagnation in technology -- in fact, the digital revolution is accelerating. Recent advances are the stuff of science fiction: computers now drive cars in traffic, translate between human languages effectively, and beat the best human Jeopardy! players.

As these examples show, digital technologies are rapidly encroaching on skills that used to belong to humans alone. This phenomenon is both broad and deep, and has profound economic implications. Many of these implications are positive; digital innovation increases productivity, reduces prices (sometimes to zero), and grows the overall economic pie.

But digital innovation has also changed how the economic pie is distributed, and here the news is not good for the median worker. As technology races ahead, it can leave many people behind. Workers whose skills have been mastered by computers have less to offer the job market, and see their wages and prospects shrink. Entrepreneurial business models, new organizational structures and different institutions are needed to ensure that the average worker is not left behind by cutting-edge machines.

In Race Against the Machine Brynjolfsson and McAfee bring together a range of statistics, examples, and arguments to show that technological progress is accelerating, and that this trend has deep consequences for skills, wages, and jobs. The book makes the case that employment prospects are grim for many today not because there's been technology has stagnated, but instead because we humans and our organizations aren't keeping up.
 

About Erik Brynjolfsson

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Erik Brynjolfsson is the Schussel Family Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research and teaching focus on how businesses can effectively use information technology. Brynjolfsson has made important contributions to the world of IT Productivity research and his research has been recognized with nine "best paper" awards by fellow academics, including the John DC Little Award for the best paper in Marketing Science. Brynjolfsson is the founder of two companies and has been awarded five U.S. patents. His recent research examines intangible assets, information worker productivity, the Long Tail in digital goods, and business process replication. At MIT, he teaches a class on "The Economics of Information: Strategy, Structure and Pricing" and hosts a related blog Economics of Information. Brynjolfsson earned his A.B., Magna cum laude, and S.M. in Applied Mathematics and Decision Sciences at Harvard University. He received a Ph.D. in Managerial Economics from the MIT Sloan School of Management and has served on the faculties of MIT, Harvard and Stanford. Brynjolfsson lectures and consults worldwide, and serves on corporate boards. He was also a contributing member to the Winter, 2004 Boston Ski and Sports Club (BSSC) Championship flag football team. Andrew McAfee, author of "Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization's Toughest Challenges," studies the ways that information technology (IT) affects businesses and business as a whole. His research investigates how IT changes the way companies perform, organize themselves, and compete. At a higher level, his work also investigates how computerization affects competition itself--the struggle among rivals for dominance and survival within an industry. He coined the phrase "Enterprise 2.0" in a spring 2006 Sloan Management Review article to describe the use of Web 2.0 tools and approaches by businesses. He also began blogging at that time, both about Enterprise 2.0 and about his other research. McAfee's blog is widely read, becoming at times one of the 10,000 most popular in the world (according to Technorati). In the July / August issue of Harvard Business Review McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson published "Investing in the IT that Makes a Competitive Difference," a summary of their research investigating IT's links to changes in competition. This work was the first to reveal that competition began to heat up in the US in the mid 1990s--to become faster paced, more turbulent, and more winner-take-all--and that this acceleration was greater in industries that spent more on IT. This research continues, and continues to highlight that technology appears to be significantly reshaping the landscape of competition. McAfee is the author or co-author of more than fifteen scholarly articles and ninety case studies and other materials for students and teachers of technology. This work has convinced him that modern information technology is the most powerful tool available to business leaders, yet also the most misunderstood and under-appreciated resource at their disposal. In 2008 McAfee was named by the editors of the technical publishing house Ziff-Davis number 38 in their list of the "100 Most Influential People in IT." He was also named by Baseline magazine to a separate, unranked list of the 50 most influential people in business IT that year. He was invited by Prof. Gary Hamel to join a 'renegade brigade' of thinkers in the task of assembling a set of Moon Shots for Management, which was published in the January 2009 Harvard Business Review. He speaks frequently to both academic and industry audiences, and has taught in executive education programs around the world. McAfee is currently a principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business in the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a fellow at the Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. He received his Doctorate from Harvard Business School, and completed two Master of Science and two Bachelor of Science degrees at MIT.
 
Published October 17, 2011 by Digital Frontier Press. 98 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Computers & Technology. Non-fiction

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Whereas the prior GTPs—steam power, electricity, and the internal combustion engine—were concerned with dramatically increasing manufacturing productivity (steam power), enhancing place experience (electricity), and extending personal mobility via transportation advances (internal combustion engi...

Oct 17 2011 | Read Full Review of Race Against The Machine: How...

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