Entering the Second Machine Age? Bring a hammer.

January 13th, 2014

<a href="http://spectrum.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/Second-Machine-Age-cover.png">Image of the cover of The Second Machine Age, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee This week in the New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman recounted the Dutch chess grandmaster Jan Hein Donner’s reply when asked how he’d prepare for a chess match against a computer, like I.B.M.’s Deep Blue. “I would bring a hammer,” Donner said.

If your job is threatened or replaced by automation, you may sympathize with the impulse to smash technology, but the impact might be shortlived, according to Friedman. That’s because humankind is entering “the Second Machine Age,” Friedman writes, describing the central thesis from a new book from a professor and a researcher at the MIT Sloan School of Business.

Erik Brynjolfsson is the Schussel Family Professor of Management Science, a Professor of Information Technology, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Andrew McAfee  is a Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In their book, The Second Machine Age, Brynjolfsson and McAfee describe the Industrial Revolution as the First Machine Age, in which technology reinforced human muscle—think steam engines and railroads. Today, we are entering the Second Machine Age, in which machines automate cognitive tasks not just as a complement human effort but as substitutes for it.

“What’s making this possible, the authors argue, are three huge technological advances that just reached their tipping points, advances they describe as “exponential, digital and combinatorial,” writes Friedman.

Read the full column to learn more about Thomas Friedman’s take on The Second Machine Age and how he sees the three technological leaps impacting life and business today.

 

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