Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Second Machine Age

There's a lot of doom and gloom out there about where our standard of living is headed. The Second Machine Age explains why the pessimists are wrong.

The authors use data to suggest that things of late haven't been so bad after all. They also make a lot of good arguments that recent data underestimates the gains we have already experienced. Furthermore, they make a lot of analogies between the current (digital) age and the era when electricity came to be widely used, in order to demonstrate that we are right on the cusp of some amazing new technological growth. I don't disagree with this view, so this part of the book was a rather large exercise in massaging my confirmation bias nerve.

But the authors are not so optimistic in how the upcoming gains will be distributed. They show that the income of the uneducated has been in decline for some time, and that is a problem. They also predict that because of the nature of the digital technologies that are being unleashed, this trend is bound to continue. They offer up some solutions so that more people can share in the gains.

If you already share these views, I don't think you have much to gain from this book. However, if you think standards of living are either in decline or about to decline, and have an open enough mind about that, then I suspect you will benefit immensely from The Second Machine Age.

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