Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rage With The Machines

The Second Machine Age – Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies – Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (W W Norton Books)

Authors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, a pair of MIT business technology gurus offer up interesting perspectives on how technology impacts not only our lives, but also the economics of it all in The Second Machine Age – Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.

The pair make the case that not only is there the tangible impact of the improvements on our lives that technological advancements in many fields have brought us, but also that technology has elevated the level of even the those at the lowest end of the economic scale.

While politicians and many economists have argued that the widening spread between the haves and the have-nots is somehow a fatal flaw of capitalism, Brynjolfsson and McAfee posit the theory of “the bounty” that technology has delivered to us all in that “spread.” They also offer up some suggestions for policy makers to address some of the problems created in society by the rapid advancement of technologies as we prepare for what will continue to be an evolving workforce, that we are merely in the early stages of currently.

One problem that the authors do not address is the valuation of many of the technological “advancements” that we have seen rapidly create new millionaires and billionaires while not really creating much in the way of new value. Websites and apps that allegedly “improve” our lives, really don’t have the same impact as say the creation of the automobile or the refrigerator from a prior machine age. We aren’t taking base raw materials and creating something of greater value with the advent of Facebook; where rather than creating an increased value, we have further diluted a static pool of dollars. The size of the pie hasn’t increased, there are just more people looking for a slice and it’s only natural that some will take a larger hunk while others are left with crumbs.

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