The Second Machine Age - Review
The smartphone in my pocket is more powerful than the computer I grew up with. Likewise, the desktop computer of my childhood replaced a machine that used to take up a whole room, and before that a house, and before that a warehouse. This exponential rise in hardware and software plays center stage in Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee's The Second Machine Age.
They describe the rise of machine work and the tantalizing future of such labor to come.
Brynjolfsson and McAfee describe the origins of the digital age and its exponential growth over recent years. From humble beginnings, the computer has reshaped the way we view and interact with information. The computer has also changed the way we view automatic processes and repetitive tasks. Complex, but predictable, systems are commonly replaced by programs with capabilities that far outreach the abilities of human operators. The authors describe this Second Machine Age as one of exciting opportunity and of change. Their historical overview anchors their arguments further in the past and help project a future where the automation of nearly everything is possible.
I would recommend reading this book. The tone drifts from descriptive to prescriptive toward the end. Socioeconomic commentary drifts towards politics and next steps for the reader. I am not against this editorializing but it marked a drastic shift in the tone of the book. Their points of view were occasionally provocative but were always far less interesting to me than their ability to tell the story of the Second Machine Age.