Here are My Five Takeaways from The Second Machine Age – and Wait, There’s More…

Second MachineNow comes the second machine age. Computers and other digital advances are doing for mental power—the ability to use our brains to understand and shape our environments—what the steam engine and its descendants did for muscle power. Mental power is at least as important for progress and development—for mastering our physical and intellectual environment to get things done—as physical power.
Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, The Second Machine AgeWork, Prosperity, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies


Through the years I have read books that tried to make sense of big-picture issues of the new and soon-coming age.  I’m not sure that I have always known how to put such insight into practice – but it just helped to be able to think, and feel, and say – “oh, so that’s what’s going on.” 

The first title that comes to mind was Future Shock.  Another such book was Megratrends.  And The Popcorn Report.  There were others, I’m sure.  And, yes, I now that some of these books were “trendy.”  But they each helped me think more clearly.

Well, I’ve found my current book.  It is The Second Machine Age.  I have already written a few posts about this book on this blog, and last Friday, I presented my synopsis at the March First Friday Book Synopsis.  It is trendy, yes—but also incredibly substantive.  As I said in my presentation, some of the smartest people in the country go to MIT, and that means the smartest of the smartest teach at MIT.  The two authors of this book each teach at MIT.

I strongly recommend this book for your reading list.  It has a lot to say about:

• what technology will and will not replace in the workplace
• how fast the changes are coming
• and, how wrong the “predictions” can be.  One of the authors described how he told his classes that the driverless car was a long-way-off.  He was wrong about that!  Thus, what may seem like it will take a long time to arrive may be coming more quickly than any of us can imagine.

(A personal note:  I now have my second iPad.  I always said that I would never read a book on such a device.  I like the feel of paper, the smell of books, the ability to write in the margins.  {I still miss that, by the way}.  And, then, I got such a device.  And now, when I have to read a book that is not available on my Kindle App, I pretty much rebel at the thought.  This has been a breathtaking, oh-so-fast personal change.  One I thought would never happen!)

This is an optimistic book, but also sobering.  (Where will the jobs be for the people “replaced” in this second machine age?)

Here are a few items that I included in my handout:

• The story in a nutshell:
• First, Muscle Power – the Industrial Revolution (the Steam 
• Now, Mental Power – The Second Machine Age – 
Computers, Digital Advances…

•  “Pace”:

• From seemingly “no” progress, then painfully “slow”progress – until, suddenly, all-at-once, massively fast progress!

• Three characteristics of this second machine age:
     • Exponential, digital, and combinatorial

• It is Now Truly “Winner take all…”
• No longer can a seller of substandard services expect to feed on a continuing stream of naïve or ill-informed consumers. No longer can the seller expect to be insulated from competitors in other locations who can deliver a better service for less.

• Hera are six policy recommendations from the book:

1. Teach The Children Well
2. Restart Startups
3. Make More Matches
4. Support Our Scientists
• Make Great use of Prizes…
5. Upgrade Infrastructure.
6. Since We Must Tax, Tax Wisely

• And here are my five takeaways:

1) The breakthroughs will come more rapidly, more amazingly – faster and faster.
2) The better educated will have a shot at genuine success, but…
3) The less-than-well-educated will be in real trouble
• We will lose more jobs than will be created. And this job loss problem will most likely accelerate…
4) We’ve got to get better at teaching children how to think—especially re. “pattern recognition” – and to “follow 
your curiosity”
5) You cannot survive much longer if you are not the best – best equals “first/top ranked.”


15minadMy synopsis, with my multi-page, comprehensive handout, along with the audio recording of my presentation, will be available soon on our companion web site,

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