Mini review: “The Second Machine Age” by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (audiobook version)



This is essentially an updated and re-written version of the authors’ earlier book Race Against The Machine, although it has a much more positive outlook on technology and the future it will shape.

The book highlights three things that are contributing to the increasing influence of machines:

  • exponential growth in the capabilities of computer hardware (and the subsequent lower cost of providing a digital service)
  • more and more aspects of life are becoming digital and this will continue
  • combinatorial forces (taking existing technologies and putting them together in new ways).

The authors excel when they look at how existing technological change has economically affected different people and how the situation has altered over time.  Amongst other things, it explains why some people can become incredibly (obscenely) rich whilst others will no longer be able to escape their original economic class and improve their economic situation.  They successfully give the impression that they have carefully looked at the evidence and come to reasonable conclusions.

They also offer some tips on how to “race with the machines”.  Sometimes a human working in conjunction with a machine can achieve a better result than a computer simply replacing a human.

A comment about the narration on the audiobook version: what you have here is a bog standard American doing a distinctly average job of conveying the content of the book.  It achieves nothing more.  Any attempt to try a different accent or pronounce foreign words totally fails.  It seems to me that this is the de-facto voice used to appeal to American businessmen, but I’m sure that other narrators could do a much better job.  Good narration can add so much.  They should have gone for a narrator who is used to doing fiction to bring this book alive.  There are many valuable points and arguments made here, so the publishers should make it as accessible as possible.



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