2014 TheSecondMachineAgeWorkProgress

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Subject Headings: Technological Unemployment; Human Happiness Measure

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Book Overview

In recent years, computers have learned to diagnose diseases, drive cars, write clean prose, and win at Jeopardy!. Advances like these have created unprecedented economic bounty, but in their wake median income has stagnated and the share of the population with jobs has fallen. MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee reveal the technological forces driving this reinvention of our economy and chart a path toward future prosperity. Businesses and individuals, they argue, must learn to race with machines. Drawing on years of research, Brynjolfsson and McAfee identify the best strategies and policies for doing so. These include honing the ability to mix and match different technological resources and designing new collaborations that pair brute processing power with human ingenuity. A fundamentally optimistic book, The Second Machine Age will radically alter how we think about issues of technological, societal, and economic progress.

Chapter 1 THE BIG STORIES

http://secondmachineage.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/SecondMachineAge_Ch1.pdf

 “Technology is a gift of god. af ter the gift of life it is perhaps the greatest of god’s gif ts. it is the mother of civilizations, of arts and of sciences.”
— freeman dyson

What have been the most important developments in human history?

As anyone investigating this question soon learns, it’s difficult to answer. For one thing, when does ‘human history’ even begin? Anatomically and behaviorally modern Homo sapiens, equipped with language, fanned out from their African homeland some sixty thousand years ago.1 By 25,000 BCE2 they had wiped out the Neanderthals and other hominids, and thereafter faced no competition from other big-brained, upright-walking species.

We might consider 25,000 BCE a reasonable time to start tracking the big stories of humankind, were it not for the development retarding ice age earth was experiencing at the time.3 In his book Why the West Rules — For Now, anthropologist Ian Morris starts tracking human societal progress in 14,000 BCE, when the world clearly started getting warmer.

Another reason it’s a hard question to answer is that it’s not clear what criteria we should use: what constitutes a truly important development? Most of us share a sense that it would be an event or advance that significantly changes the course of things — one that ‘bends the curve’ of human history. Many have argued that the domestication of animals did just this, and is one of our earliest important achievements.

The dog might well have been domesticated before 14,000 BCE, but the horse was not; eight thousand more years would pass before we started breeding them and keeping them in corrals. The ox, too, had been tamed by that time (ca. 6,000 BCE) and hitched to a plow. Domestication of work animals hastened the transition from foraging to farming, an important development already underway by 8,000 BCE.4

Agriculture ensures plentiful and reliable food sources, which in turn enable larger human settlements and, eventually, cities. Cities in turn make tempting targets for plunder and conquest. A list of important human developments should therefore include great wars and the empires they yielded. The Mongol, Roman, Arab, and Ottoman empires — to name just four — were transformative; they affected kingdoms, commerce, and customs over immense areas.

Of course, some important developments have nothing to do with animals, plants, or fighting men; some are simply ideas. Philosopher Karl Jaspers notes that Buddha (563–483 BCE), Confucius (551–479 BCE), and Socrates (469–399 BCE) all lived quite close to one another in time (but not in place). In his analysis these men are the central thinkers of an ‘Axial Age’ spanning 800–200 BCE. Jaspers calls this age “a deep breath bringing the most lucid consciousness” and holds that its philosophers brought transformative schools of thought to three major civilizations: Indian, Chinese, and European.5

The Buddha also founded one of the world’s major religions, and common sense demands that any list of major human developments include the establishment of other major faiths like Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each has influenced the lives and ideals of hundreds of millions of people.6

...

For many thousands of years, humanity was a very gradual upward trajectory. Progress was achingly slow, almost invisible. Animals and farms, wars and empires, philosophies and religions all failed to exert much influence. But just over two hundred years ago, something sudden and profound arrived and bent the curve of human history — of population and social development — almost ninety degrees.

Engines of Progress

By now you’ve probably guessed what it was. This is a book about the impact of technology, after all, so it’s a safe bet that we’re opening it this way in order to demonstrate how important technology has been. And the sudden change in the graph in the late eighteenth century corresponds to a development we’ve heard a lot about: the Industrial Revolution, which was the sum of several nearly simultaneous developments in mechanical engineering, chemistry, metallurgy , and other disciplines. So you’ve most likely figured out that these technological developments underlie the sudden, sharp, and sustained jump in human progress.

If so, your guess is exactly right. And we can be even more precise about which technology was most important. It was the [steam engine]] or, to be more precise, one developed and improved by James Watt and his colleagues in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Prior to Watt, steam engines were highly inefficient, harnessing only about one percent of the energy released by burning coal. Watt’s brilliant tinkering between 1765 and 1776 increased this more than threefold.9 As Morris writes, this made all the difference: “Even though [the steam] revolution took several decades to unfold … it was nonetheless the biggest and fastest transformation in the entire history of the world.” 10

The Industrial Revolution, of course, is not only the story of steam power, but steam started it all. More than anything else, it allowed us to overcome the limitations of muscle power, human and animal, and generate massive amounts of useful energy at will. This led to factories and mass production, to railways and mass transportation. It led, in other words, to modern life. The Industrial Revolution ushered in humanity’s first machine age — the first time our progress was driven primarily by technological innovation — and it was the most profound time of transformation our world has ever seen. * The ability to generate massive amounts of mechanical power was so important that, in Morris’s words , it “made mockery of all the drama of the world’s earlier history.” 11

FIGURE 1.2 What Bent the Curve of Human History? The Industrial Revolution.

Now 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. They’re allowing us to blow past previous limitations and taking us into new territory. How exactly this transition will play out remains unknown, but whether or not the new machine age bends the curve as dramatically as Watt’s steam engine, it is a very big deal indeed. This book explains how and why.

For now, a very short and simple answer: mental power is ...

Chapter 2 THE SKILLS OF THE NEW MACHINES: TECHNOLOGY RACES AHEAd

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Coming Soon to Assembly Lines, Warehouses, and Hallways Near You

After visiting Rethink and seeing Baxter in action, we understood why Texas Instruments Vice President Remi El-Ouazzane said in early 2012, “We have a firm belief that the robotics market is on the cusp of exploding.” There’s a lot of evidence to support his view. The volume and variety of robots in use at companies is expanding rapidly, and innovators and entrepreneurs have recently made deep inroads against Moravec’s paradox.30

....

The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) combined tool use, mobility , sensing , telepresence, and many other long-standing challenges in the field . According to the website of the agency’s Tactical Technology Office,

The primary technical goal of the DRC is to develop ground robots capable of executing complex tasks in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments. Competitors in the DRC are expected to focus on robots that can use standard tools and equipment commonly available in human environments, ranging from hand tools to vehicles, with an emphasis on adaptability to tools with diverse specifications. 33

With the DRC, DARPA is asking the robotics community to build and demonstrate high-functioning humanoid robots by the end of 2014. According to an initial specification supplied by the agency, they will have to be able to drive a utility vehicle, remove debris blocking an entryway, climb a ladder, close a valve, and replace a pump. 34

...

Chapter 3 MOORE’S LAW AND THE SECOND HALF OF THE CHESSBOARd

Chapter 4 THE DIGITIZATION OF JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING

Chapter 5 INNOVATION: DECLINING OR RECOMBINING?

Chapter 6 ARTIFICIAL AND HUMAN INTELLIGENCE IN THE SECOND MACHINE AGE

Chapter 7 COMPUTING BOUNTY

Chapter 8 BEYOND GDP

... In the meantime, we need to bear in mind that the GDP and productivity statistics overlook much of what we value, even when using a narrow economic lens. What’s more, the gap between what we measure and what we value grows every time we gain access to a new good or service that never existed before, or when existing goods become free as they so often do when they are digitized.

Chapter 9 THE SPREAd

How’s the Median Worker Doing?

Organizational Coinvention

...

Among the industries in the study, each dollar of computer capital was often the catalyst for more than ten dollars of complementary investments in “organizational capital,” or investments in training, hiring , and business process redesign. 21 The reorganization often eliminates a lot of routine work, such as repetitive order entry, leaving behind a residual set of tasks that require relatively more judgment, skills, and training.

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Chapter 10 THE BIGGEST WINNERS: STARS AND SUPERSTARS

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When Relative Advantage Leads to Absolute Domination

The Social Acceptability of Superstars

The Power Curve Nation

... Power-law distributions don’t just increase income inequality; they also mess with our intuitions.

Chapter 11 IMPLICATIONS OF THE BOUNTY AND THE SPREAd

Technological Unemployment

The Android Experiment

An Alternative Explanation: Globalization

Chapter 12 LEARNING TO RACE WITH MACHINES: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS

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As futurist Kevin Kelly put it “You’ll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots.” 7

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Chapter 13 POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

Chapter 14 LONG-TERM RECOMMENDATIONS

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Revisiting the Basic Income

Chapter 15 TECHNOLOGY AND THE FUTURE (Which Is Very Different from "Technology Is the Future")

References

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 AuthorvolumeDate ValuetitletypejournaltitleUrldoinoteyear
2014 TheSecondMachineAgeWorkProgressErik Brynjolfsson
Andrew McAfee
The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in the Time of Brilliant Technologies2014
AuthorErik Brynjolfsson + and Andrew McAfee +
titleThe Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in the Time of Brilliant Technologies +
year2014 +