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Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy

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Examines how information technologies are affecting jobs, skills, wages, and the economy.


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Examines how information technologies are affecting jobs, skills, wages, and the economy.

30 review for Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Arnold

    I love short, data- and graph-heavy books like these, that tackle important subjects in greater depth than the blog format allows but at greater brevity than a 400 page tome. Even when I have big problems with them, like I do with this one, they're usually very brisk yet well-written and thought-provoking. The book's central subject is an important one - the effects of automation on the economy of the future (mostly the US, but the results are probably more broadly applicable). It's broken up in I love short, data- and graph-heavy books like these, that tackle important subjects in greater depth than the blog format allows but at greater brevity than a 400 page tome. Even when I have big problems with them, like I do with this one, they're usually very brisk yet well-written and thought-provoking. The book's central subject is an important one - the effects of automation on the economy of the future (mostly the US, but the results are probably more broadly applicable). It's broken up into 4 quick chapters, of which the first 3 are descriptive and the final one proscriptive. I'll bullet-point the logic of the first 3 chapters: - Unemployment is extremely high by historical standards and doesn't show signs of falling swiftly - This could be due to three broad causes: mismanagement of aggregate demand (e.g. Paul Krugman's view), a general stagnation in technological progress (cf. Tyler Cowen), or a fundamental shift in the kind of jobs available - While not exactly ruling out the first two causes (though Cowen believes that modern technological progress is nowhere near as transformative as the steam, electricity, etc that we got during the Industrial Revolution), the authors think that progress in automation deserves a closer look - We're getting into "the second half of the chessboard", where accelerating technological progress in automation can be seen in things like IBM's Watson or Google's self-driving cars - This progress will make an increasing percentage of traditional jobs either obsolete or so low-paying as to make no difference - It's not obvious that new jobs which will be created will be either as numerous or as remunerative, especially since technological progress is sort of "outside" the business cycle - Even then, those new jobs which are remunerative will require lots of skills that will be hard for much of the population to acquire - Even worse, we live in a superstar/plutocrat economy where most gains flow to a small number of people, leaving declining real living standards for everyone else - This means that the future for most people looks grim, in fact so grim that the authors quote Gregory Clark thus: "There was a type of employee at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution whose job and livelihood largely vanished in the early twentieth century. This was the horse. The population of working horses actually peaked in England long after the Industrial Revolution, in 1901, when 3.25 million were at work. Though they had been replaced by rail for long-distance haulage and by steam engines for driving machinery, they still plowed fields, hauled wagons and carriages short distances, pulled boats on the canals, toiled in the pits, and carried armies into battle. But the arrival of the internal combustion engine in the late nineteenth century rapidly displaced these workers, so that by 1924 there were fewer than two million. There was always a wage at which all these horses could have remained employed. But that wage was so low that it did not pay for their feed." Yikes. So, what is to be done? This last chapter is a predictably mixed bag. The note that in theory, long tail-type economies of scale give small producers an edge, as does the app economy and things like home 3D printing, though I'm not sure if it's feasible to have an economy of people making new Twitter apps and Etsy products for each other. For education, they recommend paying teachers more (good), instituting dubious reform measures like eliminating tenure (???), keeping kids in school for longer (probably good), importing more skilled immigrants (good), and embracing MOOCs (possibly good). For entrepreneurship, make it easier to start businesses (good) and streamline burdensome regulations (sounds great, but these sorts of bullet points are always too vague). For investment, they like more infrastructure spending (good) and R&D spending (good). For laws, they like extremely "flexible" hiring/firing (hmm...), cutting employer payroll taxes (maybe good, but what happens to social programs funded by those taxes?), decoupling employment from benefits like health insurance (good), not regulating new network businesses (unlikely), ending the home mortgage subsidy (good), ending too big to fail (good), fixing the patent system to end patent trolling (good), and shortening copyright periods (good). Though many of these suggestions are good, this seems like the kind of techno-nerd perspective that plays well to other thinkers but doesn't engage much with the people who are actually being downsized and automated. It's possible to think that the gains from technological progress will tend to only accrue to a few, but that this is really a policy choice driven by plain old class politics rather than something inherent to the iEconomy. Mark Zuckerberg can get really rich off of Facebook, but the means by which he did so (essentially private ownership of a large corporation via control of most voting shares) are centuries old. I'm willing to grant that their "third way" thesis that the current age of technological progress might be driving part of unemployment, but even though I don't think the solution to the challenges of modern technological progress should be exactly the same as New Deal policies to spread wealth and opportunity after the Depression, one looks in vain in this book for alternative suggestions that would help give workers more control over their own destiny. It's definitely a good thing that smartphones are becoming more powerful and more widely available, but it's not really a mystery why unemployment is going up if the only means by which people can react to modern changes in their lives is the same limited means they had during the Gilded Age. Man might be, as they quote from a NASA report, "the lowest-cost, 150-pound, nonlinear, all-purpose computer system which can be mass-produced by unskilled labor," but we can still vote, right? Perhaps their upcoming book will expand further.

  2. 5 out of 5

    D.M. Dutcher

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Slender ebook about how automation and increasing computing power will transform our economy. This is something I'm greatly concerned about, so why one star? Several reasons. The first is nothing new is added to the argument. At best this is just a summation of what other books have covered already, books like The End of Work: the Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era, The Lights In The Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology And The Economy Of The Future, and Slender ebook about how automation and increasing computing power will transform our economy. This is something I'm greatly concerned about, so why one star? Several reasons. The first is nothing new is added to the argument. At best this is just a summation of what other books have covered already, books like The End of Work: the Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era, The Lights In The Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology And The Economy Of The Future, and The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better. There's really no new perspective offered. The same examples are used (Google self-driving cars, Watson) The second is that the book is short and chart heavy, compounding the above. It's simply too brief, and feels very much like an extended web site article with its heavy use of hypertext. The third is..well the solutions are laughable. We can solve this by...MORE EDUCATION! Of course, Khan Academy gets mentioned, the libertarian one-purpose solution. Entrepreneurship too. Also hands off things like Amazon's mechanical turk, despite it paying people two or three dollars an hour. And somehow, everyone will manage to find ways to work with computers instead of being replaced by them. It's like they ignore all the data they compile and just wing it at the end, when other books seriously tackle the bull by the horns. Education as a panacea simply doesn't work as the job-destruction will cut across all sectors. That's one of the points of The Lights in the Tunnel-that eventually computing power will increase to automate jobs that require high education, so long as they can be broken down into discrete steps. In fact, the point of this sub-genre of books is that conventional wisdom completely fails when trying to deal with this problem. The computer-assisted ideal and entrepreneurship are slightly better, but the former really would just make a flood of people in a drastically saturating field of small artisanal businesses. It's not like people make a tremendous amount at places like Etsy, and Ebay shows the dangers of a place saturated. So really, not much here justifies paying the price as opposed to a google or web search. There really was only one interesting idea in the entire book: we have had another example of what happens when automation makes a large population redundant in the labor force-it happened to horses, who now rarely if ever are used to work with as opposed to just be kept. If they used that as the central idea of the book, something great might have happened. But they didn't, so one star.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael Quinn

    It's hard to call this a complete book. It's much more of an extended essay, with the final chapter substantially deviating away from previously-established themes (it is also self-referential on that fact; the authors acknowledge that they were looking to write something on the Digital Frontier, but they couldn't get over the hurdles that skill-based technological change puts in the labor market). Their recommendations also seem a little trite. Of the 19 listed they focus predominantly on encou It's hard to call this a complete book. It's much more of an extended essay, with the final chapter substantially deviating away from previously-established themes (it is also self-referential on that fact; the authors acknowledge that they were looking to write something on the Digital Frontier, but they couldn't get over the hurdles that skill-based technological change puts in the labor market). Their recommendations also seem a little trite. Of the 19 listed they focus predominantly on encouraging more entrepreneurial business organizations and improving education with IT (they are fond of the MOOCs). None of their other suggestions (improve patent law) are particularly novel either. Nonetheless, for those interested in the current transformation of the American economy and the dramatic side effects of this transformation (including employment stagnation and inequality), it's a good place to start.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shalini

    Just recently Elon Musk tweeted that AI would be able to defeat humans at every job by not 2060 but 2030 or 2040. Well, that's a fascinating optimistic speculation. Over the period of just 15 years (1988-2003), processor speeds have improved by a factor of 1000 and algorithms by 43000. With the advent of fully autonomous cars, IBM's supercomputers and rapidly growing facets of technologies, nearly every task thought to be impossible for computers in the past seems doable in the near future. Howe Just recently Elon Musk tweeted that AI would be able to defeat humans at every job by not 2060 but 2030 or 2040. Well, that's a fascinating optimistic speculation. Over the period of just 15 years (1988-2003), processor speeds have improved by a factor of 1000 and algorithms by 43000. With the advent of fully autonomous cars, IBM's supercomputers and rapidly growing facets of technologies, nearly every task thought to be impossible for computers in the past seems doable in the near future. However, there is a growing mismatch between advancing digital technologies and slow-changing humans which is leading to a huge imbalance in the distribution of income, especially in developed countries. The first 3 chapters of the book deals with the influence of rapidly advancing technology on employment and economy in the past, present and future. Having explained the threat of such a future, in the fourth chapter, Erik ( I find his surname tedious to spell each time, that's why first name basis) offers some recommendations to "race against the machine" summarized in 19 specific steps - few are good but already known while few are debatable including the most popular opinion - redistribute income to those who have been hurt. In particular, John Maeda's vision of moving from STEM to STEAM ( Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) is quite fascinating. Innovation and revolution in education system is much needed, as Erik puts it, "educational systems to be based more on delivering genuine, measurable results and less on simply signaling selection, effort and prestige." Why read this book - 1) If you are interested in artificial intelligence and wants to inquire about the threat of a jobless future but haven't read any book about the same. 2) If you love curvy graphs and overwhelming data figures and if you already don't know that in 2009, economist Ed Wolff found that top 5% population accounted for net increase in more than 80% net wealth and top 1%, over 40%, you're gonna enjoy this. Downsides of the book - 1) That's a very short book, very less informative. 2) Even though it's short, it's quite repetitive. 3) The overall content is not so well organized and edited, sometimes there is an abrupt change in the topic of discussion. Oh, well, that's usual non-fiction. 4) "Race against the machine" deals with an issue which has been dealt with in a couple of more books and it fails to offer a lot of new insights into the problem. Overall, a 3-star, it's a good read though hardly new.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David

    The book presents some of the issues of technology, automation and employment. However, the section on recommendations to alleviate the problems seemed to have too much wishful thinking and "thinking inside the box". He suggests tech start-ups may create new ways of doing things which could provide jobs. Even assuming that, taken as a whole, start-ups created more jobs than they eliminate, he doesn't present a case whether these new jobs will pay less or more than the employees got elsewhere. He The book presents some of the issues of technology, automation and employment. However, the section on recommendations to alleviate the problems seemed to have too much wishful thinking and "thinking inside the box". He suggests tech start-ups may create new ways of doing things which could provide jobs. Even assuming that, taken as a whole, start-ups created more jobs than they eliminate, he doesn't present a case whether these new jobs will pay less or more than the employees got elsewhere. He also argues that each job has a combination of tasks and there are a vast number of ways these tasks can be mixed together to form various occupations. While telling us this, he makes no attempt to clarify how many of those combinations make meaningful occupations, how many of those theoretical occupations would be in demand in the future, how many of those possible occupations are within the capabilities of an average human, etc. Nor does he address the fact there are a finite number of tasks, and a continually increasing number of those tasks becoming within the capabilities of machines. He argues that many people have occupational knowledge which is no longer in demand (in the form of human labor), and we need more education in areas in which humans can still do better than machines. That makes sense up to a point, however just because some humans are capable of such occupations and just because we make education available for those occupations doesn't mean all humans who need work are well suited for that education and occupation. In the long run, it's reasonable to assume machines (will)(very possibly will) be able to carry out so many tasks and occupations that there won't be enough full-time openings for a large enough percentage of the population not to cause a permanent crisis of unemployment - if we continue under the same socio-economic framework. From the viewpoint of the average person, there need not be a "problem" that most work that needs to be done is carried out by machines. What society needs to ask is whether the main purpose of making goods and services is making profits for corporations, and when employees lose their jobs / incomes to machines that's "somebody else's problem". Or does a reduction of total man-hours of work required by humans mean everyone gets a shorter workweek while still getting a good income. The author proposes actions which are often reduced government regulation and lower business taxes to have a "trickle down effect" for anyone else. Which is the optimistic way of looking at the first alternative.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Pete Welter

    We are in the midst of what - by nearly all measures - is an economic recovery. However, the measure most relevant to many people - unemployment - has not moved. We also find an every-increasing gap between the top-earners and everyone else. This book posits an explanation for all of those phenomena, and more. The essential argument is that technology has reached a point in it's Moore's Law trajectory where it is finally replacing humans at a rate where we can produce more with less people workin We are in the midst of what - by nearly all measures - is an economic recovery. However, the measure most relevant to many people - unemployment - has not moved. We also find an every-increasing gap between the top-earners and everyone else. This book posits an explanation for all of those phenomena, and more. The essential argument is that technology has reached a point in it's Moore's Law trajectory where it is finally replacing humans at a rate where we can produce more with less people working. This has been true in manufacturing for years - few people understand that despite political rhetoric, US manufacturing output is at it's greatest point ever, but the number of workers has been dropping. We are now at the point where traditionally white-collar and service jobs are starting to be replaced my machine in significant numbers. Technology has also give the "superstars" in various industries and companies greater leverage to do more work, meaning that they can be more highly compensated (one possible reason for income inequality). Their conclusions center on education and increasing our abilities to race *with* machines - using machines to do what machines do best, and letting humans do what they do best. I wasn't as satisfied with all of their conclusions. For education for example, they trot out the same "more college" / need higher test scores line that is creating inflexible workers right now. However, whatever your feeling on the matter, this book is worth reading if only to challenge your assumptions on what is happening with the US and world economies. If you read the book, you'll want to see John Hagel's critique: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPHwzJ... which gives slightly different view on the matter. It's not that Hagel disagrees entirely with observations of the authors of this book, but he does come to a slightly different conclusion - and John Hagel is a thinker worth listening to.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is a great, fast read. It is very clearly written with clear points and strong, specific examples. There are also several excellent quotes peppered throughout from historical figures like Franklin Roosevelt and present-day economists. This book offers important fodder for all those in the digital technology world, as well as educators, labor leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs. The authors acknowledge that we face a real and potentially worsening "technological unemployment," but also offer This is a great, fast read. It is very clearly written with clear points and strong, specific examples. There are also several excellent quotes peppered throughout from historical figures like Franklin Roosevelt and present-day economists. This book offers important fodder for all those in the digital technology world, as well as educators, labor leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs. The authors acknowledge that we face a real and potentially worsening "technological unemployment," but also offer solutions to this problem. I like E.F. Schumacher's answer of intermediate technology as well as these authors' answer of micro-multinationals: small companies serving a niche market worldwide. The authors also discuss the growing importance of "soft skills" like leadership, team-building and creativity. This is a great book -- for what it covers -- but it could be really powerful coupled with companion texts. This book should be read with texts like The End of Growth by Richard Heinberg to spur conversation about the cradle to grave reality of digital technology. No matter how advanced they become, computers will be dependent on electricity which still, today, is derived mostly from rock, oil and gas extracted out of the ground. How will we keep advancing in technology, building bigger storage-cities in the deserts of California when fossil fuels are no longer around to keep it all buzzing? Those in the digital tech business should care deeply about the transition to sustainable energy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Luke Echo

    I think this sentence sums up the shortsightedness of the authors: "Thus, we focus our recommendations on creating ways for everyone to contribute productively to the economy." That we should serve the economy - this ephemeral lord that now dictates our usefulness and salvation.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nils

    This is an excellent short book about one of the most pressing social problems of our time, namely, the technologically-drive end of work. What is odd for me is how much I liked this book, given that I detested their lengthier follow-up effort (reviewed here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...). B&M's synthesis of the literature on technological obsolescence of work is very good, and their list of policy proposals, focused on improving education and labor mobilization, also make good sense This is an excellent short book about one of the most pressing social problems of our time, namely, the technologically-drive end of work. What is odd for me is how much I liked this book, given that I detested their lengthier follow-up effort (reviewed here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...). B&M's synthesis of the literature on technological obsolescence of work is very good, and their list of policy proposals, focused on improving education and labor mobilization, also make good sense. They were more sensitive to the distributional consequences of technology in this earlier work, and to the social impact of those consequences. With the election of Trump in no small measure as a result of a political backlash by the people most affected by the technological trends outlined here, we see the urgency of the matter clearly. At the end of the day, however, they remain too technodeterministic. Certainly skills-biased technological change is a major factor in the structure and industrial location of changing employment pattern, but tax incentives, trade regulations, and fiscal policy all have major roles to play in improving the political and social equity of the economy. In the end, the purpose of the economy is not growth unto itself, but to support a certain kind of social and political formation -- and on this latter point, M&B, like too many technologists, remain virtually autistic. Too bad that their follow-up effort did little to improve on what was good in this earlier, slimmer volume and much to emphasize what was inadequate and underdeveloped.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Fourat Janabi

    A great, concise, and well-written and well-sourced book on technology. Very much in the style of Kurzweil or Jason Silva, though not as entertaining as either of them. It explains with numerous data-points the correlation over 150 years, of technological innovation, and economic well-being to labour. Using the history of capital vs labour, gdp vs average income, and many others. Over the last 10-20 years, due to technological advances, overall economic well-being has gone down due to the lack of A great, concise, and well-written and well-sourced book on technology. Very much in the style of Kurzweil or Jason Silva, though not as entertaining as either of them. It explains with numerous data-points the correlation over 150 years, of technological innovation, and economic well-being to labour. Using the history of capital vs labour, gdp vs average income, and many others. Over the last 10-20 years, due to technological advances, overall economic well-being has gone down due to the lack of political will to change institutions, as well as that of an individual mindset. We need to get ahead of these growth curves, or at least change with them in order to maintain well-being as best as possible, until (and the author doesnt say this, but it is my opinion), technology completely alleviates the need of work and money. Though the author's analysis stops short of this, being primarily concerned with the coming transitional decades. A great read. Highly recommended to anyone who wants to understand the role that technology has played in the last 150 years, today, and how it will continue to affect us in the future. Long-term, technology will benefit us, short-term, it will hurt because our socioeconomic model and institutions are adapting to the exponential change of technology.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    Another nice short ebook! A focused argument for the technology determinants of the widening wage and employment gap in the US. The point is to make the argument that technological change can increase overall output and the pay/rewards/growth of the skilled, the superstars, and the technological elite without helping and even while hurting the prospects of those whose jobs are rendered obsolete and who as a result require retraining. The book is really a long essay or summary paper but it is a r Another nice short ebook! A focused argument for the technology determinants of the widening wage and employment gap in the US. The point is to make the argument that technological change can increase overall output and the pay/rewards/growth of the skilled, the superstars, and the technological elite without helping and even while hurting the prospects of those whose jobs are rendered obsolete and who as a result require retraining. The book is really a long essay or summary paper but it is a rewarding read and very informative. The authors' argument is not a single factor argument -- technological change is neither inherently bad nor the sole culprit in the extended unemployment and growing wage gap in the recent recession. Their point is that it is a contributing factor and one that should be addressed by government policy. Unfortunately, the final chapter on recommendations is not very persuasive and the reader is left wondering what is to be done as lots of people are progressively losing out. It is a troubling set of problems.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Aslihan

    Interesting short-read, more of a lengthy article than a book if you cut down on the examples. The examples were quite catchy and helpful in visualizing their main argument and the context; but there were some theoretical gaps that were not addressed as analytically. By trivializing alternative analysis of unemployment due to economic cycles and stagnation, the authrs seem to undermine the importance of historical recurrance of technological unemployment. yes, there were examples of horses being Interesting short-read, more of a lengthy article than a book if you cut down on the examples. The examples were quite catchy and helpful in visualizing their main argument and the context; but there were some theoretical gaps that were not addressed as analytically. By trivializing alternative analysis of unemployment due to economic cycles and stagnation, the authrs seem to undermine the importance of historical recurrance of technological unemployment. yes, there were examples of horses being abandoned as power source after the Industrial Revolution but the analysis is weak. Second, discussion of inequality did not refer to capital accumulation, surplus value, or unequal exchange. You would not become a MArxist by using these terms, why so much intuitive acceptance of the capitalist conduct of economy? There is no alternative? Third, this whole story provides limited insight for the non-Western world. They should have been cautious enough to include something on India to prevent this criticism, I guess that slipped their minds.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    It's tough to read this book at the end of 2018. The premise is that economic slowdowns didn't start with the Great Recession in 2008 and were caused in great part by technological advancement, which leaves people behind if they haven't received enough education. I remember being similarly optimistic about the promise of technology back in 2011. I even still agree with some of the authors' policy proposals today (e.g., eliminating the mortgage interest deduction because it's a lousy way to inves It's tough to read this book at the end of 2018. The premise is that economic slowdowns didn't start with the Great Recession in 2008 and were caused in great part by technological advancement, which leaves people behind if they haven't received enough education. I remember being similarly optimistic about the promise of technology back in 2011. I even still agree with some of the authors' policy proposals today (e.g., eliminating the mortgage interest deduction because it's a lousy way to invest that many billions of dollars and because home ownership anchors people too much), but I think the book misses the mark on how much we should be helping cushion the people left in the lurch by this third industrial revolution (we should be helping much, much more). On the other hand, the book does a great job of explaining the nonlinear nature of innovation, and it doesn't unnecessarily ramble on for hundreds of pages, so that's good, at least.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    As the authors note, this isn't a handbook for how to reorganize companies and the economy. Rather, it's a description of existing trends, some explanations of those trends, and notes towards a larger conversation that needs to happen. Some proposed measures are too glib and vague (replace STEM with STEAM!) while others seem duplicates of existing efforts ("Create clearinghouses and databases to facilitate the creation and dissemination of templates for new businesses" - isn't this already being As the authors note, this isn't a handbook for how to reorganize companies and the economy. Rather, it's a description of existing trends, some explanations of those trends, and notes towards a larger conversation that needs to happen. Some proposed measures are too glib and vague (replace STEM with STEAM!) while others seem duplicates of existing efforts ("Create clearinghouses and databases to facilitate the creation and dissemination of templates for new businesses" - isn't this already being done by the SBA and SCORE?), but others do seem fascinating, such as introducing entrepreneurship into education generally. It's a quick read, though I want to dig into some of the economics aspects on a re-read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rizwan

    I was hoping for a longer book. Or at the very least a book that went into a more detailed discussion of both the theory and provided alternative viewpoints. The one good side to this book is that it links to a lot of data and related articles. The authors write clearly and concisely so that reading is a breeze(not necessarily a good thing) but the book is easy to understand and is more akin to a popular science book meant for the general readers rather than a proper reference. The main argument I was hoping for a longer book. Or at the very least a book that went into a more detailed discussion of both the theory and provided alternative viewpoints. The one good side to this book is that it links to a lot of data and related articles. The authors write clearly and concisely so that reading is a breeze(not necessarily a good thing) but the book is easy to understand and is more akin to a popular science book meant for the general readers rather than a proper reference. The main argument is the effects of technological changes and the increased use of machinery that are stifling and changing the pattern of jobs and employment and basically how we should adapt to it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marcelo

    Race against the machine talks about how machine is revolutionizing our society and economy. It speculates about the link between automation and few jobs created last years. It seems reasonable and I agree with that. But he misses one point about the race between humans and machine, saying that we are losing the race against the machine. I don't think so, I think the authors doesn't understand how A.I. algorithms works and they don't know how dangerous it would be leave decisions to machines, as Race against the machine talks about how machine is revolutionizing our society and economy. It speculates about the link between automation and few jobs created last years. It seems reasonable and I agree with that. But he misses one point about the race between humans and machine, saying that we are losing the race against the machine. I don't think so, I think the authors doesn't understand how A.I. algorithms works and they don't know how dangerous it would be leave decisions to machines, as long they don't know what they are doing, machines don't have understanding of meaning.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Smerdyakov

    Very interesting on how labor will go down the same path as horses after the widespread adoption of combustion engines - their work wasn't worth enough to pay the fodder. Computers, they argue, take over more complex tasks such as autonomous driving and machine translation at an accelerating pace. This technology-driven economic transition will give rise to ever growing inequalities which calls for political change.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Daniel V

    Incredible read. Crucial for everyone to understand how technological development affects the economy, and ultimately their own lives. Should be required reading for young people that want to 'Win' in an economy that is becoming increasingly defined by a disparity between the rich and the poor. Understand how to 'race WITH the machines' and you will be a superstar, as this book explains, or be left in the dust.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elvira

    I was mindblown by the validity of this not-so recent book. A very concise compilation of facts and research regarding automation and its implications for the labor market in a very digestible short read

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Automation is a complicated problem that has been subtly approaching its tipping point for a very long time. I would applaud the authors for taking seriously its acceleration over the last few decades, but perhaps I should just applaud the people the authors quote, since this book does very little of it's own heavy lifting, and little heavy lifting at that. Don't get me wrong, a synthesis of current thought on this predicament would be welcome even if it didn't have an original bone in it's body Automation is a complicated problem that has been subtly approaching its tipping point for a very long time. I would applaud the authors for taking seriously its acceleration over the last few decades, but perhaps I should just applaud the people the authors quote, since this book does very little of it's own heavy lifting, and little heavy lifting at that. Don't get me wrong, a synthesis of current thought on this predicament would be welcome even if it didn't have an original bone in it's body. In fact, that might even be better than one more true believer economist hocking predictions of the future. However, at 70 pages this "book" is not prepared to deal with anything comprehensively. 75% of it is reference to other people's work, borrowing from better books, quoting statistics, or just stating the obvious. I can't think of anything to recommend it over other books on the subject, such as The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future(which this book references), or Nicholas Carr's more recent book,The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, or either of Jaron Lanier's books. The initial chapters attempt to lay out the problem, but only in the most general way. You won't be coming away with a wide knowledge of the specific fields under the direst threat from automation. Among the chosen examples, few are likely to be news. Watson the computer plays Jeopardy and wins, Google cars drive around without people, Moore's Law of accelerating growth is explained, etc. Then, on come the statistics to show us how job growth has diminished, how GDP has detached itself from household income and how all but the most extensive, specialized education is declining in value. All of this information is quite disturbing, so what is to be done? I was amused to see that most of the prescriptions at the end of this forward thinking little book had such a familiar ring to them. How fortunate that this is merely one more modern problem that can be solved by market deregulation, lowering taxes, worshiping entrepreneurs, and an all-systems-grow approach. Perhaps this is where a deeper and more expansive survey of the situation might have been useful. This book seems to carry on within a topical vacuum, but in reality the subject matter certainly does not. Some of their suggestions are so nonsensical that I might've stopped reading if the book weren't so short. The idea that a significant portion of the population could become software entrepreneurs in order to procure a stable income is ridiculous. Were this to happen as prescribed, then supposedly even more people would begin to participate in the fabulous "superstar" style wealth available with a global market at the touch of a button. That this is possible for a very few is obvious, just as it's obvious that it's not possible for most. Ok, Ok, wait, hear them out - It wouldn't be ridiculous if we fixed the broken educational system, enabling all students to get the equal and intensive high tech training they need to compete with their parents inventions...by inventing their own things to sell...for their kids to compete with. Of course, these suggestions are unhampered by the fact that we've been trying to fix the USA's lousy educational system for, what? Decades? Centuries? And never mind the archaic, enfeebled plea that there may be some possible goal for education beyond success in the market. Then again, maybe there isn't when a poor fellow's got to be out there 24/7 selling Apps just to survive. A few suggestions seemed reasonable, such as offering green cards to foreign students when they complete advanced degrees. I'd also have to agree that heavily reforming the patent system and copyright law will be crucial if there is to be any hope of our economy coping with the digital world. But these prescriptions were only allowable in that they fit with the authors' general prescription of more competition, technological literacy, and deregulation. The elephant in the room here that, like all good "digital optimists", the authors refuse to even acknowledge, is that the race against the machine is really the race against ourselves. Like so many these days, they have long since acquiesced to treat technology as essentially a force of nature, autonomous and beyond control. Maybe that IS the most realistic perspective now; maybe I'm the one being overly optimistic to imagine that we could still exert some decelerating or critical influence over it. However, it seems to me that as long as there is an economic imperative to undercut the cost of human labor, automation will only continue it's advance, ever broader and faster. I'm not making an argument here for keeping humanity's nose to the grindstone for all time, but let us be honest about who's benefiting from these "advances". Unless you are the owner/shareholder, you're looking at layoffs here, not more vacation days. If you want a peek behind the utopian rhetoric of being "freed up" from labor, take a look at the way Chinese elites are using automation as an explicit strategy to push impoverished workers and immigrants out of cities. Ask yourself whether the interests that drive these very advances will feel equally compelled to re-situate the disrupted. Oh, barring the classic military coup, things are sure to crash sooner or later if inequality gets too severe, but that thought is a like burning trashcan where I just can't seem to warm my hands. The authors admit that there are limits to entrepreneurial innovation, and even if there weren't, the exponential growth of technological power will eventually exceed a speed at which humans could stay a step ahead by innovation alone. Indeed, short of a complete reorganization of our global economic system (hardly conceivable without some enormous catastrophe setting a new precedent) any great strides made by our remaining uniquely human faculties are only likely to spur more concentrated attempts to automate in that particular area. Given that machines have already conquered so many realms once thought categorically human, it seems very naive to assume that any of those remaining with be off limits indefinitely. This should all make for excellent political fodder in the coming years; I'm sure we can all look forward to myriad impotent, partisan psuedo-debates as income and opportunities continue to mysteriously vanish. Despite this book, this is an extremely important subject, especially for anyone entering college or the job market. Legal aids, radiologists, journalists, truck drivers, research assistants, retail workers and many more are all going to have diminishing prospects in the coming years, some sooner than others. For your own security, it's best to start becoming familiar with this problem now.

  21. 5 out of 5

    YHC

    Funny that this book is just 100 pages, but it contains very intensive information that you would feel you read someone's review from another books of 500 pages. Short doesn't mean bad, it you are able to put all the points inside. We all know machines is taking over human jobs, we found the productivity is higher, but wages are lower. The inequality of wealth is getting worse. The author gave us some insights and some suggestions. Autopilot cars, trucks are already invented, soon it will cause hug Funny that this book is just 100 pages, but it contains very intensive information that you would feel you read someone's review from another books of 500 pages. Short doesn't mean bad, it you are able to put all the points inside. We all know machines is taking over human jobs, we found the productivity is higher, but wages are lower. The inequality of wealth is getting worse. The author gave us some insights and some suggestions. Autopilot cars, trucks are already invented, soon it will cause huge numbers of job loss on all relative jobs such as taxi drivers, high way restaurants, extended to food suppliers..etc Visual work, precision demanded jobs, or physical jobs such waiter (go ups and downs of places), gardeners are so far still not that easy to be replaced, though stock dealers, basic nurses (offering medication), interpreters ( replaced by GoFluent) even lawyers (replaced by e-discovery) are actually going be be replaced by computers. Some days soon the doctors will be replaced by A.I and it's no kidding, because machines got enough data would make precise and correct diagnoses. The suggestions of the author including crowd sourcing, you can have a read in this book Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business, because this model of working/ business allows long-tail to happen The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.. But mainly we need to strengthen our education, let the higher education more affordable and cheap (in European countries they are free). Thanks to Mooc, we are able to receive really high quality of courses on line and mostly for free unless you want a certification then very small price. What doesn't mention in this book is still how to deal with the problem of bigger number of people got no incomes due to job loss. Some suggest basic income (already trying in certain town in Finland) but will it be possible that the owners of big corporations (those who own the machines to replace jobs) give up some of their wealth?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mbogo J

    This small book took on one of the biggest problems of our time;the large scale replacement of human labor by machines. The results were mixed. I particularly liked their idea that we can't bench a huge chunk of the labor pool by giving them some universal basic income and sending them into forced leisure. Our economic system needs to be designed in a way that integrates people and machines in the production system. The bulk of the book was an aggregation of ideas from other books and commentator This small book took on one of the biggest problems of our time;the large scale replacement of human labor by machines. The results were mixed. I particularly liked their idea that we can't bench a huge chunk of the labor pool by giving them some universal basic income and sending them into forced leisure. Our economic system needs to be designed in a way that integrates people and machines in the production system. The bulk of the book was an aggregation of ideas from other books and commentators, as such it was mostly a rehashing of ideas already heard before. It's time the discussion factored in the real problem, which is the material gains from machine production accrue to a very, very small portion of the population. The solutions also have to be bolder, not just re-education of obsolete workers. Teaching some miners coding is more of a novelty solution than a long term and scalable solution. It's time for Piketty's wealth tax to take effect, and this implicit funding of robots by tax payers has to stop, its about time the robots are charged an income tax like their human workers and a higher one at that. Inequality is a serious problem, it breaks down the social contract between societies and as we are seeing in the forced repossessions of land in South Africa, it leads to a break down in social order and over time will lead to a roll back to the bandit ages and high way robbers. We need to get out of our partisan echo chambers and confront these problems head on. Having reviewed these issues I am starting to think the French understand the problem better than Americans. Piketty aside, for a long time the French have been proposing radical and good solutions but their efforts frustrated by affluent captive western states... My jeremiad aside, this book was a bit tame but it wasn't bad. It's a good primer to anyone interested in the topic.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mete Rodoper

    Race against the machine is one of the earlier books which analyzes the influence of recent technological developments on economy and job market. In a concise form, just short of 100 pages, it is a good introductory book to the topic. By collecting several earlier publications by various researchers and combining their conclusions, this book presents a complete picture of the field. There is an impressive analysis that describes the recent changes in the job market and economy, especially in the Race against the machine is one of the earlier books which analyzes the influence of recent technological developments on economy and job market. In a concise form, just short of 100 pages, it is a good introductory book to the topic. By collecting several earlier publications by various researchers and combining their conclusions, this book presents a complete picture of the field. There is an impressive analysis that describes the recent changes in the job market and economy, especially in the recent decades. Anyone who is interested in the current shifts in the job market and would like to know what might happen as more jobs are overtaken by the robots and computers is recommended to read it. The wide-scale research mentioned in the book, as well as the simple economic realities, explained in plain English is making this book consumable by everybody. Moreover, another reason to read this book is to quantitatively see what has changed in the job market and whose salaries responded to it in what ways. Consequently, one can deduce why Trump was elected as the president by promising employment and making America as in the past. Additionally, the potential results of his political and economic decisions - such as tax bills and investing in infrastructure - can be predicted better. One of the drawbacks of this books is that in a few years it is going to be the common sense to replace many jobs with computers or robots. The job market and required skills will already be adapted to the era. Therefore, this book’s analysis would not be novel anymore. If one had read this book when it was first published in 2011, they would be more informed. However, currently, it does not seem to be as surprising. Hence, in a decade, this analysis will potentially be part of history.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Not a good book. I went into this hoping for some information about how jobs are not just destroyed but are produced by the advent of new technology. You would expect more from a MIT scholar. The premise of the book is that it is the speed of the advance of technology which has caused and is causing mass unemployment. His premise remains completely ungrounded through this work. He never attempts a real life example of how this works. Why? Because the speed in the advances of technology have nothi Not a good book. I went into this hoping for some information about how jobs are not just destroyed but are produced by the advent of new technology. You would expect more from a MIT scholar. The premise of the book is that it is the speed of the advance of technology which has caused and is causing mass unemployment. His premise remains completely ungrounded through this work. He never attempts a real life example of how this works. Why? Because the speed in the advances of technology have nothing to do with unemployment. We are supposed to walk away after this read and think that if technology only slowed down that high unemployment would come to an end. An increase in technology certainly removes the amount of labor necessary for production. But the speed of the technological advances have nothing to do with unemployment. If he attempted to use a real life example we would have seen clearly that it is not the SPEED of the advances which cause unemployment but the advance itself which causes unemployment. It is a very easy read. Probably high school level. If you are educated in economics don't waste your time on this. It's for kids.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael Atkinson

    I really appreciated reading this book. Nice, succinct, well-thought-out, cogent. Great analysis of how technology is outsourcing many jobs, including ones you'd never imagine (some doctors, lawyers), yet how it's good news because society should be net better off for it. I agree. I wish there were more details of how/why society could be better off, and also more details on who stands to benefit/not be threatened, beside "creative entrepreneurs." I also don't feel there was tons more expressed I really appreciated reading this book. Nice, succinct, well-thought-out, cogent. Great analysis of how technology is outsourcing many jobs, including ones you'd never imagine (some doctors, lawyers), yet how it's good news because society should be net better off for it. I agree. I wish there were more details of how/why society could be better off, and also more details on who stands to benefit/not be threatened, beside "creative entrepreneurs." I also don't feel there was tons more expressed versus Mr. McAfee's TEDx talk (sounds crazy, being a book vs a talk.) I would love to read more on the topic, and I think it is important for most people to understand - from government to the lay person. Basically anybody with a career or children. I've never thought that recent economic problems were purely stagnation or cyclical, and I think the premise of technology replacing labor is incredibly obvious (as seen by strong corporate earnings vis a vis reduced workforces).

  26. 5 out of 5

    Geert

    Thought provoking short book about the changes that will come regarding to work in the next years due to technological progress. Lot's of 'human' jobs such as taxi-drivers, clerks, will disappear and so far no substitute has come by, the numbers of unemployment are rising throughout the Western world. The authors are somewhat techno-optimistic or techno-utopian and conclude by saying progress is good but they've faled to convince me the better future. The nagging sense became stronger while read Thought provoking short book about the changes that will come regarding to work in the next years due to technological progress. Lot's of 'human' jobs such as taxi-drivers, clerks, will disappear and so far no substitute has come by, the numbers of unemployment are rising throughout the Western world. The authors are somewhat techno-optimistic or techno-utopian and conclude by saying progress is good but they've faled to convince me the better future. The nagging sense became stronger while reading that the current Great Recession (authors capitals) will prove much more dividing than we can oversee at this moment. The jobs that have gone away won't come back. Combine this with the fact that unemployment, or the lack of a daily filled with purpose, heavily correlates with depression and all kinds of other psychological and physical problems, we have a bumpy road ahead.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stone

    This small treatise is a refined simplification of The Second Machine Age, which was published 2 years later after this book. Throughout the 98-page discourse Mr.Bynjolfsson comes straight to the point that the human labours are facing the seemingly invisible challenge posed by the technologies we have created; detailedly explains the benefits and costs of this competition and why a race "with" the machines would make us better off than "against" them. However, when it comes to the fourth chapte This small treatise is a refined simplification of The Second Machine Age, which was published 2 years later after this book. Throughout the 98-page discourse Mr.Bynjolfsson comes straight to the point that the human labours are facing the seemingly invisible challenge posed by the technologies we have created; detailedly explains the benefits and costs of this competition and why a race "with" the machines would make us better off than "against" them. However, when it comes to the fourth chapter the apparent problem of impracticability and idealization appears as the book starts picking up the recommendations for the future. The ending is rather blunt, leaving a lot more assumptions to their next book. Overall a great introductory guidebook of the human-machine relationship in practice, but I recommend taking its arguments with a grain of salt.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kasey Yang

    Read this book for a class about Artificial Intelligence. It was compelling, and provided a very holistic view into what the future of the country may look like, as well as a well-thought out agenda for action to make the most of the rise of technology. I wasn't completely swayed to become excited about the rise of technology, as they focus more on the big picture rather than the individual lives that are going to be affected. Overall, it was extremely informative and insightful, with a very dee Read this book for a class about Artificial Intelligence. It was compelling, and provided a very holistic view into what the future of the country may look like, as well as a well-thought out agenda for action to make the most of the rise of technology. I wasn't completely swayed to become excited about the rise of technology, as they focus more on the big picture rather than the individual lives that are going to be affected. Overall, it was extremely informative and insightful, with a very deep analysis of economic outcomes and problems.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    A very concise explanation of the interplay, both historically and today, between technology, the economy and labor. We forget that we have already been through two prior technology driven industrial revolutions - steam and electricity. Both destroyed millions of jobs, as the digital industrial revolution is doing now. However, these revolutions also created entire new industries, and once absorbed by capital and labor, made a higher standard of living possible for all. The authors argue that th A very concise explanation of the interplay, both historically and today, between technology, the economy and labor. We forget that we have already been through two prior technology driven industrial revolutions - steam and electricity. Both destroyed millions of jobs, as the digital industrial revolution is doing now. However, these revolutions also created entire new industries, and once absorbed by capital and labor, made a higher standard of living possible for all. The authors argue that this revolution is no different; however, the pace is one that is blowing past the ability of government and labor to make adjustments. The authors give specific recommendations in the areas of education, entrepreneurship, investment and government.

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Antoš

    An excellent summary of a very important question - what shall we do if large part of humanity lost 'economic value' due to technology shifts? What if many professions get replaced by computers and in increasing number of industries the winner-takes-all pattern prevails? What shall we do with all the 'losers' when the free-market welfare distribution becomes further uneven? We are not there yet and this question is being raised again and again over centuries. However, it's a big one and it's good An excellent summary of a very important question - what shall we do if large part of humanity lost 'economic value' due to technology shifts? What if many professions get replaced by computers and in increasing number of industries the winner-takes-all pattern prevails? What shall we do with all the 'losers' when the free-market welfare distribution becomes further uneven? We are not there yet and this question is being raised again and again over centuries. However, it's a big one and it's good to be mentally ready that there a significant probability we might be facing such world quite soon. The book is crisp and short, underwhelms in the final part when it tries to present some rather unconvincing solutions.

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