The Second Machine Age – why you should read it!


Wow, it has been almost two months since I stated that The Second Machine Age should be required reading.  Without  further ado, here’s why:

All industries (not just health care!) face the same realities:  These are:

  • Moore’s Law is still “good law.”  Computer processing power becomes better and faster.
  • Networks (using this computing power) grow exponentially.
  • Machines (in the generic sense)  increasingly have more power,  increasingly are networked, and increasingly are tasked to make “more decisions” and “do more things.”

Think about it.  If this is true (and I see no evidence that it is not) then all businesses and industries will feel the brunt of these effects – some faster than others.  Moreover, as The Second Machine Age discusses in detail, because of these factors, traditional “labor” (both blue and white-collar) also will find itself affected.  It already has, of course, but when one considers the exponential growth and ubiquity of these “laws” and reviews the historical trends since 1950 (not a long time by the way),  one should brace or better, embrace, the changes to come.

In convincing me to read the book a smart confidant of mine wrote:

In their compelling structural analysis of the new technology, the authors discuss one of today’s most popular DC political footballs…our “hollowed- out” middle class. Without referencing today’s political debate, they ascribe causality for much of our income disparity to the recent dawn of our exponentially expanding digital age, which not only produces “bounty”,  but also is causing a growing “spread” between the beneficiaries of digitally related capital expenditures and the laborers they displace. Discussing the dynamic’s downside, they include an excerpt from a 2011 Huffington Post piece authored by economist Daron Acemoglu and political scientist James Robinson. Its relevance . . . is sobering and painfully relevant. I quote sparingly from that excerpt below. 

” Prosperity depends on innovation, and we waste our innovative potential if we do not provide a level playing field for all: we don’t know where the next Microsoft, Google or Facebook will come from…… The U.S. generated so much innovation and economic growth for the last two hundred years because, by and large it rewarded innovation and investment. This did not happen in a vacuum ; it was supported by a particular set of political arrangements —inclusive political institutions —which prevented an elite or other narrow group from monopolizing political power and using it for their own benefit and at the expense of society…those who are further empowered politically will use this to gain greater economic advantage, stacking the cards in their favor and increasing economic inequality even further —a quintessential vicious circle . And we may be in the midst of it. “