The hot new book about the digital economy is Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson‘s The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity In a Time of Brilliant Technologies. It’s amongst the first books to seriously address the fundamental question of our digital economy: what will be the economic role of human-beings in an age of artificial intelligence, 3D printers and an Internet of things?
While McAfee and Brynjolfsson acknowledge that we live in a time of “astonishing progress”, they also admit that our digital economy is increasingly made up of “winner take all economics” which is hollowing out the middle class and leaving many people behind.
So what is to be done?
Perhaps it’s no surprise that both McAfee and Brynjolfsson are economics professors at MIT. They say we have to go back to our Economics 101 textbooks to learn how to retool for this second machine age. Education, they say, is key. Both in terms of what and how we learn. So just as the Internet might be taking away our jobs, it is also – as a learning network – giving us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves.
But it won’t happen magically, McAfee and Brynjolfsson both say. Our fate, as always, depends on our ability to change. There may be jobs for those that adapt. But for those that don’t, there will be nothing brilliant our second machine age.