Summary of The Key to Growth? Race with the Machines

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Technological advances have given a hefty boost to productivity. So why are so many people out of work, and why are incomes plummeting? MIT professor and information technology expert Erik Brynjolfsson explains the “decoupling” of productivity and employment in what getAbstract considers an edifying TED Talk. His message is optimistic: If humans enter the race with machines as their teammates, and not their opponents, they’ll go far.

About the Speaker

Erik Brynjolfsson teaches at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is director of the MIT Center for Digital Business and chairman of the MIT Sloan Management Review.



History teaches that “general purpose technologies,” such as the steam engine and electricity, boost productivity – but only when “new work processes” evolve around them. These technologies trigger waves of “complementary innovations” and thus are responsible for most fiscal growth. Today’s general-purpose technology is the computer. The computer itself won’t determine humankind’s future, but how people respond to it will. As with previous technologies, the world – including organizations and even the economic system – must evolve to benefit from the computer’s potential. But so far, the effort has been wanting. As a result, though productivity has reached a historic high and the standard...

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