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The Second Machine Age

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The Second Machine Age

Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

W.W. Norton,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

The computer revolution will produce greater change than the Industrial Revolution.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of the MIT Center for Digital Business address the impact of digital technologies, moving smoothly from broad perspectives and historical syntheses to specific examples from contemporary scientific and business activity. The authors describe the changes digital technologies bring and show their historical roots, analyze their causes and explain their implications. They recognize the difficulties of predicting technological change, though their section on the future is not quite on par with the brilliance of the rest of this absorbing overview. getAbstract recommends their insights to anyone seeking greater understanding of the social and economic impact of digital technologies.


Technology and Human History

What is the most influential development in history? The Industrial Revolution. At present, you are living through a second, comparable revolution. The Industrial Revolution changed how people used their bodies to perform physical labor. This current revolution is changing how people use their minds to perform conceptual labor.

This is “a time of astonishing progress with digital technologies,” advances which leap forward with a multiplier effect that generates even greater change. Digital technology changes the world for the better. Especially in the broad category of consumption – consuming goods, art, entertainment or ideas – digital technology provides unprecedented choices. And, though the effect of digital technology will be highly beneficial, people face “thorny challenges.”

“The Second Machine Age”

Recent developments in digital technologies transcend incremental progress, often in arenas where computers previously stumbled. In 2002, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) held the “first Grand Challenge” to spur people “to build a completely autonomous vehicle” that could drive 150 miles through the ...

About the Authors

Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Center for Digital Business and Andrew McAfee, a researcher at the Center and author of Enterprise 2.0, co-authored Race Against the Machine.

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