Robots will stay in the back seat in the second machine age — Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson

Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business at MIT Sloan, and Andrew McAfee, Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business

Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business at MIT Sloan, and Andrew McAfee, Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business

From the Financial Times

It is easy to be pessimistic about jobs and pay these days. More and more work is being automated away by ever more powerful and capable technologies.

Not only can computers transcribe and translate normal human speech, they can also understand it well enough to carry out simple instructions. Machines now make sense of huge pools of unstructured information, and in many cases detect patterns and draw inferences better than highly trained and experienced humans. Recent advances include autonomous cars and aircraft, and robots that can work alongside humans in factories, warehouses and the open air.

These innovations are quickly leaving the lab and entering the wider economy, bringing new challenges for workers from tax preparers to burger flippers. Many have concluded that the era of large-scale technological unemployment has finally arrived. For these observers, labour trends visible in many countries – declining real wages and social mobility; rising inequality and polarisation; persistently high unemployment – are only going to accelerate as technology races ahead.

But the world is not ready to give up on human labour. Humanity is entering a second machine age. The first, spurred by the industrial revolution, was mechanical; this one is digital. The first augmented our muscles; the second, our minds.

Read the full post at the Financial Times.

Andrew McAfee is the Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business.

Erik Brynjolfsson is the Schussel Family Professor of Management Science, a Professor of Information Technology, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business at the MIT Sloan School of Management.  

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