The business of artificial intelligence – Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

Professor of Information Technology, Director, The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy

Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, Erik Brynjolfsson

Co-Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, Andrew McAfee

From Harvard Business Review

For more than 250 years the fundamental drivers of economic growth have been technological innovations. The most important of these are what economists call general-purpose technologies — a category that includes the steam engine, electricity, and the internal combustion engine. Each one catalyzed waves of complementary innovations and opportunities. The internal combustion engine, for example, gave rise to cars, trucks, airplanes, chain saws, and lawnmowers, along with big-box retailers, shopping centers, cross-docking warehouses, new supply chains, and, when you think about it, suburbs. Companies as diverse as Walmart, UPS, and Uber found ways to leverage the technology to create profitable new business models.

The most important general-purpose technology of our era is artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning (ML) — that is, the machine’s ability to keep improving its performance without humans having to explain exactly how to accomplish all the tasks it’s given. Within just the past few years machine learning has become far more effective and widely available. We can now build systems that learn how to perform tasks on their own.

Why is this such a big deal? Two reasons. First, we humans know more than we can tell: We can’t explain exactly how we’re able to do a lot of things — from recognizing a face to making a smart move in the ancient Asian strategy game of Go. Prior to ML, this inability to articulate our own knowledge meant that we couldn’t automate many tasks. Now we can.

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Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson discuss their new book, “Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing our Digital Future” June 26, 2017

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

MIT Sloan’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

 

Our latest installment of the MIT Sloan Expert Series includes a live conversation with Andrew McAfee ​and ​Erik Brynjolfsson, co-authors of the new book Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing our Digital Future, which is being hailed as “a must-read road map” for success in the digital economy. The book is a sequel to their bestseller The Second Machine Age.

Harnessing our Digital Future: Machine, Platform Crowd

Beth Comstock, Vice Chair of GE, appears​ on the program to discuss how the company harnesses the wisdom of the crowd for product ​innovations and design.

Sandy Pentland, MIT Professor of Media Arts and Science, also joins us to talk about managerial best practices for navigating this new world of rapidly advancing technology.

 

The rise of data-driven decision making is real but uneven — Kristina McElheran and Erik Brynjolfsson

Kristina McElheran, MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy Visiting Scholar

Kristina McElheran, MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy Visiting Scholar

 

 Professor of Information Technology, Director, The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy


Professor of Information Technology,
Director, The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy

From Harvard Business Review

Growing opportunities to collect and leverage digital information have led many managers to change how they make decisions – relying less on intuition and more on data. As Jim Barksdale, the former CEO of Netscape quipped, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” Following pathbreakers such as Caesar’s CEO Gary Loveman – who attributes his firm’s success to the use of databases and cutting-edge analytical tools – managers at many levels are now consuming data and analytical output in unprecedented ways.

This should come as no surprise. At their most fundamental level, all organizations can be thought of as “information processors” that rely on the technologies of hierarchy, specialization, and human perception to collect, disseminate, and act on insights. Therefore, it’s only natural that technologies delivering faster, cheaper, more accurate information create opportunities to re-invent the managerial machinery.

At the same time, large corporations are not always nimble creatures. How quickly are managers actually making the investments and process changes required to embrace decision-making practices rooted in objective data? And should all firms jump on this latest managerial bandwagon?

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How IoT changes decision making, security and public policy – Erik Brynjolfsson

Professor of Information Technology, Director, The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy


Professor of Information Technology,
Director, The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy

We’re in the early stages of a management revolution. The upheaval is based on our unprecedented ability to collect, measure and digitally record information about human and systems activities, particularly with the finely tuned data sets available through IoT. One of the hallmarks of this new era is the acceleration of data-driven decision making within businesses, which has tripled in just five years, according to a recent study I conducted with Kristina McElheren, a professor at University of Toronto.

Accompanying the progress anticipated in this increasingly digital age, however, will be thorny challenges and broader issues for society at large. This is particularly true as organizations begin to feed the large data sets available from IoT into systems that use machine-learning algorithms—at which point they will begin making predictions and decisions in an increasingly automated way, and at large scale.

Machine-learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have advanced greatly in recent years; the implications range much further than the attention they get for winning competitions with “Go” champions and chess masters. The real significance of these technologies will be found in their ability to automate and augment complex decision making.

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MIT Sloan Experts Twitter Chat: #FutureofWork – Erik Brynjolfsson

MIT Sloan Prof. Erik Brynjolfsson

MIT Sloan Prof. Erik Brynjolfsson

The acceleration of technology has led to remarkable benefits for business and the economy – but what about people earning middle- and base-level incomes?

Join MIT Sloan Experts’ (@mitsloanexperts) #FutureofWork Twitter chat with Erik Brynjolfsson (@erikbryn), director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, as he discusses how digital innovations can create a more inclusive, productive and sustainable future for all. Tim O’Reilly (@timoreilly), founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, will host the chat and ask Erik questions that will help guide the conversation.

The chat will take place on Wednesday, April 13, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

How do you get involved? It’s simple! If you have a question or a response to one of Tim O’Reilly’s questions, just include “#FutureofWork” in your tweet.

The #FutureofWork Twitter chat will promote registration for the MIT Inclusive Innovation Competition, open from March 1 – June 1, 2016, which celebrates organizations that create economic opportunity in the digital era.