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Big data

The Second Machine Age: Bounty and consequences

Digital technologies – with hardware, software, and networks at their core – will diagnose diseases in the near future more accurately than doctors can, apply enormous data sets to transform retailing and accomplish many tasks once considered uniquely human.

In The Second Machine Age, MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, two thinkers at the forefront of their field, reveal the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. Drawing on years of research and up-to-the-minute trends, Erik and Andrew identify the best strategies for survival and offer a new path to prosperity. These include revamping education so that it prepares people for the next economy instead of the last one, and embracing policies that make sense in a radically transformed landscape.

Digital bounty means digital consequences

We stand on the threshold of a new age of human history, the age of the digital. Digital devices, digital information and computational power will bring with them an ever expanding set of possible combinations in which they may be combined. The effect of Moore’s law comes to into play as more things become digital. This effect drives down the cost to produce, and reproduce, new and different devices and combinations of capabilities. The burgeoning amount of information will fuel an ever greater capacity to test theories and assertions across every discipline.

As more and more of the world’s population become connected across digital networks like the internet and mobile communications this will bring ever more human mental capacity to bear on the problems and ultimately, the solutions, to those problems.

By and large all this data and all this digital everything will yield great bounty and, for the most part, provide positive lift to human society as a whole.

But there are troubling trends that have already begun that, unless we address them, as individuals and a society, will become chasms – just as the possibilities go the other way.  There is a deepening spread between the “have and have nots” in our society. But what is just as important is that that spread is increasing in pretty much every strata of income earners. Even between those that “have a lot and those that have a whole lot” it’s spreading.

It turns out that for the average person education is the best defense against income erosion and improving ones chances of not just employability in general but sustained employment. If we extend this out then one can see that as a society we need to take stock of several key systems – education, social, and health being the biggest three.

The takeaway

As amazing as technological advancement has been recently with things such as Google’s self driven car, ever improving robotic technology and the advancement of ‘intelligent’ computers such as Watson – we haven’t seen anything yet.

If you haven’t considered education as a priority, for yourself, for your children, or your grandchildren – I urge you to make it a top priority. It is your best insulator for the coming ever digital world.

We can look forward to a dizzying onslaught of miraculous advancements that will have us shaking our heads and wondering: ‘They can do that?’ Only to answer ourselves:  ‘Yes, I guess they can.’

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About the series

TechVision is a series of interactive seminars featuring industry thought leaders on emerging technology topics and trends.

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