The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies (Book Review of the Week-ish)
I’ve spent the last few days working my way through the fascinating The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.
First, it’s worth pointing out that this is not — emphatically not — a marketing book, at least not in the sense most people think about marketing. Brynjolfsson and McAfee are big thinkers in the truest sense of the word, exploring the implications of increasingly cheap (if not free) technology on people’s everyday lives and livelihoods. They look deeply at the exponential growth of computing power and how that growth has shaped, and will continue to shape, our world.
Second, this is by no means “light reading.” But, it remains highly readable nonetheless. Brynjolfsson and McAfee tell a compelling story that ties together the work of many leading economists and economic thinkers. Their examination of the economic effects brought about by the computer revolution — the “Second Machine Age” of the book’s title — leaves few stones unturned in its examination of the rapidly shifting landscape brought about by unprecedented technological change.
Given that this isn’t a marketing book, why review it on a marketing and e-commerce blog? Simple, the authors’ comprehensive look at how digital products and services — apps, games, and media — create a “winner take all” environment matters to anyone working in those fields. Even more interesting, though, is their explanation in Chapter 10 of how ratings and review sites create similar effects for all products and services, digital or not. While I’ve long talked about the important role ratings and reviews play in digital marketing today, I’d never seen the long-term effects spelled out so clearly before. Incredibly useful stuff.
Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s world-view may appear utopian (or, at the very least, very optimistic) to some. But they don’t shirk the hard questions, such as the effects technological change has on the job market now and in the future. And this hard look at the world we live in matters. It offers tremendous insights into the challenges and fears your customers may face in the coming years as automation and a changing business environment affects not only consumers’ work opportunities, incomes, and purchasing power, but also their feelings, hopes, and dreams for their lives, and those of their children.
If marketing represents the act of creating customers, understanding their needs, and offering products and services that help them in their lives, then The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies represents an important book for all marketers — and for businesses generally. I highly recommend you pick up a print copy, or perhaps more appropriately given the subject, the Kindle edition. Great information, well presented, and well worth your time.
Interested in how these changes affect your customers in a more day-to-day sense? Then you may also enjoy these slides from another recent speaking engagement “Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results” here:
(And, yes… you can hire me to keynote your next event, too).
And, if you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.
You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:
- What Your Customers Expect from Mobile and E-commerce in 2014.
- The Secrets Behind “It’s All E-commerce” for 2014
- Should Marketers Really Trust Google in 2014?
- The Zen of Digital Marketing Strategy
- 7 Steps to E-Commerce Heaven
- Today and Tomorrow: Mobile and The Changing Customer Journey
- Mobile Makes E-commerce Even More “Frictionless”
- Your 2014 Internet Marketing New Year’s Resolutions – Thinks Out Loud Episode 56