The Second Machine Age and the Velvet Underground

by Andrew McAfee on December 12, 2014

Today we got the happy Screenshot 2014-12-12 13.45.22news that The Second Machine Age was named one of the best books of the year by Bloomberg. Their methodology for putting together their list was interesting: they just asked a lot of heavy hitters in finance, industry, and public affairs what their favorite books were.

I’m flattered to see what our book was among the most cited. Mohamed El-Erian, Dominic Barton, Jeff Sachs, Tim Adams, and and Pippa Malmgren all gave it a shout-out, which is a great feeling.

The Second Machine Age hit the bestseller lists, but it hasn’t been a runaway commercial hit. We’re very pleased with the sales, but there haven’t been millions of them (at least not yet, he wrote hopefully…).

If you can’t have millions of readers you’d at least like to have highly influential ones, and as the Bloomberg list indicates we do, I think. I’ve already dropped enough names for one post, so let me just say that I’ve been floored by the number of very senior and/or very smart people who have had good things to say about 2MA.

It’s said about the Velvet Underground that only a few thousand people bought their albums, but every one of them went out and started a band. If we and 2MA can have that same kind of influence — if we can inspire people to change how they’re running their companies, thinking about policy, educating their students, and so on — the book will have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

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Enterprise 2.0, Finally?

by Andrew McAfee on November 20, 2014

Facebook’s recent announcement that it’s readying a version of its social software for workplaces got me thinking about Enterprise 2.0, a topic I used to think a great deal about. Five years ago I published a book with that title, arguing that enterprise social software platforms would be valuable tools for businesses.

The news from Facebook, along with rapid takeup of new tools like Slack, the continued success and growth of Salesforce’s Chatter and Yammer (now part of Microsoft), and evidence of a comeback at Jive, indicates that the business world might finally be coming around to Web-style communication and collaboration tools.

Why did it take so long? I can think of a few reasons. It’s hard to get the tools right — useful and simple software is viciously hard to make. Old habits die hard, and old managers die (or at least leave the workforce) slowly. The influx of ever-more Millennials has almost certainly helped, since they consider email antediluvian and traditional collaboration software a bad joke.

Whatever the causes, I’m happy to see evidence that appropriate digital technologies are finally appearing to help with the less structured, less formal work of the enterprise. It’s about time.

What do you think? Is Enterprise 2.0 finally here? If so, why now? Leave a comment, please, and let us know.

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Why Is Customer Service Still So Lousy (Financial Services Web Design Edition)?

November 10, 2014

A while back I set up autopayment on the Citi credit card I used for business expenses, and it’s been working fine. Recently, however, I ran up so many travel expenses in a month that I hit my credit limit (the clearest sign yet that I’ve been on the road too much). So in order […]

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This Saturday: The Glass Cage Match at the Boston Book Festival

October 20, 2014

I’ve been involved with the Boston Book Festival since Deborah Porter founded it in 2009, and it’s become one of my favorite events of the year. And since I had a for-real mainstream published book come out this year (as opposed to a self-published glorified pamphlet) I get to participate this year as a full-fledged […]

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Business Book of the Year? Maybe. Public Talk Next Week? Definitely.

September 26, 2014

Yesterday we got the good news that The Second Machine Age had been shortlisted for the FT and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award. Erik and I are floored and very flattered, and looking forward to the award dinner in London in November. I’m pretty sure we’ll watch Thomas Piketty another author hoist the trophy, […]

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Technology Spending Is On Its Way Down. Or It Isn’t. Or It Doesn’t Matter.

September 3, 2014

My MIT colleague David Autor delivered a wonderful paper at the recent Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium about American job and wage patterns in recent decades, and their link to the computerization of the economy. I’ll say more later about his paper, which was one of the highlights of the event for me (sighting this […]

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MIT’s Second Machine Age Conference in September: Sign up Now

August 21, 2014

I am sorry to brag, but this really is an all-star lineup. If you’re at all interested in technological progress and its implications for our businesses, economies, and societies, you should attend the 2014 Second Machine Age conference. It’s being held on September 10 and 11 at the gorgeous MIT Media Lab building, and organized […]

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The Clearest Trend in the American Workforce Is Not an Encouraging One

August 14, 2014

It’s been a while since I posted data on US employment trends, so here’s a chart created with FRED’s snazzy new graphing interface. It shows the employment rate (in other words, 100 – the standard unemployment rate) in blue, the employment-to-population ratio (the % of working-age people with work) in green, and the labor force […]

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When Using Your Smartphone Can Be the Best Thing for Your Mental Health

August 7, 2014

My last post here took on Zeynep Tufekci and, by extension, others who believe the current trend of using robots and other forms of advanced technology for caregiving is, as she put it, “an abdication of a desire to remain human, to be connected to each other through care, and to take care of each other.”  I […]

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Even If Grandma Embraces Her Robot, Should We Fear It?

July 29, 2014

Zeynep Tufekci‘s recent piece “Failing the Third Machine Age: When Robots Come for Grandma” has been getting some attention. It’s a polemic against the prospect of using advanced technologies to provide elder care, embedded within a larger diatribe about technological progress, automation, and capitalism. I don’t want to take on her big argument here. If you […]

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