Screenshot 2014-10-20 13.21.32I’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 author in the session titled “Technology: Promise and Peril

What makes this especially exciting to me is the fact that I’ll share the stage with Nick Carr, who’s one of my favorite writers and thinkers about technology. I don’t praise Nick because I agree with him so often. Over the years, in fact, we’ve pretty reliably argued about some big questions, including whether IT matters for competitive differentiation and whether Google makes us stupid.

This time around promises to be no different. Nick’s new book The Glass Cage made me think a lot, but what I usually thought was “I don’t agree with that.” I do think that today’s breathtaking technological progress is bringing some serious challenges along with it, but they’re not the ones that Nick highlights.

To hear very different views on tech’s promise and peril, I suggest that you come to our session this Saturday at 11 in the Old South Sanctuary on Boston’s Copley Plaza. It’ll also feature as a panelist David Rose, whose new book Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things is, for obvious reasons, on my short-term reading list. WBUR’s Sacha Pfeiffer will moderate.

Hope to see you there…

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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, but it’ll be great fun to attend.

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In a nice coincidence, next week Erik and I are also giving our first joint public talk about the book since the initial book tour. It’s in Harvard’s gorgeous Sanders Theater on Wednesday October 1 at 4 pm. The event is sponsored by Harvard’s Institute for Learning in Retirement, and is free and open to the public. Please get a ticket in advance by stopping by HILR or the Harvard box office.

If you’re in the Boston area and interested at all please do come and let us know what questions you have about technological progress and how it’s shaping our businesses, economies, and societies. We hope to see you there…

 

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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

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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

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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

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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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When Regulators Attack: Cambridge and Uber

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I’m on the brink of making a big real estate commitment in Cambridge, the idiosyncratic New England city I’ve called home since 1994. But a set of proposed regulations discussed at a License Commission meeting last night are so bad and so dumb they’re causing me to rethink whether or not I really want to live […]

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The New Millennium’s Downward Ramp of Jobs

June 13, 2014

Recent research continues to shed light on the big trends in the US labor market. Unfortunately, many if not most of them are bad news. As Thomas Edsall describes well in his latest New York Times column, it looks like demand has slowed down for even the most cognitively demanding jobs (in other words, the highest skilled […]

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If There Was Already an Ocean of Data in 2007, How Much is there Now?

June 2, 2014

  I’ve been trying to figure out how to convey the scale of the ‘Big Data‘ phenomenon — the recent worldwide explosion of the volume of data encoded in digital form. Inspiration came from Randall Munroe’s fantastic “What if?” comics, which provide “Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.” (check out his 2o14 TED talk and pre-order […]

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