Race with the machines by Erik Brynjolfsson

Yet another curated TED Talk, too inspiring not to be blogged about. Erik Brynjolfsson is co-author of Race Against The Machine, an essay he wrote together with his MIT Sloan School of Management fellow professor Andrew “Enterprise 2.0” McAfee. Professor McAfee, who also made an excellent TED talk on this topic, is a very well known figure on #hypertextual ([humblebrag] I even managed to shake his hand and to thank him in a quite clumsy way during Boston E20 Conference in 2011 [/humblebrag]).

What impressed me the most in this talk is the smooth and easy way the speaker brings ground breaking ideas. The bottom line : the automatisation of everything is taking jobs away from workers, and this shall include even knowledge workers. As a result we are living in a time of exponential changes (an idea I first heard in 2011 USI talk from Ray Kurzweil) but we are wired for linear changes. We therefore need to transform the way we work and move towards more team work and take advantage of big data to move towards more scientific approach.

Here are some transcripts of this brilliant talk.

American factories began to electrify their operations 150 years ago igniting the 2nd industrial revolution. The amazing thing : productivity didn’t increase immediately : it took 30 years. 30 years that’s long enough for a generation of managers to retire. The 1st wave of managers replaced their steam engine with electric motors. But they didn’t redesign the factory to take advantage of electricity flexibility. It felt to the next generation to invent new work processes. And then, productivity soared, often doubling and even tripling.

Electricity is like the steam engine : a general purpose technology which generates cascade of innovations.
Our reason can only work with linear change. It cannot work with exponential changes.

The great thing about digitalized data is that we can have massive data in real-time from which we can learn.

Technology is not our destiny : we shape our destiny. We will need to reshape our organisations.

The new machine age is more about knowledge creation then just physical production. The new machine age is digital, exponential and combinatorial. Big Data is the subtle advantage of the digitization of the world : measurement is the lifeblood of science and progress, in the days of big data, we can measure the world in the way we never could before.

The new machine age is exponential : computer gets better and faster than anything else ever. A child Playstation today is more powerful than a military supercomputer of 1996. But our brains are wired for a linear world. As a result, exponential trends take us by surprise.

Today a computer is no longer chess world champion, neither si human. Kasparov organised a free-style tournament where teams of human and computers could work together and the winning team had no grandmaster and it had no supercomputer. What they had : better team work.We don’t want to race against the machine, we want to race with the machine. What can beat a machine ? Team work and computers.

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