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How to Harness the Digital Future

June 5, 2017

We are in midst of new phase of the machine age, yet we are vastly underestimating the impact and the scale of what’s occurring, according to IDE Director, Erik Brynjolfsson, and co-director, Andrew McAfee. These changes are at the individual job level, the corporate level, and for society as a whole, they told attendees at the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium during a fireside chat with MIT Technology Review Editor, Jason Pontin.

McAfee said that increasingly, machines can even match humans at complex cognitive skills. “Middle men are being eliminated.” And Brynjolfsson noted that while “middle-level skills are being hardest hit” today, going forward, jobs from pathologists to  drivers, will be squeezed, too.

The message isn’t to fear automation, they said, but to look for new opportunities and possibilities--for instance, cutting  power consumption, or creating new jobs driven by digital technologies.

Most importantly, the co-authors of the forthcoming book, Machines, Platform, Crowd, said that the biggest mistake is to look to the past to solve tomorrow’s problems. There’s still time to invest in education, to encourage creativity, and to make conscious political decisions about work and society. “There’s a huge role for smart policies,” Brynjolfsson said.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee will be launching the new book and discussing it further at an upcoming IDE event in San Francisco on June 20.