Future Forecasting • Finance
Erik Brynjolfsson is the Schussel Family Professor of Management Science, a Professor of Information Technology, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Brynjolfsson explores how advances in information technology contribute to business performance and organizational change. He directs the MIT Center for Digital Business, a research initiative that analyzes the business uses of the Internet and other digital Technologies. His projects include a study of information worker productivity, a valuation method for intangible organizational capital, calibration of increased product variety online (a.k.a. the “long tail”), and an analysis of optimal pricing strategies for digital goods. In a related work, Brynjolfsson is assessing how investments in computers and networks alter economic growth, industry structure, and labor demand. Brynjolfsson holds an AB in applied mathematics from Harvard College, an MS in decision sciences from Harvard University, and a PhD in managerial economics from MIT.
At many stages in human history, rapid and far-reaching technological change has prompted social upheaval and the need for an overhaul of political and social systems. We are now in the midst of one such stage, according to Erik Brynjolfsson. Machine learning has taken artificial intelligence (AI) to a new level, one in which machines can learn complicated tasks on their own rather than relying on human programmers. The impact on society has only just begun, with humans being displaced in industries across the board – even technology jobs are under threat due to devices’ ability to program themselves. The second wave of the second machine age, as Brynjolfsson calls it, poses a dilemma for policymakers: if the old model based on a general availability of work at all skill levels is quickly becoming antiquated, what will replace it?
There are, in fact, immense opportunities for human betterment inherent in this technological revolution. Policymakers must harness these positives while minimizing the negatives:
– Governments and trade organizations must develop a different approach to managing unemployment that involves constant training and re-training
– Healthcare reform must take advantage of advances in AI that cut costs and widen provisions
– Education must be fundamentally transformed so that students are taught the human attributes that robots and computers can not easily replicate, namely creativity and interpersonal skills
Brynjolfsson outlines how people with influence must anticipate the oncoming challenges of AI. Given the fundamental changes already taking place, managing this revolution will be the most important political and social endeavors of the next century.
We are in the early stages of not one, but three fundamental revolutions, each driven by profound advances in technology. Machines are now transforming the role of human decision-making, digital platforms allow products and services of others to be sold and brokered, and there’s a proliferation of an almost-magical effectiveness for obtaining ideas from the general public – the crowd – rather than from the experts at the core of the business. Erik Brynjolfsson explains what has changed since the dawn of the digital age and how organizations can evolve with the times by rebalancing from mind toward machine, from product toward platform and from the core toward the crowd.
In this presentation, Brynjolfsson combines his earlier thesis on the advent of the second machine age with further research on the effects of digital platforms and a limitless abundance of data to paint a full picture of the “new economy,” and how to harness its power rather than be sunk by change. He explains how the technologies that will evolve our abilities is already here and will radically accelerate in the next few years. But, just as businesses were slow to adapt to new technologies like electricity, many leaders today are trapped by outdated assumptions, processes and strategies.
If you were managing a business just over a century ago, you would have had to address the fact that a wave of technological change was about to transform the way you did everything. The internal combustion engine would rearrange every aspect of society and long-term plans that ignored this development would become worthless. Today’s business managers find themselves in the same predicament, except the new technology is artificial intelligence (AI) and we, as a people, are entering the second phase of the second machine age.
According to Erik Brynjolfsson, the world’s foremost expert on how rapid advances in technology will impact businesses and the economy, machine learning (ML) has evolved to the point at which intelligent agents, autonomous robots and other devices can learn to do things on their own, with little or no need for human programming. This will have radical consequences, as advancements in AI over the next decade will far exceed all the developments of the past.
This talk builds on his best-selling book, “The Second Machine Age,” but also goes well beyond it, drawing on recent advances in machine learning. Brynjolfsson focuses on how entrepreneurs and business managers must address and react to this new wave of technology.