Surviving the Shift

In Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, Player Piano, there are two classes of people: engineers and everyone else. The vast majority of work is automated, and anyone without an aptitude for operating machines lives across the river. They are poor, bored, and have few options. The story ends with an uprising. The poor destroy the machines that took their jobs, and then promptly begin rebuilding them. The book was published in 1952, but reads like it could be about our own times. Consider: Google claims its self-driving cars will be available within a decade. Someone recently threw a brick at one of its employee shuttle buses. As technology workers move into San Francisco, everyone else moves across the water. Into this combustible mix of job insecurity and wealthy tech know-how come Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, both researchers at MIT. Their new book, The Second Machine Age, outlines the many ways that digital technology will change the economy, and offers strategies for surviving the shift. Their ideas include reforming education and "using ingenuity to race with machines," but not an uprising.

Tue., Jan. 28, 6 p.m., 2014
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