Maybe life wasn’t supposed to be this way—but it is


Thomas L. Friedman’s op-ed pieceIf I Had a Hammerappears in today’s (January 19th) New York Times International Weekly. It first appeared in the SundayReview on January 11th. Drop what you’re doing, click on the link and read.

In it, Friedman references  ‘The Second Machine Age’ co-authored by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT:

“In the Second Machine Age … ‘we are beginning to automate a lot more cognitive tasks, a lot more of the control systems that determine what to use that power for. In many cases today artificially intelligent machines can make better decisions than humans.’ So humans and software-driven machines may increasingly be substitutes, not complements. What’s making this possible, the authors argue, are three huge technological advances that just reached their tipping points, advances they describe as exponential, digital and combinatorial.’ ”

Friedman goes on:

“Put all these advances together, say the authors, and you can see that our generation will have more power to improve (or destroy) the world than any before, relying on fewer people and more technology. But it also means that we need to rethink deeply our social contracts, because labor is so important to a person’s identity and dignity and to societal stability. They suggest that we consider lowering taxes on human labor to make it cheaper relative to digital labor, that we reinvent education so more people can ‘race with machines’ not against them, that we do much more to foster the entrepreneurship that invents new industries and jobs, and even consider guaranteeing every American a basic income. We’ve got a lot of rethinking to do, they argue, because we’re not only in a recession-induced employment slump. We’re in a technological hurricane reshaping the workplace — and it just keeps doubling.”

For well over a year, the Personal Due Diligence Project has been stressing how important it is to be aware of how—not whether—the economic environment is changing and how to plan for and deal with it. We have tools at our disposal to develop that awareness. The human beings who are the Personal Due Diligence Project use those tools and they figure very prominently in it.

Friedman’s op-ed piece begins: “My favorite story in Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee’s fascinating new book, ‘The Second Machine Age,’ is when the Dutch chess grandmaster Jan Hein Donner was asked how he’d prepare for a chess match against a computer, like I.B.M.’s Deep Blue. Donner replied: ‘I would bring a hammer.’ ”

Maybe life wasn’t supposed to be this way—but it is. Your move.

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