Race Against The Machine – Book Review

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 12.27.25 PMEver since the dawn of Industrial Revolution, humanity has faced an increasing threat of competition from machines and other technological innovations. These threats have on multiple occasions seemed quite overwhelming, and poised to completely destroy the human society. At other times technology was perceived more of an ally to human flourishing, and an overwhelming force for good. Right now both of those perceptions have very strong and persuasive proponents, as “The Rave Against The Machine” quite eloquently argues.

The premise of this book is that the current technological revolution, the one that started with the dawn of computer era, is one of the main factors in keeping the job markets down. The technology is permanently altering most professions, and this trend has many far-reaching consequences that most observers are not fully recognizing. The book provides several interesting examples form the recent technological success stories to bolster its arguments or to illustrate some of its main points. One of the most crucial insights in the books comes form the game of chess. In 1997 a computer for the first time beat the reigning human chess champion. Many observers have deemed this as the turning point for the game of chess. However, the interest in human chess has not declined in the subsequent years. Furthermore, the best chess players today are not computers; the best players, rather, are computer-assisted humans. (Or human-assisted computers, depending on your perspective.) The combination of human-level insight and intuition with the computer’s raw computational power seems to be the most effective way of playing the game of chess. The authors extrapolate from this insight into the realm of most other endeavors and works: the future, according to them, belongs to those of us who will be able to adopt the best to working in collaboration with machines. The race against the machine would ideal become the race with the machine.

The book is overall very interesting and well written, but unfortunately like most books that rely on the most recent tech advances it feels a bit dated in many parts. The book is also written with a journalistic bent, which makes for an accessible read but it leaves something to be desired when it comes to the depth of its analysis. For me this is particularly noticeable in the chapter that offers some advice on how to handle the current and the upcoming technological disruptions. Most of that advice seems very reasonable, many of the points that the authors emphasize I strongly agree with, but in the end I am not convinced that I can have any strong degree of confidence in any of what is proposed. Is the list they offer exhaustive? Is there anything big that has been left out? Could there be another major shift in the upcoming years that could make all of those pieces of advice moot? These are just some of the questions that I was left with after finishing the book. I still greatly enjoyed reading it, but I leave with a sense that I still have to take everything that was written in it with a pretty big grain of salt.


Bojan Tunguz

Bojan Tunguz was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which he and his family fled during the civil war for the neighboring Croatia. Over the past two decades he has studied, lived and worked in the United States. He is a theoretical physicist with degrees from Stanford and University of Illinois. Tunguz has taught physics at several prominent liberal arts colleges and has been writing about physics, science and technology for more than a decade. He also has a wide spectrum of interests, and reads and writes about current events, society, culture, religion and politics. Over the years he has reviewed many of the books that he has read, and posted his reviews on various online outlets. In 2011 he had become a top 10 reviewer on Amazon.com, where he continues to be very active. Aside from reading and writing, Tunguz enjoys traveling, digital photography, hiking, and fitness. He resides with his wife in Indiana. You can follow my review updates on the following pages as well: Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tunguzreview Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tunguzreviews Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/104312842297641697463/posts

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