3 ways businesses can harness the power of “machines, platforms, and crowds” for success

In the age of artificial intelligence (AI), how do employers learn how to tease apart which tasks machines can excel at over humans? In their widely influential book The Second Machine Age, MIT researchers Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee put forth an argument that we have entered an era in which machines have suddenly mastered cognitive tasks—beyond the physical tasks that defined automation in the Industrial Age, or the “first” machine age. To take this a step further, Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE) and McAfee, principal research scientist and co-director at the MIT IDE, have recently released a follow-up, Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future. The new book centers around the idea that we have entered a “second wave of the second machine age”—defined as a time when AI has suddenly exceeded expectations—and offers concrete advice for businesses to harness the benefits of AI and automation. In the last few years, there have been some major breakthroughs in artificial intelligence. Brynjolfsson points to the fact that even five years ago, machine vision systems couldn’t recognize images in huge data sets better than humans—which is no longer true. At that time, he said, these…

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