How machines, platforms and the crowd are rearranging the world
Andrew McAfee is principal research scientist at MIT's Sloan School of Management. He's built his career on understanding the digital economy. In the new book, Machine, Platform, Crowd, he and co-author Erik Brynjolfsson argue that three tectonic shifts are driving change. They are: the rise of algorithms and machine learning, the power of platform enterprise, and the strength of the crowd."
Minds and Machines
Andrew and Erik argue that as artificial intelligence takes off, organizations should rely more on machine learning and less on human judgment. "The research is overwhelming," says Andrew. "As good as we are at [judgment], we're also biased and flawed and buggy…In this era of very, very powerful artificial intelligence and machine learning, computers are exercising what we used to call 'judgment' and doing it in superhuman ways."
Products and Platforms
As we've seen in the stratospheric growth of companies like Airbnb, there's a lot of power in being a platform that connects people and companies that want to engage in an activity. "If you build a platform that does that matching well, you get what economists are just obsessed about: this network effect," Andrew explains, adding "[it's] this virtuous cycle where more buyers show up because more sellers do, and more sellers show up because more buyers do."
Core and Crowd
These shifts present challenges and opportunities for business and other organizations, but they also suggest the skills workers need in the future. When it comes to automation, people still excel in soft skills, and physical expertise.
Andrew says robots still aren't very good at navigating the physical world, so there will be plenty of opportunities for tradespeople like plumbers. "We still need great coaches," he adds. "In the world of medicine of the near future, the brilliant diagnostician might actually take a back seat to the compassionate, empathetic human being."
And while there will be lots of opportunities in STEM fields, "the world is not just an interesting place for those natural computer science geek," Andrew says. "I think there's a lot more opportunity out there."