The Second Machine Age:
Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies
by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
306 pp., $26.95
Conservatives have a love-hate relationship with technology. Although we often decry the effects of the usage of new technologies on societal traditions, it is conservative societies that provide the foundation for technological advancement, emphasizing the thrift, industriousness, and family cohesion necessary for capital formation, and the “moral imagination” necessary, as Russell Kirk emphasized, for innovation. Kirk himself embodied the dilemma. He preferred jet rides to long trips in cars, which he called “mechanical Jacobins”; and Kirk disliked computers but wrote rapidly on his trusty IBM Selectric typewriter, one of the greatest American machines ever made, a stenographic Jeep.
I had to write typewriter after Selectric to make sure younger readers know what I’m talking about. Such has been the rapidity of the invasion of computers into our lives. And it’s only beginning.
Today is “an inflection point” in which humans are “entering a second machine age,” Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson argue in a book whose jacket advertises it as a “New York Times...