The Autonomous Revolution: A book review by Bob Morris

The Autonomous Revolution: Reclaiming the Future We’ve Sold to Machines
William Davidow and Michael S. Malone
Berrett-Koehler Publishers (February 2020)

Changes each day “are transforming the terms of life for billions in every corner of the world.”

in the Introduction, David M. Kennedy identifies the focus of this book: global phase chain. As he explains, William Davidow and Michael Malone examine “the sources, drivers, vectors — and challenges — of those many alterations in form are the subjects of this timely and incisive book.  It’s central argument is that we are living through a massively consequential phase changed in which the cumulative impacts of several structural transformations — technological, political, economic, behavioral and even attitudinal — are maturing and converging into a tsunami of unexampled challenges and opportunities.” All of these new ways of thinking and doing will require workers who can, as Alvin Toffler asserts in Future Shock, “learn, unlearn, and relearn” what they need to know.

These are among the passages of greatest interest and vakue to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Davidow and Malone’s coverage in the first nine chapters:

o Substituting One for Another (Pages 14-20)
o True Phase Change (26-28)
o Accelerating Transformation (34-38)
o The Drivers of Societal Phase Change (39-50)
o Silicon Society (54-59)

o A Few Verry Productive Workers (64-68)
o “From our point of view, he four most important commercial trends are: “(71-74)
o When Money Goes Virtual (78-80)
o When Success Means Smaller (87-88)
o Thee factors affect the decline of the good job and work in general (98-101)

o Erasing Employment (103-107)
o Information Collection Tools (116-117)
o When Customers Become Products(120-123)
o Invisible Prisons (123-128)
o When Space Has Purpose (133-136)

o Hitting the Lever (136-146)
o Learning thr New Norms (151-157)
o Leviathan (161-166)
o The Revenge of Tribalism (166-170)
o Going on the Defensive (175-178)

In the final chapter, Davidow and Malone reaffirm what they characterize as “sacred values,” values that can guide and inform the development and management of emerging technologies that are so much more powerful than those of the past. “The last two phase changes produced nio just incremental, but quantum, improvements in human health, child survival, education, and life expectancy. There is every reason to believe the Autonomous Revolution will [or at least could] do even better.”

I agree with William Davidow and Michael Malone but am again reminded of Darrell Royal’s observation that “potential” means “you ain’t done it yet.” We have indications each day that “sacred values” are under constant, relentless attack. Phase change can  destroy all that we hold sacred or enable us to “live better, more meaningful, and abundant lives. It may not be Utopia, but it ay be as close as we imperfect humans will ever get.” The choice is ours and that decision is by no means autonomous.

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  1. Richard Pütz on March 31, 2020 at 10:13 am

    The key to the successful phase change will be If and only if we recognize the difference OF being human and the difference IT makes.

    • bobmorris on April 5, 2020 at 4:37 am

      Can a human being produce a million paper clips in one hour? No.

      Can a human being design a machine that can do that? Yes.

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