The Second Machine Age: 5 Things Our Kids’ Kids Won’t Know About Transportation

    1. What it’s like to drive a car
    2. What it’s like to queue at the Department of Motor Vehicles
    3. What’s a taxi
    4. How buses had a pre-defined route
    5. How Top Gear was a show, not the latest fresh garms.

There’s a lot of fervor over what some of today’s best business minds are describing as The Second Machine Age. Decades in the making, the Second Machine Age represents another fundamental shift in the way we live, work and, yes, play.

Like the first Machine Age, technological innovation and the quest for automation are driving the change, but this time around it will be the automation of information (or ‘knowledge works’) that will define the period, impacting lives on a whole new level of magnitude.

In fact, while I was researching electric vehicles this past weekend, it struck me just how tectonic these changes will be and how close they really are, which brought home how every aspect of our lives will be irrevocably different.

Cars will be driverless akin to computers on wheels. They’ll be knowledgeable about where you want to go, when you need to be there, what route to take, as well as all about your personal needs or habits, to optimize the experience.

In this world, automobile manufacturers all but vanish; high-end cars have morphed into boutique markets for ‘controlled circuits’ and ‘scenic self-drive’ adventures taken exclusively by the nostalgic; and cyber highway robbery has become prolific.

Bold statements? Perhaps, but not as far out as you may first think. Remember, at the center of all this is information—made available by the Internet of Things and made intelligent by predictive data analytics and machine learning, as well as a need for automation. So, back to electric cars… bear with me.

As part of my research, I surveyed our employees, asking them about their plans for driving electric vehicles. And, as it turns out, rafts of folks have already gone electric, and many more are about to make purchases. The majority of these folks are in California on one of our two main campuses, and pretty much all of them say they have gone electric to get in the Diamond Lane so they can avoid traffic.

So, you can assert that people are leaning toward efficient travel over the visceral stimulation of the ride—a trend that parallels the mass adoption of technologies such as the smart phone, virtualization and even cloud. Efficiency is the name of the game.

As for me, I went looking at electric cars for my own use and got the data dump on their efficiencies: 100 mile round trips, tax credit, free charging at public locations, rapid charging in two hours, etc.  But I also learned of other features:

  • Email alerts telling you when your car is refilled to a target amount.
  • Mobile apps that give you the ability to warm your car, to exactly the right temp, before you get in.

Information at work—and it’s just beginning.

Add the Zipcar business model, a touch of Waze and the emergence of self-driving cars from Google, and my predictions for the year 2025 aren’t just possible; they are probable and imminent.

As our world careens toward this new reality, scheduling, analytics, tracking, correlation, prediction and protection of assets (both data and people) become critical foundational building blocks. Teasing out operational gems from the ‘Small Data Sprawl’ is the real rock-face of big data. The instantaneous processing of such granular and intimate data drives this transformational wave, but data and orchestration in the wrong hands… well, I believe this needs no explanation to the potential consequences.

We have to be able to trust in the Second Machine Age, and, yes, it will be the third platform that will turn this into reality, serving up information anywhere, anytime and with total protection.

Folks, we ain’t seen nothing yet. Rulebooks will be re-written; every corner of the technology market will be fundamentally affected. Transportation as a service is around the corner, markets such as healthcare with wearable devices and retail with the Amazon malls will do the same.

So, fasten your seatbelts; the ride is about to get interesting.

The concept of “The Second Machine Age” comes from Andrew McAfee and Eric Brynjolfsson at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as expressed in their recently published work The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.

About the Author: Guy Churchward