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Andrew McAfee    

Co-Founder & Co-Director of Initiative on the Digital Economy; Principal Research Scientist at MIT Sloan School of Management

Andrew McAfee is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Initiative on the Digital Economy and a Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He studies how digital technologies are changing the world. His new book "More From Less: How We Finally Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources - and What Happens Next" was published by Scribner in 2019.

His 2014 book "The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies," coauthored with Erik Brynjolfsson, won several awards and has been both a New York Times and Wall Street Journal top ten bestseller. Another book with Brynjolfsson, "Machine | Platform | Crowd: Harnessing our Digital Future," published in 2017, offers an executive’s guide to succeeding during this turbulent era. These books have been translated into more than 15 languages, and McAfee and Brynjolfsson are the only people named to both the Thinkers50 list of the world’s top management thinkers and the Politico 50 group of people transforming American politics.

McAfee has written for publications including Foreign Affairs, Harvard Business Review, the Economist, the Wall St. Journal, and The New York Times. He's talked about his work on CNN and 60 Minutes, at the World Economic Forum, TED, and the Aspen Ideas Festival, with Tom Friedman, Fareed Zakaria, and Tom Ashbrook, and in front of many international and domestic audiences.

McAfee was educated at MIT and Harvard. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, watches too much Red Sox baseball, doesn't ride his motorcycle enough, and starts his weekends with the NYT Saturday crossword.

Speech Topics

Business Advice We Shouldn’t Believe Any More plus a short intro to More from Less

More from Less: How We Innovated Our Way into a Healthier Relationship with Our Planet

Why We’re Still Underestimating Artificial Intelligence

Business Advice We Shouldn’t Believe Any More

Why We’re Still Underestimating Artificial Intelligence

In this provocative talk, Dr. McAfee will describe an unexpected phenomenon, and one with profound consequences: for many tasks artificial intelligence technologies not only perform better than us; they also perform differently. They clearly don't reason the same way we do, which means they are not limited by our knowledge, or constrained by our ways of looking at the world and making progress on difficult challenges. Using examples from games like Go, chess, and poker, and also real-world situations like controlling industrial facilities and tweaking the genomes of microbes, this talk will show how machines are rapidly opening up new territory.

Business Advice We Shouldn’t Believe Any More

In this lively and wide-ranging talk, Dr. McAfee will convey the key ideas of Machine | Platform | Crowd, the 2017 book, written with Erik Brynjolfsson, that The Economist called "an astute romp through important digital trends." Bringing together cutting-edge research and recent examples spanning everything from genomics to investing to group exercise to playing Go, this talk shows audiences how the business world is being quickly reshaped by technological progress, and how they can harness the forces of disruption instead of being overwhelmed by them.

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More From Less tells the paradigm-shifting story of this remarkable turnaround, highlighting that two pairs of forces are responsible.

The first pair is capitalism and technological progress, which have combined to reduce our total use of metals, minerals, water, land, and most other physical materials. New technologies, especially digital ones, offer companies the opportunity to “dematerialize,” and the competition inherent in capitalism forces them to accept this offer. McAfee explains how capitalism’s quest for higher profits is a quest for lower costs; materials and resources are expensive, and technological progress allows companies to use fewer of them even as they grow their markets. Modern smartphones take the place of cameras, GPS units, landline telephones, answering machines, tape recorders, and alarm clocks. Precision agriculture lets farmers harvest larger crops while using less water and fertilizer. Passenger cars get lighter, which makes them cheaper to produce and more fuel efficient. This means that, even though there’ll be more people in the future, and they’ll be wealthier and consume more, they’ll do so while using fewer natural resources.

The second pair is public awareness of the harms of pollution and species loss and responsive governments that act on the will of their people. Capitalism and tech progress on their own will not stop all environmental harms. We also need informed and engaged citizens and governments that listen to them and take action.

We have work ahead of us to stop global warming, over fishing, and other environmental harms, but More From Less gives the reader hope that we will be able to simultaneously improve the human condition and the state of the world. Because we already are.

More From Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources -- and What Happens Next

Throughout all of human history, the only way we could grow our populations and economies was by taking more from the Earth. That is not true anymore.

In his signature lyrically provocative style, McAfee makes the case in More From Less that we’ve stumbled into an unexpected balance with nature. He demonstrates that in America and other rich countries, growth now happens while polluting less and while using fewer total natural resources year after year. It's astounding that despite increasing prosperity for most of Earth’s inhabitants and an explosion of goods overall, consumption of natural resources such as metals, water, and timber has begun to decline. This profound change is not because of outsourcing; it’s because we’ve finally become so efficient and productive that we can satisfy all of our wants and needs while treading ever-more lightly on our planet.

Management Science 2.0

Businesses today have access to an enormous amount of both structured and unstructured data. This is often seen as a problem – people describe ‘drowning in data’ – but it’s also an unprecedented opportunity. In addition to more data, companies also have more powerful computers and analytic software than ever before.

In this talk, Andy describes how scientific approaches are different and better than the alternatives – and how this revolution is also transforming the business world. Companies that are not part of it are at great risk of being left behind; those able to embrace data-driven and scientific approaches will find themselves leading the pack.

The Cloudy Future of Corporate IT

Andy will discuss the evolution and future of cloud computing, and compare it to the electrification of US manufacturing that took place a century ago. As will be the case with the cloud, the transition to full electrification took decades to complete, and it was not clear at the start how it would play out. Over time, the advantages of electrification became more and more clear, as well as universal. And manufacturers who didn’t electrify themselves intelligently became uncompetitive over time, and eventually perished.

Andy will show how cloud computing will follow a similar trajectory – and become the standard for corporate computing. Not all companies, however, will move easily into the cloud. Some will seize the potential that it offers, while others will find reasons not to make ‘the big switch.’ As a result, the period of migration to cloud computing will be a time of great disruption and turbulence in many industries (and not just high tech ones). Companies that move to the cloud successfully will enjoy performance and competitive benefits, while those that lag will find themselves falling further behind.

The Digital Imperative

Today, all industries are experiencing digitization, a profound transition. Digitization is the transformation of business activities by the introduction and use of information technology. Digitization is not a rising tide that floats all boats equally. Instead, it is increases the pace and intensity of competition as well as the gaps between winners and losers in industry after industry.

Andy breaks digitization down for line managers and CIOs, explaining how it’s causing three transformations. It’s allowing businesses to become more: scientific, more orchestrated, and more self-organizing. Companies that successfully put themselves through these transitions set the pace of competition, while those that do not will find themselves falling farther and farther behind. Andy also provides examples of leading companies who have met the challenge of seizing the opportunities that digitization affords.

Enterprise 2.0: The State of an Art

Andy discusses Enterprise 2.0 approaches the companies use to achieve their business goals through these latest technologies. He describes the trends that have converged to make E2.0 an appealing reality, illustrating with examples from both the Internet and Intranets. He also frames the benefits brought by E2.0, and use- case studies that demonstrate how E2.0 can address longstanding challenges within organizations. Finally, he outlines the substantial barriers to successful adoption of these new tools and approaches, and discusses the critical roles played by senior executives in leading required changes. Andy makes the compelling case that E2.0 is not hype, but it is also not easy. Yet, it will serve to increase differences across organizations and help separate winners from losers in today’s competitive environments.

Enterprise 2.0: Business Benefits and Adoption Roadmaps

In this talk, Andy builds on the frameworks and insights in his book to present an up-to-the-minute view of Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0) and the use of Web 2.0-style technologies and business practices by organizations. He incorporates the latest research and examples to show why Enterprise 2.0 is so valuable, and how to succeed with it.

Leading in a Big Data World

Recent research shows that ‘experts’ – people with deep training and experience in a field – are surprisingly weak in areas where we expect them to be strong, such as solving tough problems and making good decisions. In many cases, we’d be better off relying on data, algorithms, and outsiders instead of experts. So does this mean that experienced leaders are passe? What about motivating teams, setting vision, coming up with new ideas, and other traditional roles of a leaders? In this talk, Andy discusses the rapidly evolving understanding of expertise and leadership in the world of big data.

The Second Machine Age

We are living in a time of brilliant technologies: cars that drive themselves; Jeopardy!-champion supercomputers; cheap, flexible, and useful robots; machines that print out parts, and more. These breakthroughs are ushering in the greatest era of transformation since the Industrial Revolution – a Second Machine Age. In this talk, Andy discusses the great promise – and the thorny challenges – of creating and deploying future digital technologies once thought to be the stuff of science fiction.

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