The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies


Andrew McAfee, Author, MIT, @amcafee

Erik Brynjolfsson and I wrote our book because we were confused about technology.  It’s doing things now that it’s not supposed to do…it’s affecting the real world in ways we don’t really understand.

State of Understanding a Decade Ago

  • Book:  The New Division of Labor.
  • Dealt with the question: “what are humans good at, and what are computers good at?”
  • Give all the rote work to computers, and leave the pattern-matching and complex communication to humans.  Example:  driving a car in traffic.
  • Andrew then related his experience of riding in a Google self-driving car through 3 phases of personal experience:  raw abject terror (first 10 minutes);  passionate interest in what was going on (next 20 minutes); mild boredom (rest of the ride).  My own thought at this point:  “I’ve seen the future, and it’s really boring”
  • Andrew then went through the example of IBM’s Watson computer participating in the game show Jeopardy!  Watson versus people in 2006 was terrible.  Watson today is now as good as – or better than – the best human champions.  Andrew included a photo of Ken Jenning’s funny parenthetical comment on his last question against Watson:  “I for one welcome our computer overlords.”  Indeed!

Minds and Machines

  • We need to rethink this combination…machine abilities are growing to match those of humans.
  • How did this happen?  Andrew alluded to Hemingway’s quote (regarding going broke):  first it happened gradually, then it happened suddenly.
  • A rough calculation of the “tipping point,” using Kurzweil’s first half/second half of the chessboard square-doubling analogy; 1958 was the first year the BEA measured computing power doubling every 1.5 years.  Thus, 1958 + 32*1.5 = 2006

 A Change in Approach

  • Rules-based approach is inferior and doesn’t work very well (i.e. learning a language as an adult using verb conjugation books).  There are too many rules to learn!
  • Kids learn language through listening and absorbing inductively what’s going on.  Humans are pre-wired for language.
  • “We know more than we can tell” – Michael Polanyi
  • The game of Go is way more complex than chess, and to date computers have not been able to beat the best human players.  However, this will likely change before the end of this year.  How?  Because we’re going to give computers a goal of maximizing the score in a game, via trial and error.  An example of this was shown with the game Breakout

Self Assessment

  • Let’s do a self assessment.  Compared to the people around me, I’m “” (score yourself on a scale of 1-100)
  • I have good intuition; I make good predictions; I’m a good judge of character
  • Now average the 3 values
  • We’re bad at self-judgement and are predictably irrational

Geeks Versus HIPPOS

  • Geeks (who are evidence and data-driven) versus HIPPO (HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion)
  • Robert Parker is the HIPPO of the wine world
  • Orley Ashenfelter (a wine geek) came up with a remarkably accurate algorithm that made wine HIPPOS largely irrelevant

What Do Humans Still Bring to the Table?

  • We have advanced social skills
  • We have good intuition
  • We have creativity

Future Roadmap


  • Marty Johnson, Georgetown University
  • Brett Bendickson, Application Architect, University of Arizona

Brett Bendickson

  • UA public land grant institution
  • Founded in 1885
  • 40,072 students
  • UA implementation forces selection of user role via additions.
  • Lots of students want to access university gmail account through the mobile app, NOT the built-in email client (this is an interesting observation, in my opinion).
  • Usage by module:  map, transit, people, catalog
  • Usage by user:  87,191 sessions (about 3,000/day), 21,302 users (about 760/day)
  • In 2013 there were 18,600 iOS downloads.  Downloads spike for us in January and during orientation.
  • Android downloads are at about 22,000 and show a similar download pattern
  • AZ Mobile 3.2 current (Modo Labs 2.2); native tablet support; added library module
  • AZ Mobile 3.3 (Modo 2.3); upgrade to 2.3; add rec center module that was developed internally.  This will work with the resources module.
  • Portal: focus is currently on desktop view, but also working on a mobile view.  We’re doing a lot of custom development within Modo Labs, consuming PeopleSoft web services.
  • We’re excited about the direct messaging to the device, i.e. “you just got an ‘A’ in History”

QUESTION:  What software are you using in the rec center to feed the resources module?

BRETT:  I don’t know, but can find out for you.

Marty Johnson

  • Georgetown
  • GUMobile (Modo Labs)
  • We love additions!  3 campuses, 7 editions
  • NextGUTS (DoubleMap).
  • GAAP Weekend
  • We use a welcome screen by default
  • Our biggest challenge is getting accurate data from facilities and dining services.
  • LiveSafe (safe ride)
  • Laundry Alert (Quantifize)
  • NSO / OWN-IT (DoubleDutch)
  • Experiments:  CampusQuad; Usher (MicroStrategy); Radius Networks
  • Usher:  is a mobile “go card” that does multi-factor authentication (picture and QR code).  It can also be used to log into other applications.  We are hoping to add door opening functionality in the near future.
  • Working with Radius Networks to help students and parents find the admissions office from the parking lot.
  • Core Tenets:  our users are distracted, focused activities (short, sweet, and spontaneous), low barrier to entry (gradual engagement), personalized (location and time aware), adaptable.
  • Looking forward:  we believe we will have a portfolio of apps (safety, transportation, specific events, academic tasks, auth/identification); framework versus dedicated apps; app promotion

Question:  have you used Kurogo in a kiosk mode?

Both:  no.

Question:  Marty, who is Georgetown piloting this with?

Marty:  new students.

Marty:  We can imagine using iBeacons in the dorms for providing updates, i.e. water is out, emergency shelter in place notifications, etc.

Accessibility Technology

Accessibility at the BBC

Presenter:  Ian Pouncey, @IanPouncey

(Be sure to look at Ian’s Feb 23 retweet of theVine video of a guitar playing with a dog drumming.  It’s awesome.)

This is the third presentation I attended on Wednesday, March 4 at the #CSUN15 conference.  Ian’s presentations have been entertaining in the past, so I’m looking forward to this one.

Ian shared a couple quotes from BBC higher-ups:

  • “Everyone deserves the best” quote from Tony Hall, BBC director General, 2013
  • Hugh Huddy quote on the iPlayer

BBC Accessibility Team

  • 3 people responsible for: training, standards & guidelines, techniques, framework support
  • Not responsible for accessibility of sites or apps.  We have 7,000+ content producers, our team would need to be enormous to cover all this!


  • Accessibility for web developers:  this is an online course that takes about two hours and shows how real people with disabilities use their products.
  • Introduction to screen readers:  one-day workshop that provides hands-on use of screen readers, including iOS and Android OSes.  It’s primarily for front-end developers.
  • Question:  is it for Jaws?  Yes, but if the users have NVDA, we provide guidance for them as well.
  • Question:  can you make this training publicly available (laughter ensued).  For the web developer course, we’d really like to, but we may not be able to for competition reasons.

Upcoming training

  • QA
  • UX
  • Product Management
  • Mobile application development

Standards & Guidelines

  • Mobile Accessibility
  • HTML
  • Assistive Tech

Mobile Accessibility Standards & Guidelines

  • Technology agnostic, but platform specific techniques
  • All have success criteria

HTML Accessibility Standards

  • Minimal set of expected standards for our products
  • Standards are unambiguous so there can be no arguing when we engage with content partners

 Assistive Technology Testing Guidelines

  • Currently for screen reader only
  • Not support guidelines
  • Showed a very long list of guidelines that they use for testing

Question:  How do you choose/define your “window of support?”  We have a standard approach for screen readers and browsers.  Generally, we use “current version minus one,” with an exclusion for some versions of Internet Explorer.

Question:  do you have any tools for automated testing?  Yes, I’ll discuss that shortly.

Standards vs Guidelines

A standard is:

  • Must or must not
  • unambiguous
  • Unambiguously testable


  • Should or should not
  • Must or must not that is:  open to interpretation; testing requires judgement

Anatomy of a well written standard

  • Short description:  a document must have exactly one H1 element
  • Rationale:  must be useful, i.e. “Users should be able to use the document’s <h1> to identify its main content.  Documents should have one main subject”
  • Examples
  • Testing Criteria:  Procedure, i.e. “Use WAVE toolbar or similar to generate a document outline, there must be exactly one <h1>”

Secret bit

  • bbc-a11y ruby gem

Standards vs Understanding

  • Understanding is more important than standards, but organizational awareness is more important than understanding
  • Goal is to enable people to do their jobs as easily as possible
  • We don’t want accessibility to be a checklist activity, but we realize that sometimes it does work that way
  • It should be embedded into everything we do so that the knowledge gets “locked in”

Accessibility Champions Network

  • Extends our team’s reach
  • Spreads knowledge and understanding
  • Our eyes, ears, and voice in products
  • Not just for developers
  • Don’t have to be an expert
  • Not responsible for accessibility
  • Shares knowledge

Benefits of being a champion

  • Additional training
  • Closer contact with accessibility team
  • Work with other teams
  • 10% time project
  • Prestige!  Fame!  Glory!
  • There will

Question:  do you do any assessments of the work the developers are doing?  Occasionally, but it’s often more about the frameworks and components that are used in a product.

Question:  How often to accessibility champions answer to their team?  It’s a new thing we’re starting.

UX:  Roles and Responsibilities

  • Visual design
  • Semantics
  • Markup and content order
  • Hidden content

Design is Critical

  • Development may not be the most important part of the project!  This one looked painful for Ian to say 🙂

Beyond Design & Development

  • Product Owners:  encourage training; make the accessible decision, not the easy decision; plan for testing with disabled user
  • Content producers:  understand alternatives, plan for audio desc, subtitling, etc.

Global Experience Language:  GEL

  • Similar to Google’s, but not as well maintained.  It’s a bit out of date
  • Showed an example of an overlay/carousel panel

Document design knowledge

  • Enable design iteration
  • prevents repeated mistakes
  • encourages evidence based desing
  • educates

Code Based GEL

  • Production quality code
  • White labelled
  • Acceptance tests included



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