the majority of last year (2017) was spent commuting back and forth to Glasgow, which provided time to indulge in some reading. in no particular order, because I am struggling to remember them all let alone when I read them, are what I can see on the bookshelf and kindle.
‘Homo Deus’ by Yuval Noah Harari – should be read by everyone, especially the under 20’s along with Silk Road. Eyes wide open type of book.
‘Black Box Thinking’ by Matthew Syed – was a fascinating read speculating the sliding scale of “risk” across industries and how we continuously fail to learn from real world failure in favour of theoretical “risks” imagined by the press and politicians. Interesting read and well written.
‘Histories of Nations’ edited by Peter Furtado – if you haven’t read “Silk Road” then try it instead. A meta data skim through history with no real passion or enjoyment.
‘Sleeping Giants’ and ‘Waking Gods’ by Sylvain Neural – loved these, was reading too much work/factual and first ‘Sleeping Giants’ grabbed me and I think I had it read in 2 days and was ordering the next one after a couple of chapters and can’t wait the for the 3rd book. OOOO exciting stuff – aliens, death, destruction and epic world wide conflict – I am sure the movie rights have been long sold and 2019 blockbuster is being planned.
‘The New Digital Age’ by Eric Schmit and Jared Cohen – can’t remember this one, hmmmm, and yep I only got half way through. Coming back – a bit boring and similar books/authors have a much better way of presenting their ideas and convincing you to join the ride. Maybe I’ll go back and finish it. Hmmm have either of them done a TED talk on it I can watch instead?
‘The midnight Line’ by Lee Child, you cannot beat a bit of Jack Reacher from the old stoner Lee. Was an enjoyable kick ass romp in the middle of america somewhere and the bad guys get their asses kicked and Jack gets on a bus at the end. I am sure I have read another Jack Reacher story just like that?
‘The Walkers Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs’ by Tristan Goodley – is my new best friend while out walking, and walking is the new running DYK, so what I like to do is choose a topic or chapter and explore it when out. I now walk alone mainly due to constantly stopping and being a know-it-all thanks to this book. Who knew nature could be so interesting.
‘the 5 people you meet in Heaven’ by Mitch Albom – is a fantastic little book and beautifully written. Such an interesting concept and if there was such a thing as Heaven then this is a much better representation of it then anything I’ve seen. Amazing book – keep a hanky handy.
‘Why the Dutch are Different’ by Ben Coates – now I started this on a trip to Amsterdam at the beginning of the year and I remember the first 2 chapters but the rest, like those few days in the Dam I cannot.
‘Physics of the Future’ by Michio Kaku – is a great read, I think I listened to the majority of this one, walking and at the gym, so maybe heightened endorphins make me recall this book with pleasure? But the concepts are fantastic from nanobots to space lifts from tomorrow to 100+ years in the future and what may or may not realistically come to pass and what it will actually look like. The master has spoken these things will come to pass.
‘Surviving AI’ by Callum Chace – is another future prediction book but weights the pros and cons in a nice way and even has some fictional scenarios which I quite enjoyed. Worth a read.
‘Doughnut Economics’ by Kate Raworth – is my current material and so far so good.
new job with lots of commuting time so romping through a few books, latest is “weapons of math destruction” – showing the role that mathematical modeling now plays in society, with examples of how Big Data and complex algorithms actually effect us in practice, like
- The effect of the US News and World Report algorithm for college ranking, as colleges try and game the algorithm, while well-off families are at work gaming the complexities of elite college admissions systems.
- The effects of targeted advertising, especially the way it allows predatory advertisers (some for profit educational institutions, payday lenders, etc.) to very efficiently go after those most vulnerable to the scam.
- The effects of predictive policing, with equality before the law replaced by an algorithm that sends different degrees of law enforcement into different communities.
- The effects of automated algorithms sorting and rejecting job applications, with indirect consequences of discrimination against classes of people.
- The effects of poorly thought-out algorithms for evaluating teachers, sometimes driving excellent teachers from their jobs .
- The effects of algorithms that score credit, determine access to mortgages and to insurance, often with the effect of making sure that those deemed losers stay that way.
The end chapter is on Facebook and the way political interests are taking advantage of the detailed information it provides to target their messages, to the detriment of democracy and reality.
Facebook is the most worrisome of all the Big Data concerns in the book. It exercises an incredible amount of influence over what information people see, with this influence sometimes being sold to the highest bidder. Together with Amazon, Google and Apple, our economy and society have become controlled by monopolies who also monitor our every move. In the context of government surveillance, Edward Snowden remarked that we are now “tagged animals, the primary difference being that we paid for the tags and they’re in our pockets.” A very small number of huge extremely wealthy corporations have even greater access to those tags than the government does, recording every movement, communication, and even every train of thought as we interact with the web.
The Silk Roads is a fascinating read, written with flair and the result of serious scholarship, it inverts received wisdom and charts mankind’s flirtation with global disaster. It feels like history has been distorted to fit the western agenda’s and the real terrorists are European by decent and claim that ‘freedom’ is the reason they oppress the rest of the world.
If you want to understand why the world has ended up where it is, then just reading the conclusion will help you understand.