Book Review: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

The human race, homo sapiens, is an interesting thing: we’re the only species to have developed a level of sentience and cognition that allows us to reason about the abstract and deal with the theoretical. Sapiens is a gallop through human history, with some interesting deep-dives into religion, economics, community, and oddly a little futurism. But I’m not sure I really liked it.

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Book Review: The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler

Nobody has a cast-iron definition of what it means to be an introvert, but a pretty common symptom seems to be that social interactions are draining. A symptom I would add is a sense of inertia when initiating social interactions with new people. Trouble is, people leadership is all about interacting with people. The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler provides some interesting tools for upping one’s leadership game if you are an introvert, although a summary of the book might well be just as useful. Continue reading “Book Review: The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler”

Book Review: College Disrupted by Ryan Craig

Around the world the benefit of holding a university degree is being called into question; in my industry (technology) we are currently bordering on an anti-degree backlash (not something I ascribe to). This book is a look at some of the problems with higher education in the USA, and is maybe a little obscure for those who aren’t in the business of education. Nonetheless we all have a role in shaping society (well, almost all), and education is hugely important in doing that, so take an interest! Continue reading “Book Review: College Disrupted by Ryan Craig”

Book Review: Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

I’m carrying around 20 – 30 extra kilograms of bodyweight, and my plan to get rid of it was a fairly standard one: starve myself as long as I can manage. Turns out the science says this is incredibly bad for you, and that it is unlikely to succeed in the long run. The premise of this book is that my body can tell me when, what and how much to eat, if only I would learn to listen to it again. Continue reading “Book Review: Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch”

Book Review: Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Who was Leonardo da Vinci? The guy who painted the Mona Lisa, right? Oh and he had some crazy ideas for some machines that never would have worked, right? If, like me, you never gave Leonardo da Vinci much more thought than that, Walter Isaacson’s book “Leonardo da Vinci” will be an interesting read, and will hopefully leave you with some challenging food for thought.

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Book Review: Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler

This was supposed to be posted last week, I actually read the book very early in the week (it is quite short) and decided to get a head-start on the next one (Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson, it is quite long, the review will be a bit late). I heard about Everything Happens for a Reason: and other lies I’ve loved from Bill Gates’ 5 books worth reading this summer. The author, Kate Bowler, is a religious historian at Duke University’s School of Divinity; she did her doctoral thesis on the history of the Prosperity Gospel in America. This book is about how grappling with a terminal diagnosis changed her faith. Continue reading “Book Review: Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler”

Book Review: The Signals are Talking by Amy Webb

I’ve set myself the goal of reading a book a week, and writing a brief review of it – to evaluate and cement my thoughts on it, not because I want to become a book critic. This week I read “The Signals are Talking“, by Amy Webb. The author is a quantative futurist, which I guess is someone who takes a structured approach to envisioning what the future is going to look like, and this book is a walk through her process for finding and validating trends.

My main takeaway from the book is the concept of differentiating trend from trendy – separate the progress and trajectory of technology from the shiny data-point that is currently in vogue. The author uses flying cars as an example: popular culture, science-fiction and friends, has had an obsession with flying cars (chitty-chitty bang-bang anyone?), and seemingly every generation has had a stab at making one, from Henry Ford’s “Sky Flivver”, to the Kitty Hawk Flyer, and yet we still don’t have a flying car on the mass market. Instead, what we have had is moving sidewalks, public mass transport, and soon, autonomous vehicles. The author shows us how these are all related, and argues that the real trend is autonomous transport, because, once I can get into a vehicle and keep working, it doesn’t really matter if the journey to my next meeting by road takes a little longer than by air. The point is that news, media, popular culture, tend to focus on individual data-points, whereas, if we want to predict the future, we must look a the whole data-set.

The other realisation, for me, is that I need to spend more time paying attention to what the author call’s the fringe – the people tinkering in their garden sheds, doing crazy things that aren’t yet considered shiny objects. Perhaps if DEC had paid a bit more attention to what people were starting to do with their computers, they would have been at the forefront of the PC explosion, not left in its dust. The same can be said for Blackberry, and internet on phones. The point is to keep your ear to the ground, and your mind open.

I found the book a bit harder to take in than last week’s book. I suspect this is because the narrative gradually builds the analytical process that the author herself uses, rather than being a big review of facts. The book has a tonne of great examples from technology history and is a worthwhile read – the true value will be in actually putting it into practice.