The following list of books published in the past year, or just a tiny bit more, should serve as a backgrounder for pretty much every major headline you’ll encounter in 2O16 as year begins. Each of these books will give you an unparalleled level of context that is sure to help you make sense of daily news in the coming months. The Bitcoin Bigbang by tech author Brian Kelly, however, contains the jist of what’s shaking banks as of late.
2O15 was an eventful year. Automation, mass terror, the sharing economy, standard underemployment for millenials all over the G8, Cuba coming in from the cold (no pun intended ), monthly terrorist kidnappings each well in the thousands, major nuclear agreements, and once in a generation climate change paradigm shifts. Exhausted yet? Most people would be. The following list of books published in the past year, or just a tiny bit more, should serve as a backgrounder for pretty much every major headline you’ll encounter in 2O16 as year begins. I’m a seriously avid reader, with a weekly average a little past one book; which means that I’ve accumulated a good near hundred of bestsellers and classics on my spare time. Mostly out of a self directed attempt to understand what on earth is going on worldwide, day to day. I hope you enjoy the list, from my special collection to yours!
The Industries of the Future, by Alec Ross. Diplomacy and Statecraft are morphing radically in the face of web 3.0 and artificial intelligence/robotics. Few people in the world are better placed than Alec Ross to walk you through how your Government and your favorite companies can brace and take advantage of the disruptions afoot. Full disclosure, I know Alec, and have been following his work from the U.S. Department of State along side Jared Cohen of WIRED, then as a lecturer at Oxford among others, as he travelled from Kenya/Rwanda though the Middle East and everywhere else to see first hand what governments are doing about technological change as it effects national security, economic strategy, and public policy. His insights should leave you reeling and altogether better prepared for what’s already happening.
Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia. by Alan Townsend. The city is undergoing a major re-think, this is a once every 30 to 40 years phenomenon. The home is about to become an energy and 3D-printing hub. All wired by what some say to be 4 to 50 trillions of devices connected to the internet. Some fascinating civic actors, including Arjun Gupta & several others here in Toronto, are using this flood of data to make social and urban policymaking smarter. This is happening worldwide today. It’s entirely worth your attention at this time. Recommend
The Artashastraby Indian master strategist, Kautilia. If you like your Niccolò Machiavelli more comprehensive, less cloudy, devoid of the Euro-centrism, you’ll enjoy this one. I came across this one while reading Henry Kissinger’s ‘World Order’ when it was published earlier this year. It is written by one of classical India’s greatest minds: Kautilya (or Vishnugupta as some prefer). He wrote the Arthashastra not later than 150 AD though the date has not been conclusively established. According to the Wikipedia entry on this work, Kautilia was either a Brahmin from Kerala or from north India; however; it is certain that Kautilya was the man who destroyed the Nanda dynasty and installed Chandragupta Maurya as the King of Magadha. A master strategist who was well-versed in the Vedas and adept at creating intrigues and devising political stratagems; Kautilya’s genius is reflected in his Arthashastra which is the most comprehensive treatise of statecraft of classical times. Highly recommend, though it’ll take some mulling over.
The Little Big Number: How GDP Came to Rule the World and What to Do About It, by Dirk Philipsen. Simon Kuznets invented what we refer to today as Gross Domestic Product. If you’ve paid attention, international economic institutions have been rejigging it quite a few times in order to help it reflect today’s economic dynamism and reality. It still fails. Some advocate a Gross Happiness Product as an alternative measure of prosperous economic activity. Laughs aside, this one allows you to see why on earth this three-letter word has toppled governments, and affects collective mental health and behavior like clockwork, still.
The Shia Revival: How the Conflict Within Islam will Shape the Future, by Vali Nasr. There’s a civil war within the Islamic world at the moment, in a manner of speaking. This is a good introduction to what’s going on, and how come the craziest fringe of a major world religion are attempting to turn the rest of the world against everyday law abiding citizens all over the G8.
Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford. You’ll have to forgive the misleading title. I read this one after major bestselling author Dambisa Moyo widely recommended it about two weeks ago. It delivers. It goes over the economic and public policy implications of the widespread adoption of automation and robotics in traditional industries. Must-read insights to be had here. Oh, and the job as you know it is on its way out. What that means for governments in the OECD and the G77 in contrast still gives me headaches. Recommended.
China’s Superconsummers: What they want and how to sell it to them, by Savio Chan and Michael Zakkour. For generations, China’s government conditioned the country’s households to save. Save they did, leading national coffers to a formidable 4.5 trillion USD of reserves. That’s changing. As China slows down, the chinese economy will require domestic consumption, in the face of dwindling exports revenues. In the process, the world economy is set to be rocked by China’s 300Millions-strong middle class and its purchasing power. It’s already happening.
The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, by Mark Levinson. Much like Ai and algorithms are revolting the left and obsolescing the traditional right, the shipping container fundamentally altered international trade, industrial relations, consumer behaviour/preferences. Luddites, pro-change tycoons, politicians bargaining between the two, it all happened before. So to understand what’s in store for Uber, read this book for a bit of a preview. Uber wins by the way, but laws catch up to them too.
Each of these books will give you an unparalleled level of context that is sure to help you make sense of daily news in the coming months. You’ll notice a lack of financial markets commentary, that’s because the field is largely stuck in 2012 or busy mimicking Silicon Valley in order not to be obsolesced by it. I would recommend The Bitcoin Bigbang by tech author Brian Kelly, however. It contains the jist of what’s shaking banks as of late. There, context for the year, enjoy! I’ll post batches of book reviews more often here on Medium to share my suggestions with a wider audience, so if you’ve got any books you feel should have made this list by all means, we’re all ears.