Books Read in 2018
AI Superpowers by Kai-Fu Lee — Discusses how China will be the greatest beneficiary of AI. The world's most qualified person to discuss such matters.
Love: A History by Simon May — May offers us rare insight into the Western concept of love. He traces the many philosophers who've contributed to this concept, and along the way refutes many myths. Ultimately, he argues that love is conditional, ephemeral, and selfish.
The Road to Character by David Brooks — Brooks argues that we, as a society, have lost our moral vocabulary, and this leads to pernicious consequences for us as individuals. Struggle, Brooks maintains, is crucial to moral development. Fortunately for the reader, by exploring the complex and often painful lives of figures who've gone down in the history books, Brooks hopes to offer transferable advice.
The Greatest Empire by Emily Wilson — A thoughtful reflection on the writings of Seneca, a prominent Roman politician and stoic philosopher in Nero's court, Wilson's writings expose the contradictions between Seneca's teachings and his lived actions. There is much we might learn from his life, indeed the greatest empire is to 'conquer oneself.'
World Without Mind by Franklin Foer — Foer writes presciently on the subject of 'bad tech,'and how good intentions on behalf of Silicon Valley to reduce the burden of 'thinking' poses an existential threat to our humanity.
Insane Mode by Hamish McKenzie — 3 challenges Tesla faced: fires, range anxiety, and its dealership model; charts the global rise of EVs, especially in China where former Western teams are being enticed (e.g. team behind BMW i8); most startling is fact that batteries will soon (2020+ at current rate of economization) be cheap enough for EV cost-parity.
Lab Rats by Dan Lyons — How Silicon Valley is making work miserable: money, job insecurity, change, dehumanization (via automation). Good case studies of successful + good culture firms (Basecamp).
The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson — Ferguson tries to rewrite the historiological paradigm that has understated the power of networks in explaining history, i.e. ascribing too much agency/influence to individuals. Too much?
Oil by Vaclav Smil — The 2nd, revised, edition of Smil's useful primer to understanding (one of) the most consequential industries today. Bill Gates writes: "There is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil."
In Defense of a Liberal Education by Fareed Zakaria — Argues that a liberal education is the only thing that can prepare you for constant change, also the importance of writing.
The Four by Scott Galloway — Galloway, a marketing professor at NYU Stern, mounts a reasoned attack on the tech companies (Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Amazon) that are increasingly ruling our lives these days. An important read for this age.
Skin in the Game by Nassim Taleb — having read his Incerto trilogy, I felt rather compelled to read this Taleb’s latest. It was kind of repetitive and not particularly coherent; basically, people learn best through direct experience and work best when they have something at stake. Interestingly the latter is something that was codified in ancient societies (Hammurabi’s Law and even the Bible’s lex talonis), but that we’ve lost since… Taleb’s favorite example: Bob Rubin.
The Ajax Dilemma by Paul Woodruff — Short but not really sweet. Explores an important managerial problem: the allocation of rewards/recognition, but doesn't come to the most useful conclusions. In short: fairness isn't a great guiding principle, and a leader's problem remains preventing team cohesion from being undermined by an inevitable difference in reward allocation.