I love Christmas. Everything finally quietens down after a busy autumn, and it’s a chance to put the phone and laptop away and see family and friends. It’s also a lovely time of year to hide away in the warm with a cup of tea and some good reads. Here are the books I’ll be catching up on over the festive break.
- Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. Written by the author of Sapiens, the premise of the book is an alarming one: human nature will be fundamentally changed by AI. Harari argues that the pace of change brought about by technology is now so fast that governments and society as a whole can’t keep up with it. Harari talks about the rise of ‘dataism’ i.e. the data we share freely every day, from emails to posting on Facebook to using Google Maps, and the consequences of sharing this information. In an age when AI could become more intelligent than humans, he asks what authority we should give algorithms. A Hong Kong biotech company already have an algorithm sitting on their board. Yet, as Angela Merkel pointed out after the controversy over how fake news on Facebook influenced the US election, algorithms are not regulated. This is a bleak, dystopian read that makes Westworld look like Peppa Pig. Okay, that doesn’t sound very festive but honestly, it’s brilliant. If there is one book on this list that I would recommend, it’s this one. An ideal stocking filler for geeks.
- The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts by Richard and Daniel Susskind. Slightly less scary but no less thought provoking than Homo Deus, this book tells us that digital will continue to ‘hollow out’ organisations as the use of automation and AI increase. Professional institutions such as schools, courts and hospitals will look very different. Consumers will be able to access expertise much more easily using technology, leaving only a small role for human experts. The book deals with traditional professions such as lawyers, doctors, teachers and architects, but it has made me think about the future of charity sector. How will digital change the role of our advice workers, those managing cases and others whose jobs involve using or handling information?
- Thrive by Arianna Huffington. Everyone I know who’s leading change driven by digital in their organisation is feeling the pressure this year. I get a lot of phone calls from stressed out CEOs, CDOs and Heads of Digital who are close to burn out and don’t have the support they need. It’s no surprise; digital is fundamentally changing the way we all operate and taking people with you is hard. Huffington’s book is a life affirming, restorative read about what it really means to be successful, and how you can balance your career, family and looking after yourself.
- The Coaching Manual by Julie Starr. If your job involves any aspect of coaching, from managing a team to encouraging colleagues to embrace digital to working with clients, Starr shares tons of practical tips and ideas. I particularly like the section on listening; it’s such an underrated business and life skill.
- Super Better by Jane McGonigal. With Brexit on the horizon and Trump about to enter the White House, 2017 is going to be bumpy. McGonigal argues that gamification can help cultivate resilience, using the same principles to help us become more optimistic, creative, brave and determined.
This is a super geeky festive reading list but I hope you like it. Which books will you be catching up on this Christmas?