A couple of the computer science topics that I am deeply interested in are machine learning and artificial intelligence. I’m particularly interested in the progress and development of artificial intelligence. It’s already a part of our everyday life. Currently, it’s narrow in the tasks that it handles. If you’ve ever used Google’s search engine, the Facebook news feed, a maps application for directions, or the sales chat/IM features on a website, you’ve interacted with AI.
The development path for AI is to move it from narrow to more general tasks. It is here where there is a fear that AI will reach the point of “singularity.” Singularity is considered the point of runaway technological advancement where the AI moves from narrow tasks to general intelligence. At that point, it develops the ability to learn, or improve itself, faster than humans can control it. In the apocalyptic scenarios, the AI evolves rapidly to the point where it sees humans as resources to be optimized, which might eventually result in the extinction of the human race. While that is the grim side, there is also the hopeful side that a runaway AI will usher in a new age of prosperity for the human race in which rote, menial tasks are done by machines while humans can focus on more meaningful items.
To keep myself honest with my diet and fitness, I like reading the occasional health related book. Through various referral paths, I got turned on to The Endurance Handbook by Dr. Philip Maffetone. Dr. Maffetone has spent most of his career working with endurance athletes to help them achieve peak performance and has written many books on the subject. In this book, Maffetone describes the methods and routines he teaches endurance athletes, which he has wrapped into a program that he calls the MAF Method.
What stands out about the MAF Method is that it’s not your conventional training program. It eschews a lot of the “no pain, no gain” themes that are the foundation of most modern workout programs. Instead Maffetone’s focus is on teaching the body to use and burn fat for energy rather than carbohydrates. While this is an important concept for endurance athletes, there’s a lot you can get out of the book even if you are just looking to futher your knowledge of nutrition, training, and fitness.
When you dig into a genre of books, you quickly find that the depth of additional books you discover gets deeper and deeper. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
For example, last year I split my reading into morning and evening reads. Evening reads are my traditional fun reads, which include science fiction, business narratives, and health & fitness. My morning reads were a new addition to my routine. These reads focus on developing the proper mindset and approach to life. I had a good seed of books to get me started. What’s great is that the more of these books you read, the more books and resources that you discover. While they are all variations on the same theme, the repetition and reinforcement is good for developing the mind. It’s no different than lifting weights to build strength. The exercises may vary and work different parts of the body, but the combined effect of repeatedly performing the exercises keeps you physically fit. Well my morning reads keep me mentally fit.
One of the books that consistently appeared in my morning reads was The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. It was referenced so many times that I knew I had to read it for myself.
My go-to resource for web analytics is Avinash Kaushik. Guru does not adequately describe his level of expertise on the topic. If you have any interest in analytics, his blog is a great resource that is chock full of information. The articles are deep dives into the concepts, techniques, and tools that allow you to get the most out of your online presence. For bite-sized pieces of insight, I’d recommend subscribing to his newsletter, which you can do from his website.
So what does Avinash Kaushik have to do with the book Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It? In June of last year, Avinash mentioned the book in one of his newsletters. I have such high regard for his opinions and insights, that I immediately added the book to the top of my reading list.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Yes, it is the year 2018. And yes, I recently read a sci-fi book that was published 50 years ago. And yes, I enjoyed it, a lot.
Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a classic. It’s amazing to me how much of the book is relevant today. While PKD may have been a little off with how soon his fictional androids would become a reality, it’s quite possibly a future that is not that far away.
If you’re not already aware, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was the basis of the original Blade Runner movie. I first saw the movie in the late eighties and really enjoyed it. It was many years later before I realized that it was based on PKD’s book. I make a conscious effort to read classic science fiction, so I added it to my reading list. The book languished on my never ending reading list for a few years. When Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to the original movie, came out last year, I decided it was time to move the book up in my reading queue. I was determined to read the book before seeing the movie (which, by the way, I still haven’t seen yet).
There are book recommendations, and then, there are special book recommendations. When your mother says you should read a book, it qualifies as an extra special book recommendation. In other words, when mom says you should read The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, you don’t ask why, you just do it.
I must admit that I was a little perplexed as to why my mother would find a book about the 1936 US Olympic men’s crew team interesting. After reading it, I figured out why. While the book covers the sport of competitive rowing, that’s not it’s primary theme. The book is more focused on the struggles facing America during the late twenties and earlier thirties. There were the effects of The Great Depression. The drought that turned middle America into The Dust Bowl. The rise of Hitler and the imminent threat of a second World War. Truth be told, it was a turbulent time. The book is really about how a group of boys came together and persevered through dedication and hard work to reach their ultimate goal against all odds.
Would you say if I told you a book that teaches skills for selling real estate can be applied in all areas of your life? As shocking as that may sound, it’s true.
Ninja Selling: Subtle Skills, Big Results by Larry Kendall is a blueprint for what has made Larry and his associates at The Group, Inc. in Fort Collins, CO, one of the most successful real estate companies in the country. In the book, he offers up the principles and techniques that he has used to build a successful and lasting career in real estate. What’s most interesting is that the information he presents is not specific to real estate. It can be applied by sales professionals in any industry. Furthermore, a lot of the teachings will help to one to become a better person and simply live a better, more fulfilling life.
Every so often, I like to read a business book on industry strategy. It’s even more interesting when the book is about an industry that I have a lot of contacts in and spend a lot of time working around – real estate. It made reading Disruptors, Discounters, and Doubters by Joe Rand an easy choice. For one, it was an excellent opportunity to gain valuable insight into the real estate industry and where it’s headed. Second, I know Joe personally and have on-going projects with him. I figured his book would provide a better, deeper understanding of the goals behind the projects we’re working on together.
What makes the book especially valuable for anyone working in and around real estate is that it is an insider’s view of the industry. More often than not, industry strategy books are written by outsiders who forecast or critique based on observation. Joe is writing his critiques while in the trenches. He has the foresight to see that disruption of the real estate industry is on the horizon. In fact, it’s inevitable. He’s raising the warning flag and suggesting that the disruption happen from within. Otherwise, those with little or no industry knowledge will force it on them from the outside .
Overall, 2017 was a very good year for book reading. My goal is to read 25 books during the course of a year, with a stretch goal of 30. My book count finished at 28 last year.
I changed things up a bit last year. In the past, I had only one book in progress at a time. In 2017, I almost always had two going at once. I would read a fun book during the evening, and a business or personal mindset book in the morning. I believe this strategy helped push me over the top with respect to my reading numbers. It also shaped my readings as the majority of the books I read last year were of a nonfiction variety. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I’d like to read a longer list of lighter, entertaining books in 2018.
I’m nearly finished compiling my 2018 reading list and plan to post in the next few days or so. In the meantime, here are the books I recommend that you include on your 2018 reading list.
I enjoy discovering and reading new authors, especially those that aren’t well known. I also find reading from a variety of authors important. Each has their own life experiences and philosophies that permeate their works.
One of the “undiscovered” authors I enjoyed reading during 2015 and 2016 was Eliot Peper. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the trilogy, I really enjoyed his Uncommon Stock series. I made it a point to put one of his more recent releases, Cumulus, on my 2017 reading list.
It took a while, but I finally got around to reading it over this past summer.