With each passing day, computer algorithms are increasingly controlling and directing our lives. The big tech companies have developed algorithms that touch every part of our daily activities. They dictate our search results, filter the articles in our news feeds, show us the products we didn’t even know we want (or need), recommend places to go, suggest who our friends are, tell us who we should date, and more.
In theory, all of these computer controlled algorithms are designed to optimize our existence, but what if things go awry? What if the algorithms are wrong? What would happen if they instead made a complete mess of things?
Welcome to Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling.
Is it possible that everything we’ve been taught about nutrition is wrong?
Are the nutrition and health guidelines developed by the USDA and FDA designed to improve our health, or are they contributing to the epidemic of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia, obstructive sleep apnea, autoimmune disease and others?
Are doctors being taught how to prevent sickness or how to treat symptoms?
Are “Big Food” and “Big Pharma” companies looking out for our health or are they more concerned with generating profits for their shareholders?
These are just a few of the questions that Dr. Robert Lustig explores in his book Metabolical: The Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine.
When you work in the technology space like I do, reality gets distorted. It’s easy to forget that people outside the industry don’t understand what goes on behind the scenes in the software, websites, and mobile apps they use. For example, I’m careful, some may even say paranoid, about how much information I share on social media, if any at all.
Why the paranoia? I don’t trust that any of those companies have our personal privacy and best interests at heart. As the old saying goes, if you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product.
Because I work in this echo chamber, I find it interesting when a person outside the industry shares their perspective on what goes on inside of it. That’s why I chose to read Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener.
Whether or not we are aware of it, we live our lives through stories. If it’s not the stories that others tell us, the ones we read, or the ones we watch on TV and the movies, then it’s the ones we tell ourselves. Given that stories are such an important part of how we view the world, the ability to tell compelling stories is important. It’s especially important when you are building a business and trying to market your product and services. I know because I’ve been there and am living it now.
I hadn’t given much thought to studying how to tell a story until I read this article on Matt Blumberg’s blog. It was this excerpt from the article that inspired me to learn more about the art of storytelling:
“In business, the best story wins.” That’s another quote from a former manager of mine that I have found to be universally true. People in business respond to many things: numbers, bullet points, graphs and visualizations. But they respond to all of those things better when they are wrapped in stories…. When you can present your hypotheses in the context of a story, about your business, your customers, what you want to achieve, how you will do it, and why it matters, you will build consensus and show leadership.
In his post, Blumberg recommended reading Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee as a way to learn about and improve your storytelling. While the book is primarily targeted at screenwriters, Blumberg asserted that it would help you think about “all the elements that go into a good story”. I figured it was worth taking a flyer to see if I could improve the way I present things to people, in particular my business, and the products and services I offer.
Outside of entertainment and learning, one of the things I enjoy most about reading is discussing and sharing books with others. I especially like it when people share book recommendations with me. Nearly all my most interesting reads have come from recommendations. And while I might not get to all of my recommendations right away, eventually I manage to get to them. I know my daughter Courtney can relate.
Anyway, both Courtney and Amanda read The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides last year. They both liked it, a lot. Since they both highly recommended it, I made it a point to put it at the top of my 2022 reading list even though it isn’t in my primary reading genre of science fiction. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into, but I figured I’d give it a shot.
The technological point when a general artificial intelligence becomes more powerful than and uncontrollable by humans. The AI does it by continuously improving itself in faster and faster cycles.
When you read as much science fiction as I do, you run into a lot of books about The Singularity. The reason is obvious. How will runaway artificial intelligence treat humans. Will it serve us benevolently and improve our lives? Or will it see us as resources that need to be optimized, bags of water and organic matter that it can use to meet its objective? Furthermore, is its emergence as inevitable as some make it out to be?
Author Rob Reid explores the topic in his book After On.
Looking for books to add to your reading list in 2022? Here are 10 titles for your consideration. The list is broken into three categories – General Recommendations, Personal Development, and Business. I’ve also included a list of fun reads if my 10 must reads aren’t enough.
As you dive into the list, keep in mind that my tastes lean towards technology and science fiction, so most of the books on the list are from those genres.
My final morning read for 2021 was Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. In case you don’t know who Ed Catmull is, which I didn’t before reading the book, he was one of the co-founders and CEO of Pixar. Yes, that Pixar. The one that made movies such as the Toy Story franchise, A Bug’s Life, Up, Cars, Monsters, Inc., and more.
There’s an interesting story behind how I learned about the book, and it’s one I’m going to share. Why? Because it’s what I do. It’s who I am.
There are pros and cons to Amazon’s recommendation engine. On the one hand, it’s uncovered books that I would have otherwise never found on my own. On the other hand, it can lead you into some really deep rabbit holes. Once you read a couple of books around a similar topic or theme, it recommends more of the same.
After I finished reading The Fold, I thought I’d exhausted the books about time travel on my reading list. Apparently, I didn’t. Next up on my reading list was All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai.
For my latest foray into the short story genre, I decided on the Nameless series by Dean Koontz. I found about it through an Amazon email when Season 2 was released, but I figured that I would start with Season 1 to see if I liked the story arc.
It was also a good chance to gain exposure to Koontz’ writing. He’s a prolific author who has written dozens of books. Instead of starting out with one of his long form novels, I figured a few of his short stories would give me a good feel for his other books.