I read a lot of near-term, hard science fiction. Hard doesn’t mean difficult. Hard means that it’s a realistic view of how technology could evolve in the near future, which is any time within the next 50 years.
A consistent theme in these books revolves around artificial intelligence. Specifically, it’s the threat posed by a runaway, super-intelligent AI that would threaten humanity’s existence. While the stories are fiction, the threat is real. Numerous technologists have warned about it, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk.
Another technological threat that doesn’t get as much attention is genetic editing. The technology is more commonly referred to as CRISPR. In simple terms, CRISPR gene editing involves changing the genetic structure of a living organism, humans included. While there are numerous positive uses for genetic editing such as vaccine development, the technology can also be used for nefarious purposes.
In his book Change Agent, author Daniel Suarez explores a near-future where gene editing technologies such as CRISPR are readily available. It raises a myriad of ethical questions. Should people be able to select and determine the personalities and capabilities of their children? What happens when the genetic structure of a person is changed, especially if it happens without their permission or knowledge?
Is it possible that philosophical and behavioral concepts practiced and taught over 2,000 years ago are still valid today?
Let’s consider a modern psychotherapy known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). CBT is a treatment that modern psychologists use to help those who struggle with depression and anxiety. Using CBT, people are taught techniques and approaches to change destructive behaviors and thought patterns that trigger negative emotions.
Next to science fiction, the short story format is one of my favorite types of fiction to read. I love how an author can capture your imagination and compress an engaging story into a compact form. I especially like how a really good short story comes to a close but leaves you with unanswered questions. It forces me to replay the story over and over in my mind and allows me to fill-in the blanks.
I’d been vaguely aware that the ability to tell a good story was important to building your business. People like to be entertained. People can relate to stories.
What I didn’t understand was how to tell a good story. In the past, when I’ve tried to tell a story about my business, it fell flat. It was a meandering tale that I had a hard time condensing into a narrative that would capture someone’s attention. Basically, my stories lacked structure.
It turns out there is a formula that good books and movies use to tell a story. I had no clear concept of this formula until a close friend suggested I read Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. In his book, Miller walks you through the formula that writers use to capture and keep their audience’s attention. As he does so, he shows you how you can apply it to create a strong brand message and grow your business.
So how do you tell a good story, why does the ability to tell a good story matter, and how does it help you grow your business?
Life is full of ups and downs. It seems like a fundamental law of life. When things are going well, something bad happens. And when things aren’t, they can’t get any worse. They can only get better, right?
What if there was a way to break this law? Would it be possible for one to experience an abundance of good things in life? Is it possible that we are at the root cause of the valleys in life because we don’t know how to handle or are afraid of achieving ever higher levels of success?
In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks explores how we define the limits of our success. He examines the actions and tricks our minds play to keep us in our comfort zone, or ‘Our Zone of Excellence’ as he likes to call it. Above all, he proposes that we are capable of enjoying ever increasing levels of success and love in our life. He shows how we can make the big leap into our ‘Zone of Genius.’
His latest work, Recursion, has been on my reading list since it came out last year. I was determined to get it to this year, but it was a ways down the list. When my oldest daughter told me she finished reading it, I decided it was time to move it up in the queue. And when my middle daughter said she wanted to read it too, well, that sealed it. I moved Recursion to the top of the heap.
My favorite reading genre is science fiction, which you already know if you frequent my blog. However, every once in a while, I’ll step outside my comfort zone and read something a bit, well, different. Such was the case with Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale.
Clearly, the book does not fit into the science fiction category. There is no mention of sentient robots, super-intelligent AI, space travel, or alien beings. In fact, there is pretty much no mention of any technology whatsoever. If anything, it fits into the romance genre, which I don’t like much and rarely read. But you know what, I liked Everything We Keep, a lot. I’m not afraid to admit it, and here’s why.
Imagine waking up tomorrow morning in your house or apartment. You are going about you’re morning routine – making coffee, eating breakfast, watching the morning news. There is an unexpected knock at your door. You answer and are greeted by group of uniformed men. They enter your house, uninvited. Two of them immediately bind your hands behind your back while the others gather the other members of your family – your spouse, your children, other family members living with you. You are led out to a truck without the opportunity to gather any of your personal effects. They put you and your family in the back, where you see other people you recognize from your neighborhood. You are led to a train station where you are separated from your family and placed into a crowded cattle car. The car is enclosed so you cannot tell where you are going. At your destination, you are shaved head to toe, sprayed down, and given rags for clothes. For the foreseeable future, your life involves limited food, limited sleep, and hours of forced manual labor. All of the modern amenities you enjoy have been taken away from you – no cell phone, no internet, no email, no social media, no television. You have no connection to the outside world. Your only connection is to the guards and other prisoners who are in your camp.
Sound far-fetched and unbelievable? It isn’t.
Such was the fate of many Jews across Western Europe during the Second World War. They were rounded up, removed from their normal every day lives, and taken as prisoners by the Germans. They were separated from their families, subject to inhumane living conditions, and forced into performing manual labor in support of the German war effort. Many of those who were taken prisoner were doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. They were hard-working, law-abiding citizens who had done nothing wrong.
Remarkably, some survived these conditions. One of the survivors was Viktor E. Frankl, and his book Man’s Search for Meaning documents his experience in the concentration camps. More importantly, Frankl talks about how he survived, what the experience taught him about himself, and what he learned about man’s existence. His experience inspired the formulation of logotherapy, the methodology that he used as a basis for psychological treatment.
For my last morning read of 2019, I chose Mastery by George Leonard. Mastery was regularly referenced in other books I’ve been reading as part of my personal development journey. When it showed up on The Learning a Day blog that I follow, I knew it was time to move it up towards the top of my reading list.
Mastery was originally published in 1992, almost 30 years ago. Personal development books typically follow the latest trends and fads. I try to stay away from those and stick to the classics that stand the test of time. The question is, was Mastery one of those classics or just a book that built off the trends of its time?
One of my favorite books from last year was The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. It’s similar to a daily devotional. There is a passage for each day from an ancient Stoic philosopher, such as Marcus Aureilius, Seneca, and Epcitetus, followed by a short interpretation of it. I liked it so much that I decided to read through it a second time this year with The Daily Stoic Journal. I had wanted to start journaling daily, and this was a good way to kick-start the habit. The Journal has a prompt that follows along with the daily reading to inspire and direct my thoughts and writings.