As we noted in part 1 of our 2020 Reading List for Leaders, the past year has given us some unexpected additional time to read. In our last list we looked at four books that touch on personal and professional wellness topics. In part 2 of our list, we look at four books that can help you deal with change as we continue to work through uncharted territory.
Along with co-author Steven Kotler, Peter Diamandis takes a look at how technology is changing faster than we had anticipated, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. As the past year has shown, unexpected change can impact our daily lives and society as a whole. The authors look at how the combination of science and technology is impacting every aspect of our lives. We are entering uncharted territory, and some could argue we already have. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), robotics, 3d printing, 5G networks are just a few of the topics discussed in this look towards our future.
In her book, UNCHARTED: How to Map the Future Together, Margaret Heffernan may have the most prescient book of the year. In it she looks at both people and companies that are not deterred by uncertainty. Historically we have tried to make sense of our world in an effort to find certainty for the future. Now more than ever, the complexity of technology makes it difficult to predict the future. In fact, most prognosticators won’t look out beyond a year. This book, “challenges us to resist the false promises of technology and efficiency and instead to mine our own creativity and humanity for the capacity to create the futures we want and can believe in.”
Another book that seems perfectly timed for 2020 is Radical Uncertainty by John Kay and Mervyn King. Most economic theory doesn’t work in practice because we can’t accurately predict human decision making. In Radical Uncertainty, Kay and King argue that in certain situations, historical data provides no useful guidance on future outcomes. According to the book, “in most critical decisions there can be no forecasts or probability distributions on which we might sensibly rely. Instead of inventing numbers to fill the gaps in our knowledge, we should adopt business, political, and personal strategies that will be robust to alternative futures and resilient to unpredictable events. Within the security of such a robust and resilient reference narrative, uncertainty can be embraced, because it is the source of creativity, excitement, and profit.”
Jill Lepore looks at the Simulmatics Corporation and how they mined data, targeted voters, manipulated consumers, and destabilized politics long before the digital age and companies like Facebook and Google. In MIT’s archives, she found company documents that provided her with the history of their methods (and arrogance). Simulmatics, founded in 1959 during the cold war, thought they could predict and manipulate the future by studying computer simulations of human behavior in their “People Machine.” The company lasted little more than a decade, closing in 1970. Perhaps they were simply ahead of their time, but this cautionary tale is never more relevant than today.
If there are other books you found beneficial in dealing with unexpected change, let us know. We’re interested in hearing what you found interesting and why. And maybe they’ll make our next list.