Reading is fundamental. As Stephen King notes, writing is the closest thing we humans have to telepathy. That we get to regularly explore other people's emotions, ideas, and experiences—especially ones different or foreign to us—is a luxury I don't take for granted.
My friend Bouke's list of favorite books inspired me to do the same. I came up with nine books that stood out for me because they in some way commented on, equipped us for, or challenged us around what's ahead. I realized they fell into three categories, and I'll be writing a post up for each one. Here's the first on how technology is changing us.
"The Four," "Irresistible," and "Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus" explore the fast-changing world, driven by technology giants that are changing nearly every aspect of our lives. They ask us what we've given up in exchange for the power of constant connectivity.
"The Four" from Scott Galloway introduces the scope of Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, and how their success has given much but also taken more. The Four Horsemen, as Galloway refers to them, have created life-changing technologies, but also at the cost of destruction of jobs; the endless pursuit for personal data; and, the accumulation of wealth amongst a small, concentrated group.
In "Irresistible," Adam Alter takes us through the more personal cost: the addictive qualities of online interactions, and, scarily, how that's precisely the intention from their designers. Addiction is a touchy subject, rife with outdated research and misguided beliefs. Irresistible does a good job of outlining how addiction, rather than being a case of moral failure or bad genes, can be a coping mechanism to deal with trauma at a systemic level.
After understanding where we are now, and how it affects us both at a societal and individual level, it's worth asking how did we get here? The relentless devotion to growth, even at dangerous and unsustainable levels, is at the heart of Douglas Rushkoff's "Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus." People and, by extension, companies place faith that more is always better, and it has led us to massive income inequality. As the poor become poorer, a shift to extracting data in lieu of money will have long-term, potentially chilly effects.
Taken together, the books act as a state of the union. After only a decade or so, the tech industry has fundamentally shaped our way of life. We can't go back in time, so it's important to we understand this new landscape, become more sophisticated about our relationship to our devices, and demand more of the industry.
Tomorrow: books that shook me on being a better adult.