This reading list features books about Elon Musk, female entrepreneurs, Programming Language Programmer and technologists, VR, AI, the ways tech is changing our society, and more. You'll also see recommended titles from Bill Gates.
Brief Answers to the Big Questions
In Brief Answers to the Big Questions, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author, Stephen Hawking addresses the most pressing issues facing humanity today: Will humanity survive? Should we colonize space? Will technology save or destroy us? These are just a few of the many big questions Hawking asks. He emphasizes using science to help solve the issues facing us, and encourages younger generations to "shape their future." Hawking's final book is important for people of all ages and walks of life.
In Ashlee Vance's authorized biography of the Tesla tycoon, she examines Musk's life from childhood to his present-day achievements and everything in-between. She refers to Musk as a mixture of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs. Vance's book is definitely worth a read.
Jaron Lanier is one of the founding fathers of virtual reality. In Dawn of the New Everything, he recounts his personal and professional life, reflects on how he's been affected by technology, and examines what it's like to be human in a time of unprecedented technological growth. Lanier elaborates on the ways VR illuminates and enhances our lives, as well as offers new viewpoints about how the human mind and body are connected to the world; he also outlines how VR is a scientific and cultural venture and ways it can be utilized to enrich our lives.
In The History of the Future, bestselling author Blake J. Harris details the story behind how virtual reality headset Oculus came to life. Following the story of Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, Harris uses a series of interviews with key players to explain the breakthroughs, breakdowns, and human drama that went into making the technology a reality. Included is the story of the multibillion-dollar acquisition of Oculus by Mark Zuckerberg, which shook up Silicon Valley and gave the headset the boost it needed to change virtual reality as we know it.
Jason Fagone's book centers around the amazing story of Elizebeth Smith Friedman and her husband William, who invented the modern science of cryptology and how they used it to find Nazi spies, aiding in the victory of World War II. The Friedmans are considered the "Adam and Eve of the NSA," but their story has not been told until now. This is part historical novel, part biography, and completely worth reading.
Authors Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens' book Geek Girl Rising delves into the world of the lesser-known grassroots female entrepreneurs and technologists who are building the next generation of startups and fighting their way through the highly competitive Silicon Valley. Readers will learn about role models Debbie Sterling, the inventor of GoldieBox; Tracy Chou, former lead developer at Pinterest; Kathryn Minshew, CEO of The Muse, and many others.
In Brotopia, Bloomberg TV journalist and author Emily Chang uncovers the misogyny and toxic workplaces in the "bro culture" of Silicon Valley. Chang's book investigates venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia, both of which have drawn criticism for gender discrimination. She interviews Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer who explain the difficulties they've had breaking through the glass ceiling of this tech hub. Brotopia offers an insightful look into the male-dominated culture of Silicon Valley and suggests ways to change the current status quo so that it's more inclusive.
Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change
In her autobiography
, Project Include
CEO Ellen K. Pao describes the blatant discrimination she endured while working for Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, and the subsequent legal battle that ensued. Though she lost her case, Pao's lawsuit revolutionized the way women and minorities are treated in tech offices, the media, and around the world. After leaving Kleiner Perkins, Pao became the interim CEO of Reddit (from Nov. 2014 to July 2015) and forcefully changed the way the company was run, taking a stand against and shutting down anything that resembled online harassment. Along with seven other women, Pao later co-founded the award-winning nonprofit Project Include, which advocates for diversity and inclusion in tech. Pao's amazing story of how she overcame discrimination and adversity in the workplace and continues to help others do the same is an inspirational read for anyone.
Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech
author Sarah Wachter-Boettcher examines the biases that are built into digital products, such as chatbots that harass women and algorithms designed to imprison African-Americans. In this enlightening book, Wachter-Boettcher seeks to help end users not only make more informed choices about the technologies they use but also hold the companies that have created them more accountable.
Historian and author Leslie Berlin tells the story of the Silicon Valley generation in the 1970s and 1980s who were responsible for creating five major high-tech industries in just seven years and laid the groundwork for the technologies we have today. Berlin's book tells the story of how personal computing, video games, biotechnology, modern venture capital, and advanced semiconductor logic came to be. Troublemakers is an ideal read for any person with an interest in technology.
Prize-winning journalist and author John Carreyrou detail the rise and fall of the multi-billion dollar biotech startup Theranos. Carreyrou, who originally broke the story, chronicles the saga of founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes who proclaimed that her machine to test blood would revolutionize the medical world, but in reality, the technology didn't work. Bad Blood analyzes one of the biggest corporate frauds since Enron, and unveils the hubris and greed of Holmes, who Fortune magazine named one of the "World's Most Disappointing Leaders.
Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us
New York Times bestselling author Dan Lyons explores how Silicon Valley ideology has influenced the way we work. Through his research, Lyons uncovers how the tools, workplace practices, and business models created over decades by tech companies have a detrimental effect on employees. Lab Rats
also examines the companies that have managed to strike the delicate balance between profitability and employee happiness and makes the case that business leaders need to focus on both.
NYU Business professor and author Scott Galloway analyzes four of the most influential companies on the planet: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google--and not just why they are so successful, but also escape financial consequences other companies have not, as well as the fundamental ways they permeate our lives. Galloway's book dissects the manipulation strategies used by "the Four" that drives us, and how those strategies can be implemented into your business or career. This New York Times and USA Today bestseller offers a guide for how to do business with, compete with, or just co-exist with "the Four."
The One Device
is the previously untold account of one of the most secretive companies in the world and how it created the device that changed everything. Veteran technology journalist and author Brian Merchant dives into how the iPhone transformed the world and made Apple one of the most valuable companies in history. He includes exclusive interviews with the engineers, inventors, and developers who were there for every step of the iPhone's creation and examines how technologies such as touch screens, motion trackers, and AI make their way into our hands.
Author Lawrence D. Burns, longtime advisor to the Google Self-Driving Car team and former GM research and development chief, explores the history of how technology has advanced to the point of driverless cars, and the unlikely figures who accomplished feats unimagined by billion-dollar automakers. Autonomy
is a character-driven account that examines the past, analyzes the present, and predicts the future of the self-driving car and the resulting revolution it will create.
Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone
In Hit Refresh
, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella discusses Microsoft's continuing evolution and the ways technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and mixed reality are rapidly changing our daily lives. He urges organizations and society to "hit refresh" in order to transform, renew, and modernize ideas. This New York Times bestseller, which has a foreword by Bill Gates, is a must-read for any techie.
Award-winning author, broadcaster, and documentarian Douglas Rushkoff often examines the concept of human autonomy in the digital age in his books and podcasts. In Team Human, Rushkoff offers his thoughts on civilization and human nature in this "call to arms" about working together as a society rather than individually. He discusses how money, education, and the internet have influenced us negatively, and ways we can come back together to achieve a greater sense of happiness, productivity, and peace.
In The Inevitable
, author Kevin Kelly, founding executive director of Wired magazine, lays out his vision of the future and how technology will affect our daily lives. From virtual reality in the home to AI embedded in all manufactured goods, Kelly examines these and other deep trends, while exploring how they overlap and are all part of a codependent network. He teaches the reader how to understand and embrace these coming technological changes. The Inevitable presents an optimistic outlook of the technological revolution and will benefit anyone needing guidance on what direction their business, industry, or life is heading.
Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, authors and directors of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, discuss the ways we should think of the integration of minds and machines, products and platforms, and the core and the crowd. Machine, Platform, Crowd offers an in-depth analysis of the digital-powered new world and the tools necessary for thriving in it. Essential reading for startups established businesses or anyone with an interest in the future of technology.
The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity
As publisher of tech research company Gigaom and founder of several high-tech companies, author and futurist Byron Reese has spent much of his life studying how technology influences human history. Reese's book looks at the previous technological advances made by humans: Fire, agriculture, and the invention of the wheel and writing. He suggests that we now face a "fourth change" due to the creation of AI and robotics. The Fourth Age
explores various topics, including machine consciousness, automation, employment, creative computers, radical life extension, artificial life, AI ethics, the future of warfare, superintelligence, the implications of extreme prosperity, and how these technologies will forever change humanity.
Author Calestous Juma's book reviews nearly 600 years of technological history to examine society's need for innovation, juxtaposed with societal pressures to maintain continuity, order, and stability. Juma details case studies about how inventions such as coffee, the printing press, electricity, transgenic crops, and animals, etc. have emerged, created new institutional ecologies, and taken root in the modern marketplace. Innovation and Its Enemies utilizes historical lessons to provide context to debates about current technologies like AI, 3D printing, gene editing, renewable energy and more. Juma urges public leaders to work in tandem with scientists, engineers, and, entrepreneurs to find better ways to manage and expand growing technologies.
Author Alec Ross, a leading innovation and technology policy expert, uses his years of experience as Senior Advisor for Innovation to the Secretary of State and travel to 41 countries to provide a guide to the technological changes we can expect in the next 10 years. The Industries of the Future addresses the tough questions about robotics, AI, cybercrime and cybersecurity, the commercialization of genomics, big data, and the digitalization of money/economies, analyzes how global trends are affecting the way we live and describes how to navigate the inevitable changes we face.
Cartoonist Zach Weinersmith and noted researcher Dr. Kelly Weinersmith co-author this humorous account of emerging technologies. Through research and interviews with scientists working on these innovations the Weinersmiths look at 10 emerging fields, including augmented reality, space elevators, robotic construction, and programmable matter. Soonish
explains why these technologies are needed, how they would work, and what is currently standing in their way. This book is an entertaining and informative read for anyone interested in science and technology.
Author Cathy O'Neil evaluates the way algorithms and current models of analysis are unregulated and biased. O'Neil follows the arc of a person's life, demonstrating how these models influence and shape an individual's future through: The scoring of teachers and students, resume sorting, granting or denying loans, targeting voters, and so on. Delving into the dark side of big data, Weapons of Math Destruction encourages
modelers to take responsibility for these issues, and for citizens to become savvier about how these algorithms are being used and demand change.
Martin Ford explores how jobs and the economy will evolve as a result of technological advances. With AI possibly making jobs like paralegals, journalists, and even computer programmers obsolete, Ford looks at the future of the job market and how it will continue to transform. Rise of the Robots is an essential read for understanding how employment and society will have to adapt to the changing market.
In his third book, futurist and author Martin Ford digs deeper into the role that AI plays, and its impact on jobs, the economy, and society. Ford conducts in-depth, one-on-one interviews with 23 of the world's leading experts in the field of AI to discover where the technology is taking us. He interviews Demis Hassabis (DeepMind), Ray Kurzweil (Google), Fei-Fei Li (Stanford/Google), Rodney Brooks (Rethink Robotics), and other notable AI researchers and entrepreneurs. Whether you have an interest in AI specifically, or technology in general, Architects of Intelligence is an informative read.
Deep learning experts Ian Goodfellow, Yoshua Bengio, and Aaron Courville discuss mathematical and conceptual backgrounds, as well as relevant concepts in linear algebra, probability theory, information theory, numerical computation, and machine learning. Deep Learning also covers techniques used by practitioners in the industry, including deep feedforward networks, regularization, optimization algorithms, convolutional networks, sequence modeling, and practical methodology. This text is ideal for students seeking careers in the tech industry or research, or software engineers who want to use deep learning in their products or platforms.
World-renowned Stanford University psychologist and author Carol S. Dweck Ph.D. shows how the power of mindset can influence success in school, work, sports, or many other aspects of life. Dr. Dweck's book explores the differences between a "fixed mindset" and a "growth mindset," and how the latter can foster greater achievements and happiness. Through the methods discussed in Mindset
, anyone can motivate, teach, and lead others while transforming their own lives for the better.
Author Emily Price offers over 500 suggestions on how to employ technology to increase productivity in the workplace. From using the "Do Not Disturb" feature on your cell phone to scheduling time to review and respond to emails to creating templates for email responses, Productivity Hacks is a helpful guide for improving organizational and time management skills.
Former healthcare executive and author Dr. Heather Hanson Wickman discusses how organizations should be led with soul, purpose, and love. Wickman emphasizes that the future of work is human, and leaders should motivate people to work toward a meaningful mission and revitalize the workforce through innovative practices and self-awareness. The Evolved Executive offers strategies for enhancing employee engagement, developing a purpose-centered strategy and culture, expanding your organization's impact on the well-being of individuals and society, and much more. This is a must-read for any manager or executive.
Featured on Bill Gates's "Books that shaped how I think about the world
" list, Vaclav Smil's Energy and Civilization
explores how energy, the "only universal currency," is essential to life on Earth, and how humans have harnessed it in various extremely useful ways. From the creation of simple tools to nuclear reactors, Smil explains how our use of energy, specifically fossil fuels, have affected agriculture, industry, transportation, weapons, communication, quality of life, and much more. This is an insightful read about how energy has transformed our society into what it is today.
Featured on Bill Gates's "Books that shaped how I think about the world" list, Enlightenment Now by cognitive scientist and author Steven Pinker explains that the solutions to our problems can be answered through the enlightenment ideal of using reason and science. He demonstrates through the use of 75 graphs that life, health, prosperity, safety, knowledge, and happiness are increasing worldwide; this phenomenon is not due to forces beyond our control, but rather, the belief that reason and science can, and do, enhance humanity. Enlightenment Now, hailed by Bill Gates as his "new favorite book of all time," offers a positive perspective and shines a light on all the ways the world is improving.
Featured on Bill Gates's "Books that shaped how I think about the world" list, Factfulness by professor of International Health, global TED phenomenon, and author Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators and co-authors, Anna Rosling Rönnlund and Ola Rosling, show that more often than not our opinions and assumptions about the world are wrong. The authors explore the 10 instincts that distort our perspective; this includes the effect of media, our perception of progress and thinking things are getting worse, and the tendency to divide the world in terms of "us" and "them." Factfulness illustrates that even our guesses are informed by unconscious biases. An inspiring and enlightening read, Bill Gates described the book as a "breakthrough" for him; this book will change your outlook on the world, how progress is viewed, and prepare you to respond to future crises and opportunities.
Featured on Bill Gates's "Books that shaped how I think about the world" list, Sapiens is written by renowned historian Dr. Yuval Noah Harari. Dr. Harari's book begins with the appearance of human cognition 70,000 years ago, and examines the way humans have evolved, as well as the role we've played in global ecosystems and establishing empires. Sapiens also looks to the future and how our use of technology is bending the long-established laws of natural selection to design the world around us and ourselves. Bill Gates stated that the book inspired him to think about "humans and happiness and what makes our human species...so unique and fit for survival." Dr. Harari's book is a fascinating read that will help answer the big questions about where we come from, and more importantly, where we're headed as a species.
After exploring the past and future of humanity in his previous books, in 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, historian and author Dr. Yuval Noah Harari turns his attention to the toughest questions facing society today and delves into politics, technology, and various social and existential issues. Dr. Harari investigates the ways technology is advancing faster than we can understand it, how hacking has become a war tactic, and the ways the world feels more and more polarized. Check out this important book to add to your reading list.