TECH | Aug 16, 2018

Time to read: 10+1 books not to be missed

Tips for reading ... and not just in August. Choose from among AI, data culture and innovation

“I don’t have time to read a book”. This was how 30% of the people interviewed by Pepe Research responded to a survey conducted by the Observatory of the Italian Publishers Association , which was published last year. On this front, technology does not always helps, between notifications that take the mind elsewhere and a daily bombardment of information that forces us to jump from one article to another, from a report to a piece of an e-book, all accompanied by a growing desire to be able to browse – digitally or on paper – a good book in peace.

However, with the arrival of summer and a few days of holiday, the trend can be reversed. You can decide to throw away your smartphone or disable notifications to take some time for reading.

What to read on those days you have less to do?

Among the many titles of novels from under the sun umbrella, we can make a different choice: use our free time to read up on new topics, without giving up the pleasure of a good story. This is the case of Le avventure di Numero Primo [The Adventures of Prime Number] by Marco Paolini and Gianfranco Bettin, a fable that introduces the theme of artificial intelligence through the innocent eyes of a child and makes us reflect on how and where the world will go in a not-so-futuristic tomorrow.

Another reading that is not only for fans of themes linked to digital is Follia artificiale [Artificial Madness] by Luca Bolognini, nine reflections on new rights and freedoms which are set against new threats in what, with the advent of AI, is defined as the era of the digital subconscious.

Also suited to a wide audience is Algoritmi [Algorithms] by Mario Pireddu, which leads us to think about how and to what extent algorithms have come to influence our lives

Pages to leaf through for understanding the man-machine relationship

A book on the implications that technology has in our lives is What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly. According to the author, technology has an inescapable future: “If we rewound the tape of history back” many of the technologies we have known would re-emerge, since these are nothing more than “all that man has invented”. There are therefore spaces of freedom within progress: man remains responsible for the fact that technology, evolving autonomously, proceeds towards good instead of evil.

By the same author another must-read is The Inevitabile. The book starts from an indisputable fact: man continues to invent new things that in turn generate new desires, with the result that new gaps to be filled appear constantly. The author argues that there is a predisposition of technology which leads in certain directions and not others, even if the free will of man who plays a decisive role remains. The structuring of the book in 12 ‘present participles’ is interesting: these identify the changes that are upending modernity and represent inevitable trends because they are “rooted in the nature of technology, rather than in the nature of society”: becoming, cognifying, flowing, screening, accessing, sharing, filtering, remixing, interacting, tracking, questioning and beginning.

 

In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus Noah Yuval Harari summarizes the history of humanity (Sapiens) and outlines his future evolution (Homo Deus). The idea behind the book is to somehow answer the question: will AI really determine the division of humanity into a cognitive élite and a majority of “useless people”?

Tastes of Big Data

One way to understand the many implications of the Big Data phenomenon is to flip through Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Thomas Ramge. The authors describe a possible future, where data flows will replace those of money and will be the new currency that will make it possible to disintermediate the market as we know it today and match each product to its ideal buyer. “The task of us humans is not to be more efficient, but to be authentically human” is one of the phrases indicated by those who have recommended the book.

A few pages for better understanding networks

Another enjoyable classic is Linked: The New Science of Networks by Albert-László Barabási. It is worth reading in order to better understand the meaning of the networks we are talking about today, but that few manage to conceive as ubiquitous networks and at the base of the behavior of innumerable physical and social systems.

Reading for understanding the meaning of the word innovation

Published a few years ago and now a classic, Innovation – The Missing Dimension by Richard K. Lester and Michael J. Piore uses concrete examples to accompany the reader in understanding the strategies of innovation present in some of the most dynamic American sectors.

Likewise, The Sense of Dissonance: Accounts of Worth in Economic Life by David Stark helps to understand how businesses and organizations can generally innovate and change the way of solving problems.

And what have you packed in your suitcase?