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An IT pro’s summer reading list

From the transformative power of AI to the tech titans of Silicon Valley, collaborating with your enemies and finding green sludge on a giant engineered bear in a ruined city of the future, here’s what to read this summer.


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With the temperatures rising and the prospect of some vacation time (or at least a few long weekends) ahead, it’s time to kick back on a patio or beach and crack the spine of those books you’ve been meaning to read. If you’re looking to expand your horizons, here are a few options worth adding to your summer reading list:

The Fourth Transformation: How Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence Change Everything (Robert Scoble and Shel Israel)
If you’re in IT, you probably have a sense of how augmented reality and AI is poised to change our world. But have you heard of the Visual Web? According to authors Scoble and Israel, in the next decade we won’t be able to tell what’s real and what’s illusion, thanks to glasses with settings for virtual and augmented reality (which will replace our smartphones). The book outlines what the authors are calling the Fourth Transformation, and explains their vision of a Visual Web that’s 100 times larger than the Internet as we know it. This is essentially a guidebook to the near future — and an interesting perspective on what’s to come, perhaps faster than most people realize.

The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World (Brad Stone)
Just as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates changed the world (can you imagine one without PCs and iPhones?), a new generation of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs is shaking things up. This is a tale of two tech giants who have redefined the taxi and hospitality industries. Stone — a technology reporter for Bloomberg and author of The Everything Store about Amazon — focuses on Uber cofounder Travis Kalanick and Airbnb cofounder Brian Chesky, looking at how they’ve rewritten the rules and, of course, gets into some of the ethical obstacles they’ve encountered along the way. Essential reading for anyone trying to understand the new rules of the game.

Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future (Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson)
Hot off the presses (it’s due to be released next week), this is a guide for business leaders looking to succeed in a rapidly changing economy. The premise of the authors, both from MIT, is that we must “rethink the integration of minds and machines, of products and platforms, and of the core and the crowd.” And this, the authors say, has massive implications for how we run our companies. Machine, Platform, Crowd is a roadmap for both start-ups and businesses — or anyone interested in how artificial intelligence, the power of platforms (versus products) and the power of the crowd is going to shape our lives.

Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work with People You Don’t Agree with or Like or Trust (Adam Kahane)
It’s happened to all of us at some point: we end up working with someone we don’t like. It can turn a job we love into one we dread, or it can make a project needlessly difficult. This is a timely book, written by someone who knows a lot about the subject: Adam Kahane is a professional conflict mediator who, among his many accomplishments, is credited by the president of Colombia for helping to end 50 years of civil war in his country. In Collaborating with the Enemy, Kahane says our conventional understanding of collaboration (that we all just need to get along) is wrong. Instead, he outlines a new approach that “embraces discord, experimentation, and genuine co-creation.” A fresh take on a problem as old as time.

Borne (Jeff VanderMeer)
If you’re in the mood for sci-fi, Popular Mechanics called this book one of the best sci-fi reads of 2017. Based in a ruined, nameless city of the future, we meet our protagonist Rachel, who makes her living as a scavenger. She finds a creature named Borne entangled in the fur of a gigantic engineered bear from the Company, a biotech firm that lost control of its creations. Sound bizarre? That’s just the beginning. “Borne shows that VanderMeer is one of the strongest sci-fi writers of today. His work is accessible, fun, and filled with both interesting human and non-human characters. Plus, both his trilogy and Borne feature complex female protagonists, and we can always use more of those,” according to the review from Popular Mechanics.

Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World (Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott)
Have you ever tried to explain blockchain to a non-techie friend? It’s a simple enough concept, but hard to explain — particularly its potential to transform the worlds of business and finance. This isn’t hot of the presses, but it’s still one of the most accessible books out there on blockchain — it breaks it down, explains its potential and why you should care. An article in The Guardian calls it “a highly readable introduction to a bamboozling but increasingly important field.”

Image: iStock

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