My November 2020 Book Reads
1. Life 3.0 — Max Tegmark
For me, the role and possibility of artificial intelligence is a topic that gets brought up during dinners or the occasional catch-up with friends. Most of the scenarios envisioned are often too grandiose or don’t obey the immutable laws of physics, but it is still fun imagining a world with radically enhanced artificial capabilities.
This book provides an accessible exploration into artificial intelligence and reads as a summary of all the existing research and debates that exist within prominent thought leaders. It neatly aggregates all arguments into a coherent framework, providing a topology for a possible way forward. The book does not really take a stance on the topic, which I hoped it would but it does provoke the readers to think critically by creatively extrapolating on possible future scenarios.
Rating: 7.5 /10
- There is a lot we still do not know about artificial intelligence and are likely never to know anytime soon.
- The possibility of Artificial General Intelligence seems more seductive than the reality of it happening. The question of its role prompts questions of ethics, the meaning of life and the role of humans will have in society.
- The study of consciousness remains beyond the grasp of human understanding and scientific research.
2. The Start-Up Playbook — Rajat Bhargava and Will Herman
Anyone interested in being an entrepreneur, creating your own business or joining a start-up should read this book. Highly accessible read with great anecdotes and raw honesty. Entrepreneurship is in vogue right now. It seems like the cool thing to do. We’ve made celebrities and cult figures out of great entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. But most people don’t understand that the vast majority of start-ups fail and the lifestyle of an entrepreneur can sometimes be short, nasty and brutal.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a growing interest in starting my own business and moving into the start-up world. I am personally drawn to the intensity of learning and the rapid pace of innovation. Most of the people you meet are high performers and incredibly inspiring people.
Rating: 8.5 / 10
- There should be a founding team rather than just one founder. It provides continuity, support and a back-up plan to mitigate burnout and turnover. A team is also more appealing for investors and shareholders.
- Very few start-ups with Co-CEOs work effectively. This model of shared leadership can be a bright red flag that difficult decisions won’t be dealt with efficiently and investors will run and hide when they see redundant roles.
- A prototype and MVP are different things. A prototype demonstrates basic competency to get early feedback and iterate on whereas an MVP demonstrates viability.
- There are 5 dimensions (quality, price, focus, functionality and service) that every start-up needs to evaluate themselves on.
3. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant — Eric Jorgenson
I’ve been a massive fanboy of Naval Ravikant for a number of years now. His ability to combine philosophy, business and science into a new way of thinking has been revolutionary on my own thinking process and how I approach life. I don’t think anyone has had a bigger impact on me yet.
The book is a compilation of all of Naval’s mic drop lines. Drawn from his various podcast appearances (including his own), blog, Twitter and interviews the book provides an easy entry point into the mind of Naval. Written in true Naval style, you can pick and choose which topic you want to tackle first — wealth, happiness or reading.
- Leverage is the key to building wealth in the 21st century. You can build leverage through labour, capital or media. Media is probably the most accessible for most people. Labour requires people to work for you. Capital requires someone to give you large sums of money.
- Reading is the key to building the foundation of your knowledge.
- Understand the fundamentals and think in first principles. If you know the fundamentals of anything you rederive theories on the spot. If you think in first principles you will be a clearer thinker.
4. Work — James Suzman
Work defines how we spend most of our time, our position in the social hierarchy and the physiology of our bodies. Yet we know very little about the origins and virtue of the purpose that work has played in the evolution of the human species.
I really liked this book because I am a fan of well-written books that combine history, anthropology and sociology. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to many other people but I did get a delight just reading about something that we spend so time doing.
- Most of our modern work practices derive from our time as farmers during the agricultural revolution. Time was closely tied to output and value during that period. This is why we have concepts of the 9:00am — 5:00 pm work schedules or 40 hour weeks.
5. Drive — Daniel H Pink
I can’t believe I am only just reading this book now. If I could go back in time and tell myself to read a book earlier, it would be this one. A fundamental book for any person who manages people as part of their day to day job. This will give you an insight into how to structure, manage and motivate your team as well as yourself.
The author brings together the latest research on motivation theory and its application or rather misapplication in the modern workplace. It provides a nuanced understanding of how rewards and incentives should be structured in order to get the desired result. Currently, there is a big gap in what science tells us works and what is implemented in organisations.
If you don’t fundamentally change how you approach your work after reading this book, you haven’t really read it correctly. An informative, easy read too.
- Rewards need to be nuanced. Badly structured rewards can create perverse incentives that can create the opposite behaviour of what is desired.
- In the long term, people are motivated by autonomy, mastery and purpose in their work. Money is only a threshold motivator. Once met it quickly ceases being a motivator.
- Achieving extrinsic goals provide less satisfaction and joy than intrinsic goals.