Book Bits |11 June 2016

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future
By Kevin Kelly
Review via TechDirt
Kevin Kelly, whose bio always notes that he “helped launch Wired Magazine,” is one of those people who always makes you think. I enjoy his writing and insights into technology more than just about anyone else. So it’s exciting to see his new book out, entitled The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future. This isn’t a book about making specific predictions about this or that technology, but rather an attempt to look at specific larger trends that Kelly believes are “inevitable.” From there, you can start to think about what it would mean for technology, life, work and much, much more.
For anyone interested in the things we talk about here: the intersection of technology, economics, business and policy, I’d put this one on the must read list.

The Inner Lives of Markets: How People Shape Them—And They Shape Us
By Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan
Review via Publishers Weekly
Fisman, a behavioral economics professor, and Sullivan, editorial director of Harvard Business Review Press, have created an entertaining overview of economic thought from WWII to the 2000s. Declaring the modern world to be “in the midst of a grand social experiment that has elevated efficiency above all other virtues,” the authors set out to investigate how the market has affected people’s lives and ways of thinking. To back up this premise, they delve into topics as varied as WWII-era POW camp economics, Major League Baseball, 13th-century Italian merchants, and the arrangement of prom dates. The authors claim that markets have played an increasingly intrusive role in recent years, closely tied to the growth of electronic communications as a disruptive economic force. This leads them to a question of regulation: how can we work to fix these intrusive markets?

Think Simple: How Smart Leaders Defeat Complexity
By Ken Segall
Summary via publisher (Penguin)
Simplicity is arguably the most potent weapon in business—attracting customers, motivating employees, helping outthink competitors, and creating new efficiencies. Yet rarely is it as simple as it looks. Ken Segall’s first book, Insanely Simple, was based on observations gained from twelve years working as Steve Jobs’s advertising agency creative director, first with NeXT and then with Apple. He saw firsthand that Jobs looked at everything through the lens of simplicity. His obsession with simplicity was not just visible in Apple’s products. You could see it in the way the company organized, innovated, advertised, sold at retail, and provided customer service.

Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment
By Wenonah Hauter
Review via Kirkus Reviews
Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, an environmental watchdog organization, delivers a passionate history and critique of the energy industry, from Standard Oil to Enron, before concentrating on recent decades. Most chapters are journalistic exposés of fracking outrages in which aggressive entrepreneurs in pursuit of profits wreak havoc on the land and poison the water.