• +598 29008192
  • info@servinfo.com.uy

Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Gift Guide: TechCrunch writers recommend their favorite reads from 2019

2019 offered a blistering catalog of books to peruse, on top of the prodigious publishing schedules of the past few years (if you think we are at Peak TV, you might want to check out your local bookstore for a counterpoint).

We already checked in with Extra Crunch readers and did a sort of reader’s choice selection of their twelve favorites, but I also asked our TechCrunch editorial staff about what they read this year and would recommend. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they came back with a mix of books (and audiobooks!) on tech, startups, biographies, graphic novels, and true crime fiction like the proper nerds we all are over here.

The criteria was that the book had to be read in 2019, but didn’t necessarily have to be published this calendar year. In part, that’s because books that may not have been all that interesting in the past suddenly got their turn in the spotlight for whatever reasons (headlines, viral influencer recommendations on Goop, or what have you).

In short, here are eleven writers at TechCrunch and the thirteen books that made the largest impact on them, any one of which would make a great gift for that techno-geek friend of yours.

Zack Whittaker

Sandworm: A New Era Of Cyberwar And The Hunt For The Kremlin’s Most Dangerous Hackers by Andy Greenberg

Doubleday / 368 pages / November 2019

Publisher’s Link

Zack has long covered the daily breaches, cybersecurity hacks, and other data leaks that plague our world today (just last month: hacks at Macy’s and Magic: the Gathering). So perhaps unsurprisingly, his favorite book of the year was about none other than Russian hackers:

Andy Greenberg’s latest book on Sandworm, the group of Russian hackers blamed for the most disruptive cyberattack in history, is a real page-turner. Greenberg’s Sandworm is a gripping tale of the group’s discovery and their attacks, from shutting off the electric grids in Eastern Europe to the spread of the NotPetya ransomware attack, which froze hospitals, railways, and ATMs. Although written for the layperson, it’s detailed enough to satisfy any expert, and the use of first person draws in the reader to the story’s narrative. This incredibly detailed detective-style book — leaving no stone unturned — and the refreshing addition of footnotes — is a must-read for anyone interested cybersecurity.

Andy Greenberg himself has long covered security and hacking, and is currently a senior writer at Wired. This is his second book, following publication of This Machine Kills Secrets in 2012 about Julian Assange.

Sarah Perez

The Baddest Bitch in the Room by Sophia Chang

Audible Original by Hello Sunshine / 8 hours / September 2019

Publisher’s Link

Sarah has long taken a deep view into the world of mobile and apps (among a huge host of other topics), but her favorite audiobook this year comes from a behind-the-scenes player in the music industry who carefully puts herself out into the spotlight:

You don’t have to be a huge hip-hop fan to love Sophia Chang’s new memoir, but her Audible Original does include some impressive name-dropping. A music industry veteran, Chang managed rap and R&B stars like the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, GZA, and ODB, as well as A Tribe Called Quest, Raphael Saadiq and D’Angelo.

But her story is more than a music industry retrospective. Chang is also the fiercely independent child of Korean immigrants who left Vancouver for New York, as well as a woman who fell in love with a Shaolin monk, learned kung fu, shaved her head to shred stereotypes of Asian women, and became a mother, all while working her way up in her career.

In her self-narrated memoir (which includes some 24 guest appearances!), she steps into the limelight after a life spent behind the scenes helping talented artists tell their stories. She’s smart, funny, and inspirational — and someone, as her story shows, who has really earned the title “baddest bitch.�

Walter Thompson

Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography by Rebecca M. Jordan-Young and Katrina Karkazis

Harvard University Press / 288 pages / October 2019

Publisher’s Link

Heading in the other direction a bit, our new senior editor at Extra Crunch Walter Thompson recommends a “biography� of a well-known but surprisingly misunderstood steroid that is getting its own time in the limelight:

Written by a sociomedical scientist and a cultural anthropologist, the book explodes many of the common myths surrounding the hormone erroneously associated with male virility and masculinity. Jordan-Young and Karkazis delve into science and history to explain how testosterone has been generally misrepresented by popular culture and the medical industry by exploring how ’T’ impacts aggression, reproduction, power, parenting, sports and risk-taking.

Given the increasing attention to these issues, the book’s auspicious timing and deeply researched foundations are already having a huge effect on an important cultural conversation today.

Josh Constine

SAGA: Compendium One by writer Brian K Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples

Image Comics / 1,328 pages / August 2019

Publisher’s Link

One of Josh’s book recommendations for 2019 is a graphic novel that is expansive in scope (as one would hope for a paperback that runs for more than a 1,000 pages):

Possibly the greatest non-superhero action graphic novel, this is a tale of star-crossed lovers from different planets trying to raise their child amidst an intergalactic war. The imaginative inventions, gorgeously colorful artwork, and mix of laser fights and suspenseful drama will transport you. The paperback is a great way to entertain yourself without staring at a screen (though it’s available on Comixology’s app too).

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / 272 pages / September 2018

Publisher’s Link

Josh has been a prolific reporter and critic of social network and media companies like Facebook and Twitter. These days, though, there is a new social network that is garnering outsized attention: Tik Tok. Josh has been covering the company and its predecessor Musical.ly for years, and has also been writing about how Facebook should confront this new competitive threat. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Josh’s first recommendation is for a book that addresses precisely the rise of Chinese-owned apps and the fight for the future of artificial intelligence:

If you want to understand how artificial intelligence is going to impact employment and geopolitics, this is a must read from the former head of Google China. It recounts wild stories of tech startup competition and the rise of the ecosystem in the country, and explores why every country but the US and China have hard times ahead.

AI Superpowers was also the most recommended book by Extra Crunch readers in our survey, and also a book I can personally endorse as well (thanks Josh for stealing my recommendation).

Danny Crichton (i.e. yours truly)

Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age by Stephen R. Platt

Knopf / 592 pages / May 2018

Publisher’s Link

Speaking of China, the trade war continues unabated between the U.S. and the Middle Kingdom. Whereas AI Superpowers focuses on the present and future, Stephen Platt’s Imperial Twilight rewinds us back in time to the era of the Opium War, when Western forces led by a fascinating cast of characters from Britain, the U.S., and elsewhere used trade as a tool to force open China’s borders, popularize a heavily addictive drug among its people, and engorged on capital flows out of the country in a raw moment of pure political power against an incredibly weakened Qing dynasty.

The book is one of those works that every publisher wants to have in their catalog, complete with an extraordinarily well-written narrative, a deeply textured and nuanced look at a key historical event, and a perfectly timed publication date pegged to one of the most topical news stories of the year. In short, it’s a smash hit.

Catherine Shu

Continuing this China theme a bit, Catherine has covered tech developments in Asia for years (actually, seven with us as of yesterday) from her perch in Taiwan. But she also has interests outside of the latest new startups, and that includes true crime fiction.

I’ve been a fan of true crime since I was a teenager, but over the last year, I have become uneasy about my attachment to the genre. To be blunt, a lot of books and podcasts are fueled by voyeurism, and I am not comfortable with being culpable in the transformation of tragedy into entertainment. So I welcome new books that take a step back and examine famous cases within their cultural context.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

Doubleday / 432 pages / February 2019

Publisher’s Link

Catherine’s first recommendation flips the lens on one of the most well-known serial murderers in history:

“The Five� by Hallie Rubenhold is probably the first book to comprehensively document the lives of Jack the Ripper’s victims. Rubenhold’s research uncovered myths about the women, including that not all were prostitutes, a misconception that started with contemporary police and press reports (and may ultimately have hindered the investigation), but continues to be perpetuated by the industry that has grown around the murders.

Rubenhold did an enormous amount of research, but ultimately the book’s impact comes from the very simple but powerful act of restoring these five women’s humanity — an admirable feat considering that their violent murders have been commodified and romanticized for over a century.

The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson

Simon & Schuster / 400 pages / March 2019

Publisher’s Link

Meanwhile, her second recommendation takes a more expansive view of a famous axe murder case than has traditionally been the norm in the real crime genre:

“The Trial of Lizzie Borden� by Cara Robertson is one of the best books about the case I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot). In addition to providing an exhaustive but extremely compelling account of the legal proceedings that concluded in Lizzie Borden’s acquittal, Robertson, a lawyer, also analyzes the case as an example of contemporary attitudes toward gender, class, and criminality.

Her examination of newspaper accounts reveals how the case almost immediately became a media sensation and also that many of the trial’s spectators were dismissed as “a crowd of morbid females� by one reporter — a misogynistic label that continues to be attached to true crime fans, many of whom are women.

Devin Coldewey

Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight by David A. Mindell

MIT Press / 376 pages / April 2008

Publisher’s Link

Devin has had long-standing interests in space, artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and other hard science and tech subjects. His recommendation this year is a classic of the genre written by David Mindell, a long-time MIT professor of engineering history who also is founder of the startup Humatics, which has raised some serious venture capital dollars to make location detection inside of buildings (think robots in factories) a reality. On Digital Apollo, Devin says:

The 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 is a great opportunity to learn about one of the program’s most fascinating aspects: the computers that ran it. But Digital Apollo is far more than some survey of early computing hardware. Mindell documents the fascinating people and processes behind the creation of this unprecedented system. Stubborn astronauts, idealistic engineers, and skeptical officials face off while the hard deadline looms, making this an interesting and inclusive story as well as a highly informed history.

Not only is it a great story, it’s one that will be recognizable to any engineer that has ever had to ship product while dealing with other humans.

Kirsten Korosec

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt

Knopf / 416 pages / July 2008

Publisher’s Link

Kirsten has vigorously reported on the transportation sector (you should sign up for her weekly transportation newsletter The Station), including the rise of companies like Tesla and whole new categories of startups like self-driving cars and scooters. Yet despite all the futurism in the industry, she wanted to take a step back in her recommendation to a book that discusses some of the first principles that ‘drive’ mobility in the first place:

This book is a decade old and yet it’s more relevant than ever before as our cities become more dense and we look for ways out of the congestion. If you want to understand opportunities and challenges for automakers, cities, and even startups around mobility, start here.

With Traffic, Vanderbilt’s goal is to show that humans have cognitive limits, and those limits have a direct effect on our traffic systems and the designs of our mobility products. As we increasingly enter a world of human/AI hybrid cars and people speeding rapidly down Market Street on rickety scooters, his book offers us a panorama view of just how hard it it to get mobility right and make it safe.

Matt Burns

Billy, Alfred, and General Motors: The Story of Two Unique Men, a Legendary Company, and a Remarkable Time in American History by William Pelfrey

AMACOM / 336 pages / March 2006

Publisher’s Link

Among our longest tenured editors, Matt Burns has been writing about automotive topics among others for more than a decade here. He brings us a book about one of the most storied companies (positively and negatively) in American history:

This is the story of General Motors and how a successful carriage maker purchased the Buick name and turned it into the largest automaker in history.

And then how Billy Durant ran the company into the ground and lost control.

So what did Billy Durant do? He founded another company, Chevrolet, the only car to ever be manufactured in New York City, and used wild stock manipulation to regain control of General Motors. And then he lost control again and ended up managing a bowling alley in Flint, MI until he died nearly broke.

Meanwhile, there’s Alfred Sloan, a methodical manager of an auto supply company who took over General Motors, devised the yearly model update and eventually wrote the book on managing corporations.

The story of Billy Durant founding General Motors resonates today. It’s the story of a wild entrepreneur who’s vision and command of the stock market led to the creation of a mega corporation but who lacked the management skills to scale. The book details his incredible rise and fall through vivid stories and first-hand accounts found in Durant’s unpublished autobiography.

Darrell Etherington

Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac

W. W. Norton & Company / 408 pages / September 2019

Publisher’s Link

Darrell has chronicled the tech industry for many years (picking up a theme here?) and has picked a chronicle of a tech industry luminary which has since lost much of its luster:

This account mostly focuses on Uber founder Travis Kalanick, from his pre-Uber entrepreneurial formative years, right through the corporate power struggle that led to his ousting in 2017.

What I especially enjoyed about it was its depiction of Bill Gurley – an interesting counter-positioning of this Silicon Valley legend with Kalanick’s foil that may or may not match your understanding of the real story, depending on who you hear it from.

If you had to pick the “startup profile book of the year award,� Super Pumped would almost certainly take the crown this year. The book was also recommended pretty heavily by Extra Crunch readers in our survey as well, although it didn’t quite make the cut.

Manish Singh

Big Billion Startup – The Untold Flipkart Story by Mihir Dalal

Pan Macmillan India / 320 pages / October 2019

Publisher’s Link

Manish joined us relatively recently to expand our tech coverage more heavily in India, where the startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem has been exploding crazy fast the past decade plus. Perhaps no startup better represents the potential for India than ecommerce giant Flipkart, which is the focus of Manish’s recommendation:

“Big Billion Startup – The Untold Flipkart Story,â€� by journalist Mihir Dalal, is a fascinating look at the making of India’s largest ecommerce platform. Flipkart, which sold a majority stake to Walmart last year for a sweet $16 billion, was founded in 2007, six years before Amazon started its online shopping business in India.

The book, released in October, not only documents the struggle, pain, and setbacks two former Amazon employees went through to build the business from a crummy apartment in Bangalore, but it also reminds us of how different India’s startup ecosystem was then.

As we wrote last month, India’s tech startups have already raised a record $11.3 billion this year. But in the early days, there were very few VCs who believed in India and even a $50 million check to a startup was unheard of. Flipkart was the trailblazer that paved the way for others to build great startups.

Source: TechCrunch

Cyber Monday 2019 gaming deals continue: Xbox One X and S, Nintendo Switch and more (Tuesday update) – CNET

Cyber Monday is over, but incredibly, there are still some great savings to be had on games, accessories and console bundles. Check out the Xbox One S All Digital Edition for $129.
Source: CNET

Elon Musk’s Slander Trial, Offensive Ornaments on Amazon, and More News

Catch up on the most important news from today in two minutes or less.
Source: Wired

Best Apple headphones deals for 2019: Prices still low on some AirPods and Beats – CNET

The AirPods deals are mostly gone — but the Studio3 is still on sale for $210.
Source: CNET

Best deals on wireless charging pads (updated) – CNET

Looking for a wireless charging pad for your new Qi-enabled phone? Here are the top deals that are available now.
Source: CNET

Best Garmin watch deals for 2019: Best Buy's 50% discount on the Fenix 5X – CNET

Amazon and Best Buy are sticking with their discounts on several great fitness trackers.
Source: CNET

Google CEO Sundar Pichai is taking over as CEO of Alphabet

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin just announced that Google CEO Sundar Pichai will be replacing Page as the CEO of parent company Alphabet.

In addition, Brin is stepping down from his role as Alphabet’s president.

Alphabet first came into existence in 2015 as “a collection of companies” that separates Google from “other bets” that aren’t part of its core businesses, such as Waymo (self-driving cars), Verily (life sciences), Calico (biotech R&D), Sidewalk Labs (urban innovation) and Loon (rural internet access via balloon).

At the time, Page shifted from the Google CEO role to Alphabet CEO, with Pichai stepping in to lead the search giant. However, Page and Brin wrote today that “Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a President. Going forward, Sundar will be the CEO of both Google and Alphabet.”

Pichai has been Google’s public face for a while now, but this move cements his leadership of the larger company, while moving Page and Brin out of the limelight.

“I’m excited about Alphabet and its long term focus on tackling big challenges through technology,” Pichai said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Larry and Sergey in our new roles. Thanks to them, we have a timeless mission, enduring values, and a culture of collaboration and exploration. It’s a strong foundation on which we will continue to build.â€�

About Pichai, Page and Brin wrote:

Sundar brings humility and a deep passion for technology to our users, partners and our employees every day. He’s worked closely with us for 15 years, through the formation of Alphabet, as CEO of Google, and a member of the Alphabet Board of Directors. He shares our confidence in the value of the Alphabet structure, and the ability it provides us to tackle big challenges through technology. There is no one that we have relied on more since Alphabet was founded, and no better person to lead Google and Alphabet into the future.

And rather than framing this as a departure, the pair suggested that they’ve “never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company” and that they remain “deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders.”

As of 5:04pm Eastern, Alphabet’s stock is up 0.68% in after-hours trading.

Source: TechCrunch

An investor’s perspective on the current state of the global space startup industry

Investment in space startups is significant and growing, and the opportunities available to commercial players in space exploration, research and industrialization are multiplying. But for non-expert investors and observers, these opportunities can seem obtuse and obscured, buried in technical jargon and a heady amount of hype.

That’s a great time to consult with those already active in space investing — like François Chopard, CEO of global aerospace and defense accelerator Starburst.

Chopard recently presented a deck detailing the current state of the space industry, specifically from the perspective of early-stage startup and investment activity. The Starburst CEO essentially pegs the beginning of the current upturn in space and defense startup investing as getting off the ground in around 2015, right around the time that SpaceX started ramping its launch cadence after more than a decade of development, testing and early commercial launch service.

Notably, Chopard says that Starburst has a database holding more than 6,000 aerospace and defense startups put together by its scouting team, and that while he personally expected some kind of plateau or slow in the rate of growth in the sector to have come into play by now, in fact there has been no such slowdown.

This year alone, there was a total of $5 billion in disclosed funding — and that’s data that doesn’t include the final three months of the year. Taken together, that represents four percent of the overall VC market, per Starburst’s calculations.

Chopard also outlines trending opportunities that Starbust is seeing in terms of the space and defense industry’s development, citing the “ground segment� as the “next bottleneck,� for instance.

Essentially, that means that all these new satellite companies who are able to get their hardware to space thanks to the advent and availability of affordable launch vehicles will need Earth-based infrastructure to handle the data they gather, both in terms of transmission and storage, and that’s going to be a booming opportunity for new and emerging companies.

This deck is a great look at what’s interesting and exciting to investors about aerospace and defense, and why it’s a category that has seen a lot of growth in terms of VC investment in recent years despite seemingly high technology hurdles and perceived long development timelines.

Source: TechCrunch

NASA will launch a ‘robot hotel’ to the Space Station on its next SpaceX resupply mission

NASA is going to be sending something it calls a “robot hotel” to the International Space Station aboard the next commercial resupply mission, which is set to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket this week. The robot hotel is more formally known as the “Robotic Tool Stowage” unit, or the RiTS for short, because NASA loves nothing quite so much as it loves acronyms.

Depending on how eager you are to anthropomorphize robots, the “hotel” designation might not be quite as appropriate as “garage” — this unit is essentially a protected parking space for robots when not in use, helping to protect them from potential dangers presented by being in space, including exposure to radiation, and the potential to get hit by micrometeors and other debris.

The first guests at the hotel will be two robots called Robotic External Leak Locators (RELL — because acronyms). They do what it says on the tin, finding leaks in the ISS exterior hull from the outside, which is a key job. And in the past, they’ve been stored inside the ISS when not in use, but space is at a premium in the station itself, so any time you can save some it’s good news for astronauts and for ongoing research and other equipment.

Plus, the RELLs need to be calibrated when they’re sent out to do their job, a process that requires 12 full hours. Because their new storage environment is already external, it’ll be much easier and quicker for the station’s Dextre robotic arm to retrieve them and set them to work.

Source: TechCrunch

Gift Guide: 12 must-read books for 2019 as recommended by Extra Crunch readers

Books are fundamentally about stories, and 2019 (and really, the past decade) has been the story of technology’s domination of every industry and function of society. Founders and tech executives are more powerful than ever, and how we use that power for good or evil will deeply shape the future of our world.

Whether it’s the sudden rise of TikTok and the ubiquity of social networks in business, economics, and politics, or the coming conflagration of climate change, or the challenges of personal and professional development, or just finding your way in building a startup, there was just an avalanche of books published this year on every topic near and dear to a technologist’s and founder’s heart.

I wanted to get a sense of what our readers thought were the best books they read this year, and so I reached out to our Extra Crunch membership to ask for their recommendations. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a group of people who actually pay for deeper journalism, our EC readers submitted dozens and dozens of book recommendations on every subject imaginable.

From those recommendations, I carefully selected a list of just 12 books that seemed the most recommended by our readers and also captured the zeitgeist of the times we are living in. Every book here is great and important, and I only wish we had more time to read them all.

How to handle the coming total disruption of society by technology

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall

St. Martin’s Press / 368 pages / March 2019

Publisher’s Link

Anyone who has worked long enough in innovation and technology knows that great ideas can come from anywhere. But how do those ideas actually go from mere thoughts to actions and products, while avoiding the organizational politics that often prevent them from seeing the light of day in the first place?

Safi Bahcall, a PhD physicist from Stanford who co-founded and led Synta Pharmaceuticals as CEO through its IPO on NASDAQ in 2007, has been thinking about serendipity in science for years, and Loonshots is his first book. In it, Bahcall borrows concepts from science to move beyond looking purely at organizational culture to investigating organizational structure, investigating how we design our teams and how that can play an outsized role in whether new ideas flourish — or are killed on the spot.

Widely lauded by luminaries and a bestseller on Amazon and the Wall Street Journal, the book asks one of the most important questions in innovation today and gives a series of vignettes on how to improve our ability to handle spontaneity. A great book for the disrupting — and the disrupted.

The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation by Carl Benedikt Frey

Princeton University Press / 480 pages / June 2019

Publisher’s Link

Digital disruption is all around us. Artificial intelligence is quickly eliminating millions of middle-class jobs, and fears of automation are growing among more and more workers, polarizing our politics and complicating the future of business.

Yet, all of this has happened before. More than a century ago, technologies like replaceable parts and the steam engine combined to create one of the greatest transformations our society has ever seen in the Industrial Revolution. But just how did the Industrial Revolution happen, and how did it affect everyday people in England, America, and elsewhere?

Carl Benedikt Frey, a fellow at Oxford University and director of the Programme on Technology & Employment at the Oxford Martin School, investigates the short, medium, and long-term consequences of the Industrial Revolution on workers, finding that in fact the changes had extraordinarily negative consequences in the short term. His lessons from this pivotal moment in history can help technology leaders avoid the biggest risks today in how we design human/AI systems in the coming age of automation.

Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction by Thomas M. Siebel

RosettaBooks / 256 pages / July 2019

Publisher’s Link

You’ve re-built your structure based on Loonshots, and learned the lessons of The Technology Trap, but ultimately, many leading enterprise companies today are facing extinction from a number of new technology waves like elastic cloud computing and the internet of things. For those not doing the disrupting but rather on the receiving end, what exactly are you supposed to do?

Billionaire entrepreneur Tom Siebel, who founded Siebel Systems and eventually merged it into Oracle in 2006 for nearly $6 billion, wrote his first book in almost two decades on the topic of how legacy companies can navigate these turbulent times. Through Digital Transformation, Siebel tries to offer the disrupted a primer on just what is going on in AI and other big tech waves to help executives understand what strategies they can use to defend their businesses.

A brisk and reasonably short read, Digital Transformation offers key lessons, even if they may well be ignored by most before it is too late.

How to deal with tech’s inadequacies and head-banging, stupid behavior

Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

W. W. Norton & Company / 240 pages / October 2017

Publisher’s Link

While we love writing about the growth of innovative products and startups here at TechCrunch, the other side of that coin is that there has been a constant cavalcade of dumb actions by founders and engineers the past few years that has turned many sour on the future of our industry. Whether it is sexism in financial underwriting or employee political controversies (stories just from the last few days), technology is increasingly under a microscope — and the industry doesn’t look good at full resolution.

Technically Wrong, a book by consultant and tech critic Sara Wachter-Boettcher, tries to take a more playful approach to all these challenges by just sort of splaying them all out together for the world to see. While ostensibly targeted at the general public, the idiocies that Wachter-Boettcher identifies should be taught in every software engineering, product management, and UX design class.

As one Extra Crunch member wrote in their endorsement:

This is my favourite book. It highlights examples of bias in tech and how this has led to negative or even harmful applications in society. It makes a strong case for any developer to consider how their tech may be biased or have potential to be used for harm. A must read.

Given the plague of scandals hitting tech, the book is perhaps a tad out of date just two years post-publication, but its lessons are invaluable and will stand the test of time.

Targeted: The Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower’s Inside Story of How Big Data, Trump, and Facebook Broke Democracy and How It Can Happen Again by Brittany Kaiser

Harper / 400 pages / October 2019

Publisher’s Link

Perhaps no scandal has rocked the tech industry — or politics in general — quite like the Cambridge Analytica imbroglio that not only showed the power that Facebook and other social networks have over us through our user data, but also the scale to which that data influences purchasing decisions and of course, our elections.

Brittany Kaiser was a consultant and former Obama campaign worker who joined Cambridge Analytica hoping to make a difference. I guess in a way she did, eventually learning the true nature of big data and how that intersects with the needs of campaign managers. Through Targeted, she writes about her experience on the ground floor of the organization, and also places the company in the context of the broader challenges facing technology and ethics going forward. It’s a cri de coeur for other tech industry workers to think about how their work is affecting society and perhaps tapping out in much the way that Kaiser did.

Targeted is competing directly with Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America by Christopher Wylie for this year’s best memoir on the sordid story. Targeted got the recs from EC readers though, and it’s certainly a story that deserves more than one point of view.

How to think about the biggest news stories this year

We Are The Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer

Farrar, Straus and Giroux / 288 pages / September 2019

Publisher’s Link

Climate change was all over the news this year, and perhaps nowhere more than in tech’s central headquarters of Silicon Valley, which faced fires and repeated blackouts this year as utility company PG&E struggled to deliver power amidst California’s changing climate. But climate change isn’t just something that is “happening� — it’s being driven by the choices we make every single day.

Long-time novelist Jonathan Safran Foer returns to the theme of his sole non-fiction book Eating Animals to look at how our decisions around food are directly impacting the health of the planet. While it may seem like what we eat for breakfast is but a minor drop of carbon in a massive ocean, the reality is that our collective and aggregated decisions have huge implications for how our food systems are organized.

Foer brings his literary talents to bear on the subject, creating a textured and at times stream-of-consciousness account that interleaves climate change fear, personal anecdotes, and short stories to create a compelling case for changing our daily habits in ways that align with the needs of our environment. It may not be tuned to every reader’s preferred style, but few books connect all the dots on this subject quite like We Are The Weather

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / 272 pages / September 2018

Publisher’s Link

Another storyline that just kept rearing its head in the headlines this year was China. From the trade war and tariffs between Trump and Xi, to the increasing security risks of Chinese industrial espionage, to the surveillance technology that companies like Huawei are exporting to undergird digital authoritarianism, China’s actions are transforming our world (and at least from this side of the Pacific, not for the positive).

One locus of competition between the U.S. and China though remains focused on artificial intelligence, and which country will take the lead in this critical new market. China has invested prodigious amounts of funding into the industry through its Made in China 2025 plan, while the United States continues to have some of the leading research groups and companies in the space.

Kai-Fu Lee, a well-known trans-Pacific venture capitalist, tries to demystify and de-intensify the arms race story by carefully investigating what is really taking place in the AI labs and products from leading companies like Didi, Baidu, and Google. Less focused on fear than on analysis, Lee brings to bear his decades of experience on the subject to offer readers an in-depth, sober, and ultimately compelling look at how Chinese and American efforts around AI differ, and just how they can learn from each other. It was also our most recommended book by EC members, and I’ve also personally loved it (and discussed it a bit, although never truly got around to reviewing it – sorry!)

How to think about stories

Crafting Stories for Virtual Reality by Lakshmi Sarah and Melissa Bosworth

Routledge / 258 pages / October 2018

Publisher’s Link

McLuhan’s oft-repeated and often wrongly-interpreted “the medium is the message� is a key aspect of communications studies, but another angle is that the medium determines the types of stories that can be communicated. Books, radio, and television are platforms that offer storytellers certain tools and constraints, and over the decades (and for books, centuries), we have learned how to mold and optimize our visions to those intrinsic limits.

Virtual reality though is a whole new field, and as a medium, it is just getting started. How do we take advantage of the immersiveness intrinsic to VR? What are the new limits on storytelling, and what norms around plot and characters are going to have to be established to make this medium accessible to viewers?

Multimedia journalists Lakshmi Sarah and Melissa Bosworth wrote Crafting Stories for Virtual Reality as a primer for any storyteller that wants to learn more about how immersive media, augmented reality, and virtual reality are going to transform storytelling, reporting, and entertainment into the future.

As one EC reader wrote in their recommendation:

It provides a really good overview of different types of virtual reality and how they can be shaped to resonate with audiences in different ways. For anyone considering VR, it’s incredibly helpful.

It’s certainly early days, and books like this almost certainly have a short half-life. Nonetheless, for those looking to explore stories in VR, this is just the title to get up-to-speed on this small but rapidly growing segment of the tech industry.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

W. W. Norton & Company / 512 pages / April 2018

Publisher’s Link

Our EC readers are heavy on the non-fiction, but we did occasionally get some recommendations for fiction. One popular novel was Richard Powers’ The Overstory, which won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. So, okay, clearly a critic favorite. But what makes the novel so unique and compelling in a year that had a serious number of great entries?

Similar to Foer above, Powers is concerned about how humans and climate change are coming together to devastate our natural environment and particularly, our trees and forests. The Overstory is really a multitude of stories of Americans who connect with nature and each other to start to take action to address the massive changes coming and already in progress.

This is the twelfth novel for Powers, who in addition to literature, has a background in physics and was formerly a computer programmer. His work on The Overstory was partly inspired by time he spent in Silicon Valley while at Stanford, where he observed California’s famed redwood trees. If you are looking for a thought-provoking novel, you don’t need to look too much farther.

How to help yourself in the tech world

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo

Portfolio / 288 pages / March 2019

Publisher’s Link

There is an archetypical story that happens at rapidly growing startups. A founder hires friends and people they know, builds a team, launches a product, and strikes gold. As growth continues unabated, more and more people are hired — forcing the startup to invent a management structure to bring some level of organization to the chaos. But managers are hard to find, and there are already employees with some level of tenure at the company. And so those early employees are often moved up rapidly to managerial and executive roles, suddenly handling direct reports with no experience whatsoever.

Julie Zhuo, VP of Design at Facebook, has written a guide for exactly these first-time, suddenly-promoted managers on exactly what they should be doing to begin bringing order to the chaos. This book is definitely in the self-help, management guru wing of the bookstore, but Zhuo’s personal experience going through this transformation shows through in her examples and clearly defined points for improvement.

One EC reader wrote in their recommendation:

One of the biggest org fallacies of fast-growing startups is promoting great ICs into first-time management roles and expecting they’ll quickly turn into great people managers with little training, mentorship, or role-models. Since that almost always works to plan, Julie, the first designer and later head of design at Facebook, wrote a book outlining all the challenges of being that first-time manager and the learnings along the way. A book I recommend to my team across the board.

The Making of a Manager targets a unique audience with unique insights and is worth a read.

Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive by Marc Brackett

Celadon Books / 304 pages / September 2019

Publisher’s Link

This was a surprising recommendation from the EC membership, but once I investigated it, completely understood why it fits on this list. One of the biggest challenges for children is their emotional development — how do they interact with the world and with other people? How do they listen to themselves and how they are feeling?

It’s not just children though, since all of us can improve how we respond to the daily stresses on our lives.

That’s why Marc Brackett, the founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, explores how we handle our emotions and why it is important to give and receive “permission to feel.� He offers an acronym (of course he does) called RULER to manage our emotional lives better:

  • Recognizing emotions in oneself and others.
  • Understanding the causes and consequences of emotion.
  • Labeling emotions with precise words.
  • Expressing emotions taking context and culture into consideration.
  • Regulating emotions effectively to achieve goals and wellbeing.

Considering that tech can often be one of the least emotionally hospitable industries out there, Brackett’s thoughts and solutions seem like a perfect fit for improving the quality and well-being of our workplaces and lives.

How to be an entrepreneur

Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Simon & Schuster / 624 pages / October 2017

Publisher’s Link

Isaacson is probably best known today for his 2011 biography of Steve Jobs, but he has followed up that magnum opus with another dive into another entrepreneur, this time quintessential Renaissance man Leonardo Da Vinci. You’ve got all the typical Isaacson accoutrements here: the storyline, the characters, the life lessons, the inspiration. I don’t know how anyone can walk away from a book like this and not be deeply inspired by the power of a single human to change the world (or at least invent new ones!)

As one EC member wrote in their recommendation: “Curiosity and imagination lead to awareness and innovation. He perfected the art. A lesson for all.�

The book first came out two years ago with a paperback version coming out about a year ago, so perhaps noteworthy that our EC members still find deep value in this biography and its lessons.

Source: TechCrunch