A technology book recommendation: We, Robots: Staying Human in the Age of Big Data by Curtis White

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/1ViP4YU.
Discursive, scholarly, and crackling with intensity, We, Robots works best as a jolt of self-awareness, a circuit breaker for the narratives that we often unconsciously allow our lives to follow…
Book description from Google Books:
In the tradition of Jaron Lanier s “You Are Not a Gadget,” a rousing, sharply argued and, yes, inspiring! reckoning with our blind faith in technology Can technology solve all our problems? Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many of our most famous journalists, pundits, and economists seem to think so. According to them, intelligent machines and big data will free us from work, educate our children, transform our environment, and even make religion more user-friendly. This is the story they re telling us: that we should stop worrying and love our robot future. But just because you tell a story over and over again doesn t make it true. Curtis White, one of our most brilliant and perceptive social critics, knows all about the danger of a seductive story, and in “We, Robots,” he tangles with the so-called thinkers who are convinced that the future is rose-colored and robotically enhanced. With tremendous erudition and a punchy wit, White argues that we must be skeptical of anyone who tries to sell us on technological inevitability. And he gives us an alternative set of stories: taking inspiration from artists as disparate as Sufjan Stevens, Lars von Trier, and Francois Rabelais, White shows us that by looking to art, we can imagine a different kind of future. No robots required.”
The book is rated 3.34/5 at goodreads.com, from 58 ratings. See 11 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/1ViP4Z2.
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A technology book recommendation: The Boy Who Could Change the World: The Writings of Aaron Swartz by Aaron Swartz

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/1UX8AgX.
One thing the writings collected here do makes clear is that he lived that ethos as completely as anyone possibly could, in exploring the world for as much time as he was allowed.
Book description from Google Books:
In his too-short life, Aaron Swartz reshaped the Internet, questioned our assumptions about intellectual property, and touched all of us in ways that we may not even realize. His tragic suicide in 2013 at the age of twenty-six after being aggressively prosecuted for copyright infringement shocked the nation and the world. Here for the first time in print is revealed the quintessential Aaron Swartz: besides being a technical genius and a passionate activist, he was also an insightful, compelling, and cutting essayist. With a technical understanding of the Internet and of intellectual property law surpassing that of many seasoned professionals, he wrote thoughtfully and humorously about intellectual property, copyright, and the architecture of the Internet. He wrote as well about unexpected topics such as pop culture, politics both electoral and idealistic, dieting, and lifehacking. Including three in-depth and previously unpublished essays about education, governance, and cities,The Boy Who Could Change the World contains the life’s work of one of the most original minds of our time.
The book is rated 4.23/5 at goodreads.com, from 221 ratings. See 35 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/235Lx5d.
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A technology book recommendation: Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2cyFBj1.
None of this will be new to anyone who read even a couple of pieces about the first Internet bubble. The Ping-Pong tables, the snacks, the beanbag chairs — it’s all very familiar. Lyons doesn’t get below the surface of the place, or get to know anyone…
Book description from Google Books:
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER “Disrupted by Dan Lyons is the best book about Silicon Valley today.”—Los Angeles Times”Hysterical.”—Kara Swisher, Recode “Wildly entertaining.”—Ashlee Vance, New York Times-bestselling author of Elon MuskFor twenty-five years Dan Lyons was a magazine writer at the top of his profession–until one Friday morning when he received a phone call: Poof. His job no longer existed. “I think they just want to hire younger people,” his boss at Newsweek told him. Fifty years old and with a wife and two young kids, Dan was, in a word, screwed. Then an idea hit. Dan had long reported on Silicon Valley and the tech explosion. Why not join it? HubSpot, a Boston start-up, was flush with $100 million in venture capital. They offered Dan a pile of stock options for the vague role of “marketing fellow.” What could go wrong? HubSpotters were true believers: They were making the world a better place … by selling email spam. The office vibe was frat house meets cult compound: The party began at four thirty on Friday and lasted well into the night; “shower pods” became hook-up dens; a push-up club met at noon in the lobby, while nearby, in the “content factory,” Nerf gun fights raged. Groups went on “walking meetings,” and Dan’s absentee boss sent cryptic emails about employees who had “graduated” (read: been fired). In the middle of all this was Dan, exactly twice the age of the average HubSpot employee, and literally old enough to be the father of most of his co-workers, sitting at his desk on his bouncy-ball “chair.”Mixed in with Lyons’s uproarious tale of his rise and fall at Hubspot is a trenchant analysis of the start-up world, a de facto conspiracy between those who start companies and those who fund them, a world where bad ideas are rewarded with hefty investments, where companies blow money lavishing perks on their post-collegiate workforces, and where everybody is trying to hang on just long enough to reach an IPO and cash out. With a cast of characters that includes devilish angel investors, fad-chasing venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and “wantrapreneurs,” bloggers and brogrammers, social climbers and sociopaths, Disrupted is a gripping and definitive account of life in the (second) tech bubble.
The book is rated 3.90/5 at goodreads.com, from 9231 ratings. See 986 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/1Xqt3La.
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A technology book recommendation: Switch: How Solar, Storage and New Tech Means Cheap Power for All by Chris Goodall

A critic review (source Financial Times) can be read at: http://on.ft.com/2awJF2c.
In Goodall’s view this, coupled with other technological advances in managing demand for electricity, heralds an unstoppable switch away from fossil fuels towards green power. He may be wrong but for anyone interested in the future of energy, this book is well worth reading.
Book description from Google Books:
How will the world be powered in ten years’ time? Not by fossil fuels. Energy experts are all saying the same thing: solar photovoltaics (PV) is our future. Reports from universities, investment banks, international institutions and large investors agree. It’s not about whether the switch from fossil fuels to solar power will happen, but when. Solar panels are being made that will last longer than ever hoped; investors are seeing the benefits of the long-term rewards provided by investing in solar; in the Middle East, a contractor can now offer solar-powered electricity far cheaper than that of a coal-fired power station. The Switch tracks the transition away from coal, oil and gas to a world in which the limitless energy of the sun provides much of the energy the 10 billion people of this planet will need. It examines both the solar future and how we will get there, and the ways in which we will provide stored power when the sun isn’t shining. We learn about artificial photosynthesis from a start-up in the US that is making petrol from just CO2 and sunlight; ideas on energy storage are drawn from a company in Germany that makes batteries for homes; in the UK, a small company in Swindon has the story of wind turbines; and in Switzerland, a developer shows how we can use hydrogen to make ‘renewable’ natural gas for heating. Told through the stories of entrepreneurs, inventors and scientists from around the world, and using the latest research and studies, The Switch provides a positive solution to the climate change crisis, and looks to a brighter future ahead.
The book is rated 4.23/5 at goodreads.com, from 53 ratings. See 3 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2b3qCty.
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A technology book recommendation: The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future by Gretchen Bakke Ph.D.

A critic review (source National Post arts) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2cMSMzM.
For those reading these words on a computer screen or by the glow of an electric lamp, The Grid throws a welcome light onto the the systems of power generation and distribution that make our society possible.
Book description from Google Books:
America’s electrical grid, an engineering triumph of the twentieth century, is turning out to be a poor fit for the present. It’s not just that the grid has grown old and is now in dire need of basic repair. Today, as we invest great hope in new energy sources–solar, wind, and other alternatives–the grid is what stands most firmly in the way of a brighter energy future. If we hope to realize this future, we need to re-imagine the grid according to twenty-first-century values. It’s a project which forces visionaries to work with bureaucrats, legislators with storm-flattened communities, moneymen with hippies, and the left with the right. And though it might not yet be obvious, this revolution is already well under way.Cultural anthropologist Gretchen Bakke unveils the many facets of America’s energy infrastructure, its most dynamic moments and its most stable ones, and its essential role in personal and national life. The grid, she argues, is an essentially American artifact, one which developed with us: a product of bold expansion, the occasional foolhardy vision, some genius technologies, and constant improvisation. Most of all, her focus is on how Americans are changing the grid right now, sometimes with gumption and big dreams and sometimes with legislation or the brandishing of guns.The Grid tells–entertainingly, perceptively–the story of what has been called “the largest machine in the world”: its fascinating history, its problematic present, and its potential role in a brighter, cleaner future.
The book is rated 3.91/5 at goodreads.com, from 924 ratings. See 155 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2cMT6hW.
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A technology book recommendation: Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2truUs2.
…it is lively, provocative and sure to be another hit among the pooh-bahs. But readers ought to be prepared: Almost every blithe pronouncement Harari makes (that “the free individual is just a fictional tale concocted by an assembly of biochemical algorithms,” for instance) has been the exclusive subject of far more nuanced books…
Book description from Google Books:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.With the same insight and clarity that made Sapiens an international hit and a New York Times bestseller, Harari maps out our future.
The book is rated 4.33/5 at goodreads.com, from 19450 ratings. See 2084 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2fmPMtw.
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A technology book recommendation: Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil

A critic review (source National Post arts) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2s3iMN2.
O’Neil’s book is an excellent primer on the ethical and moral risks of Big Data and an algorithmically dependent world. It compellingly describes algorithms (and those who use them) behaving badly, and advocates for society to do better.
Book description from Google Books:
Longlisted for the National Book Award | New York Times Bestseller A former Wall Street quant sounds an alarm on the mathematical models that pervade modern life and threaten to rip apart our social fabric. We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives–where we go to school, whether we get a car loan, how much we pay for health insurance–are being made not by humans, but by mathematical models. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: Everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated. But as Cathy O’Neil reveals in this urgent and necessary book, the opposite is true. The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination: If a poor student can’t get a loan because a lending model deems him too risky (by virtue of his zip code), he’s then cut off from the kind of education that could pull him out of poverty, and a vicious spiral ensues. Models are propping up the lucky and punishing the downtrodden, creating a “toxic cocktail for democracy.” Welcome to the dark side of Big Data. Tracing the arc of a person’s life, O’Neil exposes the black box models that shape our future, both as individuals and as a society. These “weapons of math destruction” score teachers and students, sort r�sum�s, grant (or deny) loans, evaluate workers, target voters, set parole, and monitor our health. O’Neil calls on modelers to take more responsibility for their algorithms and on policy makers to regulate their use. But in the end, it’s up to us to become more savvy about the models that govern our lives. This important book empowers us to ask the tough questions, uncover the truth, and demand change.
The book is rated 3.88/5 at goodreads.com, from 4287 ratings. See 765 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2s3s0sN.
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A technology book recommendation: Thank You for Being Late: Pausing to Reflect on the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2p2EzSY.
You do have a coherent narrative — an honest, cohesive explanation for why the world is the way it is, without miracle cures or scapegoats. And that is why everybody should hope this book does very well indeed.
Book description from Google Books:
A New York Times Bestseller A field guide to the twenty-first century, written by one of its most celebrated observersWe all sense it—something big is going on. You feel it in your workplace. You feel it when you talk to your kids. You can’t miss it when you read the newspapers or watch the news. Our lives are being transformed in so many realms all at once—and it is dizzying. In Thank You for Being Late, a work unlike anything he has attempted before, Thomas L. Friedman exposes the tectonic movements that are reshaping the world today and explains how to get the most out of them and cushion their worst impacts. You will never look at the world the same way again after you read this book: how you understand the news, the work you do, the education your kids need, the investments your employer has to make, and the moral and geopolitical choices our country has to navigate will all be refashioned by Friedman’s original analysis. Friedman begins by taking us into his own way of looking at the world—how he writes a column. After a quick tutorial, he proceeds to write what could only be called a giant column about the twenty-first century. His thesis: to understand the twenty-first century, you need to understand that the planet’s three largest forces—Moore’s law (technology), the Market (globalization), and Mother Nature (climate change and biodiversity loss)—are accelerating all at once. These accelerations are transforming five key realms: the workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics, and community. Why is this happening? As Friedman shows, the exponential increase in computing power defined by Moore’s law has a lot to do with it. The year 2007 was a major inflection point: the release of the iPhone, together with advances in silicon chips, software, storage, sensors, and networking, created a new technology platform. Friedman calls this platform “the supernova”—for it is an extraordinary release of energy that is reshaping everything from how we hail a taxi to the fate of nations to our most intimate relationships. It is creating vast new opportunities for individuals and small groups to save the world—or to destroy it. Thank You for Being Late is a work of contemporary history that serves as a field manual for how to write and think about this era of accelerations. It’s also an argument for “being late”—for pausing to appreciate this amazing historical epoch we’re passing through and to reflect on its possibilities and dangers. To amplify this point, Friedman revisits his Minnesota hometown in his moving concluding chapters; there, he explores how communities can create a “topsoil of trust” to anchor their increasingly diverse and digital populations. With his trademark vitality, wit, and optimism, Friedman shows that we can overcome the multiple stresses of an age of accelerations—if we slow down, if we dare to be late and use the time to reimagine work, politics, and community. Thank You for Being Late is Friedman’s most ambitious book—and an essential guide to the present and the future.
The book is rated 3.97/5 at goodreads.com, from 3996 ratings. See 651 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2pKEWQf.
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A religion book recommendation: The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking

A critic review (source Financial Times) can be read at: http://on.ft.com/2mVCZPw.
The thickly bound format is ideally read in bed. This is just the kind of book to shut out the world with a sense of Scandinavian comfort.
Book description from Google Books:
The Sunday Times bestseller The New York Times bestseller The Danish word hygge is one of those beautiful words that doesn’t directly translate into English, but it more or less means comfort, warmth or togetherness. Hygge is the feeling you get when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, in warm knitted socks, in front of the fire, when it is dark, cold and stormy outside. It that feeling when you are sharing good, comfort food with your closest friends, by candle light and exchanging easy conversation. It is those cold, crisp blue sky mornings when the light through your window is just right. Denmark is the happiest nation in the world and Meik puts this largely down to them living the hygge way. They focus on the small things that really matter, spend more quality time with friends and family and enjoy the good things in life. The Little Book of Hygge will give you practical steps and tips to become more hygge: how to pick the right lighting, organise a dinner party and even how to dress hygge, all backed up by Meik’s years’ of research at the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. This year live more like a Dane, embrace hygge and become happier.
The book is rated 3.72/5 at goodreads.com, from 13847 ratings. See 1631 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2mKHIa1.
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A romance book recommendation: A Christmas Kiss by Elizabeth Mansfield

A critic review (source Dear Author) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2uE3Yqk.
I also enjoyed that the resolution of the romance didn’t go exactly smoothly either. Given how the situation started, the way it ended felt more realistic. This is another Mansfield winner for me.
Book description from Google Books:
During the holiday season, a governess loses her heart to an earl with no intention of marrying again, in this Cinderella story set in Regency England. After defending her virtue by striking the besotted son of her employer, Miss Evalyn Pennington is discharged from her position under a cloud of scandal. With no place to go and no prospects for the coming year, the impoverished governess accepts an invitation from Jamie Everard, heir to an earldom, to spend the holidays at his family’s estate. But Evalyn has barely settled in at Gyllford Manor when she catches the eye of Philip Everard, the fourth Earl of Gyllford—and Jamie’s father.   After his wife died, Philip vowed to never marry again, despite his sister’s best efforts to reintroduce him to London society. Then, his son brings a guest home for Christmas. Is the lovely, intelligent Evalyn the woman to make his footloose son settle down at last? But why does Jamie treat Evalyn in such a cavalier manner? And what is Philip to do about the reigning beauty of London who has set her cap for him—and is about to set in motion a scheme that will have far-reaching consequences for them all?   A witty and warm tale about morals, mores, marriage, and mistaken intentions, this classic Regency holiday romance introduces a woman who refuses to surrender her ideals, and a man in danger of losing the one thing he swore never again to give: his heart.    
The book is rated 3.66/5 at goodreads.com, from 115 ratings. See 25 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2uWU4eQ.
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