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These books will help you understand the future


As the fourth industrial revolution gathers pace, we find ourselves living in an age where the latest innovations are consigned to the history books more quickly than ever. Take the iPod for example. It’s just 17 years since it revolutionised the way we listen to music, but Apple’s breakthrough is now close to being obsolete as digital streaming services replace music stored on devices.


The next phase of humanity’s future will be built around artificial intelligence and machine learning. These innovations may change the human experience so fundamentally that it’s hard to predict what our future may look like. The iPod’s short lifespan may seem like a technological age by comparison.


In the five books below, the authors map out how everything from AI to gene editing will affect the way we all live our lives in an uncertain future. 


1.The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

This book looks at genome science, and explores what genes are and how they influence our personality and behaviour. Understanding genomes may seem like an optional extra to many people. But genetics is at the centre of new medical treatments, ranging from schizophrenia to infertility and breast cancer. Genomes can now be edited relatively quickly and easily using technologies such as CRISPR which offers medical possibilities like never before.


CRISPR has already been used to create more muscular police dogs and change the colour of flowers. In the future it may correct the genetic errors that cause disease, resurrect species that have become extinct, create healthier foods and eradicate pests. A thorough understanding of genes, and the ethics associated with editing them, is essential as the world embraces this new technology.

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom
Many people are now actively using and embracing AI technologies in their everyday lives, often without realising it. Despite this, people are still fearful about what AI might or could do in the future. This book examines what might happen if and when computer intelligence surpasses the intelligence of humans. Its author, Nick Bostrom, is a philosopher who focuses on the possibilities created by future technologies. His book has won an endorsement from the Tesla founder and AI sceptic Elon Musk, who has warned AI could destroy the human race.


Despite the huge technological advances being made in AI, there is no widely adopted code of ethics as to how such technologies will be used, nor is there a global set of shared values to agree on the definition of good or bad use. This book is written from a scientific perspective that explores how and when machines will become smarter than humans. It is essential reading as the world grapples with the implications of what that might mean.


3. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a life of Well-being, Wisdom and Wonder by Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington’s latest book examines the concept of success, stripping away the notion that being successful revolves around earning more money and gaining more power. Greater connectivity has led to work intruding into people’s lives 24/7, and that, she argues, has led to a loss of key relationships and the ability to relax and enjoy life. She offers a variety of different ways to thrive, including sharing adventures and making memories with family and having the time to carry out small acts of kindness or generosity. Success should also mean finding time to dedicate to our lifelong passions and the things that make us laugh. In the fast-paced environment of the future, this focus on work-life balance is key to avoiding burnout and stress.

4. PostCapitalism: A guide to our Future by Paul Mason
This book looks at how the digital revolution threatens capitalism by reshaping the traditional concepts of work, production and value. Digitalization – the use of technologies to change business models – could even end up destroying an economy based on free markets and private ownership, according to the book’s author, the British journalist Paul Mason.

Cryptocurrencies, co-operatives and self-managed online work spaces are all examples of how the internet is rewriting existing systems. “Capitalism is a complex, adaptive system which has reached the limits of its capacity to adapt,” he writes.

However, his book is not simply a post-mortem of the capitalist system. Mason also considers the opportunities that a post-capitalist era may bring, arguing that a new economic order could lead to more equal and inclusive societies.

5. Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Futureby Joi Ito and Jeff Howe

Whatever the future may hold, one thing is certain: it is coming at us fast. The pace of change is so rapid that electronics manufacturers say the shelf-life of their products is as little as a year. After that, something smaller, better or faster will come along. Remember the iPod?

This book aims to provide the tools needed to survive in such a rapidly changing world and emphasizes the need to think differently in order to innovate and adapt. It challenges conventional wisdom, for instance by asking its readers to favour risk over safety. This is a book for those seeking to be ahead of the game.

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