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What Books Are You Reading Related to Social Impact?

Craig Zelizer

February 13, 2020
Craig Zelizer
Connector, Innovator, Doer, Professor & Social Entrepreneur. Fostering Collaborative & Boundary Crossing Change.

What books are you reading this month related to social impact or for pure fun?

One of my favorite hobbies is reading, reading & reading. Of course I enjoy many other things such as improving my foreign language skills, competitive ping-pong, exploring my city, the world and more. With the onset of smartphones and the ever growing avalanche of content on multiple platforms, I read more than ever. But I also need to ensure, I take time for more in-depth reading of books and SLOWING down to deeply engage, reflect and learn from others.

I find new books to read via #ocialmedia, through my favorite reading app Scribd (note if you click on this you can get a free month trial and I also get a month free) and frequently get great recommendations friends and colleagues who share interesting, inspiring and provocative reads.

This is short post to share two of the books that I've engaged with the past month and that I found incredibly thought-provoking, humorous, and engaging regarding the role of humans in a rapidly changing technology obsessed world. Each text has strong relevant to the social impact and social change fields and how technology is increasingly influencing our everyday lives.

This is not a full book review, just wanted to share a few words on each text and encourage others to check them out. I also would appreciate sharing of other books you've read recently that have deeply influenced you.

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I recently finished a great book by Flynn Coleman A Human Algorithm How Artificial Intelligence is Redefining Who We Are. It is a must read that is a superb exploration of the impact Artificial Intelligence is already having in so many parts of our lives & societies as well as a key primer for what is coming. The author makes a powerful argument that we need to deeply debate and struggle with the ethics of AI in order to shape how the technology will be used. This is critical to do NOW as tech is causing rapid changes in our lives and we need all sectors of society, the hackers, builders, artists, philosophers, academics, students, parents, government officials and more to be part of this. The technology is too powerful to leave how it will be used only to technologists and companies that seek to maximize their profit.

The book is described as "A groundbreaking narrative on the urgency of ethically designed AI and a guidebook to reimagining life in the era of intelligent technology."

See more here https://flynncoleman.community/my-book

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A second book I am in the middle of listening too (as an audio book) is Uncanny Valley by Anna Weiner. The author worked in a range of high-growth startups in Silicon Valley. The writing is truly hilarious and I have found myself laughing quite frequently at some of the absurdity of what happens in the name of building companies that aim to "change the word" through disruption, blitzscaling, and a whole range of unique terminology to the sector.

Although she doesn't name the startups she worked for I do recognize several of them. In fact, I've been an avid user of a few products of companies described in the book. In addition to the humor there are also deep insights into the wonder of building something new, the sense of camaraderie that emerges among the core team and the pride people do take in their work There is also insightful discussion of many key challenges the tech industry faces such as sexism, harassment, the burnout & workaholic culture and more. I love the book and the author's unique form of honest and self-deprecating humor, exploring her own humble role in the tech space and most importantly her reflections on Silicon Valley culture.

"Uncanny Valley is a rare first-person glimpse into high-flying, reckless startup culture at a time of unchecked ambition, unregulated surveillance, wild fortune, and accelerating political power. With wit, candor, and warmth, Anna deftly charts the tech industry’s shift from self-appointed world savior to democracy-endangering liability, alongside a personal narrative of aspiration, ambivalence, and disillusionment."

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