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The world around us is changing rapidly. Robot production is increasing each day, genomics and cancer research are progressing, and self-driving cars are slowly working their way into our reality.

One of the best ways to prepare for the changes that are coming is to understand them as best as we can. This means not only learning about future trends but understanding the world as it is now and the history that has lead us to where we are. Books written by the most knowledgeable people across all areas of society are one of the best places to learn these things.

Here is the best 2018 reading list that will both challenge your brain, and teach you information that will be immediately applicable in your life:

Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom.

There is a good reason why Elon Musk is scared about the rise of artificial intelligence above all else.

In Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom, you begin to understand Musk’s fear. Bostrom does a great job explaining the background of artificial intelligence and what an AI-influenced future could look like. He explores the risks, the opportunities and the timeline at which this could all take place.

He makes the complex information understandable for even nontechnical readers. You just have to pay attention throughout the storyline.

Scale: Universal Laws of Scaling by Geoffrey West.

By the end of page one, you get a sense for Geoffrey West’s intelligence. He is a British theoretical physicist and biologist as well as the former president of the famous Santa Fe Institute. He has also received multiple awards for a host of the work and research that he has done.

West writes Scale to explain the hidden laws that govern the world around us. The book dives into everything from humans, plants, and animals to cities and businesses. He discusses the patterns that exist across all living organisms and how those patterns change as we scale up or down.

He explores why we live as long as we do, how similar our metabolisms are to other mammals, and many other eye-opening laws about the physical world. That, by itself, would have made for a special book. West is not done, though.

He goes on to talk about patterns in cities and businesses as they scale. He looks at population, social interactions, and pollution. The book also looks at the lifespan of companies and the money that they tend to make. West is able to take topics in which he has done years of research and explain them in simple terms.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

If you like to read (or don’t) and have not yet read Thinking Fast and Slow, you should do so. Kahneman is a revolutionary in economics and this book summarizes his life’s work.

It describes 30 years of experiments and tests without feeling like a research paper. The book is well written and will teach you about the countless biases and illogical choices that we make in our daily lives. It will give you a greater appreciation for bad decision making and will aid you in your future choices.

As a bonus, if you like this book, check out The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis. It dives into the fascinating working relationship between Kahneman and his partner Tversky. It is also another fun-to-read gem from Lewis.

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb.

Antifragile is a revolutionary look at the world and disorder. Taleb claims that many aspects of daily life need chaos and challenge in order to survive. The more chaos that something antifragile is put under, the stronger it will come out afterward, he says.

He makes the claim that we need to be building systems in a volatile way so that they can adapt to the ever-changing and uncertain future that we have ahead.

The ideas are challenging and require a concentrated read. Upon successfully grasping Taleb’s claims, though, your view of the world will be different. He brings in many relatable real-world examples to help including politics, war, and finance.

Destined for War: Can America and China Escape the Thucydides Trap? by Graham Allison.

This is one of the scarier books that has been released in the past few years. Allison equates America-China relations to the historical downfall of the Greek empire. He talks about the events taking place between the two nations as well as the probability that war is in our future. Allison draws from historical international relationships of the same nature and concludes that war is likely.

This book explains the severity of the threat as well as the areas of opportunity to work towards a brighter future. Given its potential prominence and impact in the years ahead, it is a well worthwhile read.

Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond.

This is a staple book in understanding history along with Sapiens by Harari. Diamond makes innovative claims as to why Western society and Europe developed faster than other parts of the world.

He ties in geographical location, the existence of native species and the spread of language. This book will help you see how cultures have grown from hunter-gatherer societies to where we are today. Diamond’s arguments make logical sense and leave you wondering what your place will be in this world that has been around for so long. It will also make you question what is going to come next.

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Flow is one of the best science-backed life improvement books that exists. Csikszentmihalyi has spent his life researching the science of optimal experience, or what he calls flow.

This book dives into what full immersion looks like and how to achieve it. It makes the claim that flow is one of the keys to true happiness. Through a science-backed and easy to grasp approach, Flow helps you understand what we can do in our lives in order to be happier.

You can apply this learning to every activity that you take on from eating a meal to working out to raising your kids.

Anarchy, State & Utopia by Robert Nozick.

Although it is by no means an easy read, Anarchy, State & Utopia is one of the best and easy-to-grasp political philosophy books out there. Nozick wrote it as a response to famous philosopher John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice.

Nozick makes bold claims for the structure of societies once they reach a certain size. His arguments go against conservative, liberal and socialist thought. He makes a libertarian argument that fights for individual rights, while maintaining enough state power.

No matter what your stance is on the structure of governance and societies, this book will make you think and open your mind to new ideas and perspectives on social structure.

Cosmos (Carl Sagan).

Cosmos will teach you about space and the world beyond our bubble of Earth. Sagan explains everything from the Big Bang to stars and supernovas to evolution and more. This book is both fascinating for your imagination and for its ability to open your eyes to the complexity of the planet.

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Renzo Costarella is an entrepreneur, avid learner, and startup enthusiast currently living in Silicon Valley. He consults for several startups in the Bay Area and is pursuing a few ideas of his own.

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