Selbey Labs - Books of the Month (August 2023)

Selbey Labs - Books of the Month (August 2023)

Selbey LabsForesight & Innovation
Selbey Labs - Books of the Month (August 2023)

In our latest Books of the Month recommendations, we’ve chosen a range of publications that illuminate subjects ranging from quantum computing to philosophy, from selfie-culture to the future of work, and from the climate emergency to political theory. If you’re reading this whilst relaxing on a sunlounger, or stuck in an airport or eating lunch at your desk, we hope you’ll find it entertaining. And, as always, we welcome your feedback.

‘The Coming Wave: Tech, Power and 21stC Greatest Dilemma’ by Mustafa Suleyman

“AI. Synthetic Biology. Quantum Computing. Everything is about to change”. That’s according to the ultimate AI insider, Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of DeepMind. He illuminates a world of DNA printers and quantum computers, engineered pathogens and autonomous weapons, robot assistants and abundant energy. None of us are prepared for these forces which are creating immense prosperity but also threaten the nation-state, and the foundation of global order. As our fragile governments sleepwalk into disaster, we face an existential dilemma: unprecedented harms on one side and the threat of overbearing surveillance on the other…

‘Stories, Dice and Rocks that Think’ by Byron Reese

What makes the human mind so unique? And how did we get this way? This fascinating tale explores the three leaps in our history that made us what we are—and will change how you think about our future. Look around. Clearly, we humans are radically different from the other creatures on this planet. But why? Byron Reese argues that we owe our special status to our ability to imagine the future and recall the past, escaping the perpetual present that all other living creatures are trapped in. Envisioning human history as the development of a societal superorganism, Reese shows us how this enabled us to share knowledge on an unprecedented scale, and predict—and eventually master—the future.

‘How the future works’ by Brian Elliott

The way we work has changed. But flexibility means a lot more than a day or two a week to “work from home”: 93% of employees want more flexibility in when, not just where, they work. They want choice and they are leaving their roles to find it. Brian Elliott argues that the most successful leaders will go much further than offering occasional remote workdays―they will redesign every aspect of how work gets done, from defining how they measure organizational success to training their managers to make it happen. Using original research and global case studies from leading companies, this book offers concrete solutions and practical steps for building high-functioning teams of talented, engaged people by providing them with the flexibility and choice they need to do their best work.

‘Future Proof’ by Kevin Roose

Here’s a question – how do you intend to stay relevant and employable in the machine age? Kevin Roose wonders ‘what if all the advice we’ve been given is wrong, and what do we need to do instead to become futureproof?” He’s spent the past few years studying the question of how people, communities, and organisations adapt to periods of change, from the Industrial Revolution to the present. And the insight that is sweeping through Silicon Valley as we speak -- that in an age dominated by machines, it's human skills that really matter - is one of the more profound and counter-intuitive ideas he's discovered. Roose distills what he’s learnt about how to survive the future, and that the way to become futureproof is to become incredibly, irreplaceably human.

‘Selfie: how the West became self-obsessed’ by Will Storr     

We live in the age of the individual. Every day, we're bombarded with depictions of the beautiful, successful, slim, socially conscious, and extroverted individual that our culture has decided is the perfect self, and we berate ourselves when we don't measure up. Journalist and novelist Will Storr wonders about this ‘perfect self’ that torments so many of us: Where does this ideal come from? Why is it so powerful? Is there any way to break its spell? To answer these questions, Storr takes the reader on a journey from the shores of Ancient Greece, through the Christian Middle Ages, to the self-esteem evangelists of 1980s California, the rise of narcissism and the "selfie" generation, and right up to the era of hyper-individualism in which we live now.

‘Self-made...creating our identities’ by Tara Burton

The vision that we not only can but should 'make' our own selves to shape our own destiny is an inextricable part of the formation of the modern world. As traditional powers of pre-modernity - church and throne - waned, a new myth took their place: that of the 'self-made man', whose unique powers of personality - or canny self-presentation - give him not just the opportunity, but the obligation, to remake reality in the image of what he wants it to be. From the Renaissance genius to the Regency dandy, the American prophets of capitalism to the aspirational übermensch of European fascism, Hollywood's Golden Age to today's Silicon Valley, Self-Made takes us on a dazzling tour of modern history's most prominent self-makers, uncovering both self-making's liberatory power, and the dangers this idea can unleash.

‘The heat will kill you first’ by Jeff Goodel

The world is waking up to a new reality: wildfires are now seasonal in California, the Northeast is getting less and less snow each winter, and the ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctica are melting fast. Heat is the first-order threat that drives all other impacts of the climate crisis. And as the temperature rises, it is revealing fault lines in our governments, our politics, our economy, and our values. The basic science is not complicated: Stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow, and the global temperature will stop rising tomorrow. Stop burning fossil fuels in 50 years, and the temperature will keep rising for 50 years, making parts of our planet virtually uninhabitable. It's up to us. The hotter it gets, the deeper and wider our fault lines will open. As an award-winning journalist who has been at the forefront of environmental journalism for decades, Goodell explains how extreme heat will dramatically change the world as we know it.

‘Left is not Woke’ by Susan Neiman

“If you're woke, you're left. If you're left, you're woke”. We blur the terms, assuming that if you're one you must be the other. That, Susan Neiman argues, is a dangerous mistake. The intellectual roots and resources of #wokeism conflict with ideas that have guided the left for more than 200 years: a commitment to universalism, a firm distinction between justice and power, and a belief in the possibility of progress. One of the world's leading philosophical voices, Neiman makes this case by tracing the malign influence of two titans of twentieth-century thought, Michel Foucault and Carl Schmitt, whose work undermined ideas of justice and progress and portrayed social life as an eternal struggle of us against them. A generation schooled with these voices in their heads has set about changing the world. It's time they thought again.

‘Look: how to pay attention in a distracted world’ by Christian Madsbjerg

“We've forgotten how to pay attention” Christian Madsbjerg says in his provocative new book. Listening carefully and observing intentionally are crucial human skills, yet we're not born knowing how to do them. And thanks to the ubiquity of social media, increasing social isolation, and the use of empty imagery and ideology as stand-ins for direct observation, we're losing our ability to interpret the world at a time when we desperately need to do that. Madsbjerg, a consultant and a professor at the New School, argues that most of us are stuck in bad habits of looking at the world without truly seeing it, and he guides us through the key observational skills we need to explain how we can recapture our ability to truly pay attention - what he calls 'the meta-skill of observation.'

‘Excellent advice for living’ by Kevin Kelly

On his 68th birthday, Kevin Kelly began to write down for his young adult children some things he had learned about life that he wished he had known earlier.  To his surprise, Kelly had more to say than he thought, and kept adding to the advice over the years, compiling a life’s wisdom into these pages. His timeless advice covers an astonishing range, from right living to setting ambitious goals, optimizing generosity, and cultivating compassion. He has wisdom for career, relationships, parenting, and finances, and gives guidance for practical matters ranging from travel to troubleshooting.

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Selbey Labs, part of the Selbey Anderson Group, is a foresight and innovation practice focused on helping brands see and respond to opportunities and threats.

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