The Exponential View Reading Room: Explore What's on our Shelves

The Age of Em - Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth

The book is crammed full of such fascinating visions of an imagined future (Sarah O'Connor, Financial Times)

This hellish cyberworld is quite cool to think about in a dystopian Matrixy way. ... brilliantly weird extrapolation (Steven Poole, The Guardian)

Robots may one day rule the world, but what is a robot-ruled Earth like? 

Many think the first truly smart robots will be brain emulations or ems. Scan a human brain, then run a model with the same connections on a fast computer, and you have a robot brain, but recognizably human. 
Train an em to do some job and copy it a million times: an army of workers is at your disposal. When they can be made cheaply, within perhaps a century, ems will displace humans in most jobs. In this new economic era, the world economy may double in size every few weeks. 
Some say we can't know the future, especially following such a disruptive new technology, but Professor Robin Hanson sets out to prove them wrong. Applying decades of expertise in physics, computer science, and economics, he uses standard theories to paint a detailed picture of a world dominated by ems. 

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Algorithmic Life: Calculative Devices in the Age of Big Data

"Certainly, this is a lively volume. At times insightful, at times confusing and obscure, often experimental, at times still in a process of becoming, it seems to mirror the world that it begins to open up. Linking all the contributions, however, are the editors’ and contributors’ shared concerns about security, privacy, agency, and freedom, and we should take them seriously: the book is a fitting manifesto for a sociology of the unseen agents that increasingly shape our ‘algorithmic life’." - Philip Roscoe, University of St Andrews, UK

This book critically explores forms and techniques of calculation that emerge with digital computation, and their implications. The contributors demonstrate that digital calculative devices matter beyond their specific functions as they progressively shape, transform and govern all areas of our life. In particular, it addresses such questions as:

  • ow does the drive to make sense of, and productively use, large amounts of diverse data, inform the development of new calculative devices, logics and techniques?
  • How do these devices, logics and techniques affect our capacity to decide and to act?
  • How do mundane elements of our physical and virtual existence become data to be analysed and rearranged in complex ensembles of people and things?

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Fully Connected

Brimming with ideas and insights - fascinating, intriguing, thoughtful. --Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice, London Business School

I am buzzing about this book. Really outstanding. --William Eccleshare, President and CEO, Clear Channel International

Twenty-five years after the arrival of the Internet, we are drowning in data and deadlines. Humans and machines are in fully connected overdrive - and starting to become entwined as never before. Truly, it is an Age of Overload. We can never have imagined that absorbing so much information while trying to maintain a healthy balance in our personal and professional lives could feel so complex, dissatisfying and unproductive.

Something is missing. That something, Julia Hobsbawm argues in this ground-breaking book, is Social Health, a new blueprint for modern connectedness. She begins with the premise that much of what we think about healthy ways to live have not been updated any more than have most post-war modern institutions, which are themselves also struggling in the twenty-first century. In 1946, the World Health Organization defined 'health' as 'a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.' What we understood by 'social' in the middle of the last century now desperately needs an update.

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Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love

Emily Witt is a truly compelling writer and a trustworthy guide. I read her book quickly and with interest, and with great appreciation for her insightful, original and sensitive mind. (Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be)

Emily Witt is single and in her thirties. She has slept with most of her male friends. Most of her male friends have slept with most of her female friends. Sexual promiscuity is the norm. But up until a few years ago, she still envisioned her sexual experience achieving a sense of finality, 'like a monorail gliding to a stop at Epcot Center'. Like many people, she imagined herself disembarking, finding herself face-to-face with another human being, 'and there we would remain in our permanent station in life: the future'.

But, as we all know, things are more complicated than that. Love is rare and frequently unreciprocated. Sexual acquisitiveness is risky and can be hurtful. And generalizing about what women want or don't want or should want or should do seems to lead nowhere. Don't our temperaments, our hang-ups, and our histories define our lives as much as our gender?

To read more or to purchase click here. 

Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction

'Engaging cultural study' [Guardian]

“This book picks up where The Tipping Point left off." -- Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of ORIGINALS and GIVE AND TAKE

Nothing -goes viral.- If you think a popular movie, song, or app came out of nowhere to become a word-of-mouth success in today's crowded media environment, you're missing the real story. Each blockbuster has a secret history--of power, influence, dark broadcasters, and passionate cults that turn some new products into cultural phenomena. Even the most brilliant ideas wither in obscurity if they fail to connect with the right network, and the consumers that matter most aren't the early adopters, but rather their friends, followers, and imitators -- the audience of your audience. 
In his groundbreaking investigation, Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson uncovers the hidden psychology of why we like what we like and reveals the economics of cultural markets that invisibly shape our lives. Shattering the sentimental myths of hit-making that dominate pop culture and business, Thompson shows quality is insufficient for success, nobody has -good taste, - and some of the most popular products in history were one bad break away from utter failure. It may be a new world, but there are some enduring truths to what audiences and consumers want. People love a familiar surprise: a product that is bold, yet sneakily recognizable. 

To read more or to purchase click here. 

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Homo Deus will shock you. It will entertain you. Above all, it will make you think in ways you had not thought before' Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking Fast, and Slow

Sapiens showed us where we came from. Homo Deus shows us where we're going.
War is obsolete. You are more likely to commit suicide than be killed in conflict.
Famine is disappearing. You are at more risk of obesity than starvation.
Death is just a technical problem. Equality is out – but immortality is in.
What does our future hold?

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the bestselling phenomenon Sapiens envisions a not-too-distant world in which we face a new set of challenges. 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?

To read more or purchase click here
We recently interviewed Yuval Harari. Listen to the podcast here. 

Platform Capitalism (Theory Redux) 

‘ Platform Capitalism is a high definition snapshot of the current political economic situation than manages to get a lot of detail into a tight frame. It offers a convincing image of the current stage of capitalist development as a series of variations on the theme of the platform as a means of consolidating or seizing a kind of monopoly leverage over not only distribution but also production. Srnicek gives good reasons for thinking the platform moment in capital accumulation might be less all–conquering than it looks.’ 
McKenzie Wark, author of Telethesia: Communication, Culture and Class

What unites Google and Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, Siemens and GE, Uber and Airbnb? Across a wide range of sectors, these firms are transforming themselves into platforms: businesses that provide the hardware and software foundation for others to operate on. This transformation signals a major shift in how capitalist firms operate and how they interact with the rest of the economy: the emergence of ‘platform capitalism’.

This book critically examines these new business forms, tracing their genesis from the long downturn of the 1970s to the boom and bust of the 1990s and the aftershocks of the 2008 crisis. It shows how the fundamental foundations of the economy are rapidly being carved up among a small number of monopolistic platforms, and how the platform introduces new tendencies within capitalism that pose significant challenges to any vision of a post–capitalist future. This book will be essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how the most powerful tech companies of our time are transforming the global economy."

To read more or to purchase click here. 

Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future

‘Reminds us that headlines are misleading and that history and data show that life has been radically better in every way’. (Steven Pinker Observer, Books of the Year)
‘A blast of good sense.’ (Economist)

A Book of the Year for The Economist and the Observer

Our world seems to be collapsing. The daily news cycle reports the deterioration: divisive politics across the Western world, racism, poverty, war, inequality, hunger. While politicians, journalists and activists from all sides talk about the damage done, Johan Norberg offers an illuminating and heartening analysis of just how far we have come in tackling the greatest problems facing humanity. In the face of fear-mongering, darkness and division, the facts are unequivocal: the golden age is now.

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Rise of the Machines: the lost history of cybernetics 

‘The major disruptions in our modern society all belong to one big story. A common theme connects war machines, computer networks, social media, ubiquitous surveillance and virtual reality. For 50 years or more the same people and the same ideas weave through these innovations united by the term cyber, as in cyberspace and cybernetics. Read this amazing history and you'll go: aha!’

(Kevin Kelly founder of Wired magazine, author of What Technology Wants and The Inevitable)

What does "cyber" even mean? And where does the idea come from?

We live in an age increasingly defined by technology. But as we check our emails, board a plane, or read about the latest Russian hack, we rarely ask how the ideas that shaped our modern world originated.

Thomas Rid's revelatory history of cybernetics pulls together disparate threads in the history of technology: from the invention of radar and pilotless flying bombs in World War Two, to artificial intelligence, virtual reality, cryptocurrencies, and present day fears about cyber security.

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The Second Machine Age - Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

" ambitious, engaging and at times terrifying vision of where modern technology is taking the human race...The authors may not have the solution to growing inequality, but their book marks one of the most effective explanations yet for the origins of the gap." The Economist

In recent years, Google's autonomous cars have logged thousands of miles on American highways and IBM's Watson trounced the best human Jeopardy! players. Digital technologies with hardware, software, and networks at their core will in the near future diagnose diseases more accurately than doctors can, apply enormous data sets to transform retailing, and accomplish many tasks once considered uniquely human. In The Second Machine Age MIT s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee two thinkers at the forefront of their field reveal the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy.

As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, we will realise immense bounty in the form of dazzling personal technology, advanced infrastructure, and near-boundless access to the cultural items that enrich our lives. Amid this bounty will also be wrenching change. Professions of all kinds from lawyers to truck drivers will be forever upended. Companies will be forced to transform or die. Recent economic indicators reflect this shift: fewer people are working, and wages are falling even as productivity and profits soar. Drawing on years of research and up-to-the-minute trends, Brynjolfsson and McAfee identify the best strategies for survival and offer a new path to prosperity. These include revamping education so that it prepares people for the next economy instead of the last one, designing new collaborations that pair brute processing power with human ingenuity, and embracing policies that make sense in a radically transformed landscape. A fundamentally optimistic book, The Second Machine Age alters how we think about issues of technological, societal, and economic progress.

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Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages

"Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital" presents a novel interpretation of the good and bad times in the economy, taking a long-term perspective and linking technology and finance in an original and convincing way. Carlota Perez draws upon Schumpeter's theories of the clustering of innovations to explain why each technological revolution gives rise to a paradigm shift and a "New Economy" and how these "opportunity explosions", focused on specific industries, also lead to the recurrence of financial bubbles and crises. These findings are illustrated with examples from the past two centuries: the industrial revolution, the age of steam and railways, the age of steel and electricity, the emergence of mass production and automobiles, and the current information revolution/knowledge society. By analyzing the changing relationship between finance capital and production capital during the emergence, diffusion and assimilation of new technologies throughout the global economic system, this book sheds light on some of the most pressing economic problems of today.

To read more or to purchase click here. 

Technology vs. Humanity: The coming clash between man and machine (FutureScapes) 

Futurist Gerd Leonhard breaks new ground again by bringing together mankind’s urge to upgrade and automate everything—down to human biology itself—with our timeless quest for freedom and happiness.
Before it’s too late, we must stop and ask the big questions: How do we embrace technology without becoming it? When it happens—gradually, then suddenly—the machine era will create the greatest watershed in human life on Earth. Technology vs. Humanity is one of the last moral maps we’ll get as humanity enters the Jurassic Park of Big Tech.
Artificial intelligence. Cognitive computing. The Singularity. Digital obesity. Printed food. The Internet of Things. The death of privacy. The end of work-as-we-know-it, and radical longevity: The imminent clash between technology and humanity is already rushing towards us. What moral values are you prepared to stand up for—before being human alters its meaning forever?

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The Despot's Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy 

'This efficient and thought-provoking plea for the U.S. and other Western countries to prioritize democracy promotion is a must-read... [Klaas] is no armchair academic, and his analyses of policymaking challenges are informed by extensive, and sometimes dangerous, field work... .' --Publishers Weekly

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For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the world is steadily becoming less democratic. Though the true culprits are dictators and counterfeit democrats, the West is often complicit in contributing to the global decline of democracy. In pursuit of short-term economic and political objectives, governments in Washington, London and Brussels ultimately make the world less prosperous and stable. As Brian Klaas argues in this thoughtful and lively new book, this is in nobody's interests, least of all Western democracies - it is time for a rethink. The Despot s Accomplice draws on interviews on the frontlines of the global struggle for democracy, from a poetry-reading, politician-kidnapping general in Madagascar, and Islamist torture victims in Tunisia, to Belarusian activists tailed by the KGB, and tea-sipping members of the Thai junta. Cumulatively, their stories weave together the tale of a broken system at the root of democracy s global retreat.

To read more or purchase click here. 

The Ethics of Information

In this groundbreaking work, Luciano Floridi builds the foundations of Information Ethics (IE) by arguing that an informational interpretation of reality is required due to our increased reliance on information and communication technologies (ICTs) for our well-being and success. (Brendan Rowe, The Review of Metaphysics)

Luciano Floridi develops an original ethical framework for dealing with the new challenges posed by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). ICTs have profoundly changed many aspects of life, including the nature of entertainment, work, communication, education, health care, industrial production and business, social relations, and conflicts. They have had a radical and widespread impact on our moral lives and on contemporary ethical debates. Privacy, ownership, freedom of speech, responsibility, technological determinism, the digital divide, and pornography online are only some of the pressing issues that characterise the ethical discourse in the information society. They are the subject of Information Ethics (IE), the new philosophical area of research that investigates the ethical impact of ICTs on human life and society. 

To read more or purchase click here. 

The Fate of the West: The Battle to Save the World's Most Successful Political Idea

'Remarkable for the clarity of its economic and historical analysis and the cogency of his arguments (Financial Times)
Elegantly written and strong on economic analysis (Saturday Telegraph)

When faced with global instability and economic uncertainty, it is tempting for states to react by closing borders, hoarding wealth and solidifying power. We have seen it at various times in Japan, France and Italy and now it is infecting all of Europe and America, as the vote for Brexit in the UK has vividly shown. This insularity, together with increased inequality of income and wealth threatens the future role of the West as a font of stability, prosperity and security. Part of the problem is that the principles of liberal democracy upon which the success of the West has been built have been suborned, with special interest groups such as bankers accruing too much power and too great a share of the economic cake.

So how is this threat to be countered? States such as Sweden in the 1990s, California at different times or Britain under Thatcher all halted stagnation by clearing away the powers of interest groups and restoring their societies' ability to evolve. To survive, the West needs to be porous, open and flexible. From reinventing welfare systems to redefining the working age, from reimagining education to embracing automation, Emmott lays out the changes the West must make to revive itself in the moment and avoid a deathly rigid future.

To read more or purchase click here. 

The Mandibles - A Family, 2029-2047 

‘As ever, Shriver cuts close to the bone! . . . Distinctly chilling’ Independent

‘A tale that fizzes with ideas and jokes . . . the comedy is pitch black’ The Times

‘Shriver’s intelligence, mordant humour and vicious leaps of imagination all combine to make this a novel that is as unsettling as it is entertaining’ FINANCIAL TIMES

The brilliant new novel from the Orange Prize-winning author of We Need to Talk about Kevin.

It is 2029.

The Mandibles have been counting on a sizable fortune filtering down when their 97-year-old patriarch dies. Yet America’s soaring national debt has grown so enormous that it can never be repaid. Under siege from an upstart international currency, the dollar is in meltdown. A bloodless world war will wipe out the savings of millions of American families.

To read more or to purchase click here. 

The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-First Century 

Ryan Avent is a superb writer. I am confident that his book will be very successful.--Thomas Piketty

Ryan Avent is one of the sharpest and most intelligent writers around. Nobody is better placed to tell us how technology is shaping our economy and our lives.--Tim Harford

None of us has ever lived through a genuine industrial revolution. Until now.

Digital technology is transforming every corner of the economy, fundamentally altering the way things are done, who does them, and what they earn for their efforts. In The Wealth of HumansEconomist editor Ryan Avent brings up-to-the-minute research and reporting to bear on the major economic question of our time: can the modern world manage technological changes every bit as disruptive as those that shook the socioeconomic landscape of the 19th century?

To read more or purchase click here. We recently interviewed Ryan Avent. Listen to the podcast here. 

 White Tears

A feverish new tale from the bestselling author of The Impressionist: two ambitious young musicians are drawn into a dark underworld, haunted by the ghosts of a repressive past

Two twenty-something New Yorkers: Seth, awkward and shy, and Carter, the trust fund hipster. They have one thing in common: an obsession with music. Rising fast on the New York producing scene, they stumble across an old blues song long forgotten by history -- and everything starts to unravel. Carter is drawn far down a path that allows no return, and Seth has no choice but to follow his friend into the darkness.

Trapped in a game they don't understand, Hari Kunzru's characters move unsteadily across the chessboard, caught between black and white, performer and audience, righteous and forsaken. But we have been here before, oh so many times over, and the game always ends the same way . . .

To read more or to purchase click here. 

We'd love to hear from you. Let us know what you think of the books above or if there are ones that you think we should add to our list.