Mind-expanding books I read in 2016

Books about the future, about the past, about technology, about people, about different things. But they will all expand your mind.
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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

by Yuval Noah Harari

About the book:  New York Times Bestseller"I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a fun, engaging look at early human history…you’ll have a hard time putting it down."--Bill Gates"Thank God someone finally wrote [this] exact book."--Sebastian JungerFrom a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.

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Homo Deus

by Yuval Noah Harari

About the book:  International Bestseller From the author of the international bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind comes an extraordinary new book that explores the future of the human species. Yuval Noah Harari, author of the bestselling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, envisions a not-too-distant world in which we face a new set of challenges. In Homo Deus, he examines our future with his trademark blend of science, history, philosophy and every discipline in between. 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? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus. 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? From the Hardcover edition.


Notes:  Not as good as his previous book Sapiens but still good. Thought if you had to pick only one, Sapiens is it.

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The Rise and Fall of Nations

by Ruchir Sharma

About the book:  The crisis of 2008 ended the illusion of a golden era in which many people imagined that prosperity and political calm would continue to spread indefinitely. In a world now racked by slowing growth and mounting unrest, how can we discern which nations will thrive and which will fail? Shaped by prize-winning author Ruchir Sharma's twenty-five years travelling the world, The Rise and Fall of Nations rethinks economics as a practical art. By narrowing down the thousands of factors that can shape a country's future, it spells out ten clear rules for identifying the next big winners and losers in the global economy. Each rule looks at a nation's political, economic, and social conditions in real time to filter out the hype and noise. He shows, for example, how slow population growth is eroding economic growth, and ranks nations by how well they respond. He describes the way cycles of political complacency and revolt fuel economic booms and busts. Amid growing tensions over inequality, he demonstrates how billionaire lists yield clues to which economies are most or least threatened by extreme wealth. In a period when the world is struggling with trillions of dollars in new debt, he explains which nations are most likely to avert this threat or buckle under it. Sharma's rules are based on the data he has collected over many years at Morgan Stanley Investment Management in New York, where he is now Head of Emerging Markets and Chief Global Strategist. This is a book of original research, not mere opinion. The final chapter takes the reader on a surprising world tour of the likely winners and losers in the near future. The Rise and Fall of Nations is enlivened by Sharma's stories from the road and his encounters with presidents, tycoons, and villagers from Rio to Beijing. It is a pioneering field guide to understanding our impermanent world.


Notes:  For someone who doesn't know a lot about economics, there were a ton of lessons packed in it. I have to make notes from it but that will be 1/3rd the book.

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The Age of Edison

by Ernest Freeberg

About the book:  A sweeping history of the electric light revolution and the birth of modern America The late nineteenth century was a period of explosive technological creativity, but more than any other invention, Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb marked the arrival of modernity, transforming its inventor into a mythic figure and avatar of an era. In The Age of Edison, award-winning author and historian Ernest Freeberg weaves a narrative that reaches from Coney Island and Broadway to the tiniest towns of rural America, tracing the progress of electric light through the reactions of everyone who saw it and capturing the wonder Edison’s invention inspired. It is a quintessentially American story of ingenuity, ambition, and possibility in which the greater forces of progress and change are made by one of our most humble and ubiquitous objects.


Notes:  How electricity went from an invention to mass adoption, and all the hurdles that came along the way. Great learnings about the different stages a technological innovation has to go through to become a mass adoption.

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Our Final Invention

by James Barrat

About the book:  A documentary filmmaker, bringing together Artificial Intelligence experts from around the world, explores the terrifying possibility of catastrophic outcomes once we share the planet with intelligent machines who are smarter and more powerful than we could ever have imagined. 25,000 first printing.


Notes:  With all the hype around AI and how it's going to change everything, it's a good time to understand the dangers that it could bring along as well. This book does a decent job of it - I would love to read a better book from an engineer/inventor involved in the space but till then, you can make do with this one.

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