Since my book recommendations have become more popular, I've split them
out here. You might also find other things of interest among the papers I recommend and the sites
I found interesting.
These are books I've been urging my friends to read recently. Of course, I've left out
many classics that are really wonderful
- perhaps I'll make a list of all-time favorites
too. Feel free to recommend stuff you think I'd like, too! If you'd like to read a blurb,
check others' reviews, or buy the book, I've made it easy; just follow the book-link I've
set up to for each book.
There are a number of themes that explain my interest in these books, but
I've not organized them that way. The problem is that the best books combine several of
the themes in interesting ways. Some of the themes you'll recognize are: decentralized
systems, the nature and growth of knowledge "in a changing and growing system",
uncertainty, variance, options, and pattern from randomness; functions that populations of
people/objects/organizations derive from their environment; R&D and innovation
processes; what is cognition?; what is possible/impossible?; the interaction of technology
and society as change happens; environments for learning; engineering/design knowledge;
This is the the most fun book I've read
in years! It's a sequence of explorations, using 3D computer
graphics, of some very interesting ideas, ranging from Celtic knot designs
to the hidden structure of motion blur in movies to quantum mechanics.
A beautifully illustrated book, but one where I learned something new on
every page. If anyone ever says that 3D graphics is only "eye
- show them this book. If only it were a Dynabook!
This book captures how companies that control a
platform can manage that platform to create maximum value for customers and
partners, while maximizing returns to its investors. The primary case
study is Intel, a company I personally know well from my days at
Lotus. Intel has learned over the years to manage a platform extremely
well. Other case studies include Microsoft and Cisco. I reviewed
this book, and have been waiting eagerly for it to come out so I can
recommend it to anyone who is involved in thinking about business strategy
in the networked world.
This book is a great synthesis of ideas that I think are very important to
the future of man. It relies heavily on the end-to-end argument and an
implicit understanding of the ideas of real options and the role of a shared
platform for experimentation. Larry's conclusion is that the creation
of a commons is a very practical way to ensure continued innovation and
exploration of valuable future possibilities. I think he presents a
very balanced and nuanced view of the role of a commons
- my own views are a
bit less compromising (he calls me a "utopian" in one of his
what fascinated me about this book is that it focuses on the common
conceptual metaphors that reflect how mathematics was built. The idea
that we have a choice about what particular mathematics we build is obvious
(though there are some who believe that there is "one true
mathematics", apparently), but why those choices were made has always
been hard to sort out. The most interesting thing is the "Basic
Metaphor of Infinity" that seems to explain much. In particular the discussion about the
choices made in discretizing geometry and the discussion about the choices
made in not extending numbers to include infinitesimals in standard analysis are
fascinating both from a mathematical and cognitive viewpoint. (note:
the authors maintained
a website (now only at the Wayback Machine)
with some important errata, and some interesting reviews, both
positive and critical). This
book reminds me a lot of Wick's The Infamous Boundary
(below) and its implication that the way quantum theory was built also was
based on choices bound to an inherent metaphor
- perhaps Lakoff and Núñez
would find this a rich lode as well.
this compact book/essay really makes clear that the idea
of DNA as the "blueprint" of life is quite limiting. I think
that the same sort of insight applies to many complex systems.
this book is a fascinating exploration into "what life
is". I'm still digesting it, but each chapter provoked very many
thoughts about how little we really understand systems that
self-organize. As fascinating as Schrodinger's What is Life? (or
this is a fantastic
synthesis of technology and business strategy. It shows in detail how
architecture creates economic value. Using as case studies various
events in the business of computer design, it shows how designs and business
models can co-evolve across an industry. One key concept is the
"Real Options" concept (see below), which is used to explain how
creating an open, modular architecture creates valuable options when the
"best" idea is not known.
this book is very helpful in understanding the
intellectual conflict that surrounds the coupling of biological and cultural
evolution. It is centered on the "Sociobiology" debate, but
provides a context about how scientists seek "truth" that is very
helpful. In particular, the distinction between "planters"
and "weeders" is worth the price of the book. A
"planter" is a scientist in the "creative" mode -
positing a new synthesis or theory, while a "weeder" is a
scientist in "critical" mode, looking for weakness and lack of
support for a theory. Read in conjunction with The Reflective
very interesting set of thoughts on the
relationships of code, architecture and law in the new information world.
this book is a great history of
innovation. It really shows how the biases of companies can prevent
them from seeing opportunities, or encourage them to miss the disruptive
this book is a sequence of very short (one sentence to 3
page) quotations/articles on the impact or process of technology.
Organized into a roughly historical sequence, they represent an amazing
sequence of views of how various commentators viewed progress, innovation,
the future, etc. at points in the past century or so. It includes many
seminal passages - and it is surprising how early some of the insights come,
and also how wrong others can be. It is incredibly fun to skim, and to
quote to your friends...
each of these books contain compelling arguments for allowing
decentralized social processes to regulate dangerous knowledge. In Rauch's book, he
outlines the dangers of attempting to outlaw speech about ideas that are considered
unacceptable, and in Brin's, he outlines the dangers of trying to limit the use of
information gathering tools to a narrow class of acceptable users. In each case, they
conclude that adversarial processes will limit the damage, and maximize the value. They
deserve to be widely read and discussed.
this book is neat because it covers the idea that what makes societies successful is
their native environment. There's a powerful analogy in my mind to the notion expressed in
Andy Clark's book, Being
, mentioned below. And, of course, it contrasts with the argument of inherent
genetic superiority advanced in The Bell Curve
which I don't recommend.
this book makes a fascinating proposal about how disruptive innovations
happen even to well-managed companies. Much better than the short article included in John
Seely Brown's Seeing
an interesting book about real businesses who have been (and still are) trying to bring
renewable energy to market. Since this is a classic case of disruptive innovation, since
the incumbent technologies are in good shape, it is interesting to see what befalls those
who try to turn such a thing into a sustaining innovation paradigm (read along with
Christensen, you get lots of ideas). Another interesting view of this industry is found in
which protrays the forces that are at play in trying to drive this innovation away from a
user-financed model, towards one where utilities will charge you for the power from the
sun that lands on your own property!
another disruptive innovation that hasn't played out: the HDTV saga, with all the
political actors and forces. IMHO, this book is a prima facie argument against government
involvement in regulation of businesses founded on technological innovation. But Brinkley
merely reports the scheming, plotting, and hidden agendas of the actors playing on the
ignorance and arrogance of Congress and the executive branch; he leaves the reader to make
up his/her own mind about whether a market-based approach would have been a better idea.
this is another view of recent
history of TV, etc. which shows how the Cable TV operators seem to play
their local monopoly game... gives you an interesting view of Malone,
AT&T, Al Gore, etc. These are the folks that are now trying to
sell us a cable modem based future.
a collection of short papers, mostly from HBR, with some of the most interesting current
ideas about how innovation relates to business strategy.
great synthesis of ideas about where intelligence comes from; much of it comes from
situation and context, not the brain.
very thoughtful analysis of what the brain's role is in
perception and thought
evolution does not equal progress! This book conveys a real intuition about how to think
about diversity in capability and how it evolves under natural selection. Another antidote
to The Bell Curve.
a very thorough application of the idea of options to business decision
making. Explains in detail why and how we should embrace uncertainty, not avoid it. I
should mention that this book has some heavy analytical parts; if math puts you off, you
might want to read the Harvard Business Review article in the Seeing Differently
another very good exploration of options thinking in business, chapter 4 is really the
best part, because it gets into the issue of how collections of options interact. There
are also heavily analytical parts here, but they are mixed with qualitative insights that
are very useful. There's also a collection of relevant papers edited by Trigeorgis,
Options in Capital Investment
, where other authors explore applications of these
this book covers much the same
ground as Dixit&Pindyck and Trigeorgis, but is a lot more accessible to
a book that focuses on how the change to digital computing technology enables
new corporate structures and new customer relationships. Light style, but a lot of depth
of insight hiding behind the words. (perhaps I'm biased because I'm quoted in the book?)
You may want to get further info at the book's site... http://www.killer-apps.com
a different angle on the same phenomena, from more "mainstream" economists.
They point out that there's no "new economics", just that conditions of the
digital world are different enough that some of the more "cool" aspects of
economic theory are now very important in practice.This is one of the few books by
economists that doesn't get bogged down in the kind of theoretical modeling that I love to
dig into, but makes most of my friends eyes glaze over.
her ideas is that politics is no longer dominated by left vs. right, but by
advocates of change (dynamists) vs. advocates of stasis (stasists). This neatly explains
the strange alliances between and left and right on ecological change and information
systems driven change. I think that this book, along with The Innovator's Dilemma,
provides a very interesting set of axes that structure my thinking about change.
a remarkable exploration by a thoughtful physicist of how quantum physics has dealt with
'the observer'. Are we living with a theory chosen because of Heisenberg and Bohr's desire
a neat collection of essays that form a collage about how different
disciplines deal with the notion of impossibility
exploring the nature of knowledge in professions like engineering,
architecture, law, etc.
a remarkable exploration of the cultural issues related to innovation
- showing how
entrepreneurs, activists, and politicians work in similar ways
how statistical behavior of dynamic systems provides an alternative way to think about
the fundamental uncertainty in the world. Argues strongly against the notion of an
a great book about pragmatically rethinking settings for children to learn in the age of
I enjoyed the way this book illustrated an unappreciated fact: how
very many of the modern electronics, computing and communications ideas sprouted out of a
small group of folks centered at MIT and also in the UK. This is a great history, tying a
lot of threads and people together.
really remarkable history of innovations in financial technology. Anyone who really
wants to understand the relation of information technology innovation to financial systems
should probably start here.
what I liked about Gordon's book is that he dives into the details of how companies get
started and what makes them succeed or fail. Anybody starting or joining a high tech
startup needs to read this book. I refer to it regularly; it helps to make sure I've
covered all the bases.