Great Reads for November
Greetings from Barcelona. I came through here to visit with my son who is studying in Milan. The trip was interesting. I spent the first half of the week at the Smart Cities conference where the mood was buoyant and hopeful. Technology would save us from ourselves. Then I moved deeper into the city where technology is only just lapping at the edges of a riot of color and chaos. We walked through to the markets, the medieval streets, the quiet neighborhoods. We saw a jungle of fruit, an ocean of Vermouth, an army of happy yet discontented people chasing the night streets towards dawn. We heard politics as it was meant to be heard - through a bullhorn leading a march on a Saturday night. We saw the rich and the poor intermingle in one of the world’s greatest cities. We also had some really nice patatas bravas.
We lived, at least a little.
Touching reality is vital. As I am researching my new book, I’m thinking about the next stage of our evolution will be akin to a new Renaissance. The mundane work will burn away and the glorious work will replace it. The robots might be writing our essays and drawing our pictures today, but what is the next medium that humans will invent that the robots can’t touch? I like to think it’s rooted in our humanity, our ability to love, that will help us surviving any coming crisis. It’s our ability to be messy, to be afraid, to grow.
We’re going to be OK. That’s what I’m learning. It’s going to take a minute, but it’s coming.
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I’m planning my 2024 speaking schedule. If you’d like me to speak or moderate panels for your event, etc. please let me know. You can check out my speaking page here.
Live in NYC
I’m giving a talk about AI this week at Nerdnite. It will be funny (I think?) Would love to see you there. It’s on Thursday November 16, 2023 at 7pm at Caveat NYC (21A Clinton St, New York, NY 10002).
Michael Lewis had no business writing this book. Lewis is an old guard Wall Street guy, a writer who get to the bottom of “regular folks” who happened to know just a little bit more than everyone around them and who used that to their advantage. In Sam Bankman-Fried he saw a member of some kind of new guard but anyone - any crypto-savvy person, that is - could see through the FTX ruse completely but didn’t care it was fake because, well, number go up. Lewis, on the other hand, took things at face value. Sam Bankman-Fried is truly an odious person yet Lewis gave him a few hundred pages of hagiography until *bloop* everything exploded and he, the writer of the Big Short and Moneyball, was left bewildered. Read it if you need to be angry.
Zeke Faux is the anti-Lewis. Faux understood enough about crypto to understand two things - it’s propped up by Tether, a secretive company that makes nothing, holds no value, and is the lifeblood of organized crime and that the people who run it are complete morons. As I’ve said before, crypto weaponized the nerd. Folks who used to sell graphics cards or codes printer drivers for Linux were lionized for being able to make a simple database that stored meaningless numbers yet somehow became worth more than the GDP of the BRIC countries. Innovation stopped in its tracks at that point simply because thousands of smart coders learned they could raise (and lose) a billion dollars by making a marketplace that was as shoddy as a shopping cart page circa 1999. Some of them got rich, most didn’t. Now we all just have to return to sanity.
Anyway, this book is about Faux trying to meet the head of Tether and failing, hilariously. On the way he visits a scam factory when people are held against their will and interviews SBF a few times. It’s better than Lewis’ book by a mile.
After those two books, I needed this one. This is a 1999 book by Don Winslow, author of Savages and City on Fire. It’s a story about a fire, a fire investigator, and a murder. It’s a by-the-book thriller - you’re not really surprised by much - but it really gallops. Excellent palette cleanser and it’s a great bit of Winslow’s early work.