The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
Walter Isaacson’s new book might not be quite the monster hit that his 2011 Steve Jobs biography was, but The Innovators is definitely the 2014 tech book you’re most likely to spot someone reading on the bus. Having focused on one of tech's most singular visionaries, The Innovators turns its attention to teams of inventors and computer scientists, offering a look at just how far technology have come over the past century.
If The Innovators has a downside, it’s that it can be cursory in its discussions of specific people. Jobs got 500 pages of his own, but Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Tim Berners-Lee, Larry Page and others have to share less than that between them.
Still, if you’re looking for a tech book people will have read this winter, The Innovators should be high on your list.
Taking in everything from Google’s self-driving cars to the possibility that we might one day be put out of a job by the right algorithm, The Second Machine Age looks forward while Isaacson’s The Innovators looks back. Between them, this as close to a crash-course overview of computing as you could hope for.
Photo: W.W. Norton & Company
To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism
Evgeny Morozov isn’t a critic to everyone’s liking. The guy’s got a shtick, and that shtick involves hating on technology in all its forms. His previous book, The Net Delusion, looked at how the Internet has progressed from a tool capable of freeing oppressed peoples to one used for controlling them. In his follow-up, To Save Everything, Click Here, he examines the subject of “solutionism” — or the idea that, in Apple’s words, whatever the problem, “there’s an app for that.”
Morozov is grouchy, offers few of his own solutions, and is able to take the most well-intentioned tech idea and twist it until it resembles a dystopian nightmare scenario. That doesn’t make To Save Everything, Click Here any less valuable, however. If you want your technology optimism grounded with a bit of critical theory, Morozov will give you plenty to think about.
Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal
Nick Bilton’s Twitter biography, Hatching Twitter, came out late last year, but it’s well worth a read if you haven’t got to it yet. It’s less heavyweight and more narrative than, say, Evgeny Morozov’s To Save Everything, Click Here, but that’s not to suggest in any way that it’s not worth your time. If you’re looking for a story in the vein of The Social Network (although infinitely better than the Ben Mezrich source material), this is certainly it.
Photo: Portfolio Penguin
How Google Works
Writing a book about Google is rapidly becoming a more oversubscribed area than writing about Apple. We’ve had histories from The New Yorker's Ken Auletta and Wired’s Steven Levy. We’ve had employee memoirs such as I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59. And we’ve had academic takedowns of googling, such as The Googlization of Everything (and Why We Should Worry) by Siva Vaidhyanathan.
What more could you possibly want to know about everyone’s favorite (or least favorite) Mountain View company? Answering that question is the thesis behind Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg’s How Google Works. Instead of looking at what Google does, it looks at Google’s management as a company. The results can be problematic — when is Google not? — but the book is the best inside glimpse we’ve had yet.
Photo: Grand Central Publishing
The Quantum Moment: How Planck, Bohr, Einstein, and Heisenberg Taught Us to Love Uncertainty
The Quantum Moment isn’t strictly a tech book, but it’s one I very much enjoyed. It’s an informative and reassuringly accessible book that describes the nigh-unapproachable world of quantum physics.
Authors Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber take readers through the work of pioneering physicists such as Planck, Einstein and Bohr, and offer fresh and entertaining takes on concepts such as entanglement and the uncertainty principle without ever talking down to readers. If you’re interested in the science behind time travel and parallel worlds, this is highly recommended.
Photo: W.W. Norton & Company
It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens
Author danah boyd (yes, it’s still styled like that) returns with It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, a fascinating new book about how teenagers communicate via social media. boyd looks at privacy, safety, danger and bullying in the age of Facebook and, while some of it is depressing stuff about trolls and misogyny, she also looks at the ways the online world can help alienated teens find new ways to engage and establish an identity. If you’re interested in the sociology of technology, this is definitely worth picking up.
The Formula: How Algorithms Solve all our Problems ... and Create More
Disclosure: Since this book is mine, I’m including it as a bonus book here, rather than one of the main eight. The Formula: How Algorithms Solve all our Problems ... and Create More is a book about algorithms and the increasing role they play in all our lives, from the way Google and Facebook shape our identities, to neural networks used by Hollywood to create hit movies, to the predictive policing increasingly used around the world. Take a look if you’re interested in the secret formulae that govern our lives.
The web has spun about 13,000 different theories on why Apple bought Beats. Did they want the headphones? Or was it Beats Music that tipped things over?
It’ll be months, if not years, before we learn Apple’s real play with the Beats acquisition, but Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson has his own theory on why Apple bought Beats and it has nothing to do with music, overpriced headphones, or other wearables.
Apple isn’t being valued as a creative leap company so much as it is a predictable cash machine, says former CEO John Sculley.
Speaking with India’s Economic Times about the launch of his latest venture, pCell — a technology that allows huge amounts of data to travel on spectrum-crunched wireless networks, while offering faster speeds and fewer call drops to customers — Sculley gave his opinion of Apple’s current situation:
“Google and Apple are like ATMs, they just keep generating cash. Google takes more risk than Apple. Apple tends to stay the course, and this year is a very big year for Apple in terms of products. It’s not clear that they’re going to demonstrate a creative leap this year despite the products, like they did when Steve Jobs was leader. I think it’s probably unfair to expect them to have a creative leap every five years.”
Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson ruffled some fanboys’ feathers earlier this month when he said Google is outpacing Apple on the innovation front. Pointing to the Nest acquisition as evidence, Isaacson says the greatest innovation is coming out of Google.
During an appearance on Bloomberg TV this morning Isaacson stood by his comments but clarified that while innovation is great, the most important trait for tech companies to acquire is the ability to execute, and no one executes better than Apple.
Asked about Apple’s problems coming out with a great low-end device, Isaacson responded that Apple won’t ever be good at low-end because it makes “insanely great products” so it will have to come out with a new disruptive device.
Listen to Walter’s full comments in the video below:
Steve Wozniak has made his feelings about Ashton Kutcher’s Jobs movie pretty clear, but how does he really feel about the film? Kutcher believes Woz’s views could be swayed by the fact he’s being paid by another studio to support a different Steve Jobs movie, and because Jobs doesn’t place enough focus on Woz’s contribution to Apple.
Simon & Schuster has confirmed it will be launching a paperback edition of Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography on Steve Jobs this fall, featuring a younger Jobs on its cover. The book, which will also be updated with a new afterword, will be available on September 10.
Even though Steve Jobs had a solid working relationship with News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, it’s no secret that Steve Jobs hated Fox News. In fact, in Walter Isaacon’s authorized biography, Steve Jobs said that “Fox has become an incredibly destructive force in our society.”
Rather than associate Apple’s brand with Fox News, Steve Jobs decided to personally order all of Apple’s ads to be removed from the conservative TV network.
A couple of weeks ago, we reported that Steve Jobs was about to become a manga star, thanks to a new project by Mari Yamazaki (the author of, apparently, a “time travel public bath manga” called Thermae Romae) based upon Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs.
Now a preview of the first chapter of the bio has hit the web, seemingly focusing on the initial meetng between Jobs and Isaacson.
We’ve got the first pages after the jump. If you want to read the whole thing, the first chapter will be published in full in Japan in the April issue of Kiss.