Monthly book roundup – 2015 September

Books finished in September:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will (2015) by Geoff Colvin. We are at the fourth turning point of workers (1. Industrial technology, 2. Electricity, 3. IT). Amazing advances by computers and robots. In stead of asking what computers can never do, ask what we will insist that humans do. Examples of the latter include roles of accountability for important decisions, like judges in court of law, CEOs, generals, other types of leaders; dealing with organizational issues where the conceptualization and nature of a problem keep changing; and areas where we want to look someone in the eye, like a doctor (this one puzzled me, given the advances made by computerized diagnosing). All this assuming society still run by humans, and that cyborgs that look perfectly like humans have not come into being. The value of empathy in forgin interpersonal connections. Good examples of the value of practice, often in various forms of simulations, from the military. Colvin makes the claim that human teams are still key, however the amassed evidence is here a bit short on causal relationships. Luckily this is not a trait running through the book. Recommended.

Guantánamo Diary (2015) by Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Writing in 2005, Mohamedou Ould Slahi from Mauritania tells the story of how in 2001 he was detained by Mauritianian authorities, transferred to Jordan, then Afghanistan, then in 2002 to Guantanamo, Cuba, where he has remained since. It is difficult to evalutate a book like this, both because the author has obious incentives to represent his story in a certain way, and because the other side does not go out with all they supposedly know. It is hard to not be moved by his story, though, and the reasonableness with which he describes his situation, himself, and his guards. The New Yorker and the Guardian have good reviews. Recommended.

Annihilation: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy) (2014) by Jeff VanderMeer. An expedition sets out to explore the abandoned, mysterious “Area X”. Too much horror/fantasy for me. Not recommended.

Ratings and old books are in the library.

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