Books about the impact of technology on society

If you’re looking to learn more about why society is changing so fast and what to expect in the future you’ve come to the right place. The following is a list of the five best books about the impact of technology on society. I have a fairly loose definition of technology. In my opinion, it can be both the traditional view (the internet) or policy (free trade legislation). There’s not a whole lot of rhyme or reason to the list’s order.

Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization

“I keep coming back to the way terrorism and guerrilla warfare is rapidly evolving,” John Robb writes in the preface of the paperback version, “to allow nonstate networks to challenge the structure and order of nation-states.” Brave New War is a book about terrorism but defines the structure of an interconnected world in regards to war, politics, and business. He argues that for the first time in modern history an outsider can not only fight a modern war–but win. This leaves established organizations (corporations and governments) in a tenuous position. Recent memory has shown that Robb’s final thesis was right; companies that embrace lean tactics flourish, while others fade away. “We have two choices: we can enable its emergence, or we can delay it until it evolves on its own out of necessity.“

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations

You know a book is great when it is published as a libertarian manifesto and becomes required reading for political organizers of all persuasions.  Brafman and Beckstrom argue that organizations that become leaderless become unstoppable because they can’t be logically attacked. If you cut off one source of power a new one simply reemerges. The book belongs in the same category as Rules for Radicals, but as I’ve gotten older and gained experience working with Fortune 100 management I’ve began to question to the viability of scaling a leaderless organization. Nevertheless it remains an important work.

Men Who Stare at Goats

Jon Ronson is an expert of drilling down into a seemingly ridiculous/hilarious idea and revealing the terrifying fragment of truth behind it. Men Who Stare at Goats is an investigation of a rumored US Army program to train a group of top-secret soldiers to become so powerful they could kill a goat by staring at it. He investigates the seemingly insane rumor and stumbles upon something true and perhaps even more frightening: the institutionalized use of psychological warfare in modern society.

American Kingpin

American Kingpin tells the remarkable true story about how one man built an Amazon for drugs and weapons. At its peak, it processed hundreds of millions of dollars a day in illicit substances. It then came crashing down due to the work of a handful of dedicated US agents. It took Sam Walton 30 years to conquer retail. Jeff Bezos 15. All of this happened in a few years.

How Not to Network a Nation

In the thirty some years since the fall of the Soviet Union, most analysis is reduced to one sentiment: communism failed because capitalism is superior. They bring up the work of Hayek, stories about full grocery aisles, or simply argue that people are too self-interested for mass collectivism to work. And yes, I understand and even agree with many of these arguments, but it’s also lazy. It’s like analyzing the most recent Super Bowl and concluding that the New England Patriots won because they wanted it more. In How Not To Network a Nation Benjamin Peters provides an exhaustive look at one of the functional problems that plagued the Soviet experiment: information. Peters concludes that “American APRANET initially took shape thanks to well-managed state subsidies and collaborative research environments. The comparable Soviet network project stumbled due to widespread unregulated competition among self-interested institutions, bureaucrats, and other key actors.”

Basically, the socialists acted like capitalists and the capitalists acted like socialists.

Photo by from Pexels

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