Okay, maybe not the beach – if you’re spending a couple of weeks sunning yourself abroad you might want a break from technology, even in paper form. But if you’re on the lookout for some more weighty reading matter on where all this technology is leading (or just want to make your own robot), we’ve picked out ten recent books worth checking out. No, not including the Long Tail one – that’s got quite enough recommendations online already.
1. Bruce Sterling – ‘Shaping Things’
Otherwise known as the book that coined the term ‘spime’ – objects that can be tracked through space and time throughout their lifetime. Sterling sees spimes as the crossroads between physical design and information technology, with huge implications for the future – not least environmental.
2. Ray Kurzweil – ‘The Singularity is Near’
Want a break from the admittedly-important task of ensuring climate change doesn’t make the human race sizzle away? Kurzweil’s book offers his take on the future, including reversing human ageing and illness, and solving pollution and poverty. Oh, and humans and machines coming together.
3. Bob Seidensticker – ‘Future Hype: The Myths of Technology Change’
Hype? In the technology industry? Perish the thought! Seidensticker takes a big stick and whups some of the assumptions made about technological change. Apparently the PC isn’t a big deal, and neither is the Internet. Great reading if, like us, you tend to get carried away by shiny silver gizmos if given half a chance.
4. Colin Mason – ‘A Short History of the Future: Surviving the 2030 Spike’
Another book that on the surface gives you plenty to fret about. Population explosions, accelerating climate change, dwindling oil and gas reserves, the career of James Blunt… Well, maybe not that last one. However, Mason isn’t all pessimistic – the book’s more about how we can stop all these things from putting an end to our history in the future. If that makes sense.
5. T.L. Taylor – ‘Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture’
The last time I tried to explore online game culture, I was shot to bits by a bunch of pre-teen Halo experts. This book is a safer way to dip your toes in the online waters, although it’s less about Halo and more about MMORPGs like EverQuest. Taylor’s a player herself, so don’t expect a dusty academic tome.
6. Richard A. Lanham – ‘The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information’
Modern society is apparently ‘drowning’ in information, so we need more tools and methods to make sense of it. So far, so good. But Lanham’s view that ‘arts and letters’ will thus become more important than engineering, science and economics may have a few technologists gnashing their teeth. Thos of us with English degrees, meanwhile, can dance in the streets at the news that we’re actually qualified to do a proper job…
7. Brad Graham – ‘101 Spy Gadgets for the Evil Genius’
Hey, I didn’t say this list was going to be entirely high-brow, did I? Besides, Graham’s book is an essential purchase for anyone considering a career in old-school global terrorism (i.e. when it was less about hiding out in the mountains with rocket launchers, and more about sitting at a smart desk stroking cats and chuckling). Find out how to make scanners, spy gear, laser gizmos and even mini robots. All you need now is a facial tic and a nemesis.
8. Paul Virilio – ‘Art and Fear’
More light summer reading: Virilio believes that art and science are battling each other to destroy the human form as we know it. No wonder the art and science blocks were on opposite sides of my school. Virilio thinks science is in the lead nowadays though, thanks to genetic engineering. A thought-provoking read, no matter which discipline you belong to.
9. Ravi Damani – ‘Online Marketing: Online Media Planning, Pay Per Click Search Marketing, Organic Search Engine Optimization, Email Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Rich Media and Banner Advertising, Viral Marketing, Social Networks and Analytics’
Partly because online advertising is an important subject, but mainly because you have to admire the way the book’s publisher squeezed all that onto the cover. You wouldn’t fit that in a banner ad…
10. Peter Morville – ‘Ambient Findability’
Now this is my kind of jargon – ‘findability’ is a marvellous word. I only wish my discarded socks had more findability. Anyway, Morville isn’t concerned with socks, his book’s about information architecture, easy navigation, and how we can make sense of the information overload (see book 6) of the Internet.