The future of humans: A 2017 reading list

The future of humans: A 2017 reading list

In all the talk about tech of the future, the real question is, What is the future role of humans? Our reading list helps provide the answer.

If 2016 was the year of the bot, 2017 is decidedly the year of the human.

Each and every day, our clients ask for help navigating the future. Whether it is developing a moonshot investment thesis, embracing open innovation, or exploring models for business sustainability, the first question is usually about the role of technology in shaping this future.

While few will admit it, the real question we are all asking ourselves is: What is the future role of humans? And more importantly, how do the social, economic, technical, and political decisions those in power make shape this future?

We are not alone. Last year we shared The Human Company Manifesto at O’Reilly’s Next:Economy Summit. This year the World Economic Forum asks business leaders to be responsible for, and not just responsive to, the society in which they operate. In February NewCo Shift:Forum will explore capitalism at a crossroads. In March, Social Media Week wants to know what happens when software eats our words.

For Luminary Labs’ bimonthly reading club, we’ve selected “The future of humans” as our first topic of the year, with a curated list of both recent and not-yet published works.

Want to join us? Here’s what we’re reading, and why:

  • Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind, Dr. Yuval Noah Harari. Before I look to the future, I always look to the past. And in this case, we will go all the way back to the beginning of humanity to understand when and how our unique cognitive abilities led to the complex global ecosystem we live in.
  • More Human, Designing a World Where People Come First, Steve Hilton. Where Sapiens focuses on how we got here, More Human asks us to rethink the institutions—from where we get our food to how political parties rise, to better serve humans.
  • Makers and Takers, The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business, Rana Foroohar. Can any system be too big to fail? If you have to ask, you already know the answer. But the problem doesn’t stop with banks. As Foroohar posits, we are experiencing the “financialization” of American business, which directly contributes income and wealth disparity.
  • Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, How Growth became the Enemy of Prosperity, Douglas Rushkoff. One of the great promises of the Internet was that it would level the playing field by equally distributing knowledge and, therefore, opportunity. And yet Silicon Valley is at once a symbol of unprecedented innovation — and unprecedented inequality. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can choose to design business and technology to serve humanity.
  • Who Owns the Future?, Jaron Lanier. What if the key to fixing the economy hinged upon fixing a broad range of networks, from digital to financial to intelligence? If we can better understand where a concentration of power hinders American competitiveness, we can redesign these systems.
  • Making it in America, John D. Bassett III. When furniture manufacturing moved to China in the 1990s, prompting prices to plummet, Basset made a controversial decision: keep building in America. His approach? Invest in people and inspire to build a better product that is also competitive on price.
  • The Calm Company, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. The founders of Basecamp continue to fly in the face of conventional startup wisdom by asserting that strong companies can also be calm companies. This book is slated to publish in late 2017, but in the interim, the authors willpost essays from the book to their blog, Signal vs. Noise.

Have a Human Company reading suggestion? Share your recommended reading via Twitter with @humancoplaybook.