A Futurist’s Top 10 Books for 2013

Jack Uldrich's picture
As is my annual tradition, below are my top books on the future for the past year. They are not listed in any particular order.

1. Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier. The world is awash in data and it will only grow deeper as the “Internet of Things” connects 50 billion physical objects to the Internet in the coming years. If you are interested in learning how to survive and, ultimately, succeed in this coming tsunami, read this book.

2. The Nature of the Future: Dispatches From the Socialstructed World by Marina Gorbis. Written by the executive director of The Institute of the Future this book does an excellent job explaining how technological trends are transforming human behavior and restructuring society in powerful new ways. As Gorbis writes, “We are all immigrants to the future.” If you wish to see the future through a fresh set of “immigrant” eyes as well as learn how to prosper in this new world, pick up this book.

3. Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Taleb. “The future is accelerating,” “adapt or die” and “change is the only constant.” We hear such statements regularly. The real question, though, is: How does one survive this fast-approaching future? Antifragile is the best book I’ve yet read to offer tangible and concrete methods for future-proofing yourself against the coming change.

4. Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving and Prediction, edited by John Brockman. Do you believe you’re a good forecaster? After reading this book you’ll be less confident but, counter-intuitively, more capable because this fine compilation of essays (written by some of today’s leading thinkers) will cause you to reflect upon—and improve—some of your flawed mental assumptions.

5. New Rules for the New Economy: 10 Radical Strategies for a Connected World by Kevin Kelly. My retro pick of the year. Written in 1999, this book feels as though it could have been written in 2013 because the author accurately forecast so many of today’s trends. More important, this book still serves as a useful guide for thinking about tomorrow.

6. The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t by Nate Silver. If we know one thing about the future it’s that it will grow noisier and more chaotic. This makes discerning the “signal” that much more difficult. Luckily, this book delivers on its promise of helping the reader distinguish between today’s information (noise) and tomorrow’s knowledge (signals).

7. The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen. The book begins with this profound statement: “The Internet is among the few things humans have built that they don’t truly understand.” It then goes a long way toward helping the reader better understand what the Internet means to our global future.

8. Present Shock: When Everything Happens How by Douglas Rushkoff. Today’s new “digital age” is as profound as the change wrought by the Industrial Revolution in that it is changing how we think about time, work, community, government and human relationships. If you’re looking for clear answers, this book isn’t for you. If you’re looking to think deeply about tomorrow, “Present Shock” is a good place to start.

9. Infinite Progress: How the Internet and Technology Will End Ignorance, Disease, Poverty, Hunger and War by Byron Reese. Following in the proud tradition of such “future optimists” as Matt Ridey (“The Rational Optimist”), Peter Diamandis (“Abundance”) and Ray Kurzweil (“The Singularity”), this book provides an intellectually sound basis for why the future might well be much better than today’s skeptics and pessimists would have you believe.

10. What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption by Rachel Botsman. It was my good fortune to share the stage with Ms. Botsman at a conference in Sydney, Australia this past spring. It was here that I first heard her speak on “collaborative consumption.” After hearing her general thesis and then reading her book, I better understand how society can get off “the consumer bandwagon” and achieve a more sustainable future by harnessing the power of today’s information and communication platforms. Bottom line: Collaborative consumption is a big trend and individuals and businesses alike need to be aware of its transformative powers.

Until next year, Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow!

(Editorial note: This list is not intended to be exhaustive. There are a number of books, such as Clive Thompson’s “Smarter Than You Think” and Al Gore’s “The Future,” still sitting on my reading stand waiting to be read. If you have a book that you believe merits consideration, I’d love to hear from you. Better yet, just leave your recommendation, along with a brief explanation, in the comment section below.)

Interested in my top ten selections from years past? Checkout these older posts:

A Futurist’s Top Books for 2012

About the Author

Jack Uldrich is a renowned global futurist, independent scholar, sought-after business speaker, and best-selling author. His books include the best-selling, The Next Big Thing is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business, and the award-winning books, Into the Unknown: Leadership Lessons from Lewis & Clark’s Daring Westward Expedition and Jump the Curve: 50 Essential Strategies to Help Your Company Stay Ahead of Emerging Technologies. He is also the author of Green Investing: A Guide to Making Money through Environment-Friendly Stocks. His most recent works include Higher Unlearning: 39 Post-Requisite Lessons for Achieving a Successful Future (2011) and Foresight 2020: A Futurist Explores the Trends Transforming Tomorrow (2012). This post originally appeared on his site, jumpthecurve.net.