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Summer Reading List: 11 Books That Will Help You Navigate the New Age Of AI

2023 May 28
by Greg Satell

It’s hard to believe that summer is already here. Where I live, outside of Philadelphia, the nights in May have been pretty cold, so I’m still trying to get used to the idea that the time for backyard barbecues and hanging out by the pool has already arrived. Still, summer is by far my favorite season, so I gotta have faith!

It also appears that we’ve entered the dawn of a new age of artificial intelligence. New services like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, while not exactly great leaps forward in technology, have introduced generative AI to the greater public. Every day millions of people are using these services to do real work.

Like it or not, we’re all going to have to learn to navigate this new age and figure out what it means for us. Much like earlier innovations, such as smartphones and the Internet, AI will alter our lives in ways that are hard to predict and we’ll all have to figure out how to navigate the opportunities and the dangers. Here are 11 books that will help you do that.

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Values Always Cost You Something. That’s What Makes Them Different From Platitudes.

2023 May 21
by Greg Satell

When I was in Panama last year for a keynote I had the opportunity to speak with Erika Mouynes, the country’s former Foreign Minister, about the war in Ukraine. Her ministry had strayed from its traditionally neutral stance by calling for “respect for the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine based on international law.”

She told me that when she later met with Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, he asked her why she cared about a country thousands of miles away where Panama has no tangible interests. What did she expect to gain? She told him that sometimes you need to make decisions based on values that are important to you.

Her position was not without risk. Panama depends on broad international support for its canal. Yet many of the executives at the event told me how proud they were of her support for sovereignty, an issue that Panama has sometimes struggled with in its history. The truth is that, to mean something, values always cost you something. Otherwise they’re just platitudes.

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Don’t Trust Your Feelings. They’re Often Triggers That Mislead You

2023 May 14
by Greg Satell

The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt developed the metaphor of the Elephant and the Rider to describe the relationship between our emotional and cognitive brains. While the rider (representing our cognitive brain) may feel in control, it is the elephant (our emotions) that is more likely to determine which direction we will go.

That’s why it feels so good to act on our emotions. Rather than struggling with the reins to get the elephant to go where we want it to, we can just give in and race with abandon towards our destination. It’s usually not until we’ve run off a cliff that we realize that we should have exercised more restraint. By that time, it’s often too late to undo the damage.

The truth is that our brains are wired for survival, not to make rational decisions for a modern, industrialized economy. That’s why we shouldn’t blindly trust our feelings. We should see them as warning signs to proceed with caution because, while they can alert us to unseen dangers, they can also be triggers that others use to manipulate us.

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5 Simple Rules That Will Make You A Powerful Communicator

2023 May 7
by Greg Satell

Sometimes the hardest thing is merely to make yourself understood. Things that change the world, or even a small part of it, always arrive out of context because, by definition, the world hasn’t changed yet. That’s why innovators need to be great communicators, because an idea that doesn’t gain traction is an idea that fails.

That’s easier said than done. As Fareed Zakaria has put it, “Thinking and writing are inextricably intertwined. When I begin to write, I realize that my ‘thoughts’ are usually a jumble of half-baked, incoherent impulses strung together with gaping logical holes between them.” Clearly, if he struggles, we all do.

Yet the good news is that most people can immensely improve their communication skills by following a few simple rules. While, like any skill, they take a lifetime of practice to hone and perfect, you can start seeing progress within a few hours. It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur, a senior executive or just starting out, you need to communicate effectively.

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These 3 Myths Kill Transformation And Change

2023 April 30
by Greg Satell

In 1975, more than 80% of US corporate assets were tangible assets, things like factories, equipment and real estate. When leaders in an organization made decisions about change, they tended to involve tangible, strategic assets, such as building a new factory, entering a new market or launching a new line of products.

So when the modern practice of change management arose in the 1980s, that’s what it was designed to address. Managers began to recognize the need to communicate changes to the rank and file, so that they could better understand it and contribute to its success. An entire cottage industry of consultants arose to fill that need.

But now that situation has flipped and more than 80% of corporate assets are intangible. When we talk about change today we are usually talking about changes in people themselves, in how they think and how they act. Clearly, that’s a very different type of thing and we need to approach change differently. Unfortunately, too many people are mired in the past.

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We Need To Stop Fooling Ourselves And Get Our Facts Straight. That Takes Work.

2023 April 23
by Greg Satell

Mehdi Hasan’s brutal takedown of Matt Taibbi was almost painful to watch. Taibbi, a longtime muckraking journalist of some renown, was invited by Elon Musk to review internal communications that came to be known as the Twitter Files and made big headlines with accusations regarding government censorship of social media.

Yet as Hasan quickly revealed, Taibbi got basic facts wrong, either not understanding what he was looking at, doing sloppy work or just plainly being disingenuous. What Taibbi was reporting as censorship was, in fact, a normal, deliberative process for flagging problematic content, most of which was not taken down.

He looked foolish, but I could feel his pain. In both of my books, I had similarly foolish errors. The difference was that I sent out sections to be fact-checked by experts and people with first-hand knowledge of events before I published. The truth is that it’s not easy to get facts straight. It takes hard work and humility to get things right. We need to be careful.

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We Expect Humans To Be Accountable. We Should Expect No Less Of AI

2023 April 16
by Greg Satell

About ten years ago, IBM invited me to talk with some key members on the Watson team, when the triumph of creating a machine that could beat the best human players at the game show Jeopardy! was still fresh. I wrote in Forbes at the time that we were entering a new era of cognitive collaboration between humans, computers and other humans.

One thing that struck me was how similar the moment seemed to how aviation legend Chuck Yeager described the advent of flying-by-wire, four decades earlier, in which pilots no longer would operate aircraft, but interface with a computer that flew the plane. Many of the macho “flyboys” weren’t able to trust the machines and couldn’t adapt.

Now, with the launch of ChatGPT, Bill Gates has announced that the age of AI has begun and, much like those old flyboys, we’re all going to struggle to adapt. Our success will not only rely on our ability to learn new skills and work in new ways, but the extent to which we are able to trust our machine collaborators. To reach its potential, AI will need to become accountable.

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Here’s What It Takes To Change Someone’s Mind

2023 April 9
by Greg Satell

When’s the last time you changed your mind about anything substantial? Was it another person that convinced you or an unexpected experience that changed your perspective? What led you to stop seeing something one way and start seeing it in another? I’ll bet it doesn’t happen often. We rarely change our minds.

Now think about how much time we spend trying to change other people’s minds. From sales pitches and political discussions, to what we’re going to have for dinner and when the kids should go to bed, we put a lot of time and effort into shaping the opinions of others. Most of that is probably wasted.

The truth is that we can’t really change anyone’s mind. Only they can do that. Yet as David McRaney explains in his new book, How Minds Change, there are new techniques that can help us be more persuasive, but they don’t require brilliant sophistry or snappy rhetoric. They involve more listening than speaking, and understanding the context in which beliefs arise.

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How Empathy Can Be Your Secret Weapon

2023 April 2

When I first moved to Kyiv about 20 years ago, I met my friend Pavlo, who is from Belarus. Eventually our talk turned to that country’s leader, Alexander Lukashenko, and an incident in which he turned off the utilities at the US Ambassador’s residence, as well as those of other diplomats. It seemed totally outlandish and crazy to me.

“But he won,” Pavlo countered. I was incredulous, until he explained. “Lukashenko knows he’s a bastard and that the world will never accept him. In that situation all you can win is your freedom and that’s what he won.” It was a mode of thinking so outrageous and foreign to me that I could scarcely believe it.

Yet it opened my eyes and made me a more effective operator. We tend to think of empathy as an act of generosity, but it’s far more than that. Learning how to internalize diverse viewpoints is a skill we should learn not only because it helps make others more comfortable, but because it empowers us to successfully navigate an often complex and difficult world.

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To Build The Technology Of Tomorrow We Need To Create The Ecosystems Today 

2023 March 26
by Greg Satell

There are a  number of stories about what led Hans Lipperhey to submit a patent for the telescope in 1608. Some say that he saw two children playing with lenses in his shop who discovered that when they put one lens in front of each other they could see a weather vane across the street. Others say it was an apprentice that noticed the telescopic effect.

Yet the more interesting question is how such an important discovery could have such prosaic origins. Why was it that it was at that time that somebody noticed that looking through two lenses would magnify objects and not before? How could it have been that the discovery was made in a humble workshop and not by some great personage?

The truth is that history tends to converge and cascade around certain places and times, such as Cambridge before World War I, Vienna in the 1920s or, more recently, in Silicon Valley. In each case, we find that there were ecosystems that led to the inventions that changed the world. If we are going to build a more innovative economy, that’s where we need to focus.

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