4 Books To Check Out To Help You Understand The World Better
1. AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee
Insight: Technological dominance contributes to global influence.
Ever wonder whether the Terminator movie franchise and the movie “Her” starring Scarlet Johansson will become a reality one day? Is it possible that AI can soon “destroy” or “love” mankind as portrayed in the movies? This book will help you understand what artificial intelligence (AI) is, what it is not, and anticipate a future where humans can coexist together with AI systemically and strategically! It also dives deep into the real issues that arise due to AI such as the increasing dependence of automation to replace many routine-based jobs.
The author also pointed out the different roles that both US and China have played in the research and development of AI in recent years. He observed that while the US has been passionate and dedicated in areas of machine learning, it is China that stirred a new wave of executing new products and creating new user habits that boost the economy. Just think and compare all the things you can do on WeChat vs Whatsapp.
Bonus point: This book includes the author’s personal near-death experience due to his “machine” like working lifestyle which led to his new understanding of AI.
2. Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall
Insight: A country needs to recognize the potential of their current location before setting off in a new direction.
Fun fact: Do you know that Alaska was bought from Russia by the US?
Through illustrations of the major continents and countries in the world, this book thoroughly describes why some countries appear to be more advantageous or disadvantageous which contributed to some of our perceptions about them today. For instance, countries that are surrounded by seas performed better at trade and thrived on marine activities.
Back in the days, countries were at war against each other to conquer territories, water, and border rights, natural resources (like GOLD, hello Sejarah textbook!) Up till today, territory disputes of the South China Sea among some countries in Asia are still going on (and yes, Malaysia is also one of them!)
One of the biggest takeaways from this book is that Geography is not solely learning about the mountains, seas, landmasses, and natural resources but also how all these eventually shape the history, politics and even economics of a country/ continent. This book will take you on a vivid adventure of exploring countries in the context of borders, population, religion, division, and national identity.
3. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate―Discoveries from A Secret World by Peter Wohlleben
Insight: All living things that cease to communicate will degenerate.
You might need to think twice if you assume that human beings are the only ones who are obsessed with the need to be connected at all times. Do you know that in the forest there is something known as the Wood Wide Web?
The author who is a forester in Germany describes trees in a relatable, candid manner. Like us humans, trees need friendship (it is a matter of life and death!), undergo the ageing process (gasp), come out with creative ways to protect themselves, and even have their languages (and this is not figurative!)to communicate during a crisis.
Reading this book will bring you memories of your Biology and Science classes where we are first exposed to vocabularies such as photosynthesis, chlorophyll, transpiration process, and so on but rest assured, no memorization is needed this time! This book also talks about the importance of having a sustainable, healthy forest in the long run as we embrace inevitable climate issues such as global warming.
By the time you finish this book, I’m pretty sure that you will never look at a tree or forest the same way again.
4. How Sugar Corrupted the World: From Slavery to Obesity by James Walvin
Insight: Food is more than just a boost of energy, it is a cultural philosophy.
Source: Book Depository
Not exactly the book you would jump to read immediately after a bubble tea treat, but this book offers a historical, visual, cultural, multi-lens perspective and bittersweet truth on how sugar has come a long way and impacted the world and why it is foreseen to continue doing so. If you are wondering why sugar is almost everywhere in our present diet, this book extensively discusses how sugar is so important to nations where their eating and drinking culture revolves around bread, pastry, jam, chocolates, coffee, and tea.
Once upon a time, sugary food was only an exclusive treat for royalties, aristocrats, but it is precisely for this reason that it became a national trend that everyone slowly followed suit. The author also highlighted the ugly side of the impacts of the high demand of sugar worldwide which led to slavery and obesity, raising issues of unethical trade in the past and present, alarming health concerns such as diabetes and cavities. Ideas like “Zero Sugar” and “Zero Calories” are slowly popping out to keep things in moderation, but are they valid?
Having said that, this read is not about inflicting guilt on our sugar consumption, but it aims to create a meaningful reflection of the micro and macro causes and effects that lie beneath our selection of food and diet. Definitely an eye-opening reading experience regardless of whether you have a sweet tooth or not!
I hope you will enjoy the above book recommendations and the reading experiences will bring you many leaps closer to understand our world and surroundings better!