Required Reading & Listening: Innovative Insights

A selection of books and podcasts that explore the many sides of tech: dark and light, troubling and inspirational, frightening and fascinating

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order
Kai-Fu Lee
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
272 pages


PLOT Lee—a former Silicon Valley AI technologist, head of Google China, and now venture capitalist—has studied American and Chinese tech up-close. In AI Superpowers, he shares predictions on how AI world dominance will affect blue-collar and white-collar jobs, the resulting effects on global economies, and the many ways that China and the U.S. will be competing against and complementing one another as AI continues its rise.

MEAT We may not all have robots in our homes or flying cars, but AI has slowly crept into our lives (just ask Alexa), and Lee argues that AI is set to grow exponentially.

TWIST As with new technologies throughout history, humans will inevitably adapt to AI. Lee offers hope for the promising positives of our interactions with AI.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
Jim Carreyrou
352 pages


PLOT Take one brilliantly disruptive idea and one farsighted young entrepreneur, combine with $400M in capital and a board stacked with former world leaders, and what could go wrong? In the case of Theranos, just about everything.

MEAT Elizabeth Holmes wanted to diagnose hundreds of disorders using just one microdrop of blood—and claimed she had the technology to do it. After years of delays, it slowly becomes clear that Holmes’ promises won’t be fulfilled.

TWIST Spoilers have abounded in headlines for the past two years, but Holmes’ unabashed confidence and unapologetic hubris throughout this saga may be the biggest surprise of all.

The Impossible Climb: Alex Honnold, El Capitan, and the Climbing Life
Mark Synnott
416 pages


PLOT The greatest tech on Earth may still be the human body, brain, and heart. Following an Oscar win for Free Solo—the documentary about Alex Honnold’s stunning climb up the sheer face of Yosemite’s El Capitan without ropes—The Impossible Climb takes a deeper dive into the story of this inspiring human feat that pushed one man’s mental and physical capabilities to their limit.

MEAT With adventure journalist Synnott, we take a winding path from Yosemite’s first famed rock climbers, through his own globetrotting adventures (many of them vertical—he’s a climber himself), to the years that he shadowed Honnold’s preparation for the acclaimed 2017 ascent.

TWIST Synnott makes the case that any of us can achieve feats that initially seem impossible if we tirelessly apply our will and face our fears. It’s all about living life without a net.

American Innovations
Host Steven Johnson


Big ideas. Leaps of faith. Happy accidents. Best-selling author Steven Johnson explores how technology has transformed our lives and our world—and the often surprising ways these innovations came about.

Note to Self
Host Manoush Zomorodi


How do we hold on to our huma­nity in a technology-drenched world? Manoush Zomorodi gui­des listeners through a digital landscape that is simultaneously entertaining and existential.­toself