Books are among my greatest passions. I buy more books than I can possibly read. I read books in a daily basis, but I know I will never catch up because I can't help buying more and more. Here I share with you my reading experience. Come back whenever you need a reading recommendation.
Ada's Algorithm by James Essinger
I’m essentially an engineer and you’re probably one as well. The companies we work for are essentially technology-driven. We’re the lucky ones to work in such a thriving industry, but we would probably work in another industry or have a different career if it wasn’t for a woman, in the mid 19th century, who invented the concept of machine programming.
Inspired by the Women’s International Day, I picked the biography of Ada Lovelace to recollect the influence of women in our society. Ada is known as the first programmer because she wrote the first algorithm that could be encoded into Charles Babbage’s machine, but her contributions go beyond that. She had a vivid and thrilling vision of a variety of calculations being done by machines faster than any human abilities.
A study of Babbage’s and Ada’s writings has shown that Babbage saw the world and mechanisms, in a more literal, factual way. For Ada, inventing metaphors for understanding science was second nature. She was the first to separate the science of mathematics from the science of computing and the first to see data and processing as distinct abstractions. We take these concepts for granted these days, but figuring them out with just the design of a computing machine at her disposal was genius.
She was born in a privileged family, with enough money to allow her to dedicate full time to science and math. Yet, she was marginalized and largely ignored. She knew that and also dedicated time to educate young girls in math. I would like to highlight an encouragement she wrote to her pupils:
“Remember above all things that you’re not to hurry over anything. There is plenty of time, and if you lay a good and solid foundation, the superstructure will be easy and delightful to build!”
Her contributions to science were only recognized 40 years after her death, delaying decades of technological advances.
The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell
I guess it doesn’t matter how worse things can get, people always get used to them. It happened when Germany intensively bombarded London, it happened when the US bombarded Japan, and it is happening again during the COVID-19 pandemic. How could anyone imagine that a lot of people would refuse to be vaccinated against a deadly virus? Unbelievable!
This book rescues our ability to see ethics and morality through the shadows of pragmatism. Sometimes, the most appropriate, humanized, and proven solution takes time (vaccine) while many people, in the urge to rapidly solve a problem, advocate for a short term solution (herd immunity) at the cost of many lives. Today, we know that herd immunity doesn’t work because the virus mutates, sometimes to a more contagious and lethal variant.
No, the book doesn’t talk about the pandemic. Not a single word. But we can extract the human nature in times of war and apply to many other situations. Like the excited programmer who coded a new feature in a hurry to release it fast, just to realize later it went out full of bugs and security flaws. If they only had spent sometime designing the solution before coding it, many issues could have been prevented.
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
When I got the role of team lead, the first thing I said to my new team was: “Our relationship starts today with full trust in each other. I believe you 100% from day one. “ It sounds precipitate, but I was just being vocal about how we all feel when we meet strangers. That’s what this book taught me right away: When most of us meet strangers, whatever they say we “default to truth”.
If there is a book in the entire world that every single person must read is “Talking to Strangers”. It opened up my eyes for so many things! Do you know those people who analyze body language and micro facial expressions, claiming to know how the subject is feeling or thinking, if they are lying or telling the truth? It turns out they have a very high probability of getting things very wrong. Some of these people even have certifications based on existing protocols. Well, it seems to be just another money catching technique that I’m now immune from.
After reading this book, you will never jump to conclusions anymore.
Waterloo You Never Knew: Life on the Margins
Start With Why
Pragmatic Thinking and Learning