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addabook - Automate This
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Automate This
How Algorithms Took Over Our Markets, Our Jobs, and the World
Christopher Steiner
read on November 1, 2013

This was a fun, accessible and engaging account of how algorithms and computers are changing the world. It was broad, not deep. The book discussed the origins of algorithms (which the author uses fairly interchangeably with 'computer programming' in general), and then discussed the myriad ways that are taking over pretty much every industry and application of modern life. The examples were fun, but not too surprising (healthcare, dating, finance). I'm really not sure who the target audience of the book is. I figure anyone with any knowledge of computer science would already know most of this stuff, and anyone without knowledge of computer science would really never pickup a book with this title/subtitle/cover. Anyway, for me two things stuck out:

The first was I was a bit surprised with how much historical innovation starts on Wall Street. Even early bankers (interesting example of Rothschild knowing results of Waterloo battle well before British Gov, due to his bond arbitrage strategy and message pigeons). A surprising amount of computer tech was either developed or significantly enhanced by Wall Streeters trying to build an edge in trading speed/strategy.

The second thing wasn't so much a lesson from the book, but more so a reminder to get my butt in gear to learn some computer programming. Steiner makes it very clear that the jobs of the future (if not already the present) will primarily belong to those who can best interface with, and take advantage of, and most of all further develop, our burgeoning technology. We have a very far way yet to go in these fields, and there is much yet to learn and accomplish. While I've likely missed the boat on mastering computer science, I'm not yet too old to pick up a little programming know-how, and it will clearly pay dividends.

Author Bio:

Christopher Steiner is the author of Automate This (2012) and $20 Per Gallon, a New York Times Bestseller (2009). Steiner covered technology as a senior staff writer at Forbes magazine for seven years; before that, he was a staff writer at the Chicago Tribune. His writing has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, Discover magazine and Skiing Magazine. He holds an engineering degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a masters in journalism from Northwestern University. Steiner lives in Evanston, Ill., with his family.