This year was a real roller coaster ride with books. There were some real gems and some real duds. A great decision i made this year was to discontinue books that were either poorly written or weren’t worth the time and effort. Here are some books and the ratings.
My top 3 for the year were:
Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin, a US Presidential Historian
Andreas Antonopoulos is considered one of the foremost authorities on Bitcoin. In fact his Senate hearing in Canada in 2014 (Click here for speech) is considered one of the key turning points in Bitcoin’s journey in educating the governments on one of the most pathbreaking phenomena since the internet. This “book” is essentially a transcription of his key speeches.
If you are embarking on your bitcoin learning journey, this book and the associated videos must be your first readings and viewings. Antonopoulos keeps his speeches accessible to everyone and that is the key in this book. There are some fundamental concepts that are explained in these speeches, such as simple networks and innovation at the edge, infrastructure inversion, and key design principles for the bitcoin.
Discussions about networks was an illuminating aspect and it gives a clear insight into the mind of Antonopoulos. He is one of the fiercest advocates for decentralization. He draws interesting parallels to the original pulse dialing phone network, which is a smart network with “dumb old dialing phones” at the edges. In the bitcoin age this is flipped on its head. The network is “dumb” but the innovation is pushed to the edge. As Antonopoulos puts it, the network is dumb as rocks and it simply processes scripts. Nothing else. Doing this affords the advantage that central permissions are not needed to innovate. Innovation can happen independently, and the network can stay as is.
Infrastructure inversion is the principle where initially the new technology runs on the old creaky infrastructure, then it upends the old infrastructure and the old technology also begins to run on the new innovations. Classic example is that of automobiles running on cobblestone and unpaved roads. They faced a lot of challenges initially, and then once roads were paved it benefited both cars and horse-drawn carts. These and several other fundamental bitcoin principles and disruptions are eloquently explained, with easy to grasp examples that makes the Bitcoin very real and appealing to all.
For anyone interested in bitcoin, this collection of essays / speeches is a must read.
I have no idea why this is voted 4 stars on Amazon.com, but I am pretty sure that will change once more ratings pour in. Perhaps, what I am saying is akin to blasphemy in the bitcoin world, but I found the book to be a complete snooze-fest.
The best part about the book is where the author does not talk or write, but interviews some of the most well-known doers in the bitcoin / blockchain world. There are almost 150 pages worth of interviews of leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs in the book and that is the gold mine. All credit to Skinner for getting these people and the opinions in a single book. Skinner also discusses some of the accurate predictions made by the renowned computer scientist Ray Kurzweil, who talked about automation in 2006 and estimates that computers will outperform humans in most tasks in twenty five years. This is already coming true with self-driving cars, autonomous flights, and hopefully blockchain-enabled smart economies by 2030.
The interview that stood out for me was that of Jeffrey Robinson the author of “Bitcoin: the Naked Truth About Bitcoin.” Robinson argues that Bitcoin is worthless but the underlying technology is the driving force for everyone to get to the promised land. Robinson, even goes on to refer to the Bitcoin as pretend currency (boom…mic drop). Not sure if I entirely agree with that categorization, but personally the underlying blockchain technology is what keeps me up at night, reading and researching.
The second best interview was with Giles Andrews, the CEO and Co-Founder of Zopa, the P2P lender. No banks needed for loans sounds like music to most ears. That is exactly what Zopa does. It epitomizes the “value web” philosophy. Zopa is known to have lower default rates than traditional banks owing to Zopa’s superior customer 360 analytics and is perhaps one of the coolest examples of Analytics in FinTech.
Skinner though does a decent job or articulating his “value web” philosophy. But it could have been done in one chapter. It doesn’t need a book. The book seems like an unnecessary attempt to put something in print rather than adding something valuable to the discourse on bitcoin and blockchain.