Tag Archives: #TechReads

Photo credit: Michael Josh Villanueva

Holiday Gift Guide: the TechReads Edition

It’s that time of year! As you compile your list of gifts for your friends and family this holiday season, consider these ten tech-related books.

For the Visionary:

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

This book is great for someone who values history as a way of appreciating what we have in the present, as well as a way of imagining how to keep moving forward. You’ll find no Great Man Theory here: in this book, Walter Isaacson, who also wrote Steve Jobs’ biography, explores how collaboration between many talented people brought about the digital age.

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

If you know someone who dreams of (or is currently) starting their own business or launching a new project, this book provides scientifically-grounded advice on how to succeed. Even if someone doesn’t consider themselves an entrepreneur but is excited about innovation and staying on the cutting edge, this could be a great read.

For the DIY-Lover:

Zero to Maker: Learn (Just Enough) to Make (Almost) Anything by David Lang

This book would be great for that person who’s always tinkering around, taking stuff apart or trying to invent something new. They’ll find plenty of insights in this book before putting it down, ready for another experiment with renewed inspiration.

For the Gamer:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This book is commonly categorized as young adult fiction but would also be an enjoyable read for any adult who wants to reminisce about videogames and 80’s pop culture. Ready Player One takes place in a world where much of one’s life can take place in virtual reality; the founder of this virtual reality has left his fortune to whoever can solve a series logical puzzles and riddles in a 80’s-themed quest. The mission becomes not only to win a fortune but to determine how this virtual reality will be used to affect the rest of the world.

For Job and Internship Seekers:

Cracking the Coding Interview: 150 Programming Questions and Solutions by Gayle Laakmann McDowell

With examples in Java and C/C++, this is a book for someone who has had at least one year of coding experience and is looking for a job or internship in software development. One of the best features of this book is its detailed solutions at the back of the book. Even seasoned developers looking to change jobs might benefit from this book, as some of the examples are rather tricky/advanced.

Women in Tech:

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Some of you might be tired of hearing this recommendation, and that’s okay. For those of you who haven’t heard of Lean In, this book is an inspiring call to action by Facebook’s COO to be better role models and foster empowering environments for women in the workplace. While not focused exclusively on the tech industry, there are plenty of insights here that, if anything, are even more appropriate. A new edition, Lean in for Graduates, was released this year.

Pioneer Programmer: Jean Jennings Bartik and the Computer that Changed the World.

This is the only autobiography in existence by one of the six female computer scientists who in 1946 programmed ENIAC, the world’s first all-electronic, programmable computer. Bartik, who led the team, sheds light on an oft-forgotten part of computing history and writes about what it was like to be a female pioneer in computer science. For more biographies on women in computer science, I would recommend researching Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper.

Other Biographies:

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

If you know someone who loves Apple products and would love learning about the life of its co-founder, this biography is a no-brainer. Walter Isaacson writes about Jobs’ personal and professional life, bringing to life one story behind the cultivation of this well-known company.

Alan Turing: the Enigma by Andrew Hodges

Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician who developed theories for computing that heavily influenced the progression of computer science. Among many things, he developed the Turing Test which continues to play an important role in the study of artificial intelligence. An fyi: this book is on the lengthy side (about 600 pages).

Let’s Talk Tech and Psychology:

The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive by Brian Christian

This would be a great gift for someone who enjoys psychology and philosophy in addition to a love of technology. What does our view of computers say about our view of humans? This book is sure to generate an interesting discussion.


This is a special edition of TechReads, my series of technology-related book reviews. If you would like to suggest a book for a future TechReads article, please leave a comment below.

TechReads: Fabricated – Part 2 (Controversies of 3D Printing)

3D printers make it easier to produce prosthetics and other custom products, much to the celebration of creative minds and makers. But like pretty much any technology, 3D printers can also bring trouble. Here are some of the top controversies surrounding 3D printing, as mentioned in Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman’s book Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing, along with additional resources for learning about these issues.

A Gray Area of Responsibility

A machine part malfunctions or breaks down, causing a fatal injury. The machine part was 3D printed. Under what circumstances is the death the responsibility of the user, manufacturer, design engineer of the machine part, and/or design engineer of the 3D printer? Michael Molitch-Hou provides industry insight on possible changes in liability issues. The complexity escalates further when we consider that 3D printing is also being used to develop living tissue, which may one day include entire organs.

It Isn’t Easy Being Green

3DPrintingGreen

Credit: edie newsroom

How do 3D printers measure up in terms of sustainability and going green? Instead of mass production, 3D printers can be used to manufacture an item only when it is needed, and the additive manufacturing process generates less waste. However, this model works for some products better than others. Factor in shipping/transportation costs, how easily the product can be made out of recyclable parts, and how easily the product can be recycled, and suddenly it’s not so easy to decide how much sustainability we’re really looking at. If you’re curious, Jonathan Bardelline and Catherine Wilson discuss this issue in more detail.

Getting the Red Light

3D printers are becoming cheaper, and the Internet provides increasingly ready access to design files for countless objects. This puts a strain on the concept of intellectual property.  How does this change the safety of items such as food, drugs and guns, which are currently regulated to some extent in many parts of the world? For example, in early 2013 the US government ordered a man to take his design files for a 3D printed gun off the Internet, but not before many other people downloaded and shared the file.

A Changing Job Market

Will 3D printers eliminate jobs or create jobs? You could argue for both sides, but let’s reframe the scenario: 3D printers seem set to eventually replace many of today’s manual laborers. However, the authors of Fabricated highlight an increasing demand for the design engineers that will continue to drive the creative side of using this technology. In this article, Rodolfo Lentejas explores some other ways that the job market could shift, including impacts on retail. For a more historical perspective, check out this column by History, Future Now.

Machines Making Machines

Credit: MIT Technology Review

Credit: MIT Technology Review

It would save a lot of time if a 3D printer could fix itself and print its own replacement parts. What if it had enough artificial intelligence to make better parts for itself or print entirely new, more sophisticated machines? The author, inventor and Google Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil made popular the concept of the singularity, which includes the idea that machines will keep developing smarter machines until one day, artificial intelligence will have surpassed human intelligence. Kurzweil calculates that the singularity could be upon us by 2045. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen argues the flip side here, reasoning why the possibility of the singularity is much further down the road.


This article is part of a series called TechReads, my ongoing series of technology-related book reviews. If you would like to suggest a book for a future TechReads article, please leave a comment below – and if you’ve read Fabricated, I’d love to hear what you think!


Featured Image: Evan Leeson

TechReads: Creative Intelligence

My friends and I like to good-naturedly lament that when we say we’re Computer Science students, the response is often inevitably, “Oh, great! Now I know who to go to when I need to fix my computer!” I can see why we get this response. The majority of people are users, not creators, of technology – and any time that technology needs troubleshooting, users turn to the “IT guy” or the “IT department” and this is probably the first experience that they associate with the words “Computer Science” (availability heuristic, anyone?).

Interestingly, the next top two variations of responses I tend to get are rather opposite:

  1. “That’s cool! Technology keeps changing so much; you could create some pretty neat things.”
  2. “Really? I don’t think I’d have much fun with a bunch of logic and rules.”

Yes, technology is constantly and rapidly changing. Yes, this means there are people who are driving that change. Yes, Computer Science is built on logic and there are rules. What’s the difference between someone who puts those facts together and thinks “Cool!” and someone who asks “Really?”

The difference is whether or not you realize that some of those rules and their uses are not set in stone – that you have the potential to make new rules, or use logic in a new way to come up with a friendlier user interface, a more efficient system, or a video game world where portal guns are definitely a thing and definitely under the category of “some pretty neat things”.

In the book Creative Intelligence, author Bruce Nussbaum explores our preconceived notions of what it means to be creative, how we can deliberately foster creativity and why creativity is a key skill which Nussbaum argues is essential to the development of the economy. Although Nussbaum writes about how creativity applies to a number of fields, many of his examples are technology-related.

My Top 5 Favorite Tech Examples in Creative Intelligence:
On Amazon: Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire

  1. How did some of Apple’s earliest computer designs end up being inspired and solved by visiting a jelly bean factory?
  2. How has the recent surge in social media affected the way we engage with content, consuming versus creating it?
  3. What did a Portland, Oregon company do to help Lenovo create tech products that would appeal to its Chinese consumers and compete against foreign, better-known brands?
  4. How did ideas originally applied to create robots that could search for victims of disasters eventually lead to the development of the Roomba, the first vacuum-cleaning robot?
  5. How do games like Re-Mission, a video game for young cancer patients where the player wages battle against cancer cells, actually physically improve a patient’s health?

I would rate this book a 4 out of 5. I loved most of the examples and I find it rewarding and inspiring to explore how other people have found creative success. However, I am a little wary of believing that there is a set formula for creativity given its very nature.

Additionally, calling creativity a type of intelligence (Nussbaum also calls it “CQ”) still grates on the part of me that learned in Psychology class that there is no empirical evidence for any types of multiple intelligences. Granted, Nussbaum wrote this book mostly for a Business audience and not a Psychology one.

Overall though, this is the kind of springboard book that introduced me to new authors, ideas and companies that I would love to learn more about.

How do you use creativity in your work? What does creativity mean to you? Leave a comment below!


This article is the first of a series called TechReads, my new ongoing series of technology-related book reviews. If you would like to suggest a book for a future TechReads article, please leave a comment below – and if you’ve read Creative Intelligence, I’d love to hear what you think!

Image by Matt Katzenberger


creativeintbookOn Amazon: Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire