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6 Books to understand Innovation

What is collective intelligence and why do we speak about it in association with digital technology? Shedding light on the potential of the human mind (and our ability to interact at the community level) will help us to better understand the current scenarios that underlie our professions. And to consider technology not as an enemy, but as a tool for acceleration that must be understood and governed.

The Maire Tecnimont News Desk has often addressed the issue of digital transformation - both in our EVOLVE Magazine and in content enriching our Group’s websites. It is useful not only to truly comprehend the changes related to industrial production, but also to address economic, environmental and social challenges.

Our content has been inspired by the works of innovators, philosophers and futurologists (as well as direct witnesses) who have dedicated their life to studying this field and whose many publications have opened a bridge between the legitimate fears and extraordinary opportunities brought about by the knowledge economy.

Here is a quick overview of recommended reading for the Christmas break!

Geoff Mulgan - “Big Mind. How Collective Intelligence Can Change Our World”

According to Geoff Mulgan – futurologist, theoretician of “collective thought” and Executive Director of Nesta, the most important UK organisation for social innovation – cooperation between individuals (as well as between machines) is crucial to govern the power of artificial intelligence. In this new essay, the social innovation expert explains that we should not fear the future or artificial intelligence. “There are people who imagine a future in which humans and machines will compete for supremacy,” explains Mulgan. “However, I believe the only way forward is through a virtuous synergy that will exalt the human brain and technology.” The big mind is a systemic change that will affect the production of knowledge, the government of peoples and places, and the economic power relations between the old and new elites.

Stephen Hawking - “Brief Answers to the Big Questions”

The most famous scientist of our time, who passed away on March 14, dedicated the final lines of his book to teenagers: “Remember to look up, towards the stars, and not down at your feet. Shape the future.” At Stephen Hawking’s funeral elegy, his friend and colleague Kip Thorne pointed out that “Newton gave us answers, Hawking gave us questions. And his questions continue to generate new discoveries.” Here are just a few of them: “Does God exist? How did everything begin? Are there other forms of intelligent life in the universe? Can we predict the future? What is inside a black hole? Can we time travel? Will we survive on Earth? Should we colonise space? Will artificial intelligence surpass human intelligence? How can we shape the future?”

Alec Ross - “Our Future”

Alec Ross, Professor at Columbia University, technology expert and White House Adviser on innovation, explains how to face the world over the next twenty years, pointing out that “it is easy to forget how much our planet has changed over the last decades, because we are so immersed in the present.” Alec Ross believes that technology will provide society with evident benefits. “The way in which they are adopted will play a key role in determining how stable and competitive they will become. The greatest benefits will go to those societies and companies that are not limited by their past, but rather will be capable of adapting and directing their behaviour towards growing sectors. If the Earth was the raw material for the Agricultural Era and iron that of the Industrial Era, the raw material of the Information Age is data. Today, it is fundamental to understand and mine this information to develop industrial plans.”

Edward Wilson - “The Origins of Creativity”

Uniting humanities and science, only the rise of a new Enlightenment will allow us to better explore the condition of the human being. After the Golden Age of Socrates and Plato and the period that spanned from 1630 to the French Revolution, the American biologist now sees a third period of enlightenment in which experts in the humanities and science will work together to drive a quantum leap. In his book, Wilson explains that over millennia the brains of our ancestors underwent various transformations, including the manifestations that we now call “art.” It is thanks to the brain that humans have imagined voyages through time and space, inventing scenarios that often became reality. Our creative ability is driven by progressive changes in the structure and function of our brains, transformed by the continual changes in the environment and society around us.

Jared Diamond - “Guns, Germs and Steel”

An essayist and evolutionary biologist, Jared Diamond hypothesised a new type of history based on science: “Why are some populations richer than others? Why did Europeans and Asians nearly dominate the entire planet?” It is tempting to answer these questions on the basis of peoples and their alleged attitudes, but racist explanations must be refuted. They are wrong and do not stand up to scientific inquiry. Cultural diversity is not innate. It is based on geographical, ecological and local differences, that are basically random. “Some societies and populations,” Diamond explains, “seem irredeemably conservative, looking inwards and refusing change. However, necessity remains the mother of invention. Innovation arises when there is a strong common need that is not satisfied – or is but only partially - by existing technology. In Europe - unlike China, which reached political unity at an early stage and stood united – political disunity favoured competition. In the Old World, innovators had greater opportunities to develop their ideas and allow the advancement of science, technology and capitalism.”

Ellen Pao - “Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change”

A fight for gender equality and inclusion in the heart of Silicon Valley. The enormous impact that “Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change” had in terms of promoting the recognition, sharing and discussion of these issues led to the definition of the “Pao Effect.” This is a book about a bright young woman with outstanding academic results who reaches Silicon Valley only to discover that her gender and ethnicity exclude her from professional circles: from dinner invitations to high-level decisions. “There are CEOs,” Ellen explains, “that justify the fact they do not hire women or members of different ethnic groups on the basis that they simply do not have the required personality.” Ellen’s story is about sacrifice and hard work, dreams and hopes that were at risk of breaking against a grey wall of discrimination and conspiracy. It is the story of a ruthless legal and political battle with no holds barred, a story of injustice and courage. It is a formal accusation of ongoing discrimination on the labour market.