Productive Procrastination #5

Revue
 
Welcome back,I hope you made it alright into 2016. It has been a bit surprising that so far no one ha
 
January 4 - Issue #5

Johannes Kleske

A combination of recommendations, observations, and personal updates

Welcome back,
I hope you made it alright into 2016. 
It has been a bit surprising that so far no one has unsubscribed from this newsletter. Especially because I cringe every time I read my own texts here. They still seem very far from what I actually want to say. But this is the main reason for me to write this thing: to slowly work my way towards the ability to put my thoughts into (better) words. Having a weekly schedule again helps a lot, too. 
So far I have only one focus point for this year: to read and write more. Most of the rest comes out of that. From ideas to clients. I also decided to do fewer talks this year. Last year had tons of those on various topics and I want to take this year to research new material. It feels like a certain pattern emerging that seems to work for me: one year of research, one year of giving talks about it. I like that because it slows it all a bit down. I don’t want to fall into the trap of feeling the need to be present constantly. 
Alright, take it easy and see you next week. 
Johannes

My Reading Sprint to End 2015
I still had a couple of books in my ‘currently reading’ shelf on Goodreads. So I took the time between Christmas and New Years to read, mostly (the rest was spent eating and sleeping, of course). So here are the books I’ve finished since Christmas.
I always enjoyed reading all those end-of-the-year predictions about what will happen in the next year. All those listicles and Slideshare decks with reasons why next year will most definitely be the year of X. And now I have ruined it for me by reading this book.
The basic premise of Superforecasting – The Art and Science of Prediction by social scientist Philip Tetlock is to call for an evidence-based approach in forecasting. He compares forecasting work these days to the time in medicine before randomized control trails when doctors had no real idea if their treatments actually worked. Most forecasts these days are never reviewed and scored. Tetlock developed a method for that and then put a community of forecasting amateurs together to take part in a US-government-funded competition throughout the last years. This allowed him to find the best forecasters via scientific methods and then to study what made them into “superforecasters”. This is what this book is about.
But more than that, it is a tremendously helpful book for dealing with a complex world. It shows how to deconstruct complicated questions and explains methods to approach research and fine-tune predictions.
This book is also a testament to the quality a good co-author and an editor can bring to a complicated topic. I read through the whole book in three days, finding it hard to put down. Tetlock never lost me as a reader.
I had bought this little book some time ago but never found the time to pick it up. After Superforecasting, I wanted to read some fiction so it came in handy. And what can I say, it might be the most beautiful fiction I’ve read this year. I mean that in the sense that it was just a joy to read. It felt like a surrogate experience. Like tagging along it the mind of a black teenage girl from a tribe in Africa going on an epic journey to attend the best university in the galaxy. So it couldn’t have been further from my own life, which made it such a trip.
Oh, and here’s a list of almost 300 books of speculative fiction by authors of color that features Nnedi Okorafor heavily. 
I had a much harder time with Ancillary Justice. It’s hard science fiction, describing a space adventure from an AI’s perspective. I guess, it should be difficult because, well, AIs “think” differently. But I might have expected a much faster-paced story and had some trouble as a non-native English reader with the emphasis on language details. Nevertheless, it’s a solid book that I enjoyed in the end, once my head had adapted to the premise.
I finally finished this one. It has a reputation as the “infrastructure hipster’s bible,” meaning that is has been popular with a certain crowd of nerds becoming interested in the underlying physical structures that we take for granted until they fail. Like the power grid, our road system etc. I would count myself among this crowd. So Extrastatecraft was a must-read.
Easterling looks at concepts like broadband access, the free trade zones and the ISO organization to show how they “govern” without mandate and influence politics in secret. It’s an important book that suffers a bit from its own entitlement. Easterling writes precise but exhausting. Which is a shame because I fear most readers will abandon the book before the last chapters (like I almost did), which are the best. 
Reading Recommendations
Ingrid Burrington for The Atlantic
Why the Post Office Makes America Great
What to do when you're not the hero any more
Can We Avoid Marginalizing Women with the IoT?
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Carefully curated by Johannes Kleske with Revue.
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