Inside Bill Gates’ 2021 Holiday Book Recommendations: Science Fiction & More

Bill Gates wants you to read more science fiction stories.

On Monday, Gates released his annual holiday book recommendations list — along with Blog post Explains why two of his five selections are science fiction books. As a child, he wrote, he was “obsessed” with science fiction. Although famous reading Enthusiastic Focusing more on non-fiction books as he got older, he’s recently found himself “attracted to the kinds of books I loved as a kid.”

The billionaire wrote that in his youth he devoured the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert Heinlein – and spent “countless hours” discussing Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy with the late Paul Allen, his childhood friend and eventual Microsoft co-founder.

This year, Gates’ holiday book recommendations include a pair of recent sci-fi works that “made me think about how people use technology to respond to challenges.” That’s unsurprising: Gates has spent most of the past year promoting need technological innovations to tackle climate change. In February, he published his own book on the subject, “How to avoid a climate disaster. “

In addition to science fiction, Gates also recommended two non-fiction books on “the latest science,” and a piece of historical fiction that “made me look at one of history’s most famous figures from a new perspective.”

Here are the five books that made this year’s annual “Favorites” list:

“Clara and the Sun”

by Kazuo Ishiguro

“I love a good robot story,” Gates wrote of the latest novel by Nobel Prize-winning British author Kazuo Ishiguro.

“Clara and the Sun” is a story told from the point of view of a solar-powered robot named Clara, the companion of a seriously ill child in the United States in a dystopian future. Despite the dystopian setting of the story, Gates noted, AI-powered robots are “not a force for evil.” Instead, the book refers to Clara and other similar robots as “artificial friends”.

Artificial intelligence has always been area of ​​interest – And investment – for gates. in a 2015 Reddit “Ask Me Anything” At the session, he noted that machines with “super-intelligence” could realistically threaten humanity one day.

Perhaps the other side of that argument is Ishiguro’s book. “This book got me thinking about what life might look like with super-intelligent robots,” Gates wrote. “And whether we’re going to treat these kinds of machines as technical pieces or as something else.”

Peace be upon you, Mary project

By Andy Weir

Very similar to Andy Weir’s 2011 novel “The Martian” that appeared on Gates Summer Reading List for 2020, “The Peace Be Upon You, Mary Project” involves a human who ends up in a difficult situation in outer space. The protagonist is a high school teacher who wakes up on a mysterious spacecraft, not knowing how he got there.

According to Gates, this book is difficult to describe without giving away a lot of plot twists. But suffice it to say that the teacher “is using science and engineering to salvage the situation,” Gates wrote. “It’s a fun read, and I finished the whole thing in one weekend.”

A thousand minds: a new theory of intelligence.

by Jeff Hawkins

In 1996, Jeff Hawkins PalmPilot invented digital assistant. Since then, Gates wrote, Hawkins “spent decades thinking about the connections between neuroscience and machine learning,” culminating in “A Thousand Minds,” a non-fiction book published in March.

In his book, Hawkins — who also co-founded machine learning company Numenta in 2005 — explains how people think about the nature of intelligence, how the human brain works and what it takes to develop true artificial intelligence.

“The movie A Thousand Brains is suitable for non-experts with little background in brain science or computer science,” Gates wrote. “It is filled with fascinating insights into the structure of the brain and tantalizing clues about the future of intelligent machines.”

“The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race”

by Walter Isaacson

Gates also recommends this biography of biochemist Jennifer Doudna, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work in CRISPR gene editingA system in which DNA is cut and genes modified to treat diseases. The book was written by Isaacson, who was also Gates’ biographer. Longtime friend and rival, Steve Jobs.

“The Code Breakers” is more than just a biography of Doudna’s scientific career and discoveries. Gates writes that he delves into potential applications of gene-editing with CRISPR technology, such as treating blood diseases such as sickle cell anemia, adding that CRISPR “is one of the most fascinating and perhaps most important scientific breakthroughs of the past decade.”

CRISPR technology has been deeply divisive in large parts of the scientific community for many years, due in large part to ethical concerns. “Isaacson has done a good job of highlighting the most important ethical questions regarding gene editing,” Gates wrote. Including Whether the process should be used to alter the human gene pool for future generations.

“Hamnet”

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