5 books the head of MIT Media Lab thinks you should read

As 2016 winds to a close, Facebook called on 62 global influencers to share the books that made the greatest impact on them this year.

Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, and many others shared their favourite reads with the hashtag #ReadtoLead.

One of those influencers is Joi Ito, the head of MIT Media Lab. Ito picked five titles that should help anyone get a feel for where the future is headed.

Here’s what to read in 2017 if you want a leg up on 2018.

'Deep Work' by Cal Newport


Notifications ding, beep, and buzz for our attention every minute. Author and professor Cal Newport knows this. He just doesn't think our work has to suffer as a result.

In 'Deep Work,' Newport uses a collection of stories and research data to show that what will matter most in the coming decades -- at least in terms of people's productivity -- is the ability to focus.

Newport calls this ability 'deep work.'

The reader learns various strategies to avoid checking their phone every 30 seconds and instead cultivate a distraction-proof bubble in which they can work.

'Change Agent' by Daniel Suarez


Set to hit stores in April of 2017, 'Change Agent' is a novel set in the year 2045 in which CRISPR gene editing technology has become so advanced that black-market traders sell procedures to alter anyone's DNA at will.

Some nefarious groups even exploit victims of human trafficking for experimentation.

Interpol agent Kenneth Durand is in charge of putting a stop to this underground economy, but his life quickly shifts directions when he's injected with a serum that changes his DNA and turns him into the villain he wants to stop.

The novel explores a not-too-distant future in which science and morality are forced to collide.

'The Industries of the Future' by Alec Ross


As the former Senior Advisor for Innovation to Hillary Clinton (when she was Secretary of State), Alec Ross has some ideas about what 2026 will look like.

In 'The Industries of the Future,' Ross delves deep into that 10-year vision. Robotic automation, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and renewable energy are just some of the fields that will come to define the 2020s, he writes.

The book also proposes some ideas for dealing with that future and its consequences.

'The Seventh Sense' by Joshua Cooper Ramo


When everything is connected, from digital and social relationships to financial and political ones, Joshua Cooper Ramo argues the only people who can be successful are those who master these complex networks.

In 'The Seventh Sense,' Ramo looks at the ways billionaire moguls, tech influencers, political leaders, and military generals gain a keen sense of where to focus their attention. He figures out what they see that others don't.

In past decades, when industries were siloed off from one another, success could mean mastering one field. But in a world built on systems, success has far different, and far more mysterious, requirements.

'Wonderland' by Steven Johnson


Innovation is meant to solve problems, and often that problem is boredom. In 'Wonderland,' author Steven Johnson argues that many of history's landmark breakthroughs are the product of people wanting greater access to play.

Johnson culls stories from the world of magic, technology, art, and exploration that demonstrate how humans are social creatures that like figuring things out for fun.

Software developers ask 'What if...?' and end up producing highly elaborate code. Designers create art out of goofy doodles. Johnson sees these moments less as acts of hard-fought genius than leisure-loving humans giving stuff a whirl.

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