If most history is designed to zoom into the characters and events of a moment or trend in the historical record, The Lessons of History (published by Simon & Schuster) does just about the opposite.
A classic first published in 1968, the book is an act of pure reduction. The authors, Will & Ariel Durant, had previously spent decades compiling a multi-volume history of the world, and with this book, they created a summary of their life’s work in just about 100 pages organized around a couple of topical areas like war, government, and socialism. As the two write in a short introduction: “It is a precarious enterprise, and only a fool would try to compress a hundred centuries into a hundred pages of
I read two history books these past few weeks that offered an interesting juxtaposition on the craft and the rise of China. The first was Stephen R. Platt’s Imperial Twilight, which is a sweeping panorama of the times before and during Britain’s First Opium War with Qing-era China. I owe you a review on that one, but I have to say it is an incredibly impressive piece of work, even more so given the book’s propitious timing in the midst of a new trade war between Western powers and China.
I wrote 173 pieces for TechCrunch this year, covering a huge gamut of topics including the rise of China’s technological dominance, enterprise and infrastructure startups, and the changing nature of venture capital. It’s been quite a year!
Without too much ado, here are the top three articles and a couple of honorable mentions.
Subscription is increasingly the default revenue model for software and media, but what happens to consumers when every single service we use requires an annual payment? Subscription Hell, basically. This was a
Whoever says that journalism is dead just doesn’t read.
It’s been another year of just insane levels of quality across stories, analyses, essays, books, podcasts and more. And it is another year in which I read way too much, and frankly, forgot pretty much all of it. So I used some Python code (attached at the end) to get a list of all articles that I saved and mostly read in Pocket (1,673 articles this year, a total of 3,279,335 words) and combed through it to find my favorite articles from the year.
There are a couple of caveats before we get started:
This list doesn’t include articles from the New Yorker, which I subscribe to and get on
For novelists, there is a bright line between speculative and let’s say speculation fiction. In speculative fiction, the author’s goal is to hit the fast-forward button on our thinking, offering us a context to consider the patterns and trends we observe around us and see how they (may) play out. In contrast, “speculation fiction” (or plain old science fiction) just plops us in a whole new world, with no extension from our reality needed or implied.
Dystopias are interesting because they almost always end up on the speculative side of the divide, even when they might otherwise work better as pure speculation. Their authors want readers to meditate on certain matters precisely, and so creating a continuity with today is paramount for believability
A very comprehensive overview of one of the largest newsmakers this year. SoftBank is a telco, a venture fund, and owns huge swaths of the infrastructure companies that make smartphones work. So its actions and strategy this year are critical to understand for Silicon Valley. Some great news around their assets like ARM, but a tough debt situation is going to make 2019 a tough year with stocks looking primed to go down.
This was my most in-depth, thoughtful article the past two weeks. It’s maybe a little heady, but essentially, the internet is creating the context for a new form of the nation-state. That discussion was in the context of Imagined Communities, a book that is one of most cited of all time in the social sciences and discusses how the printing press was the enabling technology for the first nation-states to form. May try to follow up on this in the coming weeks.
An argumentative essay that largely agrees with Amazon’s process for selecting its HQ2. Such location decisions are almost always the exclusive province of boards of directors, but Amazon did open it up a bit to offer politicians an opportunity to make their pitch. Maybe people didn’t like the process, or thought it was sickening how much cities were willing to fight for jobs (I don’t understand that personally). In the end though, it is great that cities had any input at all on a private corporate matter.