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My recommendations from books I read this year:

Bad Blood : Man, this book really does read like a Hollywood movie screenplay. The rise and fall of Theranos, documented through interviews with hundreds of ex-employees by the very author who came up with the first expose of Theranos. Truly shows the flaws in the "fake it before you make it" mindset and how we glorify "geniuses".

Shoe Dog : Biography of the founder of Nike. Really liked how it's not just a book glorifying the story of Nike, but tells the tale of how much effort, balance and even pure luck went into making the company the household name it is today.

Master Algorithm : It's a book about the different fields of Machine learning (from Bayesian to Genetic evolution algos) and talks about the pros and cons of each and how these can play together to create a "master algorithm" for learning. It's a good primer for people entering the field and while it's not a DIY, it shows the scope of the problem of learning as a whole.

Three Body Problem: Finally, after years of people telling me to read this (on HN and off), I read the trilogy (Remembrance of Earth's Past), and I must say, the series does live up to the hype. Not only is it fast paced and deeply philosophical, but it's presented in a format very accessible to casual readers as well (unlike many hard sci-fi books which seem to revel in complexity). If I had to describe this series in a single line, it's "What would happen if China was the country that made first contact with an alien race?"

The Three Body Problem had some flashy ideas (like controlling the CMBR, and building a computer the size of a proton), but I didn't really feel like it had much depth. It had none of the great social commentary that you often get in sci-fi, and I thought the characters were kind of two-dimensional. Overall it just didn't really do it for me.

I actually disagree and have wondered myself how he got such a book published in China. He is very critical of China's history throughout the series and collectivism. Also the sophons seem (at least to me) to be a direct parallel to the 'surveillance state' concerns that China has right now and how the citizens feel about them

The translator for volume 1 and 3 addressed this in an AMA, actually.


I enjoyed the 3 books. After reading the first one I was intrigued but it didn't blow me away. After reading all of them I am very appreciative of the epic scope, and while the it seemed to have less character development, the ideas more than made up for it.

I found it lacking in depth and interesting ideas of almost any flavor. I've heard that it's better in Chinese and something is lost in translation, but I found myself very disappointed after finishing it and not understanding the strong positive response.

Same - as said already, not a single one of the characters was memorable, except the comically stereotypical ones (rich daddy tree-hugger fanatic).

As far as scientific ideas - they were all a stretch. He is neither Stephenson in accuracy, nor Gibson in the vague, but accurate, predictions.

The Three Body Problem is entirely a set up for the other books. It does indeed have social commentary- but that social commentary is coming from a Chinese perspective.

Same here. I think it might be a SF exposure thing: if you don’t read much of it, the book may seem better, but if you’re used to SF with big ideas, there’s so many so much better written novels out there that I don’t get the hype.

> It had none of the great social commentary

I mean, the author is an employee of the Chinese government, and doesn't seem to be a fool.

>It had none of the great social commentary that you often get in sci-fi,

I found it great for this reason. For once I was absorbed in the fiction and not put off by excess sermonizing or social commentary.

"What would happen if China was the country that made first contact with an alien race?"

I don't think that the events would've unfolded differently if the first contact were made by a different country. The motivation of the contacter would've been different but it wouldn't change the reaction of Trisolarians.

+1 on Master Algorithm

Like OP said, not a tutorial. It talks about different thought processes and techniques. Extremely good stuff to know. Take notes on it. It's dense in things you should probably research more in depth.

Bad Blood should be required reading for startup founders and those that work in startups generally. I had so many flashbacks to prior companies I worked for when reading about some the ethical issues that were raised in this book.

Their big mistake was trying to use the "move fast and break things" mentality in biotech. If Holmes had started an ad company instead, she'd be lauded for her entrepreneurial accomplishments instead of being under investigation by the Feds.

+1 for Bad Blood and Shoe Dog

I think John Carreyrou got the idea that something is fishy is Theranos when Theranos came under regulatory investigation.

Who is the author of Master Algorithm? There is a few similar looking books on Goodreads.

Shoe Dog was great

I found the three body problems' representation of a computer with 30 million soldiers really stupid. I didn't read the book because of people raving about how clever that concept of the human computer is.


Guess what.

You can achieve the same power of computation with 1 person, a pen, a paper and our standard number symbols 0-9.

Do people not realize why we use gates and binary logic in electrical computer systems?

I understand your hesitation to read the books based on the premise of this article, but there is a lot of story complexity for why they created this computer that the article doesn't touch on. The scene is still perhaps a little cheesy, but it isn't entirely unwarranted.

It's also a small part of the story. I wouldn't judge the entire trilogy based on thinking this one scene is really stupid.

But it wasn't a human computer. It was a trisolarian computer made up of trisolarians that were alien beings that had the ability to do things like hyper-fast communication and always be truthful. Both of those traits could actually make for a viable computer system whereas humans obviously would not. I can see how you may have thought that though because in the 3 body problem simulation "game" in the book the trisolarians are represented as humans (the author does point out the difference though)

On a side note, is our system of government really all that different from a mass human computer?

Yeah but why use binary? Why not communicate through language rather than binary?

Yes, our system of government is a mass human computer that would be made really inefficient if everyone could only communicate in binary and if we restricted one persons functional processing to output that of a single logical gate.

That's definitely a good point; language would likely be much better than binary unless the aliens had some special capacity for binary (which I'm pretty sure was not the case)

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