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Three books to understand today’s world

The world is on fire, to put it mildly. How many times have you wondered what the fuck is going on? Is there an ancient Viking god drifting on dark thunderclouds randomly striking bypassers with viruses, venom-souls and poisonous thoughts? Or isn’t it that bad and is it just a Teletubbie rainmaker that prepares the return of baby sun? Well, to understand what’s going on, you only have to read three books, 1335 pages in total. A small investment to find out what is going on and after that, decide whether you are on the side of the Teletubbies or the Viking. But let’s first start with a quote.

“We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology.”
Edward O. Wilson

And basically, that is the main problem. Steven Levy, an American journalist, known from Wired, once stated the same thought when he claimed he had been written the same story over and over again for his entire life:

“Idealistic founder(s) has crazy idea suddenly made possible by tech advances → things turn out weird/wrong/disastrous”
Steven Levy

Book 1: 1493 Charles Mann
Charles Mann’s 1493 is a fine illustration of Steven Levy’s statement. 1493 describes what happened after Columbus discovered America. It is a story about viruses, worldwide distribution of crops, slavery, good intentions and bad outcomes.

It is not only about the consequences for America but also for Europe and China. In 668 pages, he describes a chain reaction of the discovery of silver mines in America, the import of potatoes in Europe, the devastating effects of worms, and the role malaria played in America's colonization. And when you say malaria, you say mosquitoes. It is not the big things but very often the tiny things, even the tiny little things, even microscopic; you don’t see that alter the course of history. Suppose you want to find out why so many Irish pubs in New York, read this book. If you want to know why worms and mosquitoes altered the course of history more than Julius Caesar, read this book. If you want to know what is going on in world politics today, read the book. Or as Samuel L. Jackson would say: “Read the fucking book!”

Book 2: De kleine Piketty 2 (Dutch) — Wouter van Bergen, martin Visser
The second book is an excerpt of Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty, 1136 pages brought back to 95 pages.

Thomas Piketty is a famous French economist who focuses on collecting data on wealth concentration and distribution. He generates a view based on financial data. His work provides insights that will heavenly influence the political debate upcoming elections about the choices to be made restarting the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic. Thomas Piketty is a great mind, but his books are flooded with details. Therefore the excerpt Piketty 2 is a great way to get to know the man’s work. Yes, there is also a Piketty 1 an excerpt of ”Capital in the Twenty-First Century”.

Book 3: Grand Hotel Europe - Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer
Once in a while, you want to escape your day to day life. So what do you do? You book an Airbnb apartment and a cheap flight to a city abroad, pack some stuff in your trolley, and off you go. Together with thousands of others. Before you know it, you are a zombie in a foreign city searching for authentic places with your fellow tourists not knowing that all the locals, together with authenticity, fled the city centre because of you. A commercial tourist trap crap hole is all that’s left.

This third book is a novel. Grand Hotel Europe is a story but based on a super razor-sharp analysis of the tourist industry. It is a novel before the Covid-19 Era. Covid-19 brought what we never expected to see ever again: historical cities centres without tourists. Although locals had their cities back, it also started an economic crisis because there were no more money-spending tourists. Locals had left the city centres ages ago. For them, it was a no go area. This novel reminds us of what we were fighting before the virus hit. Now that we slowly take the first steps out of this first wave of the Covis-19 crisis, this book reminds us what to prevent in the near future. In that sense, it is a guide to surf the next waves of historical events.

Three books, enjoy!

As an educated historian, entrepreneur and self taught technologist I like to connect the dots of technical, social and economic developments.

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