BOOKCASE Focus on the Future

The Future of Technology
Edited by: Tom Standage
Publisher: Profile Books
Price: $69.99

You don’t need an extensive knowledge of technology to read The Future of Technology, but you do need passion – Technology for Dummies this is not. Comprised of technology articles published in The Economist magazine between 2002 and 2005, The Future of Technology is divided into three sections. The first analyses the impact and direction of current technology with emphasis on information technology, data security and the internet. The second explores the explosion of consumer electronics and all that might mean, while the last marries up the cover illustration of car flying Jetson-like over city by speculating on future technologies and what the ‘next big thing’ might be (or is it already with us?).
Each section is packed with prolific number of well-grouped articles that logically follow each other. If you manage to work your way through all of these you’ll be smug and knowledgeable for months – and deservedly so; this is more reference book than casual read.
The third section is fun and fascinating, if not immediately relevant. Several articles consider the mind-boggling work being done with particles on the nanoscale and developments at the cutting edge of biotechnology (make up your own mind which are good, bad or both). Robotics and artificial intelligence also feature – though not in the form you’d expect – as do renewable energy sources.
A gentle criticism is that for collection of articles, this is long book. reasonable level of technological knowledge is assumed of the reader, and each snippet demands close concentration.
While technology books are normally assigned niche publication status and given spotlight only in the libraries of Geeksville or IT companies, The Future of Technology is rendered mainstream thanks to some sublime editing together with compelling, conversational and genuinely interesting writing. There’s plenty of humour and ‘wow’ factor, together with the finer detail, charts, statistics and research beloved of technical journalists everywhere.
Those who take their time with this book will be rewarded. Highly informative, intelligent and educational, it asks all the right questions and delivers insightful answers with aplomb. However its real triumph is that its authors understand the age-old interdependence between technology and those it serves. Whilst endlessly fascinating, technology has never existed for its own sake – and these people know it. VB

Generation Y: Thriving and Surviving with Generation Y at Work By: Peter Sheahan Publisher: Hardie Grant Books Price: $39.95

For man whose publicity material says he’s delivered over 1500 presentations, Peter Sheahan looks suspiciously young. But then he does get up at five every morning and, anyway, maybe that’s the whole point about generation Y: not only do they approach the world in different way to their predecessors but they’re out there tackling stuff that others may have politely waited years to do.
Not that he’s impolite. Even when he walked out of his first ‘real’ job after just eight days – frustrated by mindless tasks such as renumbering 350 pages of text in green “because that’s the way we do things around here” – he managed to combine strong sense of self with an understanding that he’d been offered an “opportunity” in business. It just wasn’t the right one for him.
Sheahan’s book is an insightful and energetic dash through the business world as seen through the eyes of savvy gen Yer. Traditionally defined as people born between 1978-1994, this puts their ages at between 11 and 27. And while there aren’t too many 11 year olds currently knocking on corporate doors wanting in, it’s pretty clear that today’s baby boomer managers had better get their heads round how to work with the rising tide of new workers. For they are different.
Take communication styles. Sheahan can see how boomers may think gen Y has taken the term “youthful arrogance” to whole new level and he’s happy to concede they do think they know everything. “But often they are just being little bit informal in the way they communicate.” Generation Y, he says, has been raised to express themselves and speak their mind. “The problem is they are not always aware of the appropriate time and place to do these things.”
Designed to give managers from other generations an inside chance of clueing in to whole new way of thinking, Generation Y is structured as practical guide. Sections cover understanding, attracting, managing and retaining gen Y talent, while individual chapters include executive summaries and/or “Your Quest” pages with questions to spark new lines of thought.
With his passion, straight talking and intelligence, you can’t help thinking many organisations would love to claim Sheahan as one of their employees. Bet the accountants wish they’d explained those green numbers now. RLP

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