Just in time for your holiday shopping, the Highlands Forum 2007 Reading List features 28 books (mostly non-fiction, but including three reports and three works of fiction this year), covering biography, management, economics, history, information technology, political thrillers, science fiction, comparative politics and sociology, contemporary conflict studies, and current events. Among these, we have four books recommended by guest reviewers. Our panel of guest editors this year includes Congressman Mac Thornberry of Texas; Newsweek technology reporter and author Steven Levy; Google's Director of Research Peter Norvig; and Grammy award-winning musician and now defense analyst Jeff "Skunk" Baxter.
The 2007 Highlands Forum Reading List, as always, consists of several categories. Most titles are new; some are classics worth discovering for the first time. They have been selected both for their topics and for their capacity to broaden our understanding of emerging issues and inform the way we think about things. We began compiling an annual list in 2000, at the request of many Highlands participants who read our periodic book reviews on the Web site. This is a continuing work - additional titles will be added during the year and compiled at the end of each year in a larger list. Peruse our lists for 2000-2006.
Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1994, is a fifth-generation Texan and a lifelong resident of the 13th District of Texas. His family has been ranching in the area since 1881 - a family business in which Mac remains actively involved. Mac has served on the Armed Services Committee since he entered Congress and is the top Republican on the Terrorism, Unconventional Threats, and Capabilities Subcommittee. He is also a member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee and a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He has participated in several Highlands Forum meetings since 2002. Mac recommends Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America by Walid Phares, and tells us:
"'The war on terror is winnable if the war of ideas is won,' writes Lebanon-born Walid Phares. Phares helps provide the kind of deep understanding of our adversary that is required to wage the war of ideas in Future Jihad. Emphasizing that the jihadists are 'on a mission to resume what their ancestors began,' Phares describes the movement's history, objectives, and strategies, as well as the danger and the vulnerabilities posed by its ideological prison. He argues, correctly in my view, that the West has reacted to individual terrorist events rather than pursuing a long-term strategy that undermines the root cause of the movement - its ideas. Much has been written on terrorism and jihad in the six years since 9/11, but only a few works provide the penetrating insight that will help equip us to wage effectively the broader ideological struggle. This book is one."
Jeff "Skunk" Baxter is a defense consultant, who comes to the Pentagon, the Intelligence Community, and Capitol Hill by a most unique route. Focusing on missile defense and counter-terrorism, Baxter was nominated by the House Military Research and Development Subcommittee to chair the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense. Outside the Pentagon, he is well known to music audiences as the lead guitarist for both Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, with two Grammy awards and eight platinum albums to his credit. The trick for him is to balance both interests as he continues to play music and tour while serving as a defense consultant. Baxter's book recommendation is Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art Of War, by Robert Coram. Skunk tells us:
"Boyd is really three books in one: it's an engaging story of a man who gives great credence to the oft-quoted statement that 'in America you can accomplish anything.' His life history is one of overcoming childhood adversity and, as an adult, criticism for his beliefs and methods. It is an unvarnished example of the best and worst of the U.S. military: its biases, fear of innovation, and petty rivalries, as well as its visionaries, out-of-the-box thinkers, and dedicated people. It is also a primer for those who wish to learn new approaches to thinking and reasoning. The essay on 'Destruction and Creation' alone is worth the price of the book. John Boyd is a great role model, in that with all his roughness, lack of social graces, occasional lack of respect for authority, and hardheadedness, he is someone with whom almost everyone can connect. His ability to break problems down into their basic components and draw meaningful information from the results pre-date all the books on today's bestseller lists espousing 'radical philosophies of change' and 'innovative thinking'. His life story and accomplishments validate his belief that 'he who is the best prepared, wins.' The five pages of glowing reviews at the beginning of the book make the final compelling argument that this is a relevant, necessary, and essential read for anyone who wants to make a difference. A great read and a great ride."
Steven Levy is senior editor, chief technology correspondent, and writer of a column called The Technologist for Newsweek. He has written six books, beginning with Hackers (1984), which PC Magazine named the best Sci-Tech book written in the last twenty years; Crypto, which won the grand eBook prize at the 2001 Frankfurt Book festival; and The Perfect Thing (2006), a book about "the iPod and its reverberations in the business and cultural world, as well as in your ear". Despite his interest in technology, and downloadable or electronic books, Steven pleasantly surprised us with his recommendation, Lost in a Book: The Psychology of Reading for Pleasure, by Victor Nell. Steven tells us:
"I came across a book I'd never heard of before. It's called Lost in a Book, by a South African academic named Victor Nell. Published in 1988, in the age of personal computers but predating the time when the book itself was not yet under siege, it is a fascinating and deep dive into the mechanics, psychology, and physiology of reading, particularly the intense, trance-like immersion in a book that is a routine experience for passionate readers, who achieve a form of sovereignty by this mental escape. (He called this 'ludic reading', after the Latin 'I play'.) Though he approaches the subject from a scientist's perspective, the book itself is wonderfully literate, as is obvious from a lovely phrase in Chapter One: 'The books are the dreams we would most like to have....' At a time where literacy itself is challenged, this is a provocative look at an activity that is at the center of how we are civilized."
Peter Norvig, a presenter at this year's Highlands Forum XXXI: The Emerging Web, is the Director of Research at Google, Inc, where he has been since 2001. From 2002-2005 he was Director of Search Quality, which means he was the manager of record responsible for answering more queries than anyone else in the history of the world. He is a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence and of the Association for Computing Machinery and co-author of Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, the leading textbook in the field (with a 94% market share). Previously, Peter was the senior computer scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as head of the Computational Sciences Division at the NASA Ames Research Center. Peter recommends unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, and tells us:
"This slim paperback will never be taken for a classic of literature, but it does a limited job very well: it explains how to evaluate news and other sources of information to separate reality from fiction. The authors are from the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center and the website FactCheck.org. They present a checklist for evaluating the veracity and point-of-view of an information source, an increasingly important yet neglected skill in this age of unfettered online access to good (and bad) information."
By Marjane Satrapi
Two years ago, in the summer of 2005, the Highlands Forum sponsored an evening of Iranian films at the American Film Institute's Silver Theater as part of our "strategic listening" initiative. We called it "One Night in Tehran". With that in mind, we saw that a new animated film about a young girl coming of age in Tehran during the Islamic revolution had just won the Cannes Film Festival's Jury Prize, and decided to go read the book from which it was drawn, Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. Persepolis is a graphic novel chronicling the early life of Marji, from her pre-teen years in Iran to her teenage years in Europe and bittersweet return to Iran. It is deceptively simple in its stark black and white appearance and cartoonish styling, but complex in its story of a young girl trying to understand the world around her and safely rebel against the severe curtailment of simple freedoms and pleasures that she and her family were accustomed to having. Satrapi loves Iran and being Iranian, and struggles to understand what that means as the identity of Iran changes just as her own identity is being formed. Her run-ins with the morality police and authority of every type are funny and frightening at the same time. This is a remarkable book, one that should give us another important data point on other cultures (Iran in particular), on pride, on nationalism, and on outspoken criticism and its price. This is a quick read; pick it up and spend a couple of hours getting to know Marji and the mullahs. By the way, the film opens nationally this Christmas.
By Rick Atkinson
"The Greatest Generation" has been much on our minds over the past several years as we have revisited and celebrated their sacrifices and accomplishments during World War II. A number of books have emerged chronicling the campaigns and individual stories of American soldiers, but Highlands veteran Jim Caverly of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encouraged us to look at the accounts written by The Washington Post's Rick Atkinson. Atkinson's latest book, The Day of Battle, is a grand achievement. He continues the story of, and in some way surpasses, his Pulitzer-winning An Army at Dawn with this analysis of the lesser-known Italian campaigns and the second stage in the U.S. Army's grassroots development into the most formidable fighting force of WWII. This is a great read.
By Ishmael Beah
Over the past several years, our interest has turned to a different kind of war and to a different continent. At Highlands Forum XXV, in December 2004, we took interest in the relationship between disconnectedness and insecurity, and cited Howard French's A Continent for the Taking as one of our key recommendations for the year. The Department of Defense's (DoD's) efforts in establishing the African Command should also be informed by another account, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah. As a boy of 12, Beah is dragged into Sierra Leone's civil war and we learn what it is like in "the life and mind of a child abducted into the horrors of warfare". This life of atrocities, drugs, and unspeakable violence is one that nobody should have to experience, especially a child. Despite a harrowing tale, Beah survives and is able to distance himself. He graduates from Oberlin College in 2004 and with this book has become a remarkable voice for the other children still trapped and living the nightmare. We urge you to try this book.
By William Langewiesche
Books often begin from a curious premise. In this case, author William Langewiesche wondered what it might take for a terrorist to build a nuclear bomb. This is a premise that has troubled our security establishment, one that would be a shock to the system. To learn how difficult it might be, Langewiesche traveled around the globe to visit the markets and bazaars of the nuclear world. At a time when we are concerned about Iran or Pakistan or North Korea and proliferation of nuclear weapons, we also need to pay attention to non-state actors who travel similar roads, and it seems that most roads lead to the former Soviet Union. Proliferation "has become the human condition," Langewiesche warns. How difficult would it be? Take a trip around the world to The Atomic Bazaar and meet scientists, smugglers, and snitches in this study that should be at the top of our list for emerging concerns.
By Georgina Howell
The fighting in Iraq has been geared toward what it and the region can become. It has seldom given us pause to reflect on what Iraq was. A truly engaging and enlightening trip back in time to Iraq's modern beginnings awaits us in Georgina Howell's Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations. The subtitle here should be a giveaway that there is something truly amazing awaiting the reader, something highly implausible, yet true, that would never have been considered. Who was Gertrude Bell? Georgina Howell paints a sweeping canvas here that frankly is reminiscent of David Lean's great film, Lawrence of Arabia, which is fitting since Gertrude Bell has been called both the female Lawrence and the woman who invented Iraq. Bell was born in 1868 to a very rich British family, and she went on to lead a life of amazing accomplishments, from achieving a First at Oxford, to being a mountain climber and Royal Geographical Society prizewinner, to becoming the first female British intelligence officer. She was more than capable in Persian and Arabic, and devoted her career to shaping life in the Middle East. Unknown to most as the mapmaker of Iraq, she drew the boundaries of Iraq at the behest of the British government. And there the story of our present day begins. This is a wonderful biography.
By Walter Isaacson
This summer we spent the Fourth of July at the Aspen Ideas Festival, a great gathering for anyone interested in the power of ideas, directly from the authors themselves (http://www.aifestival.org/). There we heard Walter Isaacson discussing his new book, Einstein. Isaacson, former managing editor of Time and CEO of CNN, is a terrific storyteller and brought Albert Einstein to life for us in his presentation. It seemed like a good idea to read this book and delve deeper. Isaacson succeeds in "relating" (sorry, we couldn't resist) the man's personal life to his scientific achievements. Whether it is dissecting Einstein's relationships with his family or explaining the foundations of his work or the causes that he stood up for (against discrimination in all its forms, standing tall by inviting Marian Anderson to his home when she was denied lodging; against Senator Joseph McCarthy's threatening tactics), Isaacson shows us a complex and lively person, worthy of being Time's "Man of the Century" and worthy of your time in this great biography.
By J. F. Rischard
John Seely Brown about the relatively recent DoD Directive 3000.05, which deals with Military Support for Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction Operations. High on our list was thinking about the remarkable people we had worked with over the course of previous Highlands Forum meetings and during the Strong Angel demonstrations: Eric Rasmussen, Dave Warner, Eric Frost, and so many others in that band of dedicated people bringing help to those in need by self-organizing and linking government resources with non-governmental organizations. Think of the tsunami in Indonesia; think of the earthquake in Pakistan; think of Hurricane Katrina. It reminded us of the discussion from one of the earliest Highlands Forums in 1996, where we concluded that we would have to contend with problems too large or complex for government to handle.
Author J. F. Rischard began his presentation by talking about "problems too large for one government to handle". We knew we were in the right room. Rischard, a Luxembourg native and the World Bank's vice president for Europe, has written a highly pertinent book (replete with his PowerPoint slides) with the suggestive title High Noon. It lays out his ideas for addressing the challenges of an increasingly crowded, interconnected world. Recognizing that the multidisciplinary nature of problems requires multiparty approaches, Rischard sets out a list of these challenges and a timeline to get at solving them: "20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them." Get on board.
By David Weinberger
David Weinberger is well known to many readers for his previous thoughtful works, The Cluetrain Manifesto and Small Pieces, Loosely Joined, which added significantly to our understanding of the Internet and its power. With his new book, Everything is Miscellaneous, Weinberger points out that every hierarchy and every means of categorizing that we have been used to may now be in jeopardy. The simple example of the placement of a book in a library - into a rigid system that may not well describe the full breadth of the book's meaning - helps us to understand that multiple categories are necessary to do the job. In their own way, the underpinnings of Weinberger's thesis relate back to J. F. Rischard's High Noon (above) on multiple approaches to complex problems - there is a new kind of knowledge emerging along with an understanding of a new, messier world.
By William Gibson
William Gibson appeared on this book list in 2003 with his wonderful novel, Pattern Recognition. He returns with a techno-psychological narrative of espionage, Spook Country, which addresses larger and richer themes. Gibson takes the reader for a ride through the world of new media with a Cuban-Chinese New Yorker who has ties to the intelligence organizations of several countries. Some readers find Gibson's writing a cross between Neal Stephenson and Don DeLillo; we can see a bit of that, but then there is pure Gibson, who is an original. This is not Pattern Recognition (in the sense that The Two Jakes is not Chinatown), but it is a fine follow-up that continues the exploration of the very near future.
By John Kao
John Kao is a medical doctor, jazz musician, author, professor, management strategist, and advisor to the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit at 10 Downing Street. He was last reviewed here in 2000 with his well-known book, Jamming, and was a featured speaker at Highlands Forum XIII: Innovation and Public Organizations. In Jamming, Kao offered inspiring, instructive tales of how creativity can be nurtured and managed to produce that flow of new ideas that is "the only guarantee of continuing success". Now Kao delivers Innovation Nation. In it he echoes the National Academy of Sciences' finding (discussed with us by Norm Augustine in 2006) that much work needs to be done across our educational system and our government and business sectors to regain a lost innovation edge. Kao calls for a response to a galvanizing moment (as in when the U.S. addressed the Soviet Sputnik challenge) and recommends organizational and funding changes in the federal government to recognize the priority of the challenge. Kao is speaking to America at large, but also to the government, and urges the latter to put innovation on a par with security - by bringing in a National Innovation Advisor.
By Richard L. Armitage and Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Co-chairs
"America's image and influence are in decline around the world. To maintain a leading role in global affairs, the United States must move from eliciting fear and anger to inspiring optimism and hope. In 2006, CSIS launched a bipartisan Commission on Smart Power to develop a vision to guide America's global engagement. The CSIS Commission on Smart Power report lays out the commission's findings and a discrete set of recommendations for how the next president of the United States, regardless of political party, can implement a smart power strategy." This is how the CSIS report begins. It continues: "The United States must become a smarter power by once again investing in the global good - providing things people and governments in all quarters of the world want but cannot attain in the absence of American leadership. By complementing U.S. military and economic might with greater investments in soft power, America can build the framework it needs to tackle tough global challenges." In a speech given on November 26, 2007, Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterated the reality of "soft" or "smart" power and called for a "dramatic increase" in the U.S. budget for diplomacy and foreign aid, arguing that al Qa'ida does a better job than Washington of communicating its message overseas and that U.S. deployment of civilians abroad has been "ad hoc and on the fly". This is a most important report.
By Robert D. Hormats
We recommended Robert Hormats' new book, The Price of Liberty: Paying for America's Wars. Hormats, the Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, previously served as presidential economic advisor, Assistant Secretary of State, National Security Council senior staffer, and Deputy Trade Representative. He brings this richness of experience to bear on The Price of Liberty, a timely and provocative book on the finance of conflict. In it he explores the tension between fiscal policy and security actions that runs throughout our history, and provides insights that are profoundly relevant to the challenges we face in our conflicts today - including the "long war" on terrorism.
By David Ignatius
Another of our three novels in this year's group is Body of Lies, an exciting and colorful story by Washington Post columnist and editor David Ignatius. Few authors have his deep knowledge of international affairs (and in particular of the Middle East, where his interviews with heads of state and directors of intelligence services inform the storyline or the characters he defines so clearly) or have spent so much time in the region - where he has been able, in the words of Margaret Mead, to "smell the dirt." An exceptional journalist and author, Ignatius is able to transport the reader to a time and place that they have never been to before and make them come to life. The heat is searing; the refugee camp teems with squalor and danger; and the smiles belie fear and duplicity. This is his sixth novel and it combines his two primary areas of interest: the world of espionage and the Middle East. It seems to draw its titular inspiration from the great British story, Bodyguard of Lies (look for the body switch!), and concerns a CIA plan to infiltrate an al Qa'ida cell by deception. We encourage you to read it now - next summer you will be standing in line to buy tickets to the movie on a hot summer night. It is directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down) and stars Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio.
By John Robb
Clay Shirky moderated a Highlands Forum enrichment conversation on the new tools of social software, which led us to a new channel of learning: the interactive aspects of blogging. One of the first blogs that we noticed, and one that we continue to read closely, is John Robb's Global Guerrillas: Networked Tribes, Infrastructure Disruption, and the Emerging Bazaar of Violence (http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/). We followed Robb's postings and found them to be insightful, as he described the new social, political, organizational, and technical forces that combined to change the face of conflict. Now Robb has turned his ideas from Global Guerrillas into a new book, Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization, which he observes will be the face of war in the twenty-first century. Robb details how the same technology that enabled globalization in its current form makes it possible for terrorists and criminals to ally against larger adversaries. He has drawn from emerging trends in economics, technology, and sociology, and put them together in a newly coherent way that presents a broader concept for collision in the modern age.
By Nayan Chanda
Nayan Chanda in his new book, Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers, and Warriors Shaped Globalization. Chanda clearly demonstrates the beginnings of global trade, missionary work and war, offering wonderful accounts that portray what is new - and what isn't - in the growth of global forces and networks. Long before the Internet, communication satellites, the telephone, the telegraph, the steamship, or even the domestication of the horse, globalization was well underway. Although the word did not enter the English language until 1961 - and then without the economic and anxiety-provoking connotations it has now - the growing interconnectedness of societies across the globe has been evolving for tens of thousands of years, ever since the first anatomically modern humans began dispersing from East Africa late in the last Ice Age, motivated by more hospitable land and the prospect of a better life.
Such a long view of what often is perceived as a late-20th-century phenomenon - particularly in an era often measured by election cycles, quarterly financial returns, and nanoseconds - is what makes Bound Together such an invaluable, and rewarding, read. Chanda, the former editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review and currently director of publications at Yale's Center for the Study of Globalization, has written an extensively researched book that takes the multitudinous threads of human, social, and economic development and weaves them into a coherent, compelling narrative. An engaging book, this should be a reference work for anyone interested in the forces of globalization.
By Ori Brafman and Rod Beckström
Over the years, the Highlands Forum has explored the power of networks across many dimensions - whether looking at terrorist cells; disparate groups responding to complex humanitarian emergencies; command and control in military and crisis response operations; or patterns of risk in private enterprise. In our discussions, we have returned frequently to the theme of decentralized organizations and the efficiencies that can be unleashed when hierarchies are flattened. In The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom visit several of these themes in a book that is both conversational and entertaining. The authors have spent many years engaging CEOs involved in conflict resolution and economic development projects around the world. In the process, they have discovered trends in how this circle of leaders - operating without hierarchies or rigid structures - not only has been effective in accomplishing its goals, but also is reflective of larger changes occurring across multiple industry sectors.
By Charles Perrow
Charles Perrow, the well-respected organizational theorist, professor emeritus of sociology at Yale, and author of the classic Normal Accidents, has made an important contribution to the ongoing debate on the vulnerabilities of American infrastructure with his latest book on accidents, attacks, and calamities waiting to happen. The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disaster addresses many complex systems, from nuclear power plants to the national power grid, but also repeatedly asks a simple question: rather than focus solely on preventing disasters, responding to them, and limiting their damages, why don't our leaders, policymakers, and elected officials reduce the vulnerability of our myriad targets? "Prevention and mitigation will always fall short, sometimes alarmingly so," Perrow contends, which is why he believes that reducing the size of our vulnerable targets, decentralizing our critical industries, and eliminating choke points in our transportation and industrial systems is more likely to make us safer than monolithic constructs.
By John H. Clippinger
At times an author, scientist, and digital entrepreneur who has started a number of companies, John Clippinger now resides at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, which has allowed him time to gather his thoughts and synthesize them into a coherent theme. He has collected his ideas on trust, identity, networks, and other related topics to give us a series of essays in his new book, A Crowd of One: The Future of Individual Identity. Drawing as he has in the past (The Biology of Business) on biology, neuroscience, philosophy, history, and management principles, Clippinger addresses the very meaning of what it is to be an individual, of the individual's relationship to institutions, and of the bond of trust or mistrust between them. In the Information Age he contends, "The Net is moving from an open world of reciprocity and trust to a progressively enclosed, fearful, punitive, and monitored world of legal and economic sanctions to enforce the interests of influential oligopolies." A Crowd of One is a sweeping exploration of human nature and its place in a new kind of world, from the simplest of biological relationships to the complex relationships within organizations and between the incumbent center and the edge.
By Eric Frank Russell
Paul Saffo dropped us a note to recommend "the best book ever written on asymmetric warfare". This turned out to be a fascinating read in a very short space of time, a rare commodity indeed. Titled Wasp, this thrilling little book was written by Eric Frank Russell in 1957, making it all the more curious. It is a very simple, yet controversial book, a product of its time (1957 and the Cold War) and of related social prejudices and fears. What makes it of interest to us today is its examination of guerrilla and psychological warfare as the main character, James Mowry, is selected (for reasons that become apparent) to become a "wasp" inserted into enemy territory to wreak havoc. The wasp analogy arises, Russell tells us, from the ability of one wasp to become more than a nuisance as he flies into a car driving down the road: it distracts the driver who bats at him fruitlessly, and causes enough panic at high speed that the car hurtles out of control, leading to a crash and to the death of the driver. Mowry will become the wasp on the enemy planet and sow panic and destruction out of proportion to his size or resources, thus preventing or winning a war by distracting and psychologically overwhelming the enemy.
Wasp is filled with extraordinarily effective tactics for carrying on this psychological campaign, it is also a character study that probes the thinking of its main protagonist and matches up his wit and wits with those of his foes, his accomplices, and his sponsors. We don't know if this is the best book ever written on asymmetric warfare, but it certainly is too good to pass up. Like the wasp in the car, this Wasp demands your attention.
By Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston
"In" boxes, all wrapped in green: past-due bills for pollution, inorganic waste, and depleted natural resources. What authors Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston call the "Green Wave" - an avalanche of environmentally driven issues - is threatening to disrupt long-established business models, even a company's existence.
Yet as Esty and Winston repeatedly illustrate in their book, Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage, what typically are perceived as threats can be golden opportunities. Daunting environmental and regulatory constraints can become the inspiration to create new products, new markets, and new revenue streams. Traditional competitive advantage is earned through lower costs and differentiated products. What the authors present as the "Eco-Advantage" is a new kind of sustained competitive advantage in which forward-thinking companies like DuPont, Alcoa, Toyota, and IKEA go beyond superficial solutions and incorporate environmental considerations into their core strategy.
By Zana Briski
Zana Briski, the Oscar-winning director of the stunning documentary Born into Brothels, and found out that there are two book versions of that narrative to tell you about. First, for those of you who have not seen the documentary or do not know of Zana's story, we invite you to visit the Highlands Forum summary of Zana's inspiring presentation at Highlands Forum XXVII: Strategic Listening, or the 2005 Highlands Forum Reading List, for a description of the DVD of the documentary.
Zana went to India for six months a year for six consecutive years, spending most of her time in Calcutta. After living in a brothel among the children and their mothers, building a bond of trust, she found that the kids opened up to her, asking her for help. She gave them cameras and instruction in how to use them; she gave them caring and listening; she gave them hope and aspirations; and she gradually helped find schooling and another life for them. The film is a remarkable story of Zana's quest to figure out how to help and to find solutions through official channels; the resistance she met at almost every turn; the kids' curiosity and growth; and the remarkable creativity that ensued in their photographs. Zana told us, "Their photographs are prisms into their souls, rather than anthropological curiosities, and a true testimony to the power of the indelible creative spirit."
Born into Brothels, is a companion to the DVD and contains many of the photos taken by the children, as well as their biographies. The story they tell is one of the collaborative triumphs of self-expression in a complicated reality. The second version of the book, titled simply Brothel, contains a number of Zana's own haunting photos, each presented in a full page, magnificently bound and offered in a red silk box with Indian artwork added. This is a collector's edition, self-published by Zana and created in India, with a price tag of $250.00 (available through her Web site).
By Yochai Benkler
Highlands Forum XXXI: The Emerging Web (March, 2007). At this meeting, both Jon Udell and Greg Elin introduced us to a concept put forth by Yochai Benkler: commons-based information production and exchange. The premise behind this concept is that today, people can find each other and make changes to a system together, online, in ways that were not possible before the advent of the Internet. The result is more effective collaboration, enhanced efficiency, and greater empowerment and ownership for those who contribute. Benkler's ideas are put forth in The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. It is a dense, technical, and comprehensive treatise that blends theory and concrete examples to synthesize a better appreciation for the impact and lasting effects that these new patterns of open collaboration have in the digital environment. The book explores how information is produced, used, and exchanged from an economic and legal perspective, wrapped within broad social theories. It also addresses the impact of today's low-cost communication tools on markets, culture, democracy, and freedom.
Defense Science Board 2006 Summer Study
21st Century Strategic Technology Vectors - a report of the Defense Science Board 2006 Summer Study - is a major DSB analysis that recognizes the global diffusion of science and technology, the importance of off-the-shelf commercial technology, and the lack of dedicated resources to basic research. It attempts to recommend how the DoD should conduct strategic technology planning and speed the transition of technology into fielded capability. It provides an important look into a problem already here that will only become more serious with time.
By John Musser, Tim O'Reilly, and the O'Reilly Radar Team
"Web 2.0 is much more than just pasting a new user interface onto an old application. It's a way of thinking, a new perspective on the entire business of software - from concept through delivery, from marketing through support. Web 2.0 thrives on network effects: databases that get richer the more people interact with them, applications that are smarter the more people use them, marketing that is driven by user stories and experiences, and applications that interact with each other to form a broader computing platform."
This quote from Tim O'Reilly, founder of O'Reilly Media and publisher of Release 2.0, opens Web 2.0: Principles and Best Practices, a major report on where the Web is headed and how it will change markets, governments, and industries. As O'Reilly comments above, there is something new afoot and it goes far beyond "templating" new technology over the way we have always done things. At this year's Highlands Forum XXXI: The Emerging Web, we explored the technologies, applications, and ideas surrounding the emerging Web to better understand the rapid changes that are going to be driving our architectures and processes in a network-centric environment. We examined the ideas and rising trends that might help us stay ahead of the changes that are now being driven not just by companies, but also by users, and we listened to Tim O'Reilly and other experts as they discussed the future that will drive us. This report was most useful in helping us to understand what is emerging and what lies ahead.