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10 Books Recommended by Sam Altman I’m Kicking Myself for Not Reading Sooner

Get your business mind going

10 Books Recommended by Sam Altman I’m Kicking Myself for Not Reading Sooner

Entrepreneurs drive the economy.

They turn their ideas into reality and take significant risks while doing so.

Today’s booklist has been recommended by Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI. Open AI is a US-based artificial intelligence research organization. It is also behind the popular AI program Chat GPT.

The world might go from writing on clay tablets to having computers write for themselves… but some things would never change. For example: the skills and long-sightedness required to found a startup and run a business.

These books will help you learn all about that.

Let’s go!

10 Books Recommended by Sam Altman I’m Kicking Myself for Not Reading Sooner

The future of human fate.

How will superintelligence come about?

Nick Bostrom gives us three ways through which that might happen.

  1. Computational models

  2. Full brain emulation

  3. Collective enhancement

Computational models or machine learning programs are already a significant part of our lives. This technology will continue to grow further and has a significant potential to birth superintelligence.

Full brain emulation means scanning brains and replicating their properties digitally.

Collective enhancement means improving the intelligence of humanity as a whole through knowledge and improved learning capabilities.

“The fact that evolution produced intelligence therefore indicates that human engineering will soon be able to do the same.”

The author tells us that once superintelligence is born, it will take charge of humans’ fate.

The fate of other animals depends on humans, not because humans are stronger, but because they are smarter. Humans will move down in the hierarchy once superintelligence comes into the picture.

“…as the fate of the gorillas now depends more on us humans than on the gorillas themselves, so the fate of our species would depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence.”

It is imperative that humanity proceeds with caution and makes sure that the goals of AI are in line with those of humans.

10 Books Recommended by Sam Altman I’m Kicking Myself for Not Reading Sooner

The power of having meaning in life.

This book is more than 70 years old. It still serves as a guiding light for many.

The first half of the book details Viktor Frankl’s experiences as a prisoner in Auschwitz and other concentration camps during the Holocaust. The second half details his creation of Logotherapy, a therapy to figure out life’s meaning.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Frankl shares the dark and the grim of the concentration camps. He also shares what gave him hope.

The author believes that one can survive the ups and downs of life by having meaning in life.

“In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

Frankl also talks about the importance of love. He tells us how he reminisced about his wife in some of his darkest moments. The love he had for her, carried him through.

This book provides everlasting guidance on how to handle the lemons that life hands you.

10 Books Recommended by Sam Altman I’m Kicking Myself for Not Reading Sooner

Take control of your brain!

Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist.

Through years of research, he teaches us about the decision-making process in our brains. We have a fast system and a slow system. Hence the book’s name.

The fast system is intuitive and emotional. The slow system performs complex processes like problem-solving.

“I call it theory-induced blindness: once you have accepted a theory and used it as a tool in your thinking, it is extraordinarily difficult to notice its flaws.”

The author also discusses the limitations of human thinking. He tells us about our biases.

This includes ‘theory-induced blindness’. It is when we accept a theory. We use it to understand all consequent incidents and ignore its shortcomings.

“A divorce is like a symphony with a screeching sound at the end — the fact that it ended badly does not mean it was all bad.”

The author also explores the concept of experiencing self and remembering self. Our experiencing self experiences the whole event.

But… our remembering self only remembers what it wants to. For example, an annoying ending to an otherwise happy day might be imprinted as a bad day in our minds.

10 Books Recommended by Sam Altman I’m Kicking Myself for Not Reading Sooner

Who is responsible for World War 1?

Christopher Clark gives us the background on World War 1.

It could’ve been avoided. Many lives wouldn’t have been lost. However, due to the actions of many leaders, the world was set alight by war.

King Alexander Obrenović of Serbia was killed in 1903. This is where the author starts tracing the background events.

“…the protagonists of 1914 were sleepwalkers, watchful but unseeing, haunted by dreams, yet blind to the reality of the horror they were about to bring into the world.”

He then goes on to discuss the various policies and alliances in European nations. This includes the Austrian annexation of Bosnia and the Serbian attack on Albania.

Through the ups and downs, the author finally takes us to the incident that set the wheels of World War 1 in motion. That was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Bosnia. Archduke was the heir to the Austria-Hungarian throne.

“The targeting of the archduke thus exemplified one abiding strand in the logic of terrorist movements, namely that reformers and moderates are more to be feared than outright enemies and hardliners.”

The author divides the blame for World War 1 among different nations who played their part. If you are interested in the history of the world, this book covers the escalation to World War 1.

10 Books Recommended by Sam Altman I’m Kicking Myself for Not Reading Sooner

Scaling to win!

The speed that ‘Flash’ processes provides a good analogy for Hoffman’s idea of a company’s growth.

The author’s suggestion is to pursue rapid growth of a startup and dominate the market. That is what he terms ‘blitzscaling’. This requires scaling the company at a very fast rate. It also requires prioritizing speed over efficiency.

Hoffman guides us through the blitzscaling process. This process evolves through 5 stages:

  1. Family

  2. Tribe

  3. Village

  4. City

  5. Nation

“Nokia is a great example of the cost of caution.”

The author gives us many examples to make his point. He tells us how Apple and Samsung entered the market and dominated it, pushing Nokia out of business.

Reid Hoffman is one of the founders of LinkedIn. His time in Silicon Valley has filled him with years of experience and intuition.

“…the cold and unromantic fact is that a good product with great distribution will almost always beat a great product with poor distribution.”

The author makes us realize many things. One of them is the importance of having a good distribution system.

10 Books Recommended by Sam Altman I’m Kicking Myself for Not Reading Sooner

The ultimate human quest.

The knowledge in this universe is infinite. That is what David Deutsch proposes. He challenges the belief that knowledge is finite.

The author explores the human search for knowledge and the evolution of science. He says that the quest for knowledge is fueled by an urge to find answers.

“The Beginning of Infinity is a journey towards an endless pursuit of knowledge and progress.”

Deutsch also talks about optimism, the belief that there are solutions to all problems.

The author believes that human knowledge has the potential to grow without bounds.

This is because new knowledge is always coming into existence through questions and exploration.

“Scientific progress is the result of constant questioning, testing, and refinement.”

Interestingly, explanations aren’t discovered only by experimentation. Theory formation and idea generation play an important role.

10 Books Recommended by Sam Altman I’m Kicking Myself for Not Reading Sooner

The Superman of physics!

A boy was born in Germany in 1879. As he grew up, he showed interest in science.

Along with that, he had a rebellious nature.

He went on to be the world’s greatest physicist. He is Einstein.

In this book, we get to know Einstein, not only as a scientist but as a human who had his own quirks.

“Blind respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

Einstein spent most of his life as a university professor. He wrote papers and made significant contributions to the world of science.

One of his theories, which is widely taught and learned is the theory of relativity.

Interestingly, it was not the theory of relativity that brought Einstein his Nobel Prize, but his discovery of the photoelectric effect.

“Einstein would not, as it turned out, ever win a Nobel for his work on relativity and gravitation, nor for anything other than the photoelectric effect.”

We also learn of Einstein’s activism. Being from a Jewish background, he was increasingly alarmed by Hitler’s policies.

Einstein was a supporter of the US nuclear program. He wasn’t however supportive of bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Einstein campaigned for peace and nuclear disarmament.

10 Books Recommended by Sam Altman I’m Kicking Myself for Not Reading Sooner

The importance of originality.

Zero to one symbolizes creating something new. Peter Thiel suggests that in order to be successful, startups should come up with original and revolutionary ideas. They should not copy others.

Why, though?

If all companies start to create the same types of products, they will compete with each other for the same resources. This won’t leave any wiggle room.

“All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.”

The author recommends starting from a small niche. And after being successful there, you can expand to bigger markets.

“A startup is the largest endeavor over which you can have definite mastery. You can have agency not just over your own life, but over a small and important part of the world.”

Peter Thiel is the co-founder of a successful company, Paypal. His knowledge combined with years of experience in the industry makes this book important for startup founders.

10 Books Recommended by Sam Altman I’m Kicking Myself for Not Reading Sooner

The world of venture firms.

Are you an entrepreneur? Do you feel overwhelmed about securing capital for your company?

Fret not, because this book provides a good guide.

“Good VCs help entrepreneurs achieve their business goals by providing guidance, support, a network of relationships, and coaching.”

Scott Kupor tells us all about Venture capital funds and how they work. He explains what the investors are looking for in startups and startup founders.

There are certain qualities that make startups tick. The investor looks at the skillset and background of the founder. They also look at whether the startup is a ‘company-first company’ or a ‘product-first company.’

Product-first company is where the idea of the product was conceived after the founder experienced some problem and solved it. And in the company-first company, the founder first decides to launch a company and then looks for products.

“Venture firms develop a reputation for backing successful startup companies, and that positive brand signaling enables those firms to continue to attract the best new entrepreneurs.”

Having sat at both ends of the table, Kupor is experienced enough to enlighten us about all facets of founder — VC relationship.

10 Books Recommended by Sam Altman I’m Kicking Myself for Not Reading Sooner

On management and leadership.

Jack Welsh served as the CEO of General Electric for 20 years.

This book was written by Welsh and his wife. It provides important lessons for managers and leaders.

“Differentiation favors people who are energetic and extroverted and undervalues people who are shy and introverted, even if they are talented.”

We learn about the importance of keeping the mission and vision of a company consistent. These should be implemented by managers in employees’ conduct.

We also learn about strategy, leadership, hiring, and firing.

“We’ve all been guilty at one point or another in our careers of boasting of perfect hindsight. It’s a terrible sin.”

Trust is one of the most important leadership traits. Trust is defined in the book as:

“Trust happens when leaders are transparent, candid, and keep their word.”

If you want to be a great leader, this book belongs on your bookshelf.


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If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out the rest of my book lists on my blog-

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