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10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Sam Altman— Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Walk into the library of the man who owns the future

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Sam Altman— Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Sam Altman was fired from being the CEO of OpenAI.

A few days later, he was hired back.

Whatever the reasons behind this decision and the U-turn, one thing’s for sure. Sam Altman is a bright young mind in tech and business, whose work will probably carve out the world’s future.

He started leading OpenAI in 2019 at only 34 years old.

Today we are going to be looking at the books recommended by him.

Source: Books recommended/praised/mentioned by Sam Altman on Twitter/X

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Sam Altman— Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

An AI book, obviously!

If humans create a superintelligent being who is capable of becoming better by itself, this would give rise to the creation of a ‘singularity’.

“Our demise may instead result from the habitat destruction that ensues when the AI begins massive global construction projects using nanotech factories and assemblers…”

Bostrom discusses the good and the bad outcomes as a result of that happening.

Either AI will resolve humanity’s issues or it will take over and make us dependent on its decisions.

Bostrom suggests different solutions to prevent the negative effects of AI on humans. For example, giving the AI agent limited information, and making sure it has the right objectives.

“Some little idiot is bound to press the ignite button just to see what happens.”

This book is an interesting overview of AI technology. It comprehensively discusses the steps humans need to take to ensure they are not wiped out by superintelligent robots.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Sam Altman— Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Could World War I be avoided?

Christopher Clark is an Australian historian.

In this book, he takes us to the time before World War I. He discusses various factors, events, and players that ultimately led to it.

The writer starts from 1903 when Serbian militants killed King Alexander and Queen Draga.

He also discusses the Austrian annexation of Bosnia in 1908 and Serbia’s attack on Albania in 1912.

“…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.”

This brings us to the event that sparked the World War. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife at the hands of Serbian militants.

Austria was appalled. Austria-Hungary asked for German backup while Serbia asked for Russian support.

Other nations joined and the war lasted 4 years.

“…when we contemplate historical events, especially catastrophic ones like the First World War … they impose on us (or seem to do so) a sense of their necessity.”

Clark argues that all this could’ve stopped at many points but it wasn’t.

It’s an interesting book, especially for avid history readers.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Sam Altman— Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Use your brain power to your advantage.

We live life in a hurry.

If there is one thing, multiple books have taught me… it’s the need to slow down.

Whether it is the need to think clearly or expand your time, slowing down is the gift that you can give yourself.

“The premise of this book is that it is easier to recognize other people’s mistakes than our own.”

But, not when a car is speeding towards you. That’s when you have to jump.

‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ touches on the same but in a new way.

Kahneman tells us about the fast system and the slow system in our brains.

The Fast system is quick. It allows us to stay safe by making split-second decisions. But there is a downside. This Fast system is incredibly biased and erroneous.

“This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.”

The slow system however is a cool, calm collected process. It thinks logically.

The problem arises when the Fast system starts to make decisions that the Slow system should make. For example, when we go for a grocery run when hungry and make more purchases than we should.

This book will help you make better decisions by understanding your brain processes.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Sam Altman— Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

A man who changed the world.

Walter Isaacson is known for his biographies of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Leonardo da Vinci.

He has also written the biography of Physics’ brightest mind, the one we all know from our Physics class. The mind behind the equation E=mc2.

Yup, Albert Einstein.

“The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science.”

Einstein was curious from 4 years of age. He loved science, math, and music.

Isaacson tells us all about Einstein’s studies in Switzerland, his marriage, his divorce, and his time in Germany. Eventually, Einstein moved to the US to escape the Nazi persecution of Jews.

Interestingly, Einstein didn’t receive his Nobel Prize for his theory of relativity but for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Did you know that Einstein refused surgery for his stomach aneurysm which eventually was the cause of his demise?

We can benefit a lot from this book. One lesson for everyone is to keep that childhood sense of wonder alive.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Sam Altman— Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

The importance of scaling up!

As someone who has worked on launching a startup or two, I am aware of the inevitable lifecycle of small-scale startups. They run for some time and dry out.

What is the problem?

Not scaling up.

“When a start-up matures to the point where it has a killer product, a clear and sizable market, and a robust distribution channel, it has the opportunity to become a “scale-up,”…”

This journey of scaling up is what Hoffman calls Blitzscaling. Blitz means lightning in German and Scaling means increasing in size.

Blitzscaling means a proportional and sustainable scaling up.

In Hoffman’s view, this is the only way for a startup to turn into a ‘world-changing company’.

“The ideal, of course, is to hire an executive with past experience at a blitzscaling start-up that has already dealt with the challenges your company currently faces.”

The author touches on various issues that come up in the path of scaling up fast. With his experience at PayPal, he gives us solutions and things to think about.

Every entrepreneur must read this book, at least once.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Sam Altman— Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Shoot for the Monopoly!

Thiel gives us reasons why every founder should aspire to build a business that becomes a monopoly.

Monopoly is not bad, he says. Google has a monopoly because it is the best search engine out there.

“You should focus relentlessly on something you’re good at doing, but before that you must think hard about whether it will be valuable in the future.”

Thiel also teaches us about competition, brand identity, and retaining customers in the long run. Apple has a sleek brand identity which is apparent in its products and online presence. Plus there is a strong focus on quality in Apple’s products.

The author advises businesses to focus on small and concentrated customer bases at the start.

Using examples from the business world, Thiel analyzes different strategies adopted by famous organizations.

“…you’ve invented something new but you haven’t invented an effective way to sell it, you have a bad business — no matter how good the product.”

This book is jam-packed with necessary advice for every business person out there.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Sam Altman— Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

The knowledge is infinite, come take a sip.

Deutsch calls them ‘good explanations.’ He says that humans’ quest to explain the universe and its phenomena leads to knowledge.

The author explains that scientific theories are not observed by human senses.

“Bad philosophy is philosophy that denies the possibility, desirability or existence of progress. And progress is the only effective way of opposing bad philosophy.”

Instead, the human mind comes up with ideas that are then observed in relevance to the physical phenomenon.

Good ideas replicate themselves and survive the test of time.

The author also discusses the importance of creativity and the subjectiveness of beauty.

“New art is unpredictable, like new scientific discoveries.”

All in all, through his book Deutsch wants us to know that knowledge and discoveries are infinite. And humans will continue on the path to progress.

We will keep finding new problems and work on their solutions.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Sam Altman— Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

How to secure venture capital for your company?

If you are anything like me, you must have a dream of owning a successful business one day.

If so, don’t ignore this book.

A startup needs money to get it off the ground. That is where Venture Capitalists come into play.

In 2017, VC firms invested $84 billion into companies and startups in the US.

This book tells us all about it. How VC firms work and how to get in the good graces of VCs and secure investment as a result.

“Entrepreneurs and VCs are not on opposing sides, the way one soccer team tries to crush another in the World Cup.”

The starting point is to understand the investors backing the VC firm. The writer also tells us to make a great ‘term sheet’ that forms the basis of a startup’s negotiations with a VC.

He lets us in on what exactly VCs are looking for. Kupor talks about the difference between a ‘company-first’ and a ‘product-first’ company.

“…what is the unique skill set, background, or experience that led this founding team to pursue this idea?”

In the product-first company, the founder finds a great product and then creates a company to market it. In the company-first case, the founder creates a company and then thinks of products to sell. VCs are inclined towards product-first companies.

This book is your ticket for securing that capital for your business. It belongs in the library of every entrepreneur.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Sam Altman— Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Get insider information on ‘winning’ ingredients for success.

Jack Welch was CEO of General Electric from 1981 to 2001. Under him, GE grew by 4000%. In 2006, his estimated wealth was $720 million.

Needless to say, Welch knows how to win!

In this book, he spills his secrets.

“Lack of candor blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they’ve got. It’s a killer.”

Open and honest communication, which Welch calls ‘candor’, is the essence of creating a winning team. This means people are not afraid to voice their honest opinions.

Welch implemented this by creating the idea of Work-Out sessions in GE.

An interesting thing that the writer says is that annual budgeting limits a company’s growth. Instead, he asks us to keep the goals flexible and adjust them as needed.

Welsh is not a fan of the victim mindset, whether it is a bad boss or hard times that have befallen the company.

“You can look at the situation and feel victimized. Or you can look at it and be excited about conquering the challenges and opportunities it presents.”

This book is packed with lessons for employees, managers, business leaders, and entrepreneurs.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Sam Altman— Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Find the ‘why’ to your life.

Frankl says that humans experience existential frustration when they don’t know the meaning of their lives.

I know this feeling all too well. My faith was the basis of everything in my life. When I questioned my religion, I went into a downward spiral.

Nothing made sense and I felt incredibly lost.

“We may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed.”

Slowly but surely, I started finding meaning in other things. In my connection to the Divine, in my love for my child, and in my bid to do good in this world.

This is exactly what Frankl tells us.

He says that a man can survive any suffering if he has a ‘why’ to live.

“If . . . one cannot change a situation that causes his suffering, he can still choose his attitude.”

Using his experience in Nazi concentration camps, Frankl shows us the difference between those who survived and those who didn’t.

It’s the mindset. Even when everything is taken away from you, you have the freedom to do one thing. That is to determine your thoughts.

This book is like a ray of sunshine filtering through the clouds.


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