Yandex Product Marketing Director Andrey Sebrant’s Top Book Recommendations

Andrey Sebrant, the Product Marketing Director at Yandex, lets us in on some of his recommendations for books to read if you’d like to learn more about IT and new technologies.

Andrey Sebrant. Illustration by Dmitry Lisovsky

A modern specialist, regardless of their field, shouldn’t be too narrow-minded or focused on a single subject area. This is especially relevant in IT: information technologies support, and sometimes define, many aspects of our everyday life. The books I’m going to recommend should be interesting and beneficial to me and my colleagues precisely because they are not about the inner workings of technology, but about living in today’s technological world.

Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman, 2011

I’d like to start with a book that has been a worldwide bestseller for years. Its author may be a psychologist, but he got his Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on decision-making and human behavior, which explained many things about us that could not be explained using the rational behavior theory. Yes, people often display irrational and suboptimal behavior in regard to the many metrics related to benefit. But there is a certain system to that irrationality, and there are patterns that you have to be familiar with if you’re making things for others. This book is the most important and helpful thing I’ve read in the past decade.

Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future – Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, 2017

In this rapidly changing world of ours, the interest in the future is inevitably rising; it comes too fast and changes lives, professions, and fates. If you don’t prepare for it, you might one day find yourself not belonging to that future, which is quite terrifying. There are a myriad of futurologists and books on this subject, but the ones that present a detailed vision of our future aren’t the interesting ones. Our past experience tells us that the future is defined by the inventions and discoveries that no one could have predicted. That’s why a good book on the future should be a little vague; it should outline the trends and concepts of today, point out the vectors leading us into tomorrow, but only give some indication as to where they are leading us. Machine, Platform, Crowd is an example of such a book. It was written by a pair of MIT professors who use it to explain why we need to account for three interconnected trends in our predictions of the future: the use of machine learning, the platform economy, and the restructuring of corporate management hierarchies. Ignoring either of these things is bound to end in failure, and knowledge of these pitfalls is highly valuable.

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order – Kai-Fu Lee, 2018

Today, technologies have an effect not only on our everyday comforts, but on geopolitics, the global balance of power, and the development of governments. The effect of smart technologies, machine learning, and robotics on the global market is explained wonderfully in this book written by a man with a unique life story: a scientist and a businessman who has worked in major US tech companies and in the Chinese venture industry. His strict comparative analysis of the development of technologies and technological entrepreneurship in these two countries is a fascinating read, and there are a lot of practical conclusions to be made from the text.

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