Exploring blockchain, modern professionals in the digital age, AI narratives, and enigmatic figures like Murdoc, books offer a rich tapestry reflecting our evolving world. This article delves into a diverse array of such books, offering perspectives and knowledge, possibly hinting at the future of our interconnected world.

Number Go Up: inside Crypto's Wild Rise and Staggering Fall

Zeke Faux

Orion – R470

What exactly is crypto for? Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tether, Dogecoin and all the rest – what is their purpose? Crypto evangelists argue that they will, in time, replace ordinary so-called fiat currencies, that they will eliminate high street banks, merchant banks and even central banks. They hold that eventually all of our transactions and contracts will be recorded in the blockchain, and this is the righteous future, so, please, climb aboard the Crypto Express!

Zeke Faux, an investigative reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg News, was coming to a slightly different conclusion when one of his editors handed him an assignment. Having thought about the subject long and hard, Faux was of the opinion that cypto’s purpose was nothing more than to scam gullible investors and make as much money as possible for the "crypto bros" running the myriad new exchanges and issuing all manner of strange coins and tokens. The assignment, which he accepted eagerly, was to investigate one of the most prominent of the new coins, Tether, which promises that it is backed dollar-for-dollar by old-fashioned cash, and therefore is 100% safe.

The crux of Faux’s story: if he asked, would Tether and its shadowy Italian founder be able to show him the money or would it turn out to be a house of cards, like so many other crypto-Ponzi schemes?

Down the rabbit hole he goes and within moments he finds himself face-to-face with Sam Bankman-Fried, the then-billionaire boy wonder and founder of the FTX exchange and Alameda Research Hedge Fund. Faux has the grace to admit that for a moment or two, even he was taken in by Bankman-Fried, but then came FTX’s collapse, Bankman-Fried’s arrest and subsequent trial.

At the time of writing, the outcome of the trial is known – SBF is guilty – but do we know how many more coins, tokens and exchanges have collapsed?

Tether? You’ll have to read Faux’s brilliant, witty, and extraordinarily well-researched book for that answer.

The Fall: The End of the Murdoch Empire

Michael Wolff

Little, Brown – R470

Love him or loathe him, Rupert Murdoch is quite simply one of the titans of the modern media world. But even titans have to face eternity and at the age of 92, Murdoch’s moment is likely getting closer.

Michael Wolff has written extensively about Murdoch in the past and in The Fall, he asks what happens when that moment arrives? What will happen to what remains of Murdoch’s media empire and who will take over from him to run it?

The paradox is that there’s not much of the empire left. The vast bulk was sold a couple of years ago to Disney, in an astonishing peak-of-the-market $71 billion deal. What remains, its money-pumping heart, is Fox, and Donald Trump-loving Fox News in particular. Lacing this with bitter irony is the fact that the entire Murdoch clan loathe and detest Fox News but love its massive profitability.

The Fall is a book that’s as much about Fox as it is the Murdochs. The cast is large, from Fox’s Svengali, the late Roger Ailes, to its stars, like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. Murdoch’s children share the stage. Key among them are the four voting shareholders, each of them already billionaires. Lachlan, determined to please his father but to stay as far away from Fox as possible; James, who loathes Lachlan as much as he hates Fox; Elizabeth, the most talented and successful of the four, but the family males won’t allow her to take over; and Prue, older, more distant and not really a player.

Wolff’s portrait of Murdoch himself is savage. The great dealmaker, once the scourge of newsrooms in the English-speaking world, is drawn as bumbling, indecisive, mumbling, often downright incomprehensible and in thrall to his brash then-wife, ex-model Jerry Hall. In fairness, he has recently stepped down and handed the reins to Lachlan, but will the oldest son be allowed to continue in that role by his siblings when the moment comes?

And whoever does take control still faces the awful problem of what to do about Fox News...

Future Purpose: A Unique and Personal Guide to Building Your C-Suite Career 

Chris van Melle Kamp

Quickfox Publishing – R350

Chris van Melle Kamp began his career as a diplomat, before joining GIBS as one of its founding directors. He is, though, perhaps best-known in South African business circles for his time in executive search with top international consultancy Spencer Stuart. In other words, he was one of the country’s very top head-hunters.

No surprise then that his book Future Purpose provides the reader with a lens that focuses not only on what you, the individual, might want for your career and its development, but also how this aligns with the company you currently work for, or the one that you would like to move to or is seeking to hire you. Van Melle Kamp repeatedly makes the point that if either side of this complex equation is out of balance, failure is likely, if not certain.

The book is written around the Five Dimensions of Influence model, which he says he "designed to help mid- to senior level executives build a more pragmatic and sustainable career path'.

The Five Dimensions are clear:

  1. Origins: Where we come from
  2. Development: Using talent and building capability
  3. Context: Our work environment
  4. Stages of life: Journey of personal and professional growth
  5. Purpose: Why we do what we do

They are also the very core questions that a skilled executive search consultant would pose during a conversation with you to see if you’re right for a particular job.

Van Melle Kamp explains the Dimensions in detail, interspersing each section with an illuminating cross-section of references from key academic studies, along with miniature case studies of fictitious individuals and companies that highlight the application of his model. Some get it right, others do not, so there is plenty of "how to…" and "how not to…"

Each section ends with a list of questions entitled "Personal Reflection" which invite you to stop, think hard and apply what you’ve just read to yourself and your career. Do that with care and attention, and Chris van Melle Kamp will certainly provide you with a clear and considered route-map into your future.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AI: A Handbook for All

Arthur Goldstuck

Pan Macmillan South Africa – R280

I’ve known and worked on and off with Arthur Goldstuck for many years. He’s witty, good company, always amazingly well-informed and writes with great clarity. No surprise then that his Hitchhiker’s Guide to AI is one of the most interesting and easy-to-follow books if its kind.

To begin with, Goldstuck keeps it simple. That’s a great benefit for all levels of reader because it helps you find out what you thought you knew, but really didn’t.

In my case, I’ve been grappling with AI in the shape of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the sophisticated chat bot that has seized the headlines over the past year or so. I’ve been pondering what to do if any of the writers I commission as editor of this magazine begins to use ChatGPT to produce their articles. How would I know? Should I care? Would you, the reader, know or care?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide section on ChatGPT provided me with the answers. Yes, I should care because the articles would likely be very generic if written by the chat bot and – possibly – full of incorrect information. But what I should be doing is to use it to generate a list of topics for a specific subject or edition. That way, I make sure that I have not missed anything.

And that’s just what I have done for a project I’ve been working on – ChatGPT did in 10 seconds what would have taken me two or three hours. Now I know how to use ChatGPT – thanks, Arthur!

Could The Hitchhiker’s Guide do the same for you and your profession? I’d be amazed if the answer is no. There’s plenty more to AI than ChatGPT and its author has covered all the likely bases with great thoroughness.


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2024 – Charting the Year Ahead

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