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Exponential: Azeem Azhar ****

This book produces distinct mixed feelings. It's both bad and good at the same time. 

Let's get the good in there first. Although not a particularly original observation, Azeem Azhar's portrayal of the exponential rise of technology in the modern world is important, both to emphasise why it is genuinely different from previous technological breakthroughs and also because Azhar does not simply give us either a 'tech is wonderful' or 'we are all doomed' portrayal of the impact of the internet, 3D printing and more on our businesses and lives.

While he does sometimes over-promise on what the technology is likely to deliver any time soon, Azhar notes, for example, that self-driving cars are a lot harder to implement on winding European roads that straight wide Californian ones. But more importantly, he is able to give us some balance. We see both the benefits, for example, to consumers and companies of the gig economy, but the potential downsides for workers. And we get some first hints at solutions. While I'm not sure that Azhar's suggestions for ways to mitigate the worst and make the most of the best of new technology go far enough, at least the suggestions are there and need to be noted.

So far, so good, then. Unfortunately, though, while Azhar's ideas may be interesting, the writing is not great. What we get feels like a wading-through-treacle dull business book. Even the publisher doesn't seem to know what it is - the jacket classifies it as a technology book, while its press release calls it a business book. It should have been a good, tightly-written science and technology book to really shine. As is true all too often with business books, some chapters don't have much more content than a magazine article, but manage to say it in far more words. The whole thing could do with a serious edit and restructure. It doesn't help that there's rather a lot of 'what I've achieved' referencing, which doesn't necessarily enamour Azhar to his readers.

Mixed feelings, then. There's good stuff in there, but you have to work to mine it from the dross.



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Review by Brian Clegg


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