If you want a glimpse into the future, Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella is an important read. Nadella shares his own story and spends much of the book focusing on the impact of new technologies on society. He highlights three trends: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and mixed reality that will change society over the next decade. Nadella not only provides easy-to-understand summaries of these technologies but provocations about policies around them.
This book is for people that want to understand future technologies and is especially relevant to policymakers. Nadella’s writing is accessible. He grounds his arguments in values while sharing stories about some of the tough choices he made at Microsoft. Planners and legislators will benefit from this crash course in technology policy.
Nadella is a fan of empathy noting:
Whether you are a company designing a product or a lawmaker designing a policy, you must start by empathizing with people and their needs. No product or policy works if it fails to reflect and honor the lives and realities of people—and that requires those who design the product or the policy to truly understand and respect the values and experiences underlying those realities. So Empathy is a crucial ingredient in developing a product or a policy that will earn people’s trust.
This mirrors the approach we take at MAPC and Code for Boston. In many cases the difference between software that works well and software that is harmful or fails is empathy. Nadella gets it.
If you’re a software developer and want to better understand how your work impacts people, you should read this book. Digest the ideas. Think about: what values are you bringing to your work? Also whether you are a policymaker or technologist, talk to each other. Nadella says that it’s challenging for entrepreneurs in developing nations to get meetings with their heads of state, but those same people will pick up the phone for Microsoft. This needs to change.