American Kingpin – Ross Ulbricht and the Silk Road


American Kingpin – by Nick Bilton, ~325 pages (2016)

What I liked about this book

This story is based on the life of a young man, Ross Ulbricht, who makes use of the “Dark Web” to launch the biggest online provider of illicit drugs to the world. He sets it up as a discreet, “untraceable” site that is accessed through a special browser access – purported to be out of the FBI’s line of sight.

The plot is very descriptive and the author has a unique writing style:  he pens short chapters (3-5 pages) in succinct nuggets to keep the story moving along at a fierce pace throughout.  This is a smart strategy because it prevents any downtime or boredom in the on the reader’s end.

What I disliked about this book

I couldn’t get over the selfishness of the main character.  It’s amazing to think that someone could be so careless with his life – while also being so dismissive of the powers of U.S. federal law enforcement. That said, his chutzpah is amazing in how he puts his blinders on and sticks to his mission. He does this despite risking the stiffest consequences possible – the remainder of his very young life spent rotting in a prison cell. Unbelievable.

To whom would I recommend this book

Limit to adults over the age of 18.  This book is filled with drug references (since that is the point of the book), and contains other adult content that makes it unsuitable for minors. Otherwise, it is a very interesting, pertinent and unique story.  It’s easy to feel like the reader wants to “pinch oneself” with respect to believing someone actually thought they could live this story and actually emerge on the other end a free person. I guess we really do learn something new every day.

Any thoughts?


Rise of the Robots – by Martin Ford


Rise of the Robots

by –  Martin Ford, 286 pgs.

What I found most amazing about this book

The most amazing thing about this book is the stark realization that many forms of human labor as we know it is on the tail end of its very existence.  It’s no accident that corporations have seized on both the efficiency and profitability that robots – when built and operated properly – can offer them.  Unlike humans, there are no sick days, vacations, health insurance, etc. that otherwise “inconvenience” the 24/7/365 profit machine mindset

That may seem fine in a money-making sense, but it far from solves every potential problem.  In fact, it may prove to create some brand new ones.  Unless new methods are derived to figure out how all of the millions (up to even tens of millions) of displaced workers are going to miraculously afford to buy those state-of –the-art, robotically-built products and services, then we may come to regret outsmarting ourselves in our technological prowess. 

It is something to keep in mind in our quest for perfection.  In fact, the author proposes a few interesting options with respect to how we could compensate those of us who may pay the ultimate price in this process – that of losing our careers to robots.  As one pretty insightful scientist (Isaac Newton) once put it, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Let’s hope that we’re mindful of our actions as we move to the next generation.

What I DIDN’T like about this book

I thought this book was the most eye-opening I’ve read in several years.  As advanced as the concepts are, the author did a fantastic job in wording it in a way that even a very young person could relate to.  It is a game changer, a disrupter, and it will most certainly be cited often in the coming years.

Whom would I recommend to read this book

This book is (like it or not) a “must-read” for all working adults who may not even realize how close they are to being replaced in their occupation.  Yes, yours!  I would also strongly recommend it to all college students who are at the point of declaring majors and career-planning for the next stage of their lives.

Any thoughts?


Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War – by Fred Kaplan


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What I liked about this book

I thought the book did an incredible job enlightening us about how easily our “inter-connected cyber world” can turn from convenience and ease to inconvenience and horror.  One of the prominent themes was “anything we can do, they can do back to us.”  It’s a defining indication of how far we’ve come in technology – but also, the price we should expect to pay for our gains.

What was most challenging about this book
The most challenging issue is understanding that many of our “complaints” about international spying, hacking, etc. online is often a practice that originated domestically.  It will be more difficult, after digesting the contents of this book, to simply point the finger at the rest of the cyber world for some of the ideas we may have started right here at home. Whether this is good or bad is to be determined, but the facts are laid out in this book and are arguable.

Why and to whom would I recommend this book

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has an online business (or plans to create one), or simply has a genuine interest in cyber security as either a hobby or potential profession.  I also think it is a great read for anyone who is interested in learning HOW we have gotten to the “point of no return” in our knowledge of the cyber world and all of the amazing details involved.