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I'm Starting a Book Club

Progress Studies1 min read

I'm starting a book club. The topic will be organizing genius:

In fourteen years, the Apollo Mission put the first man on the moon. It took just four years to research, build, and deploy the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project. And in less than a decade, the internet was launched and the foundations of Silicon Valley laid.

How were these great organizational feats accomplished? What did it take to organize the talent behind these projects? And how, in 2020, when there have been countless calls for us to continue building amidst global disarray, might we again achieve collective excellence?

Organizing Genius is a book club that explores these questions firsthand. We'll dive into case studies of the most prominent examples of organized genius, studying both top-down organizations and bottom-up grassroots movements. We'll also discuss how the ways in which we organize genius might be changing and how to leverage this information moving forward.

This book club is inspired and heavily based off of Matt Clifford and Arnaud Schenk's own reading group. Huge thanks to Arnaud in particular for helping me get this off the ground and adapt it for a US audience.

My motivation to host this book club comes from my frustration with the deceleration of progress and the inability of our institutions to effectively respond to global challenges like COVID-19. In 2020, my discovery of the discipline of progress studies gave me a new language to describe these frustrations, and this book club is a natural extension of that.

One note of interest: I think Silicon Valley and many of the evangelists of this discipline have been disproportionately focused on the failures of academia and formal scholarship. However, much of the great American achievements of the 20th century were government-led or state-subsidized. The Trump Administration's incompetence in responding to the pandemic only further underpins the importance of the state in progress. This suggests that progress-minded reforms will require us to rethink not just our academic institutions, but our politics itself too—a topic I'll be exploring more in the coming months.

If you're interested in joining the book club, check out the syllabus and signup here.

Have thoughts on this piece? Shoot me an email.

© 2020 by Wes De Silvestro. All rights reserved.