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Robots and risk at the Business Book of the Year awards

Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots, about the challenges presented by an increasingly automated future, has been named the 2015 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year.

Dominic Barton, managing director of McKinsey, and Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times and chair of the judging panel, presented the award last night at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City.

“While no one can be certain how the future will unfold, this year’s winner delivers an important message: Companies and governments are racing into a world where both work and the workforce will need to be radically redesigned,” Dominic says.

“Rise of the Robots is a tightly-written and deeply-researched addition to the public policy debate du jour and du demain. The judges didn’t agree with all of the conclusions, but were unanimous on the verdict and the impact of the book,” says Lionel.

In his acceptance speech, Martin, a founder of a Silicon Valley software company, reiterated his conviction that the rise of robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence were challenges yet to be addressed meaningfully. “We could be at the leading edge of a huge wave. Machines and smart algorithms are starting to become adept at climbing skill sets and beginning to do the jobs of people with lots of skills and degrees. People think they do everything right. . .but they may still find it difficult to find employment. We thought the only solution was more training and education but that may not be so. And it may all unfold faster than we think.”

The judging panel spent Tuesday deliberating the merits of the six finalists for the £30,000 prize. Judges for the award included Mohamed El-Erian, former Chief Executive of PIMCO; Reid Hoffman, entrepreneur and co-founder of LinkedIn; Herminia Ibarra, professor at INSEAD; Dambisa Moyo, director at Barclays Bank; Shriti Vadera, chair of Santander UK; and Rik Kirkland, our head of global publishing at McKinsey.

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Co-authors András Tilcsik and Christopher Clearfield accept the Bracken Bower Prize.

For the second time, we also presented the Bracken Bower Prize, awarded to the best proposal for a business book by an author under 35. This year’s winners were co-authors Christopher Clearfield and András Tilcsik for their proposal Rethinking the Unthinkable: Managing the Risk of Catastrophic Failure in the Twenty-First Century, which examines how ill-prepared most are to face the catastrophic risks posed by complex systems.

In September, 2014’s winner Saadia Zahidi, a senior director of the World Economic Forum, earned a deal with Nation Books for her proposal, Womenomics in the Muslim World about the untapped potential of women in Islamic countries.

The Business Book of the Year Award, in its 11th edition, is given to the book that provides “the most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues, including management, finance, and economics.” Since 2005, it has selected 167 books that comprise a thorough overview of business in a tumultuous decade.

Each of this year’s other shortlisted authors will receive £10,000. They include:

  • Losing the Signal, by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff, who examine the fall of BlackBerry
  • Digital Gold, Nathaniel Popper’s history of bitcoin, the virtual currency
  • How Music Got Free, Stephen Witt’s examination of the record industry’s demise due to the rise of digital piracy and peer-to-peer file-sharing
  • Unfinished Business, by Anne-Marie Slaughter, on the roadblocks to achieving gender parity
  • Misbehaving, in which Richard Thaler charts behavioral economics’ rise to prominence