In 1988, when John Markoff was first offered a job at the New York Times — a place he thought he’d never work because he didn’t go to a school like Princeton — computing was still a highly technical, poorly understood industry.
Over the next three decades, he became one of the world’s leading tech journalists, a reputation he credits in part to his love of science fiction novels.
“What’s striking to me is that what the science fiction world saw in the ‘80s and ‘90s has actually come to pass,” Markoff said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “The cyberpunk sensibility.”
On the new podcast, he praised one non-fiction book, 1980’s “The Micro Millennium” by Christopher Evans, and one movie, 2013’s “Her,” for their prescience about tech.
“He just walked through, in a really prophetic way, how the emergence of the microprocessor was going to transform society,” Markoff said of Evans. “So I looked at that, and it really kind of intrigued me.”
He also peppered the conversation with recommendations of sci-fi books that helped him get a leg up on other reporters in the field:
- “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson (1992): “The premise is, America only does two things well. One is write software, and the other is deliver pizzas. [laughs] What’s changed?”
- “The Shockwave Rider” by John Brunner (1975): Markoff said he built his career on an early understanding that the internet would change everything. He said, “[The Shockwave Rider] argued for that kind of impact on society, that networks transformed everything."
- “True Names” by Vernor Vinge (1981): “The basic premise of that was, you had to basically hide your true name at all costs. It was an insight into the world we’re living in today ... We have to figure it out. I think we have to go to pseudonymity or something. You’re gonna participate in this networked existence, you have to be connected to meatspace in some way."
- “Neuromancer” by William Gibson (1984): Markoff is concerned about the growing gap between elders who need care and the number of caregivers in the world. And he thinks efforts to extend life are “realistically possible,” pointing to Gibson’s “300-year-old billionaires in orbit around the Earth."
If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:
- Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
- Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge's Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
- And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneInand Stitcher.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.