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6 Books that Completely Shattered my Worldview (but I’m Glad I Read Them)

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

6 Books that Completely Shattered my Worldview (but I’m Glad I Read Them)
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Discomfort of the mind is a good thing.

It pushes you outside the comfort of your beliefs. It challenges your views and breaks your rose-colored glasses. That is bound to happen if you read the following six books.

Each one of them will make you question yourself and the world around you.

The online world is a lie and, we all know it.

This book by Ryan Holiday takes you into the manipulative world of online media manipulation. How are clicks generated and page rankings falsified? How is viral news created and most of all public opinion and action influenced?

In the first part of the book 'Feeding the Monster, he starts by laying out the tactics used by online blogs. The blog posts need emotional and catchy headlines to go viral and gain income. For that to happen, misleading headlines are created, and news is falsified. This creates a chain reaction of likes, shares, clicks, and reposts.

"Give them what spreads, not what's good"

The second part of the book, 'When Monster Attacks' is about how lies and deception take a life of their own. Thus, lead to tragic results.

"From the fake came real action."

Much harm has come from the lies propagated online. People have lost their jobs and careers, based on some shady one-liner headline on a blog.

When you hear a friend say in conversation "I was reading that …" know that today the sad fact is that they probably just glanced at something on a blog."

"When intelligent people read, they ask themselves a simple question: What do I plan to do with this information?"

The news created online and regurgitated is nothing but a "distraction". The onus is on the reader to demand quality over quantity to truly bring change.

Lying murders trust.

In his book, "Lying" Sam Harris makes a case for the whole of mankind to stick to the truth. Always.

"To lie is to intentionally mislead others when they expect honest communication."

He argues that for a deep and trustworthy friendship, we have to stop the white lies. We lie to coddle others' feelings. Statements like 'No, you don't look fat' or 'You are a great writer', even when we know the contrary to be true. By lying to others, we decline to help them or offer them useful information.

"By lying, we deny our friends access to reality - and their resulting ignorance often harms them in ways we did not anticipate."

"A wasteland of embarrassment and social upheaval can be neatly avoided by following a single precept in life: Do not lie."

We can relate to the embarrassment that befalls when one is caught in a lie, red-handed. This all can be avoided by just sticking to the truth.

"Lies are the social equivalent of toxic waste - everyone is potentially harmed by their spread."

Buy Lying by Sam Harris On Amazon

We have gone to the extreme in keeping our kids and young people safe.

"Virtues become vices when they are carried to an extreme."

The writers of this book challenge the three ideas that are a part of the American culture. What doesn't kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people.

The writers argue that a fearful approach to parenting hinders a child's development. The rise of the culture of 'safetyism', is setting up a generation for failure.

"You cannot teach antifragility directly, but you can give your children the gift of experience - the thousands of experiences they need to become resilient, autonomous adults."

Kids aren't allowed to play unsupervised. They aren't allowed to challenge the boundary between safety and risk. Childhood experiences like climbing trees, jumping from rocks, and scaling walls are becoming less frequent.

"Like the immune system, children must be exposed to challenges and stressors (within limits, and in age-appropriate ways), or they will fail to mature into strong and capable adults, able to engage productively with people and ideas that challenge their beliefs and moral convictions."

The 'safetyism' approach had good intentions. Unfortunately, it has led to an intolerant campus culture. Speakers are banned. Young students are obsessed with ideas like microaggressions, trigger warnings, and safe spaces. The same is linked to identity politics as well.

"No one should have to pass someone else's ideological purity test to be allowed to speak."

The solution to the above is having a balanced environment. In childhood, there should be a balance between protection and risk. On college campuses, there needs to be a balance between allowing freedom of speech and making all students feel welcome.

This book is an expansion of an essay originally published in The Atlantic by the authors.

If you don't have time to read the whole book, you can read this essay for sure.

The age of robot takeover doesn't seem far when we look at the recent leaps in AI research and development.

Nick Bostrom holds a pessimistic view of the future of ASI (Artificial Superintelligence). It is not far off, that we can create a powerful enough program that supersedes our thinking and intelligence.

"If someday we build machine brains that surpass human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become very powerful."

This book covers the history of AI, the dangers that AI poses, and how to make sure that AI benefits humans instead of harming them.

"We find ourselves in a thicket of strategic complexity, surrounded by a dense mist of uncertainty."

A powerful AI tool can be a menace to humans. Bostrom suggests strategies like Capability limiting and boxing to make sure that doesn't happen.

He also argues that superintelligent AI tools shouldn't be a secret because then we are 'screwed'. Through democratic management of the fruits of new research, the risks can be minimized.

"We should recognize that there can exist instrumentally powerful information processing systems - intelligent systems - that are neither inherently good nor reliably wise."

Revenge is a dish, best served cold.

If anything, this book is a testament to the above-mentioned quote. More like a TV series unfolding, but it is real life.

"You rush in to stamp out the sparks and end up fanning them into flames. This is the risk."

This book covers the famous Gawker Media scandal. Peter Theil after being ousted as gay by the media group, waited patiently for the right time to strike. He couldn't sue them because of the free speech vs privacy conundrum.

But when the chance arose for Theil to support Hulk Hogan whose sex tape was published by Gawker, Theil worked from the shadows, providing full financial support.

"And the Gawker team, on a very literal level, had no idea that in the shadows, scheming against them was the quixotic, contrarian, billionaire genius they'd so thoughtlessly outed five years earlier and then casually taunted ever since."

The plot paid off and the media corporation had to pay damages and ended up in bankruptcy.

Ultimately, the fact that Theil was involved became public knowledge. The tables were turned and many started supporting the apparent 'underdog' (Gawker Media) who was being given a hard time by a billionaire.

If you like the storytelling of real-world events, you are sure to enjoy this page-turner.

You are not free to make decisions even if you think so.

"A puppet is free as long as he loves his strings."

In this book, neuroscientist Sam Harris argues that free will doesn't exist. Every thought, every action, every word of ours is dependent on a multitude of factors brought together. From evolution to neurons in our brain, whatever we do is dictated by several other agents but not us.

"How can we be "free" as conscious agents if everything that we consciously intend is caused by events in our brain that we do not intend and of which we are entirely unaware?"

According to him, we cannot understand the complex process that goes behind a thought or an action.

"If you pay attention to your inner life, you will see that the emergence of choices, efforts, and intentions is a fundamentally mysterious process."

However, this doesn't negate that through conscious discipline, we can make better choices. For example, by removing junk food from our house, there is a lesser chance that we will eat it.

I am writing this because I want to… Isn't that Free Will? Not according to Harris. He says prior causes lead to something happening. In this case my parents, genes, environment… everything has led up to this point of where I am writing this.

Whether you agree with Hariss's take or not, you are bound to think about what he says.

Through understanding free will or lack thereof, we can understand each other better.

When we disagree with someone, we can choose to be empathetic. This is happening because the culmination of factors has led this person here.

"Not only are we not as free as we think we are, we do not feel as free as we think we do… Thoughts and intentions simply arise in our minds. What else could they do?"

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12 oct 2023


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