Bystroushaak's blog / English section / Books that changed my point of view

Books that changed my point of view

There are many great books. I've read thousands of them, but only a few changed my life, and only few of them were universally good.

I've read Neuromancer and it changed my life, but not because it was eyes-opening, but because it stroked right pieces of my personality. I've read The Cyberthief and the Samurai and it motivated me to learn everything about computers, but most of the people would find this book boring. I've read books like Veniss Underground, which made me feel like I am on trip of some hallucinogen, and books like Perdido street station and The Scar, which sucked me in and made me feel like I live in bizarre world that really exists. I've read books which were antidote to my bad mood, which brought light into my life and made me feel alive. This list is not about such books.

I've tried to limit this list only to those of which I truly believe should be part of everyone's life curriculum. Books, that changed the angle of my view of the world, and made me think deeply. Books that I really think can change your life.

Blindsight

On the surface level, this is just a science fiction. But this book is actually deeply about human the nature of our minds and consciousness.

I've finished the book and enjoyed it alright and I thought "what a great sci-fi". But then I've begun to see pieces of the theories it is based on to sneak up on me from everywhere. In the 30-years-old talks from Alan Kay. In the talks of Jordan Peterson. In the Strange loop by David Hofstadter.

Only later I've seen Peter Watt's talk Conscious Ants and Human Hives:

and I was hooked on his ideas. But most of them are concentrated in enjoyable fashion in this book.

Mastery

If you only got to read just one book in your entire life, this could be very well it. This is a framework for your mind, same thing as "rationality" (as it is defined by Yudkowsky), but in more concentrated and more accessible form.

To truly understand all ideas and to change your life to live it accordingly with teachings in this book may be the greatest advantage in life anyone will ever give you. It is only up to you to take it.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

This is what hooked me on the "rationality", as it is defined by Eliezer Yudkowsky. Incredibly funny, incredibly inspiring. I simply wanted to know more, so I picked up next book, which is..

Rationality, from AI to Zombies

Something like the Encyclopedia Britannica for all the cognitive biases and shortcuts in thinking humans make. It is also list of recipes how to avoid them, and a set of heuristics how to be in control of the reality around you.

This is what he calls a Rationality:

* Epistemic rationality: systematically improving the accuracy of your beliefs. * Instrumental rationality: systematically achieving your values. When you open your eyes and look at the room around you, you’ll locate your laptop in relation to the table, and you’ll locate a bookcase in relation to the wall. If something goes wrong with your eyes, or your brain, then your mental model might say there’s a bookcase where no bookcase exists, and when you go over to get a book, you’ll be disappointed. This is what it’s like to have a false belief, a map of the world that doesn’t correspond to the territory. Epistemic rationality is about building accurate maps instead. This correspondence between belief and reality is commonly called “truth,” and I’m happy to call it that. Instrumental rationality, on the other hand, is about steering reality—sending the future where you want it to go. It’s the art of choosing actions that lead to outcomes ranked higher in your preferences. I sometimes call this “winning.” So rationality is about forming true beliefs and making winning decisions.

YUDKOWSKY, Eliezer. Rationality: From AI to Zombies. Machine Intelligence Research Institute, 2015, s. 7-8. ISBN 978-1-939311-14-6.

The Design of Everyday Things

This book showed me, that everything is a design, and it can be objectively good and bad. Space of all designs is given by our physiology a psychology. It is ignorant and harmful to ignore this realization, both for you, your products and users of your products.

One of the wonderful things about this book is that it gives examples and explanations of purely physical things, but more and more you think about it, you are able to abstract the principles and apply them on your user interface. Then your code. Then whole process of distribution and workflow. You'll start to see examples of good and bad user interface everywhere. In your programming language. In your operating system. In the politics and bureaucracy. Person to person communication. Laws in your country.

This book is about optimization of stuff that is usually left be without anyone thinking that it would be possible or desired to optimize it. In this way, it changed my point of view by teaching me to think about such abstractions and to see patterns of good and bad design.

I Am a Strange Loop

This book from Douglas R. Hofstadter really changed the way how I look at the world, and most importantly, on the other people. I really liked the notion of Strange loop, and how our psychology may be based on them.

Note

This list is work in progress and will be updated.

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