7 Reasons Books are the Perfect Technology
“Books are the training weights of the mind” –Seneca
I think of books as technology. The broadest and most useful definition of technology I’ve heard is simply, “the ability to do more with less.”
We live only one life, but through books, we can gain the wisdom from thousands. Books are the most undervalued and under appreciated technology in the world.
How do we know they’re so valuable? We need only to examine how the best and the worst people throughout history have viewed books.
The worst seek to downplay, ban, or burn them. The fact that books have such extreme haters confirms their power.
But amongst those who seek to do good in the world, to do no harm, books are adored.
Like every other technology, if we use them without intention or any ascetics, it can lead to distraction. But when we learn how to appropriately value, select, and acquire them with stakes and incentives (buy them)… books become priceless. Here are seven reasons why books are the perfect technology.
1. Books are the ultimate nootropic
I apologize to all the modafinil lovers out there. But when it comes to tradeoffs, books have traditional nootropics beat. A traditional nootropic might be faster acting, but it’s just a temporary upgrade to your current abilities. Eventually, it wears off. Books permanently upgrade your mind, leaving you with a lifetime of benefits. The side effects of books have been tested by time, whereas the latest nootropics? Not so much.
2. Books upgrade our mental operating system
The best books are written when the author is in a flow state. The author transmits their wisdom, muse, or insights with minimal ego. When a reader seeking wisdom moves through these words and enters their own flow state… magic happens.
I don’t know how it works, but after enough time of reading, my mind always feels upgraded. Programming our minds by moving consciously into the flow state (writing) of a wise person is a powerful teacher. When we upgrade our mental OS, our main apps; speaking, writing, and communicating all begin to run faster and more smoothly.
After I published this article, giosolARTE reached out with this awesome comic.
3. Books help us practice the art of sitting quietly in a room alone
Hoffer got it right that, “A man by himself is in bad company.” This might be true initially, but we can grow ourselves out of this place. It takes hard work to become good company to ourselves. But if we read, pause for reflection, and work on us… we can become good company for ourselves. By reading, we train and program ourselves for what is arguably the greatest human challenge of our time.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone” — Blaise Pascal
Teaching ourselves how to be content, and even enjoy spending time alone, is a vital skill.
4. Books inspire direct experience
There are tradeoffs for everything in life, but reading too much (of the best books) isn’t dangerous. The hunger for wisdom seems to be the only desire that we can satiate. There isn’t a risk of overindulgence. After enough reading, we become charged with good ideas and courage to go out and explore the world. Once we get fueled up on enough wisdom, we become inspired to embark on our next hero and heroine’s journey.
Binge watching an entire series on Netflix leads to a hangover. Whereas attempting to, “binge” on books, leads to a certain point where we feel the urge to venture back out into the world. Mixing the wisdom from books with the direct experience of an adventurous life is always rewarding.
5. Books are a meditative practice
The more we read and spend time with books, the more we practice mindfulness and meditation. Reading helps teach us patience, calmness, and builds our ability to focus deeply on a single thing for an extended period of time.
6. Books allow for strategic isolation
“In Silicon Valley, […] many of the more successful entrepreneurs seem to be suffering from a mild form of Asperger’s where it’s like you’re missing the imitation, socialization gene… It happens to be a plus for innovation, and creating great companies, but I think we always should turn this around as an incredible critique of our society. We need to ask, what is it about our society where those of us who do not suffer from Asperger’s are at some massive disadvantage because we will be talked out of our interesting, original, creative ideas before they are even fully formed?” — Peter Thiel
Books and reading are one of the last societally acceptable reasons for being alone. If you need respite from society, there is no better strategic isolation than books. Books help keep us safe from crowds.
7. Books are an antifragile vehicle for truth
Throughout history, books have given artists, masters, and philosophers an antifragile vehicle to place truth. So what do I mean by this? There are many people who hate to think. When they hear something wise, they’ll react viscerally, or even attack the person that brought them truth. Many in society hate the idea of pursuing truth, (becoming less wrong) or developing heuristics and insights about how the world works.
Most creatives know this, so the only way to deliver truth in a palatable way that can survive attack is a book. The more entertaining the narrative or parable, the more readers will tolerate new ideas. Because the book is able to be sold, it helps these ideas survive attack, and gives their author a chance to capture a small amount of value from their ideas. This is a big leap forward for humans. Throughout our history, those who make others think are usually the first to be scapegoated, ostracized, or demonized. Books give the would-be scapegoat a vehicle to place their ideas so that they can survive attack, and sometimes even spread because of the attack.
Books might be one of our (more) perfect technologies, but they are still technology. They are largely agnostic and neutral until we take the plunge, purchase one (acquire the incentives and stakes to read it) or find the books good enough to re-read:
“Each time you re-read you see or learn something new.”― Ernest Hemingwaymedium.com
Technology can’t change our lives, only we can. When we take a perfect technology like books seriously, we can change our lives, lift up those around us, or even gain the secrets necessary to create new types of perfect technology.
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