Most of you (and there are a couple of thousands of you) come for my tech-posts, but it seems that some of you get lost reading my non-techie posts too. Time to add on of those, it’s been a while..
I breathe books, they give my brain constant input to thrive on. Recently I went through my goodreads list of reread-good-books to check what influences me and started to reread some of them. Result: I removed some of the books as I had no clue why they were on there. In a flash of practical minimalism I started to think about those books that move(d) me, the result is this list:
- Sir Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies – written by Popper after he fled from Nazi tyranny from his native Vienna, Austria. Democracy for Popper is any society or political system that allows for non-violent overturn of the government while protecting inalienable minority and human rights (or rights of individuals). Popper was introduced to me by a late mentor and one of my best friends and started my journey from being a pure-tech-geek into philosophy and becoming curious into the wider world (“introduced” was rather a slightly drunken conversation in Villach, Austria around 4am while being 19 and doing my civil service though). The book sparkled my eternal hate for anything that tries to enslave the minds of humankind (fascism in every form and name, most organized religions) to paraphrase Jefferson.
- Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning – written by a psychologist after he experienced and survived multiple death/concentrations camps during the second world war. It sounds bleak, but the book conveys a sense of hopefulness and good-mind-fullness that is almost unbearable. I read that book years after Popper and was ashamed how myself (who never did and hopefully never while experience fascism) can feel hate, while someone almost using everything meaningful is able to find peace and forgiveness. Frankl shows that the power of forgiving and that finding meaning can make heaven of hell and hell of heaven. He achieved enlightenment for me – and I can relate to a passionate climber that actually possessed a fear of heights too.
- [Daniel Kahneman’s](Thinking, Fast and Slow) – this is the first Meta-Book that is not giving me directions or directly inspired me but made me think about myself, think about thinking. I read this because I wanted to reduce my implicit biases while writing academic/research papers. Boy, was I in for a treat. The book first introduced me to neuropsychology and behaviorism, both becoming very influential for me. Another thing that this book achieved, was that I started to accept and think about my thinking processes.
Those three books were very influential for me. What surprised me was, that there were no hard-tech books into the list. Living in the third millennium, other media was also influential for me:
- Robert Wrights’s Buddhism and Modern Psychology – this was a coursera lecture that compares traditional meditation (esp. in Buddhism) with modern psychology and neuroscience; the default-mode-network of our brain plays an important role in this, describing how we fall back to our default level of fear and anxiety and how meditation can help to calm this reflex. This introduces the concept of the Watcher, the entity in my mind that watches upcoming thoughts in my mind without judging them. This is the second Meta-Influence in this list.
- Sneakers – yeah, a movie about hackers “working” with big corporations and giving money to charities. How might that movie have influence me?
- Planescape: Torment – one central question of this computer game, “What can change the nature of a man” still gives me the shivers and goosebumps at the same time. This game is a beautifully woven tale about guilt and redemption, with more then a bit of Memento and blackest humor added to add comic relief. The combination is a master piece of story telling, while breaking all the traditional rules of fantasy role playing games. It’s emotionally exhausting, but in a good way. While being created in the last millennium, it’s still one of the best games made (for me). Good thing, that I only played it at age 35, otherwise I might not have been able to understand most of it. I am not sure, but I would almost call my play-through therapeutical.
It’s weird that there are no technical books in this list. Mostly I read to guide me, to give me insights into myself, try to make sense of the world and clarify my intrinsic motivation (a.k.a. my ethics and morals). Work and life change me over time, my basic motivation stays the same. Important for me is, that my internal compass steers me into the right direction and that I have the possibility grow and getting better. The concrete technology that I’d be using on the way matters not.