I felt this was a pretty weak year for books. I don’t know why. I only really loved three books that came out this year.
Especially with regards to work, I found I learned a lot more by doing rather than reading. I’m curious if this trend will continue.
That being said, the best books was incredibly good: because of the first two books below, I’ve tried to up my meditation to 40 minutes a day and reduce social media to under 30 minutes a day. I’ve also done a lot to reduce iPhone screen time. I’ve also spent much more time contemplating the nature of the self. My meditation practice is a little less tactical and includes more philosophical exploration.
I feel more in control of mind than I have in years.
Robin’s thesis is:
- Our brains were mostly built during hunter and gather times.
- The modern world has hijacked useful desires (for food, sex, stimulation, and status) so that they are no longer that useful (we over eat, watch too much porn, constantly check our phones, etc.).
- There is no CEO in your brain. Your brain is made up of a bunch of competing desires / modules. And whichever you feed and reward will grow stronger.
- Meditation is a technique that can reduce the power of the feeling -> action sequence. Desires need not be orders if they are observed with distance and objectivity.
- The idea that there is no CEO of the brain also fits Buddhism’s core philosophical tenet that the self is an illusion.
I think arguments #1 through #4 are correct. Robin surveys a mounting body of scientific case evidence that makes this case, from evolutionary psychology to neurobiology.
I think #5 is directionally correct, but that ultimately humans do not have a brain that is powerful enough to make hard claims about these types of metaphysical conditions.
Jean’s thesis is that:
- Socio-economic conditions (in part families having increased wealth and less children) has led to a lengthening of childhood. High school is the new middle school.
- The iPhone has fundamentally altered how teens interact.
- Taken together, changing socio-economic conditions and the smartphone has led children to be more tolerant, less risk taking (sex, alcohol, and driving are down… marijuana is up), more insecure, less happy, less religious, more concerned with wealth, and more politically independent.
I’m not an expert in the field, but I found her found her argument compelling.
This generational shift is a striking example of how productivity and technology can combine to change societal values.
For you parents in the crowd, she gives thoughtful parenting recommendations at the end of the book.
I previously reviewed the books here. Some of the best science fiction I have ever read.
The series is premised on this logic path:
- The primary goal of each civilization is to survive.
- There are finite resources and space in the universe.
- Civilizations tend to expand.
- Civilizations tend to advance technologically.
- You have no way of truly knowing whether an alien species is peaceful or hostile.
If this ends up being true in our reality, we will likely be destroyed by more technology advanced aliens.