in Tech

Books are Brainwash Machines

Have you ever read a book, and noticed yourself framing your thoughts in the same prose afterwards? Your mind has gotten so used to reading ( and therefore thinking) in the same way as the author that it starts affecting your mental processes in subtle ways. Sometimes it’s the way he writes his sentences, or his rambling tone, or the random  details he calls out he calls out in a scene. I always find myself doing the same in my daily life.

After ‘Lolita’ , I  found myself thinking in more vivid terms, with big descriptive adjectives. After ‘Getting Things Done’, I not only found myself breaking down my to-dos into action steps, but thinking about my day in the straight forward explanation style that David Allen employs to help you think about doing things. After ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, I noticed myself phrasing my actions as a series of small movements, much like Stieg Larsson does with the “came to the table, sat down, and poured himself a coffee” style he moves Blomkvist through the world with.

This can be a good thing, since the shift in perspective lets you think about things in a way you wouldn’t have otherwise. It fades away a few days after reading unless you internalize the author’s worldview, which means there is no danger of accidentally reprogramming yourself to think like them. That said, it is very much like a brainwash session. Any writer knows how hard getting words down can be sometimes, but also how certain articles will write themselves. In both cases, the end product will be something only that author could have written, and therefore the purest product of their mind found outside the realm of science fiction. You very figuratively jump inside of their head for the duration of your reading sessions.

Mind melding is not something to be taken flippantly. Therefore, think about what your wordly intake is. I inadvertently stumbled upon RooshV’s website recently, and after reading a few his articles I found myself starting to sympathize with parts of his view – points which I most certainly would not have agreed with immediately before reading.. I had started to internalize his caustic (calculatedly misogynistic in the truest sense of the word) worldview after only a few articles. Since his writing wasn’t compelling to me anyway, I stopped, not seeing any point in thinking that way any longer.

Few people think about this side of reading. Zoom up to a monthly perspective and you’ll notice that whatever you take in regularly becomes who you are. It shapes your knowledge, understanding, and beliefs about the world because that activity becomes the entirety of your world. You can’t talk to most botanists about neuroscience, but you certainly can about flowers. As the illustrated guide to PhDs graph shows, once you delve into a certain aspect of human knowledge to the point that you can widen it, it becomes your world. And there are billions of people out there whose understanding of the world is completely alien in almost every way to that of yours.

Colin Wright notes in his book ‘Act Accordingly’ that “The more I travel, the more I realize that what I know to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is completely relative”. The understand here is that everyone has a different conception of reality. And yours is shaped by the things you take in daily, be they food, sights, or words. So take care when deciding which words you want to take in. Think about what kind of worldview and person a reader of such material is like, and decide if you want to be that person. Then read accordingly.

Great books almost always include some part of your worldview to start, and then builds on them. Perhaps you already thought in the same manner as the author, just  not to the same depth. But a book that does not cover anything outside of your existing understandings or knowledge would be boring. You already know everything that it is going to say. Meanwhile, one that is entirely out of your knowledge base is either paradigm changing, or repulsive. If it changes your mind, it’ll do so completely, otherwise you won’t even finish it due to fundamental disagreements.

Be conscious of how you want to be brainwashed.