Reading

It’s easy to think without reading, but also easy to read without thinking.

I’ve started reading nonfiction again.  I have a good reason for stopping: I was stuck halfway through Proofs and Refutations for about a year and a half, and as a committed completionist, I couldn’t start any other books until it was done.  After powering through the dregs of P&R, I know a lot about…. proofs, less about polyhedrons, and I’m free to re-engage in educational literature.

It’s easy to read without reflecting, though.  I’d venture that 90% of “consumed content by volume” — especially online content — functions only to:

  1. Reinforce biases, in an (optimistically) intellectual circlejerk
  2. Get the reader frothing mad when they Read Stupid Opinions by Stupid People

I don’t think I’m uniquely bad at “intellectually honest reading” —  but “median human” is a low bar, and not one I’m confident I always clear.  If I’m going to go through the motions of reading brain books, I need a forcing function to ensure the input actually adjusts my priors;  if after having read a book, I haven’t changed my mind about anything, I’m wasting my time on comfortable groupthink.

My forcing function — until I get tired of doing it — will be to write something here.  There may be inadvertent side-effects (like accidentally reviewing the book, although I hope not), but my only commitment is: to outline at least one stance, large or small, the book has changed my mind on.  Or, lacking that, forced me into an opinion on a topic I hadn’t bothered to think about.

If I can’t find one updated stance, I’m wasting my time. Committing that stance to writing forces crystallization, and committing that writing to a (marginally) public audience forces me to make the writing not entirely stupid.

I make no commitment to keeping this up, but I waited to write this until I had actually written an un-review, so at least n=1, and by publicly declaring a plan, I can (hopefully) guilt myself into maintaining the habit.

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