The Watchman’s Rattle – Rebecca Kosta

The Watchman’s Rattle [LINK] – Rebecca Kosta

Kosta starts her book by examining human predispositions and instincts. She cites a lot of work from Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (great book!), drawing comparisons from his work on selfish vs. altruistic genes, and her work on what and where instincts will lead us.

For a bit of human evolution history, our brains work in three ways to solve problems. The left performs organized, deconstructive analysis; the right analyzes via creative synthesis; and the third, newer cognitive process, is insight, which solves complex problems through some combination of past learning and deductive reasoning (still much of which is unknown).

When we find ourselves stuck, it can mean either (1) we don’t have the information, resources, and time needed to solve a problem, (2) we’ve reached a biological limit of what the human brain is capable of, or (3) a solution doesn’t exist. When we are faced with complexity, our first response is to retreat to the familiar (comfortable), even if the familiar means failing. We are fearful for the unknown in ourselves.

Kosta’s theory on why this era of civilization will ultimately collapse is our constant reliance on supermemes. A meme is a widely accepted information, thought, feeling or behavior which can be common sense, traditions, theories, biases, ect. A supermeme is any belief, thought, or behavior that becomes so pervasive, so stubbornly embedded, that it contaminates or suppresses all other beliefs and behaviors in a society. Supermemes produce what the Freakonomics  authors describe as the most persuasive incentive technique: herd-thinking.

Doing something that doesn’t have a huge impact is very beneficial if aimed at a problem that is destine to occur. When we aim to lessen the problem, we mitigate the impact it will produce. I am quick to be critical of solutions that don’t provide a major impact, but Kosta explaines that mitigation, and quick wins, are far more important that a flashy silver bullet solution.

While a lot of the book undertakes a pessimistic tone, Kosta explains that we are ultimately in control of our destiny. Destructive beliefs that threaten human progress are man-made and therefore not permanent condition. “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

(I don’t believe every point she makes, but I encourage you to read this book to get an understanding of how societies can collapse.)


Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 [LINK] – Ray Bradbury

“The temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns…”

The story is about “Firefighters” from a totalitarian government on a crusade to burn all books from civilization. At first, the government seems to be of blame, though it is revealed the underlying problem is with the citizens. They indirectly created the book burning force with their desire to suppress dissenting ideas.

Books give individuals access to freedom of information and teach an individual how to think. Where television is immediate and rushes on you so quickly to give your mind it’s own conclusions before it can protest.

To find the meaning in books, we need: (1) quality of information, (2) time to digest it, and (3) the freedom to act for what is learned. I’ve continually strived to read, learn and experience as much as I can — regardless of my particular beliefs on religion, management, life, and so on — in hopes to build a mental framework that allows for me to understand all aspects of an argument, theory or judgment.

The story of Fahrenheit 451 is about how Guy Montag, who doesn’t have much knowledge and simply does what he is told, can find a way to learn about what he so chooses.

This book is a reminder to appreciate and value diversity of information. There are seasons to society and life. There is a time to break down and a time to build up. There is a time to keep silence and a time to speak up.

But from the fireman’s perspective, you never have to face a problem, you burn it.

Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl

Man’s Search For Meaning [LINK] – Viktor E. Frankl

This is one of my all time favorite books.

Set in 1940’s Nazi Germany, where Viktor Frankl details his life in a concentration camp. The book uses his experiences to tackle the age-old question of what is the meaning to life?

Frankl describes three sources to meaning: (1) in work – doing something significant, (2) in love – caring for another person, and (3) in courage during difficult times.

He argues that life never ceases to have meaning. To find it, we must control our attitude, for it is the one thing that cannot be taken from man; the ability to choose one’s way. When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Success is like happiness in that it cannot be pursued, it must ensue. It is the side effect of dedication to a cause greater than oneself. He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how. Success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.

As man has increased comprehension, he has relied less on biological instincts and more on thought. There is no instinct that tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism). Ideally I try to strive for uniqueness and pursuing contrarian ideas. This type of pursuit often leads to failure and an understanding that one cannot control and dictate all aspects of life. For as Frankl said, most of us wish to conform or tell others what to do. By controlling attitude, we can position ourselves to take advantage of any given situation, regardless of the circumstances.

Man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. Each man is questioned by life, and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.

The perception of meaning is becoming aware of a possibility against the background of reality. . . when you see an opportunity, get after it.