Neal Stephenson recommends 6 books on information manipulation
Neal Stephenson’s new novel, Termination shock, focuses on the looming climate catastrophe. But the influential sci-fi author has also focused on another growing concern: the manipulation of information. Below, he recommends six books on the subject.
The philosophical writings of Peirce edited by Justus Buchler (1940).
The Victorian style of American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce can be difficult to read, but writing in 1877 Peirce somehow summed up the oddly symmetrical right / left hostility to free speech that plagues the public sphere almost 150 years later. Most of the relevant passages appear in the essay “Fixing Belief,” which focuses on the different ways people come to believe things. Buy it here.
The constitution of knowledge by Jonathan Rauch (2021).
I found Peirce’s writings through this recent book, in which Rauch calmly articulates the problem our civilization has of separating truth from lies. Peirce, as Rauch explains, established the doctrine of fallibilism: the disarmingly simple idea that none of us can ever be sure our beliefs are correct, which is why we need a process. to agree on what is true. Buy it here.
Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum (2020).
Applebaum explores the rise of authoritarian populist regimes in Eastern Europe and applies the lessons to what is happening in the UK and the US. Buy it here.
The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch (2011).
This profound book, written by one of the greatest physicists of our time, also deals with fallibilism. But it is mainly about the transformative power of explanations and the almost limitless power to create new knowledge through the systematic application of reason. Buy it here.
Many people are saying of Russell Muir-head and Nancy L. Rosenblum (2019).
This book focuses on conspiracy theories and their systematic use to undermine democracy. As such, a lot of it is about what the right has done and things we have all been stunned to witness during the Trump era. Buy it here.
Post-Truth by Lee McIntyre (2018).
Paying roughly the same attention to what’s going on with the left and the right, this excellent book is slim and to the point, generating its rhetorical force by addressing recent events. An account of how postmodern thought has spread from left to right leads to a final chapter on how to combat the forces of post-truth. Buy it here.
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