📚 node [[why books don’t work]]

Why books don’t work




  • All this suggests a peculiar conclusion: as a medium, books are surprisingly bad at conveying knowledge, and readers mostly don’t realize it.
  • In the Cosmos episode, “The Persistence of Memory,” Carl Sagan exalts: What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.
  • So if you hope to help others understand things, you had better draw on some great ideas about how people learn.
  • The lectures-as-warmup model is a post-hoc rationalization, but it does gesture at a deep theory about cognition: to understand something, you must actively engage with it.
  • So let’s reframe the question. Rather than “how might we make books actually work reliably,” we can ask: How might we design mediums which do the job of a non-fiction book—but which actually work reliably?
  • To begin, it’s important to see that mediums can be designed, not just inherited. What’s more: it is possible to design new mediums which embody specific ideas.
  • It’s not just that it’s possible to create a medium informed by certain ideas in cognitive science. Rather, it’s possible to weave a medium made out of those ideas, in which a reader’s thoughts and actions are inexorably—perhaps even invisibly—shaped by those ideas.
  • If we pile together enough of these questions we’re left with: how might we design mediums in which “reading” is the same as “understanding”?
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