Reading is About Worldview, Not Memorization

Folksonomies: reading facts schema worldview memorization

We Compile What We Read in the Context of When We Read It

Reading and experience train your model of the world. And even if you forget the experience or what you read, its effect on your model of the world persists. Your mind is like a compiled program you've lost the source of. It works, but you don't know why.


...reading and experience are usually "compiled" at the time they happen, using the state of your brain at that time. The same book would get compiled differently at different points in your life. Which means it is very much worth reading important books multiple times. I always used to feel some misgivings about rereading books. I unconsciously lumped reading together with work like carpentry, where having to do something again is a sign you did it wrong the first time. Whereas now the phrase "already read" seems almost ill-formed.

Intriguingly, this implication isn't limited to books. Technology will increasingly make it possible to relive our experiences. When people do that today it's usually to enjoy them again (e.g. when looking at pictures of a trip) or to find the origin of some bug in their compiled code (e.g. when Stephen Fry succeeded in remembering the childhood trauma that prevented him from singing). But as technologies for recording and playing back your life improve, it may become common for people to relive experiences without any goal in mind, simply to learn from them again as one might when rereading a book.

Eventually we may be able not just to play back experiences but also to index and even edit them. So although not knowing how you know things may seem part of being human, it may not be.


Folksonomies: worldview memory reading


It’s Okay to “Forget” What You Read

What we get from books is not just a collection of names, dates and events stored in our minds like files in a computer. Books also change, via our mental models, the very reality that we perceive.

You can think of mental models as psychological lenses that color and shape what we see. Some of this is genetic or cultural (Americans focus on very different parts of a picture than the Japanese do), but much of our perception is also shaped by experience — and experience includes the books we read.


Folksonomies: experience memory reading