Obviously, many things have had an influence on my thought. Here are some of the major ones. Unfortunately, the focus is on the most recent ones, since I’ve mostly forgotten many of the earlier works.
I expect to add more as I remember them.
- Against Intellectual Monopoly (free online version), by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine. This book completely changed my thinking on copyright and patents, and opened my eyes to the vast amounts of harm that they do in their current form.
- No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth by Ken Wilber. Unfortunately, this book needs to be read with a grain of salt, as there’s lots of mystical mumbo-jumbo mixed in with the insightful stuff. Still, if you can manage to read it with the right reductionist mindset, you can extract lots of useful philosophy about the nature of emotions, the self and the mind. Together with Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, it did a lot to make me become happier.
- Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. While there are a number of reasonable criticisms that can be made against Haidt’s work, he still does an excellent job of exploring the foundations of conservative and liberal morality, and showing in how they differ. His explanation of the ways by which human moral reasoning is to a large extent rationalization is also excellent.
- Stein On Writing, by Sol Stein. The best book on writing that I’ve ever read, useful and inspiring at the same time. Provides advice on both fiction and non-fiction writing.
- Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind (free first chapter; my unfinished summary), by Robert Kurzban. Does an amazing job of exploring the modular nature of the human mind, and its many implications.
- The Sequences, by Eliezer Yudkowsky. Huge and of somewhat varying quality, but overall excellent. No short description will do justice to these posts; they helped to completely transform my thinking.
- Ferrett Steinmetz writes on a variety of topics, mostly relating to human relationships, with humbling amounts of wisdom. His experiences with depression gave part of me the insight I needed in order to write Avoid misinterpreting your emotions. If I had to pick one post of his that sticks most clearly to my mind, it would be “It’s that breakup season“, with its elegant decomposition of relationships to their “love”, “trust”, and “like” components.
- Robin Hanson seems to often oversimplify things a little too much for my liking, but every now and then he produces some great cynical insights about how society really works, as opposed to how people claim it works. For some examples, see Politics isn’t about Policy, Academia’s Function, and Academics as Warriors. I also really like This is the Dream Time, and strongly suspect that some form of his Futarchy proposal might in fact be the best possible form of government.