Have Smart People Stopped Writing Books?
Or why you're now more likely to encounter powerful ideas in conversation
On my first job in Silicon Valley after college, I worked with a guy who told me he had only read two books in his entire adult life—a baseball book and Serpico. I think he was boasting. In any event, I was shocked, because this guy was one of the smartest people around.
When he told me the names of the two books, the shock must have showed on my face. Although I’m sure I tried to hide it.
Until this period in my life, I simply assumed that intelligent people cared about books—as well as music, art, and the other good things in life. Sure, I knew that books weren’t for everybody, but I couldn’t imagine super-smart folks who didn’t pay close attention to them.
But I soon encountered these characters more and more often in Silicon Valley. My book-scorning colleague was typical of a personality type I started meeting everywhere. They used their smarts the way a carpenter uses a hammer—as a blunt tool that gets things done, and the faster the better.
Instead of worrying about books, my colleague was obsessed with beating the system. And he knew a thousand ways of doing it. He had a scheme for everything—from maximizing frequent flyer miles (he discovered a loophole, since fixed, to get five times as many miles credited to his account as actually flown) to beating the house at gambling.
Absolutely nothing made him happier than winning. I don’t know what he’s doing now, but I suspect he’s wealthy and living in a big house (but with just two books on the shelf).
If I‘d told him he should read more books, he probably would have laughed in my face. He would have dismissed me as a relic from the past.
And maybe I am. More so now than ever before.
I say that because I now see his personality type everywhere, and not just Silicon Valley.
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