In my experience, everyone has a series of “go-to books”, items on the shelf that are well-worn and constantly referenced.
- The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood, by James Gleick
We exist in a built world. To truly understand past (and future) cultures, one must understand how technology defines the context of life.
- Debt: The First 5,000 Years, by David Graeber
Society is mutually-held debt. Our conceptions of morality are linked to mercantile exchange. We are socialists with our friends and capitalists with our landlords.
- The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nicholas Nassim Taleb
People are bad at statistical thinking. Low-probability events are still likely (near guaranteed over a long enough timeframe) and can be the most significant, but are frequently not planned for, as they’re unlikely to happen today.
It is critical to realize when an underlying distribution is exponential instead of normal.
- Dirty Rotten Strategies: How We Trick Ourselves and Others into Solving the Wrong Problems Precisely, by Ian Mitroff and Abraham Silvers
How you define a problem determines how you solve it. The more complicated the problem, the more care should be taken in defining it.
Humans are first-and-foremost, tool users. Our use of tools reshapes us.
The most ubiquitous and powerful tools are frequently overlooked.
- Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
95 – 99% of our daily lives are performed by automatic cognitive processes of which are are only vaguely aware. It is our nature to rely on these processes because our conscious, thoughtful resources are so limited in availability.
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini
Interaction is driven by social scripts that we frequently depend on to the exclusion of all sense.
Those seeking to take advantage of you depend on social awkwardness to prevent you from saying no.
- The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, by Phillip Zimbardo
People are phenomenal at providing post-hoc justification for their actions. Between that and dividing the world into “Us” and “Them”, it is extremely easy for anyone to do the unconscionable.
- Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You, by Sam Gosling
Humans are creatures of habit, and you can learn much of them by understanding the marks these habits leave behind.
People shape their spaces for two primary reasons: 1.) to present themselves to others and 2.) to provide comfort to themselves. It is important to distinguish between the two.
Engineering & Design
- An Introduction to Human Factors Engineering, by Christoper Wickens, John Lee, Yili Liu, and Sallie Gordon-Becker
- Engineering Psychology and Human Performance, by Wickens and Hollands
- The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman
Usable designs are driven by affordances, visibility, mapping, and feedback. Good designs should clearly communicate their uses.