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Lex Fridman's Booklist

It's really not hip to be a hipster, Part 1

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Today's topic is inspired by the discussion around Lex Friedman's to-read list for 2023.

If you had read some of the titles here and enjoyed them, you'd probably think it's a pretty decent list. From an egoic perspective, I have good taste, if he likes the stuff I like, that means he has good taste too. Cue Elon Musk:

From a psychological standpoint, humans want to fit in and be perceived as part of a larger community or social group. So people are drawn to popular things.

From a public discourse standpoint, Lex probably felt a sense of safety in choosing 52 popular classics across political philosophy.

He didn't want to take risks in choosing edgy or obscure titles. It's likely that many people have enjoyed reading them and would like/engage with this Twitter post.

As of 1/7/2023, this tweet is getting 38M impressions, 100k+ likes, and almost 9k retweets. It went viral because he was getting "canceled" left and right for this "controversial" list.

The obvious ones are calling him out for choosing mostly white male authors:

I cannot fully agree with their condemnation. While reading from a diverse range of topics is generally a good habit, what another person reads shouldn't be something you police on other people.

Some folks are calling the list "basic, generic":

Let's say the books are indeed basic. What's wrong with liking basic books?

In tech discourse, social status conditions on intellectual superiority. Hence, within the tech bubble, the most enlightened ones garner the most attention.

To this tiny group of people, Lex Fridman is supposed to be morally enlightened relative to the average human, but his reading choices signal otherwise. So we see a public outcry against him and his status.

The attention Lex has gotten from his reading list, although negative, is a sign that he has risen from an MIT researcher to a respected tech elite.

This brings me to another question, what would the most high-status library consist of?

An edgy mix of philosophy, mathematics, computer science, race & gender theory?

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