Billionaire innovator Elon Musk’s assertion that he was raised by “books, and then parents” has sparked in me an urge for some reflection on impulses I succumbed to.
A futurist drawn to Artificial Intelligence even while being vocal about the dangers inherent in the apocalyptic bot revolution under way, Elon Musk, Tesla founder, is a man driven by innovation, drawing inspiration from books. As this CNBC report points out, while Musk, an introvert thinker, studied physics and economics, he learnt about rockets only from books.
They include books on how “computational intelligence surpasses human intelligence” and on how “scientists with political and corporate connections have purposefully muddied the facts around many public health issues”.
Incongruities from ground realities point to lofty ideals getting derailed by the pace of change. On the one hand, books do kindle the thinking faculty, spurring creativity if the objectives are tuned to individual aspirations. On the other, reading is a habit on the wane, if it is not dead yet.
The Web, TV, Entertainment and Books – the ubiquitous Smart Phone is consuming them all! An all-in-one platform, aligned with new-generation CX (Customer Experience) trends, the phone is no threat to any leisure or learning activity. It has become a device packed with enormous punch.
As an employee of a global leader helping businesses deliver compelling digital-era customer experiences, I can see the value of a unified platform, with native technologies enabling contextual journeys. So it is with a super-smart phone!
The digression aside, NOT Reading is NOT an Option!
To inject an element of contradiction into the argument, my own view is that if you want to write books, don’t read too much! It will blunt your imagination and take that spark of originality away from you.
This, though, is an advice that I DON’T want you to follow. I don’t want someone to sue me 20 years down the road, claiming that my post made him give up reading while not helping him become a writer!
Books based on fact, such as on science and technology (or any other subject of interest), are certain to be of value for life-long learning, a concept gaining ground amid an environment of constant change on every front. Biographies can be exciting, too. Books full of ideas can be fun, too!
If it can help stoke the creativity in you and prevent influences of any plagiaristic mould, then go for it full throttle.
There are a million reasons why reading is critical for your wellbeing. I don’t want to amplify it when author Will Schwalbe has authoritatively captured it well in his work, Books for Living.
Here is a fun sample of his rationale:
- “When I can’t stand to look at one more hateful tweet from the president, I read a book.”
- “When I turn on the television to hear the news and all I hear is people shouting and talking over one another, I read a book.”
- “When I realize that I have 1,200 unread emails, I read a book.”
- “When the apartment is a mess and friends are on their way over, I read a book.”
- “When I’m stressed, I grab a book.”
It hardly matters if it is escapism. If it can stimulate your senses and put you on a path of rediscovery, everything else matters less.
I am not a somebody (I am a nobody, if that reads better), but blogdom has given us all an unfettered space for universalising our thoughts. They can be relevant or can verge on rambling, what counts is that our freedom of expression is limited only by self-restraint, with no editors to spike or squash our pieces.
While I have always been passionate about writing, my other interests kept me away from reading as much as I ought to have, notwithstanding my Master’s in English Literature. I have been dreaming of writing a novel for decades without any deep interest in reading fiction. By the time I write one, the reading habit may have evaporated, consigning my work of fiction to antiquity.
I must blame it on the social media, with blogging (such as this one) consuming much of my free time. That can be drilled down to too much reading – real news, fake news, obsessive views and what not! Venting one’s frustrations in social platforms will take you nowhere, scuppering your plans in the process.
Fischer, an Inspiration
As a student, inspired by the genius of Bobby Fischer, I wanted to be a world champion, frequenting the Michael Tal Chess Club at the House of Soviet Culture in Madras (now Chennai) and spending my evenings at the Egmore Stadium, playing the game with enthusiasts who were regulars there. I could not go beyond being the Madras Division Champion although I have had the satisfaction of beating International Masters.
Enough of my self-flagellation (or, conversely, self-praise), let me get to the books that have helped shape the career of Elon Musk.
I have not read any of the eight books that have made an impact on his life. I don’t think I will want to read all of them as by the time I do new perceptions may have come into play. However, as someone interested in biographies, I think I will pick up two – the ones on Einstein and Benjamin Franklin.
G Joslin Vethakumar