Echo Chambers vs. Echo Amplifiers

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Tips for curating your reading list

We all hear a lot about diversity, and most of us think it’s a good thing. I’m here to show you how we as a society might not be quite as diverse as we thought, and how to change that, starting with ourselves.

First I want to illustrate two terms for you:

I’m sure most readers are familiar enough with the term “echo chamber”, but it basically means that no new ideas are ever introduced, it’s a closed loop, much like a hydraulic system, a car radiator system, a Facebook feed, or a user’s Google Search results. The problem is that no progress is ever made, there is a finite number of points within the chamber, a finite number of thoughts to be had, and innovations to be made.

An “echo amplifier” is more like the bell of a brass instrument, or the amplifier on a classic record player. Thoughts bounce about in a specific direction - but more than that, you notice how the first few bounces are tiny, but get huge really quickly? That’s the amplification concept, or maybe you could call it a compound effect. The things you learned/did yesterday are compounded by the things you do today.

Now I want you to look at the above illustration again, and imagine the black lines are the books you read, the podcasts you listen to, the people you spend time with. The red line is you, or more specifically your knowledge and personality.

We can change these lines, by designing and curating the content we absorb - our reading lists and people we spend the most time with.

The thing about amplifiers, is that they are directional, you point them in a direction and go. Make sure your goal is well thought out before aiming an amplifier, or you may end up going backwards!

This relates to diversity in quite a key way:

Think of the echo amplifier, not as one ‘v’ shaped line, but of two separate lines, both made up of multiple other lines.

We see how these lines are built up different genres, different books, even different pastimes. The key thing is to actively curate your reading habits, to shape you into the person you want to be, based on your goals.

The biggest step is always awareness, now you’ve seen some simple drawings of what could be happening, you can consciously think about it. I wanted to make it easier to start discovering new books and genres, so I started Book Slice, a podcast dedicated to the discovery of new books. You could start by looking there.