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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini – review

Influence: The Psychology of PersuasionInfluence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

“Compare and contrast…” Dreaded words of professors and teachers… Well, serendipitous, I suppose, that this showed up on a list as I had just started an advance read of Tali Sharot’s The Influential Mind. I might just compare and contrast at some point in the future, but for this one…

The list was “…[t]he top 5 books you must read to be successful.” I’d already read Daniel Pink’s Drive and Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit so thought I’d check out the other three. This was the first on the list.

How to summarize? I’ll try in two steps. First, this is a lot older than I expected. Revised and republished a number of times (first copyrighted in 1984), the basic text is quite dated (30+ years old), which means the cultural references might be obscure to modern readers. And Cialdini is all over the place. Repetitious. Lots of repetition. Also, it smacks as if he has been burnt more than once by salespeople. As with so many books of this type, it could have conveyed the same message with far fewer pages. I won’t speculate as to whether that would have driven a lower price. The problems are numerous and the time spent recounting them worth less than the time spent reading them. Every example, minor or not, is a paramount crisis seemingly requiring extensive pontification. Extensive. This is a tedious read.

Second, it’s a rare book that have less than no value. Of course, this one has value…but it takes a discerning filter to glean it. Giving back (reciprocity) gets returns, being consistent…as well, peer approval/concurrence seems to mean something to many people, as does being liked. Appeals to authority chart great influence, and FOMO (fear of missing out) has great influence.

Critical, skeptical, minds can resist, but even then, can obviously be influenced. We must be on our guard. Human nature, by evolution, is to herd. And the susceptibility to influence enhances that genetic imprint.

I don’t recommend this book, though it does, as noted, have some value. Pick the points carefully and store them in your toolbox.

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Neuromancer – a supreme waste of ink

I don’t quit books easily, or lightly. I started William Gibson’s Neuromancer under the impression that it was one of the best of new (published in 1984 kind of “new”) scifi – unfortunately, I deem it one of the worst. I really don’t know how it can be seen otherwise.

I am not sure what language Gibson used to write the book – I gave up trying to figure it out after 100 pages or so. Some sort of cross between ganster rap and Jim Rome’s glossary of smack. Perhaps if Gibson had included a dictionary, it wouldn’t have been as bad (my copy was the 20th anniversary edition and didn’t have any.) So abandoning the translation, I tried to look at the characters and plot. No dice; dimensionless, thoroughly unlikeable characters and overly convoluted and poorly written pseudoplot clouded by the bizarre terms introduced without any reference frame, this book can only appeal to those pretentious pseudo-intellectuals desiring to spout nonsense about how deep the work is, or what the artist was trying to convey in his/her painting, or how the scuplture evokes feelings of motion. Tripe.

I tend to be pretty stubborn about books. I’ll set aside a book for a year or more, placed marked, of course, to eventually get through it. I cannot do that with this book. Halfway through, I found nothing to redeem the lost time I invested in reading that far. More’s the pity because Neuromancer is touted as a revitalization of the genre. I guess I’m wrong in my opinion that the genre needed no jumpstart. Certainly not in a form such as this.

Whatever cyberpunk is, this is the nadir and not the apex, and it’s a sure thing I’ll not be reading any more of it. Maybe a long shower will wash away the residue and I can get back to some real science fiction.

The one good thing from the experience¬† – I only borrowed the book from the library and didn’t spend any money on it. That would have been disheartening.