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The World as I see it

Reading date: Dec. 28, 2016

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Summary and personal opinion

This book contains excerpts of letters and memos that Albert Einstein wrote during the early 1930's.

Einstein is one of the Historical figures I admire the most. He is of course well-known for his achievments and discoveries in Physics (arguably being referred to as one of the most brilliant minds to have ever existed) but he also had an extraordinary knowledge when it came to politics, economics, philosophy or sociology.

In this book, we can have a detailed picture of "the world, as he saw it". He gives us his opinion on existential wondering (religion, wars, morality...) as well as more pragmatic issues (education, labor and unemployment, etc.). His train of thought is sometimes hard to follow (no kidding!) but reading this book made me see the world in another perspective.

It gave me the perspective to see that most of our current problems as a society are not new. In a time when even in the USA the rejection of any form of knowledge and the stigmatization of foreign cultures tend to be trivialized, it's definitely worth reading the discussion Einstein had with the Secretary of the Prussian Sciences Academy in 1933, when he loudly expressed his contempt for Nazism or any form of fascism, whereas the position of the Academy was complaisant toward this emerging political cycle. The rhetoric he used must convince any knowledgable man, especially nowadays, 80 years later, when we know for a fact what this ideology led to.

Another topic that is still relevant today is the gap growing between the way governments rule countries and the state of the technology/economic landscape. Even in the 30's, governments were known (at least by Einstein!) to be ruling in an old fashion, not suited to the way technology transforms peoples lives. This is even more true today, the evolution of technology following a exponential growth. This dichotomy led to the Great Depression in the 30's, and is still one of the cause of the troubles Western countries have to deal with for a few years. Early on, Einstein saw that technology is ambivalent: as much as it has the power to free the human condition, it leads to great danger as long as policies are not updated in consequences.

This technical progress which could free men from much of the work necessary for their lives is the cause of the present catastrophe.

On another topic, his views on religion VS science helped me having a better understanding of how religion came into the picture, and how the very concept of the anthropomorphic God made sense centuries ago, but will inexorably fade as the knowledge behind the Universe advances. However, he affirms strongly that he believes in a kind of cosmic religiosity, that would be way too difficult to explain here :)

Finally, in a time where Europe is threatened of destruction, his pacifism should be listened:

The one who wants to abolish war must intervene with energy so that the state of which he is a citizen renounces part of its sovereignty to the benefit of international organizations.

In other words: you always have to choose between peace and nationalism. He always chose peace, and so did I.

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