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Which Non-testing focused book do I wish I’d been given on my first day as a tester?

This topic is one dear to my heart, and it’s got a surprising answer, at least I think it’s surprising. I was expecting to recommend a Python book, or a psychology book, or even a design book, but in fact I’m not going to mention any of those, though I’ve read many which have been quite useful.

No, instead I’m going to recommend a book that surprisingly few people appear to have heard of, and it’s a sci-fi novel. It’s free from the author’s website (though it’s also available from Amazon and the like if you want to support the author), and it’s Blindsight by Peter Watts.

A novel about aliens, consciousness, transcranial magnetic stimulation and the cost of thinking might seem like a very strange choice, but allow me to elaborate.

The book focuses on Siri Keaton, a human who’s had most of his empathy centres in his brain removed and replaced with computer hardware. He’s a “synthesist”, he takes information he doesn’t understand, reshapes it into another form that he doesn’t necessarily understand either, but which others can process. The analogies to a neural net are quite obvious and the exploration of bugs in humanity’s firmware (saccades, hallucinations, the illusion of control that consciousness provides) only serve to extend the software analogies.

Siri is called to use his powers to investigate an alien presence in the outer solar system with a team of similarly “enhanced” humans, only to find that the aliens speak English. This is only the start of what pans out to be both a gripping thriller and an examination of consciousness and what it means to understand. The book draws your mind into strange paths and often makes you reexamine axioms you’ve held true for a long time. It can actually be quite deep in areas and the fact that Peter Watts provides a biliography in his books is definitely appreciated, you can go quite deep into the rabbit hole starting at one of his books.

So why does it help you test?

The book itself is something of a system shock, the sharp questioning of the basis of your world view throughout the book is a reminder that no matter what you think you know about a system, you don’t know anythng until you try to disprove it. I reread it every year or so to remind me to keep questioning, keep looking into what I think I know and why I think I know it. Also who doesn’t love space vampires? (Pretty much everyone if you read the book)

Bonus book!

Not testing related but a damn good read anyway: Clara Mandrake’s Monster by Ibrahim S. Amin Full disclosure, it was written by a friend of mine, but I’m recommending it because it deserves more attention than it’s currently getting. Magic, monsters, religion and war clash in a world different from our own but instantly recognisable. Highly recommended!

Contact me

If you want to talk to me about this, you can reach me here on Github or on Twitter @Testing_crafty