Title: Lexicon Authors: Max Barry Category:#supplementals Number of Highlights: 30 Date: 2022-07-17 Last Highlighted: **


“Words aren’t just sounds or shapes. They’re meaning. That’s what language is: a protocol for transferring meaning. When you learn English, you train your brain to react in a particular way to particular sounds. As it turns out, the protocol can be hacked.”

“The most fundamental thing about a person is desire. It defines them. Tell me what a person wants, truly wants, and I’ll tell you who they are, and how to persuade them. You can’t be persuaded. Ergo, you don’t feel desire.”


You might be an intelligent person, but once you let someone else filter the world for you, you have no way to critically analyze what you’re hearing. At best, absolute best case scenario, if they blatantly contradict themselves, you can spot that. But if they take basic care to maintain an internal logical consistency, which they all do, you’ve got nothing. You’ve delegated the ability to make up your mind.


“A similar term is proselyte. Typically used in a religious sense, to denote a person converting from one faith to another. Like a whore, a proselyte is persuaded to perform an act. The difference is that a whore does what she knows is wrong for reward, while a proselyte does what she has been persuaded to believe is right.”

Civilizations rose and fell; what caused them to be remembered was not their contribution to knowledge or culture, not even the size of their empires, but rather how much force they exerted upon the landscape.

The fact was, if you paid attention, people tried to persuade each other all the time. It was all they did.


This was what they were teaching her. How to craft a string of words that would disable the filters one by one, unlocking each mental tumbler until the mind’s last door swung open.

We attempt to conceal ourselves, Emily, but the truth is we do not entirely want to be concealed. We want to be found. Every poet, sooner or later, discovers this: that within perfect walls, there is nothing worth protecting. There is, in fact, nothing. And so we exchange privacy for intimacy. We gamble with it, hoping that by exposing ourselves, someone will find a way in. This is why the human animal will always be vulnerable: because it wants to be.”

She had been taught chess at the school, years ago, and the point was the pieces differed only in terms of their attacking power. They were all equally easy to kill. It was called capturing. The lesson was that you should be cautious about deploying your most powerful pieces, because it only required one dumb pawn to take them down.


It was all because people were animals, analogue rather than binary, and everything in nature happened in degrees. People could be partially persuaded. They could be shocked into letting down their guard. You practiced saying the words so that if anyone ever said them to you, you would stand a chance.

“I don’t think you’ve been in love. Not recently, anyway. I’m not sure you remember what it’s like. It compromises you. It takes over your body. Like a bareword. I think love is a bareword. That’s the first thing.”

People still fell to the influence of persuasion techniques, especially when they broadcast information about themselves that allowed identification of their personality type—their true name, basically—and the attack vectors for these techniques were primarily aural and visual.

Everyone’s making pages for themselves. Imagine a hundred million people clicking polls and typing in their favorite TV shows and products and political leanings, day after day. It’s the biggest data profile ever. And it’s voluntary. That’s the funny part. People resist a census, but give them a profile page and they’ll spend all day telling you who they are.

She felt stunned in some important part of her brain, stunned as in estoner, the French root that also meant astonished, a word used to describe sorcery.

They didn’t teach persuasion. Your ability to persuade is the single most important determinant of your quality of life, and they didn’t cover that at all.

At night, she sat by the window of her cloister room, books piled on her desk. She studied with her hair pinned up and her school tie slung. She didn’t really enjoy reading but she liked how the books were clues. Each one a piece in a puzzle. Even when they didn’t fit together, they revealed a little more about what kind of picture she was making.

I’m not a privacy nut, and I don’t care that much if these organizations want to know where I go and what I buy. But what bothers me is how HARD they’re all working for that data, how much money they’re spending, and how they never admit that’s what they want. It means that information must be really valuable for some reason, and I just wonder to who and why.


She had been in situations like this, where people said, Convince me, and in none of those had they actually wanted to be convinced. She could lay down a perfect argument and they just invented new bullshit on the spot to justify why the answer was still no. When people said, Convince me, she knew it didn’t mean they had an open mind. It meant they had power and wanted to enjoy it a minute.

There was no past or future when you milked a cow. You were just milking.