LessWrong is one of my favorite discussion sites on the internet. It's a discussion site about rationality, and I highly recommend it. Don't be intimidated by how high the level of discussion gets sometimes - there's many good ways to get started. I wrote "You Should Probably Study Rationality" with some intro material. "References and Resources for LessWrong" was just posted today on LW and looks like a good starting point too.
Collecting and Hoarding Crap, Useless Information
LessWrong discussion here: http://lesswrong.com/lw/2uu/collecting_and_hoarding_crap_useless_information/
I am realizing something that many, many intelligent people are guilty of - collecting and hoarding and accumulating crap, useless information. This is dangerous, because it feels like you're doing something useful, but you're not.
However, speaking personally - once I decide to start focusing and researching something systematically to get better at it, it gets harder to do. For instance, I taught myself statistics mostly using baseball stats. It was a fun, easy, harmless context to learn statistics.
I read lots of history and historical fiction. I read up lots on business and entrepreneurship. This is easy and fun and enjoyable.
But then, when I decide to really hone in, it becomes much harder. For instance, I'm doing some casual research on the history of insurgencies and asymmetrical warfare. This is the kind of thing I'd read all the time for fun, but now that I'm working on it systematically, it becomes a lot harder.
Likewise business and entrepreneurship - I read lots and lots on technology, financing, market research, marketing, etc. But now that I'm really nailing down one aspect for my next business, it becomes almost strenuous to work on that.
It's like... collecting and hoarding useless, unfocused information is for us what collecting and hoarding a bunch of useless consumer shit is for most people. I'd reckon that people that hang out here are smarter with money and less into buying junk, but, at least for me, I'm spending a lot of my time buying junk information.
Alright, back to reading about Tienanmen Square and Rome/Carthage and the Tet Offensive, and nailing down the buying criteria and budgets of the market I want to be in. Why it is so much easier to focus and collect crap mentally than to do it systematically on meaningful topics? Do you do this? I seriously doubt I'm the only one...
I'm also a big fan of Less Wrong. Newcomers should definitely read Eliezer's Sequences:
Truly amazing, life-changing stuff in there.
Damn, this post got me.
I consider myself a *generally* rational person, but I often fall into the trap of wasting loads of my time reading useless information. I always realized it subconsciously, but seeing it written down here really hits home.
Looks like another challenge to add to my list! "Don't waste time with irrelevant information!"
I just spent some time reading Thomas Schelling's "Choice and Consequences" and I heartily recommend it. Here's a Google books link to the chapter I was reading, "The Intimate Contest for Self Command."
It's fascinating, and if you like LessWrong, rationality, understanding things, decision theories, figuring people and the world out - well, then I think you'd like Schelling. Actually, you'll probably be amazed with how much of his stuff you're already familiar with - he really established a heck of a lot modern thinking on game theory.
Allow me to depart from Schelling a moment, and talk of Sam Snyder. He's a very intelligent guy who has lots of intelligent thoughts. Here's a link to his website - there's massive amounts of data and references there, so I'd recommend you just skim his site if you go visit until you find something interesting. You'll probably find something interesting pretty quickly.
I got a chance to have a conversation with him a while back, and we covered immense amounts of ground. He introduced me to a concept I've been thinking about nonstop since learning it from him - reference points.
Now, he explained it very eloquently, and I'm afraid I'm going to mangle and not do justice to his explanation. But to make a long story really short, your reference points affect your motivation a lot.
A common question, indeed - "I don't know what I'm doing with my life, can you advise something?"
Well, perhaps I can. I got a nice email from a reader, and I wrote a long reply. If you're in a hurry, skim down to "Okay. So here’s my thoughts" which is where the pragmatic guidelines start - I'll bold it so you can start there, if you like.
First, I'd like to say that I've really enjoyed reading your blog. It has so much insightful and enlightening material that I've gone back to reread and try to really absorb some of the ideas you have. I've been meaning to contact you but I felt a bit intimidated, to be honest. I'd really like to hear your advice.
I'm about a year removed from high school, attending community college and I've just been floating around, doing general education courses and I've yet to really decide on a major. I don't really have any particular talents or strong interests in one field or another.