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...