Experiments in New Knowledge

Experiments in New Knowledge

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So I’m going to try a new experiment for at least the next 30 days.

Yes, it’s a weird time to be starting something like this, but weird is often fun.

Have you ever heard someone use the old cliché that if you learned something today then the day hasn’t been wasted? There are a lot of variations on this:

“A day spent without learning something is a day wasted.”—Anonymous

“Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back”—Chinese proverb

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”—Dr. Suess

“When you stop growing, you start dying.”—William S. Burroughs

Plus a gazillion more expressions between and around those thoughts.

Because one of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I’m often happiest when I’m learning something new, I like Einstein’s “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”

I do tend to have far too many interests, so many that I can’t possibly focus on most of them long enough to actually develop of depth of knowledge in the field. Politics, Astronomy, Mythology, Gaming, Languages, Animal Behaviour… if I don’t stop there, I can probably keep the list going for a couple of pages or more before having to think about it.

As a writer, I don’t think this is a bad thing. Thinking about fiction, the more odd little things you know and/or understand, the greater your experience and the more you can put together to make fun and interesting characters and stories.

But research and learning should be a part of everyone’s life, if only because there are more cool things to know than anyone can every find out. Yes, the Earth is just awesome, so think about how much more awesome the whole universe is.

And I will never, ever see enough, know enough, or understand enough.

WikipediaGetting back to the point, the experiment is this: every day, I’m going to go to Wikipedia and press the “Random Article” link in the upper left corner and read whatever it gives me.

If it’s only a couple of sentences long, I’ll do it a second time.

Yes, Wikipedia has plenty of issues and yes, there’s a lot on there that isn’t terribly well researched or sourced. But there’s a lot that is, and when people find things they’re passionate about, they often have the drive to keep them far more up to date than those old paper encyclopedia sets our parents used to buy and then keep for decades.

Think about this: there are something close to 5 million articles on Wikipedia. In English. Chances are pretty good that the “Random Article” link is going to take me to something I don’t already know, maybe even something it never even occurred to me to think about wanting to know.

The experiment began today, and the link gave me the following 3-sentence stub about Grégory Sarrasin:

Grégory Sarrasin (born on March 17, 1979) is a male freestyle wrestler from Switzerland. He participated in Men’s freestyle 66 kg at 2008 Summer Olympics. He was eliminated from competition by Emin Azizov in the 1/16 of final.”

Interesting but not enough. Click again.

Vernoux-en-Gâtine is a commune in the Deux-Sèvres department in western France.

Even shorter. Come on. Give me something with meat. Click.

Ah, here we go.

Kazuma Ieiri, a Japanese Entrepreneur who, in addition to taking his first big company public, has also been an internet activist, ran for governor of the Tokyo Prefecture, raising money by crowdfunding, built his platform by crowdsourcing, and livestreamed his campaign headquarters. He finished in 5th place out of 16 candidates.

Pretty cool. I wonder what I’ll learn tomorrow.

Be well, everyone.

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