01 November 2005

Do I care about Learning?

Not enough to be a successful academic. Of the things I learn day to day, I most enjoy those that are new and big ideas. I do not hate the details, but my marginal propensity to learn details about new topics declines rapidly. Unfortunately, 99% of significant advances do not come from a new approach to life so much as from a new way of looking at one little detail. The effort expended to become fluent in the details of a particular field and hence get down to the building blocks of a significant advance, much less a meaningful contributions, is too great for me.

Yesterday, as I watched a collegue surf the iienet.org, a site about Industrial Engineering. Whereas I waste most of my time on MarginalRevolution.com or Slashdot.com. My sites carry insights and news more generally, while my collegue was directed to a field specific site. I am wondering if the diminishing marginal returns I experience from learning a particular field is a symptom of not having found the field that interests me enough. Or perhaps it is a symptom of a larger problem with my motivation to make meaningful contributions (and expend the effort necessary to do so).

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