On learning (For Karthick)

Karthick left some kind feedback and a question but no contact information (I’ve now added a section for that to the form) – this is a reply. Karthick asks: I’d love to know your methods of learning. How do you learn more? What mediums do you learn on (and any more tips on reading too!) Thank you for your time.…

Matt Ridley on the Wright Brothers: innovation is gradual

… with very few exceptions, man-made technologies evolve from previous man-made technologies and are not invented from scratch. This is a key characteristic with evolutionary systems: the move to the adjacent possible step. Perhaps I’m exaggerating – after all, there was a moment when the Wright Brothers’ Flyer became airborne on the 17th of December 1903. Surely this was a…

Tacit knowledge

What is tacit knowledge? Wikipedia says, “Tacit knowledge or implicit knowledge (as opposed to formal, codified or explicit knowledge) is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it.” I partly agree. There are at least two other kinds of tacit knowledge: Skills or knowledge that is knack-based…

“I did my best.”

Great! Was it any good? What are you going to do to make your best get better? This might be about: Improving concrete skills Working on your attitude Or the way you made others feel while you did your best Or working on the wrapper – the systems around the work you do – so that you can do more…

If someone keeps letting you down

Because you’re waiting for their help, but they don’t make time; Or don’t do what they say they’ll do; Or do it badly; Or can’t do the job they’ve been given; Or only do it inconsistently; Or aren’t engaged when you need them to be; Or damage relationships and reputations; Or otherwise hold you or others back… It’s probably time…

Educated (11): Truth in context

Another aspect of the limits of knowledge is the contingent nature of most of what we know: Truth is usually* truth-in-context. A pair of non-parallel lines will only ever cross once… on the infinite flat plane of Euclidian geometry.** Swans are only white… as far as Europeans knew before someone saw a black one in Australia. It’s safest to walk…

Educated (10): Limits to knowledge

An education should give us an awareness of the limits of knowledge. Most obviously: That there are things that we (humans) don’t understand; That some of those things we may never understand (or at least, in our lifetimes); That we (as individuals) can’t possibly know everything that is known; … and so what we do know is necessarily incomplete; ……

Educated (9): taxonomy and the fruits of knowledge

You’re probably familiar with the old saw “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” This response to the smart alec’s observation that a tomato is not (botanically speaking) a vegetable points out that the distinction is meaningless in the kitchen.* Think a little harder and it gets…

Educated (7): you, life and other people

If you can raise your children to like and believe in themselves, and to be interested in life and other people, the rest is detail. Cousin-in-law Most of the important bits of “educated” are absorbed rather than taught. Schooling and opportunities help, but the slow drip of love and respect from people you love and respect is indispensable. Which leads…