Curse Of Knowledge

The more you learn, the less you can recall of what it was like to be a beginner. This is the problem many encounter when they attempt to teach a beginner in something they are considered an expert in. The perspective of a a beginner is that everything needs to be explained, while the perspective of the expert is that the low level parts are easily understood and can be skipped over to get to the expert parts.

I have dabbled in learning various topics and I usually start by searching the topic name on Google, which results in reading mostly articles from others who have more experience in the topic than me. The key thing I notice is that articles can fall into 1 of 3 broad categories – beginner, intermediate, or advanced.

At any stage in my development I must assess a resource before investing too much time in it to ensure it matches my current level. I will often find that the majority of the articles I encounter are too hard or too easy for my current level. Once I have settled on a batch of articles at my level to help me improve my knowledge I dive in.

The problem that occurs at no matter what level is the difficulty of teaching a concept at a level below the authors ability, it is a catch 22 situation where you cannot teach it until you understand it and once you understand it you struggle to bring yourself back to the stage where you were just learning at that level.

How strange it is to put your mind in that of a person who’s level of knowledge does not match your own, you must teleport your mind back to when you were at that stage in your learning and attempt to recall what your thoughts were at the time. I recall being at school during exam periods and sketching my revision notes on many sheets of paper and consuming the wide range of material, followed by reconstructing my revision notes into a smaller collection of revision notes. I repeated this process until the networks in my brain allowed me to look at an A5 piece of paper and recall the broad topics such a small note instructed my brain. Show that same revision note to someone not at that stage in their learning and it would look like a foreign language.

I believe that to understand a topic you should be content with not rushing your learning so that you can be an expert in an unreasonably short period of time. Comprehension is the key to learning, not speed, and this takes time. There is plenty of time and it is about the journey of learning more than getting there, so focus on absorbing the knowledge rather than how much you can wash over yourself in a short period of time.

Speed reading techniques exist but even these I have tried and found my comprehension fail. Ask me to explain what I have read when speed reading and I struggle to even remember doing the speed reading. I prefer to just read little and often, like I am exercising or eating, I consume and absorb until I am hungry for knowledge again.

Don’t be in a rush to learn something, we are all standing on the shoulders of giants and we all have to climb there. If getting to the top of a mountain was the reason we climbed we would take a helicopter, it is the journey that people will be most interested in.