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Ask HN: Where to find people who love to learn?
76 points by f0e4c2f7 2 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 55 comments
I love learning new things. Reading new books on unfamiliar subjects, practicing intensely for months to develop a new skill, talking with an expert and absorbing decades of wisdom as they share a lifetime of experience.

When I was younger I thought this was the normal mode. As time goes on I've realized not a lot of people I know enjoy learning this way.

Where can I go to find people with a deep love of learning, not for money or a credential but just for the pure joy of it.

Universities? Libraries?

Suggestions appreciated!






I'd say avoid high-productivity environments, because they often contain people who love learning; but as a means to an end. They usually won't have much patience for sharing, and could look at you as competition, as easily as an ally.

Being in an environment of exploration is best. Non-profits, foundations geared towards research, etc.

I've not had much luck, finding these places, but, TBH, I haven't really looked. I've generally spent my entire adult life, focused on delivering product, and that has plenty of room for learning. I come from an ... eclectic ... educational background, and often find myself being shunned by those from more traditional backgrounds, so I've learned to find my own way.

Teachers are generally good for the kind of thing you are talking about. They need to keep learning stuff. Trainers for things like bootcamps need to stay up to date. They are also likely to have patience for those still on the journey.

Some of the high-score people on StackOverflow are actually fairly impressive, and are all about learning, but I do get a bit tired of looking up their noses.


Conferences (academic and industrial). If you’re a developer, going to a software conference like PyCon or Strange Loop (and being sociable when you’re there) will bump you up against lots of curious people.

Local chapters of academic societies (like INFORMS for operations research). Lots of people love to talk shop and learn what other people are doing.

Taking adult education courses at a good university will help you meet such people as well.

Meetups — hit or miss. Some are self filtering like functional programming or philosophy but if you go to a cloud computing meet up you’re likely to meet people who are there for professional reasons. They’re curious too but more for the sake of their jobs.

Bear in mind that these are people curious about specific things. If you want to find well rounded individuals that are curious about lots of things, well they’re rare and there’s unlikely to be a watering hole where they congregate because the intersecting set of interests between them is likely small. University clubs might be an avenue but if you’re no longer in school they’re not really accessible to you.


My wife and I are both full-time academics. She has never worked outside academia (except a dirty menial job in high school). I dropped out, wrote code for a multi-billion-dollar non-profit, and had a bunch of menial jobs.

I don’t wanna say she takes the university life for granted, but I can’t say she understands what it’s like to work in a place where you’re the one and only curious, well-read person.

EDIT: janitors, bellhops, and waitstaff are much more interesting than office plankton. But there is no culture of reading and learning in either context.


Other than PhD students at universities (undergrads are often just there for the degree), I'd recommend https://www.lesswrong.com/ , certain subreddits, MOOC platforms like Coursera or EdX, and here on Hacker News (this very thread actually spawned a discourse group: https://discord.gg/WyRBDGgeCG )

A simple heuristic: search for submissions about Zettelkasten, Evergreen notes, spaced repetition, and similar knowledge organization or learning methodologies and tools (Roam Research, Notion, Obsidian, Anki, etc). If someone is sufficiently motivated to write down and study new things they encounter, it's likely that they seriously love to learn.

https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&query=Zettelkasten&sor...

https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&query=Anki&sort=byPopu...

https://notes.andymatuschak.org/Evergreen_notes

https://www.reddit.com/r/NoteTaking/#sort=top;t=month

Certain topics have very vibrant communities and forums, eg: language learning on Reddit, the Busuu community, or HiNative.

Also, consider taking a philosophy (theory of knowledge) class either at a local university or community college if available, or on a MOOC like Coursera or EdX. You might find many intellectually curious people there.


THank you for the collection of resources

This reminded me of Leonard Susskind's "Theoretical Minimum" physics lectures.

"A number of years ago I became aware of the large number of physics enthusiasts out there who have no venue to learn modern physics and cosmology. Fat advanced textbooks are not suitable to people who have no teacher to ask questions of, and the popular literature does not go deeply enough to satisfy these curious people. So I started a series of courses on modern physics at Stanford University where I am a professor of physics. The courses are specifically aimed at people who know, or once knew, a bit of algebra and calculus, but are more or less beginners."

https://theoreticalminimum.com/home


You mean -- where to find experts that can tolerate newbie asking off-base questions and showing off their bottle half full? If you just find people with "a deep love of learning", you guys end up just bouncing shallow questions and answers off each other, right? I am not saying that is not fun, but I am not sure that is really "a deep love of learning".

From an expert point of view, where is motivation of tolerating adult "curiosities"? I can easily tolerate a 5-year old who genuinely curious and assumes no base of understanding, which I can enjoy building my explanations from ground up. You get the satisfaction of filling an empty cup and and occasionally, the naive 5-year-old may seriously challenge your fundamental understanding and you yourself learn something. Not all 5-year-olds are like that, and extremely rare to find such adults.

I think the people you are looking for, with "a deep love of learning", is every where. For example, who love reading popular books on subjects that they are not familiar. That is why there are so many popular non-fiction books. But, are you sure that you are actually seeking each other out?

IMO, if you are truly with "a deep love of learning", study text books and take MIT open courses, and then read scientific papers. Then you will find those experts -- they are always listed in the references with contact associations.


hey, I get that you've probably had negative experiences in the past with people like this, but it's possible to enjoy learning without being an asshole about it. There's really no need for this kind of negativity.

When one reads a reply that is out of his expectation, and when his expectations was for granted, then that reply will be perceived as negative or hostile, right? But the reply may just be out of his expectation.

This is common when a newbie discuss with an expert and when the newbie assumes certain understanding that are in fact incorrect or should be redefined. When the expert try to explain or correct that basis, in a way of explaining why the question was a wrong question, it may often be perceived as lack of respect -- one deserves to ask an question without the question being attacked, right?

The "asshole" is uncalled for.


Perhaps I am wrong but I suspect they intended to suggest that the people with whom you've had negative experiences are the assholes.

> ... it's possible to enjoy learning without being an asshole about it

The perspective might be that the people asking off-base questions are being disrespectful by not bothering to understand what they would like to ask.

Anyway, if it helps: I do not think you were really being an asshole but I can see how a person might have thought that you were assuming others to be assholes.


I didn’t get any sense that the OP was a newbie trying to enter a new field with no prior study.

The question was about how to meet people who love to learn.

You suggested that they contact authors of papers in some subject that interests them.

Both your comment and your suggestion precisely place the OP in a position where they are exactly what you describe: a newbie begging for crumbs from a big person.

I rather did get the sense that the OP wants to meet interested and interesting people, people with a passion for learning. I did presume for peer level friendship and mutual joy, rather than the up-dog/down-dog game you suggest.


I actually make a mental map of which concepts the other person understand, and which ones they don't.

Trying to find relevant examples and activities to teach just this one thing, using all previously learned things, is an enjoyable intellectual exercise by itself.


Bizarre response for “how do I meet people who love learning, presumably for friendship “

I too would like to share more of my immediate world with passionate people who are curious and creative. I find small talk and beer and football at the cafe to be boring. I actually went to a debate salon the other day just to hear some actual thought behind the mindless typical chatter.


> you guys end up just bouncing shallow questions and answers off each other, right?

Sounds kinda like HN


The city of Cambridge, Massachusetts wouldn't be a bad place to start. Eternal September and all that, but it's still home to lots of schools and academics, and the shitty weather deters people that aren't there on purpose.

In my experience, you'll find people a lot of people like this at technical user group meetings, such as a local Linux User Group or Python Meetup.

The fact that someone chooses to spend their free time watching a presentation or participating in a technical discussion is a pretty strong signal that they love to learn. There are usually a few people who attend for recruiting or networking purposes, but that's pretty obvious when you meet them.

Relatedly, a lot of the people who present at meetings like this are among the most avid learners, assuming they're not delivering a sales pitch.


I was going to suggest you to create one, since I know of no such place but that seemed lazy so here is a discord server I created just now for this purpose:

https://discord.gg/WyRBDGgeCG

Suggestions welcome

Also, if anyone has a good way to categorize knowledge please let me know. I am uncertain which categories and channels to create on this server.


So far an interesting exchange has started.

I hope more of you join. I am sharing about my latest interest: Frederick the Great and another member is sharing too: linters and the propagation of good practices.


I'm joining later, great idea!

> Reading new books on unfamiliar subjects, practicing intensely for months to develop a new skill, talking with an expert and absorbing decades of wisdom as they share a lifetime of experience.

Honestly, these are wildly different forms of "learning" and you're unlikely to find a community engaged in all three.

Tons of book clubs exist if you just want to talk about the latest Malcom Gladwell book. Or discuss whatever pop-sci flavor of the month shows up on TED recently. Over time I've become a bit disillusioned with this form as learning because authors tend to both simplify reality, and overstate the reliability of research findings. Sometimes its not exactly their fault when science is retracted but it suggests that focusing on "new" is less useful. When I realize I've forgotten most of what I've read, it makes me feel slightly less anxious about how wrong much of it was.

For skill acquisition, affinity communities on the skill: juggling, knitting, cycling, language, art, chess, sports all have clubs and similar. These tend to focus on continual honing of expertise in the area, instead of acquiring a skill and moving on to another.

For learning from experts, well, conferences and symposiums abound. And again, they cluster around topic instead of mode of learning. Conferences are usually about publishing new findings and pushing the frontier of the unknown forward but its a much harder, slower and difficult task than learning settled science from a textbook. You can learn about astrophysics without knowing what a z-score is but its definitely something to be aware of when attempting to convince the expert community of a new fact.

MasterClasses are often kind of an interview format you may enjoy, and if you seek in person formats, sometimes colleges and museums hold public seminars, and some day soon may resume.


I'm surprised no one has mentioned Twitter!

I hang out in corners of physics, ML, EA, and Progress Studies Twitter and have made some great connections that have turned into real friendships IRL.

Often the next step after meeting on Twitter is setting up a video chat to have a deeper conversation together, but eventually I like to set up nice walk and talks on hikes or around cities.

I now have great friends that I make an effort to see in person in cities around the US and Europe!


Well, I am one of them. Always wondered about that as well, I guess there is no modern community of “toltecs”.

Reach out to me if you want. i_ts_h(ertz) atgmail com

Remove _ and ().


I'm replying here to both OP and you, glad to have a chat if you want to reach out:

nt-f\u+n:tAo(r[imo{@g3m1ai2l{.Nc;o'm

(discard the odd index chars)


> (discard the odd index chars)

Turns out I'm dumber than a bot. I thought "they're all pretty odd", and wondered what an "index character" was, until I realised you meant numerically odd-index.


I get why you're both trying to obscure your email, but realistically it's pretty pointless. Literally everyone, their mom and the spammers can see it.

It's to stop web scraping spam bots. It's not worth it for a web scraping scammer to take the time to individually decode his email address.

add me on the discord or whatever you end up making for the people like us.

it's just my username and I use the google service.


Off-topic: I don't think those email tricks are spared by crawlers using language models.

Explore online communities focused on Personal Knowledge Management. They're full of lifelong learners who love exploring new ideas.

Shameless plug: https://dsebastien.net/blog/2021-11-12-personal-knowledge-ma...


I haven't found a platform which caters to this group. I guess the approach would be find communities related to the subject matter, which unfortunately are very distributed and not cataloged anywhere.

You mentioned, that you practice intensely for months to develop a skill, talking to experts etc. I have recently started on a similar path to strengthen my fundamental skills in my subject area and, that means, learning solo and working on various domain topics for many years. Do you have any general advice on learning topics intensely for months, just curious about your personal approach to learning solo.


I think you should be looking for people who love to teach, or at least share their knowledge.

well, welcome to 2022. It's hard to find really smart people: don't be fooled by credentials and a superficial love of learning...Even those who seem to have a certain amount of erudition are not really smart--there's a clue to find out those but I won't reveal it. It's a lonely world for the smart person, but we have books and this helps.

The thing about people is that at first we are all good and nice to each other until the surface-niceness wears off and true characters emerge, the real face, and much as one can be optimistic and say a person in his true character is both good and bad--hopefully more good than bad--it is the small amount of bad that can lead to a variety of problems.

In the modern world, it is becoming increasingly hard to find psychologically healthy people, and hence, I never seek other people to befriend and am content with my books and pets.


You sound like you have had some bad experiences – if so, I’m sorry for whatever happened to you. I felt compelled to respond because I don’t think your statement is objectively true, and is in some ways harmful. While finding good relationships and showing vulnerability to others are indeed difficult (and we DO get burned every once in a while, believe me I certainly have), there are other people out there who are worth knowing. It can just take time to seek them out, time to identify them, and time and vulnerability to get to know them. Nonetheless, I hope your lifestyle is a happy one that works for you.

Personally I enjoy learning alone, and prefer reading instead of listening (if the topic is hard enough). For me, it is really hard to focus and think about details when I am discussing with others. If you want to interact with this kind of boring people, the best way might be through the internet rather than in-person.

I haven’t managed to find a healthy density of such folks after college & grad school. Something about the nature of employment and the responsibilities of “life in the real world” seems to interfere. Curious to see what this thread surfaces. My e-mail is on my HN profile if you wanna connect.

You'll find them in every pursuit.

Just pick one that interests you and involves being social - it is a little hard to find the ones who are happy mastering living in the woods by themselves, nor will they be thrilled to see you if you do find them :)


Sounds like Tim Ferris tbh. His cookbook attempts to teach you hunting and basketball skills iirc. Maybe some kind of travel hacker community: "I spent two months learning to cook pasta in Italy" or similar, but idk.

I guess meetups for un-commercial topics, and maker spaces, especially the weirder ones.

Create a subreddit and keep advertising it on places like HN. And don't give up moderating it or make it look abandoned.

At some point I'm sure you will get critical mass. There are a lot of people exactly like you.


Great suggestion! Someone actually just created a discourse group right in this thread: https://discord.gg/WyRBDGgeCG

Maker spaces, book clubs, tech related meetups, hackathons, libraries.

I'd definitely recommend Twitter as someone else has already suggested; you can learn about whatever you want on Twitter and Reddit for the most part once you start digging.

Lugs (they are a lot), roleplay groups, boardgame groups, reading book groups..,here.. .

Me!

Edit: right now? Here at https://nerdear.la


Eh, literally anywhere, because if you indeed love to learn, the topic isn't really important. The learning is what matters, and you can learn on any topic.

The Recurse Center: https://www.recurse.com/

Their motto is "never graduate."


If you're in the US, maybe a community college?

Your local public library is a great place to start. Look to their clubs and events for passionate people doing what they love.

LessWrong.com

This thread was full of good suggestions - thanks to everyone who responded!

me! discord: starstruck hash 7373

interested in math, CS, languages, biology, philosophy, history, pretty much everything it's a problem


Someone from this thread recently started a discourse group which you might be interested in joining: https://discord.gg/WyRBDGgeCG

The internet isn't bad place; there are lots of great communities around (often mailing lists, Reddit, etc).

me

so I guess HN is a good place.


I'd imagine you put up posters at the university, coffee shop, or library with permission that involve a math problem, simple cipher, or so on with an invitation and/or point of contact. Relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/356/

Youtube and tiktok



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