Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
How To Learn About Everything (metamodern.com)
95 points by parallel on Dec 19, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 8 comments

    You learned your native language by immersion, not by swallowing and regurgitating spoonfuls of grammar and vocabulary.
I remember a study about language learning that concluded that it's a matter of age and that the older you get the more efficient you learn by using a systematic top-down approach. On the other hand, immersion over a longer period of time doesn't guarantee you make any advancement.

"This knowledge isn’t superficial in a survey-course sense: It is about both deep structure and practical applications. Knowing about, in this sense, is crucial to understanding a new problem and what must be learned in more depth in order to solve it."

I am usually of the school that finds more value in deeply understanding a single thing than having good knowledge of a lot of things.

When it comes to start-ups and hackers, do you think it's more important to have a deep knowledge of a few topics or a fair understanding of a lot of topics? I think it's more beneficial to have the kind of knowledge that the article described, than a true bare bones understanding of programming.

You don't need to know compiler languages to code the next big thing. It just gives people an indication to how smart the founders are, which means a lot.

"do you think it's more important to have a deep knowledge of a few topics or a fair understanding of a lot of topics"

I have been thinking a lot about this. My conclusion is that the optimal thing is somehow both. When I say both, it sounds bullshit, but it is not. I think the key is to be ABLE to study specific topics deeply, know what is deep understanding, know what really tight focus is, learn and practice one or two specific topics very deeply AND with this kind of developed mind, go into lots and lots of quite diverse topics following your interests and needs. And be brave to sometimes dig a bit deep into something which no one expected you to dig into.

So optimally your knowledge should be 'incalculable' by other people. A kind of interesting, a little bit strange knowledge-portfolio which is not very common.

TL;DR: Go very deep into something (extremely deep if possible), learn a little a bit of everything (extremely only the basics about extremely lots of things) to avoid knowledge holes, and go a little bit deep into unexpected things to make your knowledge-base incalculabe and interesting.

First, I think Nadam makes a great point.

But it also depends to a large degree what you want to do with your life. A good junior-to-mid grade Infantry officer for instance does not really need a deep knowledge of any one particular thing, but he needs to have a broad knowledge of many things and be able to move seemlessly between them and relate them to each other.

On the other hand, for a mathematician, even saying he wants a deep knowlede of math is far too broad, it would be better to say he wants to focus in on something like Chaos Theory. Even that might be too broad and many fine mathematicians spend their careers working on a handful of closely related problems in a very narrow sub-field of a field of mathematics.

I agree with nadam. You can use the knowledge you gained from fair understanding of a lot of topics to learn the next topic deeply in a more efficient way.

Unless the next big thing is a compiler...

For me, it's about constantly barraging my brain with new info by reading, writing, listening and speaking. No matter if it's a new language or any new subject. Read about it, write about it, listen to people talk about it and talk about it yourself.

I'm not sure this works for things that require a lot of precision and focus, like understanding proofs of theorems. That's probably part of the “about” caveat.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact