My philosophy of general intelligence is roughly expressed in the Terry Pratchett quote (from the Nome Trilogy, “Truckers”):
“There’s some things we can’t think because we don’t know the words.”
Basically, I try to intentionally put somewhat-undirected information into my brain, based on the idea that learning the occasional random thing might provide either a new thing for me to be curious about, or a new and interesting explanation, clarification, link, etc. related to other things I know.
Beyond that, I like to have a certain amount of general knowledge of what’s going on. I like having some idea of what the news is, as well as a general status of what Apple is up to since I’m thoroughly into that ecosystem. And some good tech news updates are good, since I work in that space.
That said, a lot of “news” isn’t news - it’s commentary about the news.
I know that “news has to news”, and everybody wants to toss in their unique (or not-so-unique) take on things, but it quickly gets repetitive. I love hearing about Apple announcing a new product or initiative, for example, but I don’t necessarily need to hear a dozen hours of commentary about it.
I’m also becoming more and more cognizant as time goes on of the fact that my time is limited. A 30 minute daily news podcast to “stay informed” is potentially pushing out something else I could be doing that might be more valuable.
So I’m in the middle of a culling, re-thinking my strategy, and trying to generally be a little more intentional about what goes into my brain.
Basically, I mentally have a 2x2 grid. One axis is “low focus / high focus”, and the other is “low utility / high utility”.
I obviously want to minimize the time expenditure and maximize the utility of anything that’s “high focus”, and as much as possible I’d like to have almost everything be “high utility”. This, of course, defines “utility” not just in terms of “useful information”, but in terms of “I’m glad I spent that time”.
I’m playing with a few ways to do this:
- Finding podcasts that summarize / briefly explain more than comment. Have I ever mentioned that I really miss “Subnet”? For podcasts so far, “5 Things”, “Apple News Today”, and “Up First” seem to be good for news.
- Finding headline + synopsis email lists. A headline plus a few sentences is actually enough for me to get the gist of most news stories, and I can dig more on anything that interests me. For email newsletters, I’m playing with “SmartBrief”. If you’re interested in the evangelical Christian take on the news, “Disrn” has a very nice daily email summary of their stories / headlines.
- Intentionally cultivating good, brief sources of serendipitous, random info. For books, “The Intellectual Devotional” series is great. I’m playing with some podcast sources, but not enough experience with any to comment yet.
- Replacing some previous long-form podcasts and such with long-form courses that are higher-value to me, but haven’t had a bunch of time for. Right now I’m starting a world history course through The Great Courses.
Does anybody else think along these lines? What are your favorite high-density sources for information? How have you intentionally curated your information intake? Anything else I should be considering?