Developing excellent academic general knowledge.
November 20, 2009 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Developing excellent academic general knowledge.

Hey guys. I have reasonable general knowledge, I use to compete nationally. If human knowledge were a map I would know all the counties/states and big cities. I know the top three guys in linguistics, the basic ideas behind all the major world religions, I've read the canon...

Has anyone reached the next level? Gotten both broad and deep knowledge. How was the transition?
posted by ekpyrotic to Education (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It seems to be that the canon of human knowledge is so vast as to render meaningless the concept of both broad and deep knowledge about it.

Better to focus on one area, learn it well, and try to be moderately informed about other areas.
posted by dfriedman at 9:23 AM on November 20, 2009

I think you could be a Renaissance Man in the Renaissance, because we didn't know as much stuff. Now - not so much.

I've been in a couple of fields, and lost the depth of knowledge moving from one to the other. Why? Because nothing is static; new ideas, new information is constantly arriving, and it's hard work keeping up to date in a single chosen field. I'm a medical student - Medline indexes over five thousand journals, some of which are published every month. I'm particularly interested in autism, and it's reckoned that academic papers on autism are published faster than it would be possible to read them. I know you wouldn't have to read all that to have 'academic general knowledge', I'm just trying to give you an idea of the speed and volume of information production.

Certainly there are many people who have the ability to excel in several fields, but it's a question of there being enough hours in the day to keep up with academic output across several fields.
posted by Coobeastie at 9:32 AM on November 20, 2009

Make a list of subject areas based on the departments of a fair-sized university. Now, spend a few years reading both canonical and contemporary research in every field.

The place you want to get to can only be reached after a long, long time, so that's the answer to your question about how the transition is: long.
posted by Beardman at 10:42 AM on November 20, 2009

This is going to take years. Five to ten if you do a Ph.D. program, the rest of your life otherwise. But what Beardman said: pick a few subjects, and dive into the literature.
I'll see you in a few decades.

Note: I'm not saying this isn't worth doing, I'm just saying that it can't be done quickly. There are no shortcuts to excellence.
posted by valkyryn at 10:53 AM on November 20, 2009

« Older Can my landlord toss my stuff?   |   Help me buy a sauna! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.