why what makes us curious

Review :

Very interesting book on one of the most central facets of human behavior and existence. What makes us curious

I like this as a primer on the subject, one we're all intimately familiar with on an experiential level, but I felt that, like all primers, it had so much more worthy ground to cover.

Here are my main takeaways. They are few, as most of the book is retreading old ground or discussing what essentially amounts to Maslow-style ethnography of a hand-picked (cherrypicked) group.

Infovores. That was a new one. The idea that one of our fundamental drives as a species is information and that that is one of the things that meaningfully differentiates us from other species. That chimpanzees don't do investigatory work the same way that a child does. That gorillas don't ritually attempt to disassemble, eat or manipulate objects like human children. That everything that children do seems to be geared towards learning.

Difficulty, to a point, increases learning. This was retreading old ground but it's worth discussing. The idea that there's a sweet spot and the sweet spot is where model creation is optimized. That we're not really curious about anything that is too easy or too difficult to grasp, but just right for us to leverage existing information and novel question-asking to come to new conclusions.

Geniuses, at least the ones he selected, show a particular cluster of traits. Varied interests that feed into one another. Appreciation of beauty. Intense, if fleeting, curiosity. Quick learners. More interested in direct exposure than second-hand information. Visual. Often impaired in one or more regular cognitive processes (from reading to math to socializing etc).


Where I think the book had room to grow: Is inquiry the only way to express curiosity Is asking a question the only way to get an answer What do we do now that we know this How do we leverage what you've said to enhance our curiosity and the curiosity of others, especially children transitioning into adulthood What commentary, if any, do you have on the state of a science and the levels of curiosity it attracts For example, for a mostly settled hard science, will it attract inherently less people as there's less that's unknown How does infovore activity map onto group dynamics in terms of the balance of curiosity and fear That is, so spme members of a gene pool get sacrificed to boost group learning How can adding information drive change our game theory models How do we exploit the fear-curiosity balance How do we leverage existing curiosity to create maximum learning

This book has rekindled my appreciation for good questions... also my interest in learning banjo.


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