Learner Beware: to Know is to Care

i’ve developed a habit of resisting the urge to look up things i don’t know. and not just random facts like an actor’s age or pop culture reference. useful stuff, too.

on 1 hand i’m always learning, studying, thinking. on the other i challenge myself to survive without technical terms and best practices. this applies to professional and casual tasks, like coding or messing with farm gear.

when asked why i’m like this, i usually provide 1 of 3 reasons pending context.

  1. It (The Information) doesn’t matter
  2. Don’t correct people at a dinner party” (Carnegie)
  3. Many people suffer from addiction to fact checking even the most insignificant details of a conversation and i’m trying to avoid this disease


#3 is how you start a fight. try mocking a friend who looks up bullsh*t factoids while you’re hanging out. they will defend themselves – “i just enjoy knowing this stuff.” ah yes, and the alcohlic simply loves whiskey.

nobody seems to disagree with #2, except to note that most of life isn’t a social gathering. most of the time nobody is watching you, nobody cares about you, and nobody thinks you’re being rude if you whip out a phone. it’s totally normal.

where i get the most kickback is #1. who’s to say “It” doesn’t matter? and besides, humans can store near infintite information. so knowing random stuff makes us interesting. right?

we learn what we care about

before buying a ranch i didn’t know the difference between a bull vs steer, heifer vs cow. i didn’t know because i didn’t care. but suddenly i owned a few, so i learned.

in 2021 i wanted to understand the crypto hype so i learned Solidity, built dozens of smart contracts, started a Web3 agency in Korea (cringe), and sold out multiple NFTs. i learned because i cared.

but this is how information is acquired in a rational, efficient universe. our universe is inverted.

we care about what we learn

some days everything is going fine until you hear about a school shooting. you didn’t know any of this, you didn’t care, but now you do.

this rule touches everything, from political news to family drama and small town crime.

now let’s suppose a best case scenario. that these facts enter your brain and are organized in limitless storage bins. it sounds great until we acknowledge the hidden cost. i codify this as Care.

if you tell me Tom Cruise is only 5 foot 5 inches, i start to wonder how they make him look normal height in scenes with bigger actors. then i care about this movie magic effect. and by the way how tall is that chick who plays his wife? today’s Care: deducted by 1 point.

infinite storage, finite Care

at my peak Korean study schedule i learned ~25 new words per day. i picked up 1000s of words in my first year, including stuff i’ve never needed to know like ennui (권태기).

i didn’t stop at 25 because my brain couldn’t handle more. i stopped because my brain didn’t care. try using 25 new words tonight between dinner and bed time.

learning because We Can ignores our most important limiting function — our slow-to-refill supply of attention and the requisite behaviors (energy) necessary to assist our attention’s current target.

another approach to Googling things

before looking up a dumb (or useful) piece of information, ask yourself if you want to care about that information tomorrow, the next day, and a year after.

i’ll go first and admit i’ve heard the words “Docker” and “Kubernetes” 100s of times since learning to code. i’m curious what these words mean. but i care about my health, my family, and my future. so for now, i won’t be looking them up.

intentional ignorance is wisdom. steward your Care.