Too Much Information? You Decide.

It takes about 142.18 licks to reach the center of a Tootsie pop.

Nutmeg is extremely poisonous if injected intravenously.

A normal raindrop falls at about 7 miles an hour.

In a world where we can google almost anything, and with limitless information at our fingertips, how do we decipher what is important and what isn’t? The facts I shared above are interesting and weird, yet also completely useless. I mean, who cares if “stewardesses” is the longest word that is typed with only the left hand? Or if catfish are the only animals that naturally have an odd number of whiskers?

I’ve been thinking about these things as a result of my learning project (which is going great by the way). I’ve learned the names, locations, and spelling of all the countries of the world, and am pretty well done the same with the capitals of all 200 of those countries. Then I thought to myself, what should I learn next? The flags? Other important cities? The currency used? The main language? Maybe I should learn a language. Or sign language. Or brail. Or maybe I should learn morse code. That could come in handy one day.

I’m currently taking a history class as my elective on Ancient Rome. Why do I need to know anything about ancient Rome? Will it help me in my life to know that Appius Claudius Caecus created the manipular army formation that won them the Third Samnite war in 290 BC? Probably not.

Claudius_cropAppiuscaecusstele01

If you’d like, here is a whole site with 77 ways to learn faster so you can pack as much knowledge (useful or not) into your brain as you want. But don’t be fooled. There are also articles dedicated to the opposite, such as this one called “Know Your Limits, Your Brain Can Only Take So Much.”

So how do we pick out useful information and discern what is worth our time learning? Or what is worth remembering? I’ve asked a lot of questions in this blog that I don’t have the answers to. I’m simply pondering and sharing those thoughtful insights with the world at large. I would, however, love to hear (or read?) your thoughts!

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3 thoughts on “Too Much Information? You Decide.

  1. Hi Ashley! Great progress on your learning project. I think learning sign language or braille would be really cool. I’ve often thought about whats important too. Especially during education.. some things you often wonder: when will I use this in my life? I guess the way I look at it is.. will this help me in my future? Where can I apply this in my life? Am I enjoying what I am doing? Sometimes it can be really hard deciding what is worth our time learning!

    1. I’ve definitely thought lots about sign language and almost did that for my project! Exactly! I’ve thought of all those questions numerous times! That’s one reason I actually like this project – it forces you to finally pick something and learn it. I never would have done it on my own! But now I want to find what’s next!

  2. First, you made me laugh in several places. Thanks.

    Second, manipular armies are super cool, I mean, way better than archaic phalanxes, amirite?

    Third, I don’t subscribe to idea that the brain has definite limits. I’m not discrediting the idea of overload, or the breaker moments that the article suggests – I am questioning whether the idea of knowledge “worth our time learning” is real.

    Sir A.C.D., through Holmes, suggested that the mind is “like a little empty attic” and one needs to be very careful about storing too much of the wrong thing, or having a disorganized clutter. Cognitive science has come a long way since 1887. I’m particularly drawn to Cognitive Load Theory and the idea of building schema. If we can build connections between knowledge, and have hooks to access what we need, as we need it, there’s very little limit on the human capacity for learning.

    I firmly believe that curiosity and interest are more important than facts designated important by the powers that be*. Those little tidbits of knowledge add context, flavour, and richness. They also fill the gaps between large ideas, acting as connective tissue between segments of knowledge. Keep on keeping on. If you want some fun facts around the development of close-order drill, research the connections between karate, modern military ceremonial drill formations, and anti-cavalry manoeuvres of the past few centuries. It’s a good time.

    *The powers that be, as in old white men. I believe the term for their books is Stale Pale Male Lit. Calling a spade a spade.

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