Sunday, October 23, 2011

The autodidact advantage. 2 : Much more aspects

The weighting problem. In reality, the distribution of the importance of different parts of knowledge, is highly skewed. Some ideas are immensly more  relevant than others. I suspect that formal training makes you treat all knowledge with the same importance (got to pass exams;))

Very exciting to think freshly and at your own interest and pace.

Since everyone thinks that formal education is where the wisdom is, there is much more place to invent and learn in the less trodden way. It is like digging gold in a new continent. You do not dig gold in newyork city center.

Since most formal training is not teaching you much, it is a huge waste that can be utilized to much more effective study.

If you want a hundred papers looking for minor variances of known phenomena maybe you are better off with those people who are "in the trade". If you prefer a single breakthrough, you may be better off trying to listen to foreigners

Being AD, you can concentrate on the areas where you have the most advantage. i.e. you can optimize your learning inline with your personal strengths. (remember the 20/80 adage "You win by entering the races where you have an advantage, not by striving to improve your performance in 'the race'" – The 20/80 principle P.142).
You may also focus your learning toward your goals.

The mistake of selection. Some notice that people with degrees are sharoer on average. Yet the degree is probably not the cause. Smarter people have higher chance to enroll and finish formal studies. 
Most of the effect of formal degrees is to signal who is capable. Possibly the study itself is not adding (there is no easy data on how much of  degrees effect to salarie is signaling  and selection, but it is very plausible)

Looks like learning and reading without the purpose of passing exams and writing a paper may be much more optimal. Because you can do shortcuts, and once you get the point you are done.

AD is a selection toward true interest in the topic, and a real interest may increase truth seeking and investment is whatever needed to know better. But formal learning is usually oriented toward a goal, and when your goal is to accomplish your PhD, truth and intellectual curiosity is not the highest value.

{copied}"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world," wrote George Bernand Shaw. "The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." 
we need sutodidacts that are not in the habit of accomodating themselves to the system


Drunkeynesian said...

Dear Y,

Considering myself an autodidact, I agree with almost all the points you mentioned. However, I coudn't find a solution for a problem I often have to confront: the lack of depth in a given field. For instance, I may become very interested in a given subject, read a handful of books about it and consider myself reasonably knowledgeable on it. However, I'll probably never be confident to write about that topic or discuss it with a professional, since I'll be always afraid of missing originality or some essential part of the canon in a way a mere focused undergrad student could spot. A famous and very clever Brazilian economist once wrote to one of his students: "your work is full of good and original ideas; unfortunately, the good ones are not original, and the original are not good" - I can see myself as this student.

How would you deal with that? For a long time since I finished college, I thought I'd be happy to read whatever I was pleased in a random way; some years passed (I'm now 31) and I'm considering applying to grad school, to gain depth on at least one topic and use the knowledge acquired in the autodidact years to approach it in a more unusual way, or with unconventional instruments - I think this would be an edge.

I'd be glad to hear your musings about that...

Yechezkel Zilber said...

You do not need to answer anybody criteria for what is "deep", only to yourself.

There are important aspects of critical thinking, knowing what is fact checked and critically shown etc. only this is relevant.

Much of the confidence of "professionals" is empty show. There is useless confidence of having done it in a certain way, which does not mean truth or anything.

For me, i only try to verify the key aspects.

Another trick is to read various material on the same subject, which is much more interesting, yet gives you a wide and critical persoective.

Having school after being autodidact can be good too.

Why do you need to be profes

Drunkeynesian said...

"Much of the confidence of "professionals" is empty show." - indeed, and, in this sense, it's quite easy to spot a charlatan.

My main practical worry is that is difficult to make a living as a generalist: a paid occupation will require you a certain level of specialization, and once you have set high standards of intellectual honesty and is constantly invited to express your opinion to other (let's assume it) knowledgeable people, you might miss formal study.

Thanks for your reply - the last paragraph is missing some words, I think.

Brian Hewes said...

That you cannot make a living as a generalist is an illusion. Outside of a few field where expertise and specialization actual matter most experts are nothing more the good self-promotors.

And as Jazi said you have to find your advantage wherever it is.

You also can be a specialized autodidact.