Skipping the Line

Today I listened to Lex Fridman’s second interview with Eric Weinstein and in it, they were discussing The Theory of Everything (the actual theory not the film) and after Fridman kept asking Weinstein to explain it to him in a way he could conceptualize, Weinstein said something along the lines of:

“You want to ask me about the Theory of Everything, but you haven’t even digested the Theory of Everything as we’ve had it since 1928… when Dirac published his equation. So for whatever reason, and this isn’t a hit on you, you haven’t been motivated enough in all the time that you’ve been on Earth to at least get as far as the Dirac Equation.”

That really struck me because it perfectly lays out something my mind has reached out toward for a long time (and I also had no clue what the Dirac Equation was). We all want experts to explain complicated things to us in bite-sized snippets we can digest, but we aren’t willing to read any of the hundreds or thousands of books and articles published on the subject. It’s simply not possible to know something just by being told about it in a conversation once. I had inklings of this idea a couple years ago and that’s when I really started to get away from asking questions on forums and trying to prostrate myself in front of more educated peers. A lot of the time I was doing that, I wasn’t even getting correct information to begin with because they themselves were far from experts.

It’s impossible to study and memorize everything humanity has learned in the brief time since we began recording knowledge. That sucks, especially for people like me who have a gut feeling that we only exist to learn everything there is to learn. I will die not knowing the (correct) answers to most of the questions I have. That’s at least mildly annoying.

So my takeaway from the last two years and change since I cleaned up my act and started living with more of a focal point in front of me is that I need to rely far less on other people, most of whom are lying simply to make themselves appear intelligent, and learn things for myself. This is a very slow process and takes a lot of work but it’s the only way I’ve ever felt like I’ve actually learned something. My father spent hundreds of hours plopped in front of the television watching that abominable “How It’s Made” show and I doubt he ever really understood how gumballs were made in the end.

This is also the first post I’ve ever re-read a day later and edited for clarity in the history of this blog. A good milestone, I think.