The Information I’ve Surrounded Myself With

Ira Glass gave advice to creators saying, “Finding an idea is a job. Where do ideas come from? Ideas come from other ideas. And so you have to kind of consume stuff and notice what’s interesting to you and surround yourself with stuff.”

Steven Johnson, in his book Where Good Ideas Come From:The Natural History of Innovation explains that on an individual level, facilitating such serendipitous connections is simply a matter of simultaneously introducing ideas from different disciplines into your consciousness. Innovators like Benjamin Franklin and Charles Darwin favored working on multiple projects simultaneously, in a kind of slow multitasking mode. One project would take center stage for days at a time, but linger at the back of the mind afterwards too, so connections between projects could be drawn.

“Evidence shows that creative contributions depend on the breadth, not just depth, of our knowledge and experience.” says Adam Grant. “In fashion, the most original collections come from directors who spend the most time working abroad. In science, winning a Nobel Prize is less about being a single-minded genius and more about being interested in many things. Relative to typical scientists, Nobel Prize winners are 22 times more likely to perform as actors, dancers or magicians; 12 times more likely to write poetry, plays or novels; seven times more likely to dabble in arts and crafts; and twice as likely to play an instrument or compose music.”

All of these accounts point to the importance of creating a personal intellectual environment. An environment where we decide, WE — not algorithms within for-profit billion dollar media conglomerates, decide what information we surround ourselves with.

I think we overestimate our capacity for truly original thought. Whether we’re happy or sad, excited or depressed, the career we have, the kinds of friends we hang out with, our beliefs about the world and how we fit into it — all comes back to the thoughts in our heads. And where do thoughts come from? What we pay attention to. This is a radical implication – that any and all information we consume will have an effect on us – meaning that if our attention is left unchecked, we are endangered of living lives that aren’t really ours. The triumph of modern advertising is that it can twist people’s likes to suit its own purpose, so in the end people are left unsatisfied and craving for more after pursuing their “likes,” “passions” or “interests”, because their likes are not really their likes, and have been artificially projected on them by other agents.

To this end, I’m going to try to post about the information that I have willingly subjected myself to on a regular basis. Take it as a list of recommendations or a critique of information across any source I consume: podcast, article, book, youtube video, movie, or tv show.

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