1 min read

Knowledge hoarding: "I might need to know that someday"

I memorize and keep a bunch of knowledge and skills that I probably won't ever need to know. Like: Basic Spanish reading/writing. Basic Esperanto reading/writing. Random interesting facts from history classes I've taken. Meanings of unusual words (sericeous, eyot, gravid). I have never needed to use most of this stuff.

There's no particular rational reason to keep most of this up. I sometimes say to myself that I've already paid the upfront cost and wouldn't it be a shame to pay that again—but I don't think that's why I keep these things up. I'm often tempted to collect more knowledge or more skills, disproportionate to how useful any bit of it might be. I often like to think of growth in terms of what new skills I can bring inside me. There's something almost comforting, I think, about hoovering up these random bits of information and understanding.

Almost comforting, but not quite. It can never be enough, not forever. There will always be one more thing.

It's funny to think how large a distortion this bias to knowledge hoarding can be. I drafted a list of goal ideas for this year's Beyond Goals Initiative (referral link). Out of 23 entries so far, 13 are about learning, vs. achieving some more or less specific outcome. That feels like it understates the distortion—but I guess I haven't gotten to 50 entries yet, so we'll see how distorted it looks then.

I wonder what kinds of goal ideas fail to even make the draft list. What I've described is tunnel vision, which means I have blind spots. What might live in the blind spots?