Comment on 21st Century Renaissance Man

Phyllotaxis Sun, Mar 6, 2011
I appreciate the logic of this essay.

In particular, the emphasis on the autodidactic method of learning.

The broad principle of teaching yourself *to your satisfaction* on a topic is a powerful indicator of an active learner. I relate to the process laid out in your writing. When I think of learning, I visualize myself as a rocketship with infinite fuel and finite time.
The only limit to what I can learn is the external limit of biology. The important distinction here is that I do not believe that limit is intellectual, it is purely time.
My body will die, and my infinitely-derived arrangement of experiences, and their logically (and emotionally, if you make a distinction) drawn conclusions, will someday cease to be available to draw upon, and will only then cease to grow. The tiny exceptions are the letters and concepts available in places like this, where our concepts can continue to impact the breathing aware.

The power of The Renaissance Man becomes much clearer when analogised simply.

It is one thing to understand ink, and another to understand paper.
But understanding both allows writing, art, and extended permanence of ideas without which our civilization could never have blossomed.


The fundamental, axiomatic way of understanding the collective harmony and interaction/expression of similar truths in varied disciplines of study is what makes that knowledge applicable to everything else.

Applying knowledge to all available problems is the simplest form of experimental proofing, and the best way to cement its applicability. This is how axiomatic application of economic principles can explain human actions in groups. This axiomatic application explains the division of labor, and it also explains people like us- the autodidacts that choose to skim through the primary points of a given set of knowledge before moving on to different sets.

It is a mark of intelligence to use a butane lighter instead of a flint, tinderbox, and striker because the goal is to start a fire. We use the distilled logic of other peoples specialization to un-shackle ourselves from the time that would have to be spent in retracing the steps that were taken for the specialist to proof them.

Thus, The Renaissance Man uses the simplest, most immutable truths to verify that something works, and while understanding why, does not confine himself to that reflection. The important function of this perspective is to apply the truths to greater problems, and discover how they all work together.

The division of labor is a function of reality that is defined as the level of interest in the individual laborers. There is a single, unifying goal that underlays all of it, and that is removing the most scarce commodity of all- time.

Everything we do to advance our reality involves saving time. Making inventions and solidifying understanding so that attention can be directed towards the things we have not figured out yet.

Digital tools have exponentially advanced this goal, but the function is the same, and I believe that our "selective attention without depth" in the digital world is, in fact, drawing us together in a mutually-recognized "total reality" that is built on a latticework of fundamental truths that only become apparent to those with the scope of understanding to see the big picture.

You don't need to understand the details of geology, chemistry or physics to understand that they are different scale-points in the continuum within which we all exist. Understanding time then becomes a simple function of scale, of resolution, which itself comprises the universe/reality that we occupy.

Keep up this meta-awareness, for it will lead us to understand fundamental truth as it has never been available to us before.