You want to be smarter. You want to know more than you do now… Most of us do. We want to learn more, and we want to be smarter than our loved ones to rub it in their stupid faces. More importantly, we want to be intelligent enough overall to thrive in daily life.
I’m not talking about “google curiosity” here. Looking up every pointless factoid you come across isn’t learning. You don’t need to know what kind of cereal Tom Hanks eats. Probably something high-brow… Steel-cut oats maybe. I bet he’s an oatmeal guy.
I’ll write more in the future about the current cultural obsession with instant gratification and its influence on the Internet, but for now let’s focus: increasing our intelligence as quickly as possible is key to moving towards our goals.
It’s true that we’re born with a certain predisposition for intellect (or stupidity), but everyone has an incredibly high potential for learning. The brain, like any other muscle, will become stronger with a little training. If you ever feel stupid when you interact with intellectuals, you might just need to flex your mind a little more to help you along.
Recently I started using Spreeder. It’s a free service that allows the user to copy any body of text into a speed-reading web application. The customization options are excellent, and it’s fairly easy on the eyes. Basically it’s a box that flashes individual strings of words to help you focus on reading chunks of words at a time. There’s loads already written about how to speed-read, but if you want a quick introduction to it, follow the directions on the site’s homepage. The jist is that to read faster we cut out our mental verbalization of the words to allow our mind to skip a step in the comprehension process, thereby greatly increasing efficiency.
Efficiency is important. Reading can be a long and arduous process, especially when reading dense nonfiction. By the way, if you’re speedreading a modest 400 words per minute, this article will take you 90 seconds to read. The record for speed is over four thousand words per minute. The human capacity for knowledge is fucking insane! The fact that someone can consistently absorb and retain that much information at such a high speed over a long period of time blows my fucking mind.
All it takes is a little practice. You won’t be a speed-demon right away, and it’ll take some time for your skills to transfer from a training app to standard type. Eventually, you’ll read so much faster that you’ll wonder how you could stand reading at such a slow pace. Your eyes will skip fluidly between chunks of words, and you’ll see & hear people slowly struggling to scan across a page and wonder why they don’t make the simple effort to read faster.
What do you want to learn about? Music, psychology, space travel? Maybe you want to read about sports to keep up with your friends’ conversations. Maybe you want to learn about foreign culture to seem more worldly. Any and every subject of study is worthwhile.
Once you stop learning, you start dying. You don’t have to be a nutjob like me and sit for 12 hours autistically crouched over a book. Just read something, and make a conscious effort to:
1. Scan 3 word chunks at a time
2. Silence your inner voice
3. Track your place with a pen or a finger or your mouse cursor
That’s about it, folks. Formal education is only the beginning of your life’s education. Socrates, the wisest philosopher of all time, knew better than anyone that there is always more to learn.